Dumplings and Things
375 Fifth Ave, Park Slope
Rating: 3 out of 5 L's
Behind the take-out counter at Dumplings and Things, stacks of supply boxes and precariously piled to-go cups are on display beside a golden cat sculpture with a battery-operated, endlessly waving arm. (Fun Fact: The official term for the beckoning cat is "maneki neko." And while this certainly isn't the first Chinese restaurant to have one, it's actually a Japanese good luck charm.) The space is cluttered further with cases of soft drinks, including lemongrass-flavored Dry Soda, a refreshing Seattle import that's just starting to show up around here. On the floor, a refrigerator is wedged into the seating area. Jumbled around a handful of tables are about twelve little stools, which seem especially well suited to smaller patrons. Upon our visit, there were nine adults (two with babies strapped to their chests), one small child and two strollers. Park Slope, represent! But what seems like a tight, sweaty squeeze in summer may feel cozy and welcoming in the wintertime, when the tables are lined with steaming bowls of noodles and soup.
This isn't a place for claustrophobes, but the small square footage must keep the rent low because prices here are pretty cheap. We dropped a grand total of $17 on a good-sized lunch for two—ten dumplings, two baos, one order of sesame noodles, one homemade lemonade and one homemade jasmine iced tea. Sure, you could do better in Flushing, but it's a pretty solid deal for Park Slope. And the "Melt In Your Mouth Pork Belly," listed on the chalkboard menu in several noodle, soup, and dumpling dishes, is no joke. We wished we'd ordered it on everything—not just the pork belly bao, savory little steamed-bun sandwiches priced at $2.50 per pair. The dumpling skins were on the thick side, their fillings not particularly juicy, but tiny pieces of kimchi give a little kick to the beef dumplings ($2.50 for five) and chunks of fresh-tasting shellfish elevated the pork, shrimp and cilantro dumplings ($3 for five). The dumplings can be steamed, but they're better fried, with their skins a bit browned and crisped. The sesame noodles—cold soba scattered with sesame seeds, carrots, cucumbers and a side of sauce to toss in yourself—were as fresh as could be and cost a mere three bucks. To wash it all down, I recommend requesting a "not too sweet" homemade jasmine iced tea ($3) over the super-sweet homemade lemonade (also $3). Good news for weekend warriors: word is that the Peking duck bao ($2.50 for two) is the jam here, but it's only served on Saturdays and Sundays.