You might think the contest the title of this post refers to is about the quality of the xiaolongbao, or Shanghai-style soup dumpling, but the contest is really which foodista can convince rivals that he or she has eaten the best XLB.
Not having XLB tours of Shanghai or Taipei to boast about, I prefer to stay out of the brawl. However, a couple days ago I thought I'd stop in for lunch at Kingdom of Dumpling and parked by mistake in front of Dumpling Kitchen. Rebecca Yu's restaurant, it turned out, is still only a few months old. It serves a simple menu of dumplings, noodles, and home-style Shanghai dishes. What drew me in were the ridiculous prices. I came back a few days later for a second order of the XLB.
Yu brought on dumpling chef Hong Kuang, who is a veteran of Koi Palace
and Shanghai Dumpling King. His XLB (item #1 on the menu, listed on the
menu as "Shanghai-style steamed pork dumplings") were easy to like. The wrappers were stupendous ―
thinner and silkier than SDK's and never gummy ― and I thought the forcemeat inside was nicely seasoned. I dipped each dumpling in a bowl of sweet, gingery vinegar, nibbled a hole in the side, and sucked out a good half-teaspoon of juice and
fat. The juice wasn't as robustly flavored as the dumplings at Kuang's previous employers, but $6 for 10 soup dumplings, in a restaurant with
no line ― not bad!
As for the other dishes I tried, the stir-fried rice
cakes with pork and preserved vegetable ($7.50) were great, and the rest of the
dishes were on the homey side (the only no: the drunken chicken). I'm curious to return for the fish belly stir-fried with tofu, advertised on the wall, and the set dinners at Costco prices: $28 for a three-person, six-course meal. One of the courses, it goes without saying, is xiaolongbao. Fodder for the next salvo in the XLB war.
Dumpling Kitchen: 1935 Taraval (at 30th Ave.), 682-8938. Open for lunch and dinner every day but Wed.