Recently, while on my way to 99 Ranch Market, I passed Mr Dumpling and noticed a huge banner.
What really caught my eye was the phrase "Grand Opening Feb 28". I was very interested.... what could this grand opening sign mean. It doesn't say "under new management" and the name is still Mr Dumpling. We'd only visited Mr Dumpling once before and was very disappointed in the dishes which were not prepared well, and over-priced. But now.....
I quickly got ahold of a good "FOY", and inquired. The response was, she wasn't sure, but she had heard that the Xiao Long Bao were the best in San Diego. 'Nuff said, I was there ASAP. I met my good eating buddy, and hit up Mr Dumpling.
We inquired as to a possible ownership change, and was told, it was the same owner, but a different menu. The lunch menu is more Shanghai influenced, so perhaps it was a change in chef? You can order many small bites as the dumplings are served in orders of four or five, and many snack items are available.
Of course we started with the Xiao Long Bao (four - $2.99):
This could've been pretty good. The wrappers were decent, perhaps the best in San Diego. Not too thick or thin, with a decent pull. There were several problems with the XLB. First, there wasn't enough soup in the XLB. Second, there flavor was off, and I never thought I'd say this, but the soup and the meat weren't sweet or savory enough. Much like the XLB at Dumpling Inn, these tasted like regular dumpling filling. Also, there's black vinegar on the table, but you have to request sliced ginger for your XLB.
We also ordered the Special Five Variety Dumpling (5 - $3.99) and Lamb Meat Dumplings (4 - $2.99). I'm putting these two together.
As you notice these dumplings are steamed, and the wrappers are different as well. Tough, gummy, and somewhat brittle, I believe that these are "hot water wrappers" made with boiling water. It's a totally different kind of wrapper, as boiling water really develops the gluten much differently. I guess I'm not a big fan of this type of wrappers.... they remind me of cheaply made Gyoza wrappers.
The fillings were too finely minced causing a fairly dense and dry "meatball". So naturally, the celery, and the egg dumplings fared better, but were bland. The flavor of the lamb dumplings was pretty bland.
The best item of the day was probably the Leek Pie ($2.25):
The "Pancake of Beef" (Niu Rou Chuan $5.99) looked really good.
The "pancake" looked almost like Jiang Bing, since it obviously had egg involved. The beef was just the right texture, a nice semi-cured tender without being mushy and falling to pieces, but it seriously lacked flavor.... any flavor. There's usually an additional flavor component, a smear of bean paste, or a hoisin like concoction. This lacked that, which meant that the pungency of the scallions took over.
I think this place tries hard, and perhaps over-reaches, as each dish fell short, or flat in one way or another. The service was friendly and adequate. Like I mentioned earlier, I like the set-up, but in my opinion, the food leaves something to be desired. I'm likely to make at least one more visit though. The hot pot menu looks promising, and the folks having hot pot looked like they were enjoying their meal. The prices are also right..... and are also 30% off right now.
I will have a challenge on my hands though.... trying to convince the Missus to give this place another shot.
7250 Convoy Ct
San Diego, CA 92111