"What? How come this restaurant is not one of the recommended stops on the Dumpling Trail in Richmond???". Ah yes, I've heard that once too many times in the last little while. You see, restaurants have to be actually participating in the Dumpling Trail in the first place. Hence the limited suggestions at the beginnng. They have since added more participants to list that is constantly growing. As a result, I went on another Dumpling Trail run-through with 3 different people (Amy, Jacqueline and Sharon) at 6 different spots.
Once again, we kicked things off with early morning Dim Sum at Vivacity where we made sure the Ha Gau (decided to use a different phonetic spelling) and Siu Mai were on the list. As clearly evidenced in the picture, the dumpling skin was thin and translucent. It was also appealingly chewy which gave way to whole shrimp that did its buttery snap thing while sporting natural sweetness accented by sesame oil. As much as the shrimp dumplings were good, the Siu Mai were even better in my opinion. The combination of whole chunks of bouncy pork mixed well with the bits of shrimp that were equally bouncy. Not overly dense, the dumpling was fairly light and natural-tasting.
When we think of dumplings for Dim Sum, we don't often include the Seafood Dumpling in Soup. This usually includes shark's fin (I personally have stopped eating it), but I didn't notice any in this one. I found the soup to be sweet and full-of-depth while easy on the salt. Sporting a tender wrapper, the pork and shrimp filling was on point with a considerable cilantro hit. Going with something completely different we had the Deep Fried Glutinous Dumpling. Sadly, this was not our favourite as the glutinous outer shell was too thick and not really all that crispy. On the other hand, the filling was really good with whole shrimp and lean ground pork.
We then moved onto our 2nd stop at Aberdeen Centre, specifically, Szechuan House in the food court. We ended up getting 4 items including the Spicy Wontons and Boiled Dumplings. In terms of overall flavour and impact, the spicy wontons were not lacking. The spicy and tongue-numbing chili oil-based sauce was definitely at the forefront. At the same time, it wasn't so spicy that we couldn't taste some saltiness to go with the background sweetness and a touch of tang. The wontons featured a fairly dry skin that was semi-thick. I found the filling to be a touch mealy where it lacked actual texture. The boiled dumplings were pretty good despite looking rather flat. I found the dumpling skin to be medium thickness, yet tender at the same time. The filling was surprisingly balanced despite the plethora of green onions. We just wished there was more of it.
After a quick stop for coffee (Amy wanted some), we headed over to Shibuyatei.The best course of action was to sample their dumplings in the Gyoza Combo featuring 2 each of Pork, Shrimp and Scallop. These featured a thin and chewy skin that was a touch dry. On the bottom, it was fairly well-seared, but it wasn't really that crispy. My favourite of the bunch was the pork as it was tender, moist and a bit meaty. It was mild-tasting though. I found the scallop to be sweet, but a little mushy as the meat was diced up pretty small. On the other hand, the shrimp had a meaty snap and was naturally sweet.
Now, we weren't only eating dumplings as we had ordered full meals so far. That was about to be taken to a new level at Dinesty as we got 11 dishes including an order each of the Xiao Long Bao and the Crab Xiao Long Bao. Unlike the last time I had these, the meat filling was less gritty while the soup was still on the saltier side. I thought the dumpling skin was fairly thin while being tender and a bit chewy at the top. The main difference between the two types of XLBs was that the crab and pork filling was sweeter with a background brininess. We also got the Taiwanese-style Potsickers which are longer and thinner than their Cantonese counterparts. These were fried up nicely on the bottom being golden brown and crispy. The dumpling skin was medium-thick where it was a touch on the chewier side. The moist filling was a mix of processed pork and green onion.
Waddling out of Dinesty, we dragged ourselves to a hidden gem in Shanghai Station in Empire Centre. Their Spicy Wontons are some of the best I've had in town and yes, we did get a few plates. Unlike some Cantonese restaurants which serve up actual wontons tossed in chili oil, the ones here are more like boiled dumplings. Hence, the dumpling skin was thicker while still buttery and tender. The filling was moist and meaty. The best part was the combination of peanut sauce and chili oil sauce. So smooth, spicy and flavourful. We also got their healthier-style Potstickers where they use less oil. It was exemplified in its presentation where the dumplings were not glistening with oil. Hence, the dumpling ate drier and the skin was chewier. That was not a bad thing as the tender and juicy filling balanced things out.
Our last stop was at Pepper Lunch, which to many would not be a place one would think of when looking for dumplings. However, their Gyozas are on point. These were seared up evenly rendering a crispy and appealingly golden brown underside. The rest of the dumpling skin was thin and al dente while the filling, whether it be beef or chicken, was tender and juicy. Personally, I loved the meatiness and more robust flavour of the beef more than the chicken. So there you have it, another group of participating restaurants along the Dumpling Trail in Richmond. More are being added and who knows, maybe there is another day of dumpling insanity is in my future?