Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar

I was so excited when I read that Anita Lo of Annisa was going to partner in Rickshaw Dumpling Bar which opened in 2005 across from the Institute for Culinary Education at 61 W. 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Pan fried or steamed, these little treasures give a culinary bang for the buck, and even though they could be found cheaper in Chinatown, for their location and convenience, they are right on the money. I'm usually there in an off hour so I haven't seen the turn around time at a lunch time rush but from the moment I order at the simple chrome counter, my little dumplings are ready in less than two minutes at the pick up bar around the corner. It's ridiculously easy, fast and delicious.

The menu is printed in giant, simple graphics, they offer six kinds of dumplings;
  • Classic Pork and Chinese Chive (my favorite with cabbage, ginger and scallion and a soy-sesame dipping sauce)
  • Chicken and Thai Basil (a runner up favorite with lemongrass, glass noodles and carrot served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce)
  • Szechuan Chicken (with chili and white soy bean, I must admit, I haven't tried it yet)
  • Hudson Valley Peking Duck (with shredded cabbage and scallion served with a hoisin dipping sauce)
  • Shrimp (with sweet jicama, scallion and a wasabi miso dipping sauce)
  • And a vegetarian option, Edamame (filled with lemon, scallion stuffed in a whole wheat wrapper and a lemon sansho dipping sauce).

Each of these little lovelies can be ordered on their own in portions of 6 of a kind for $5.50 or 9 of a kind for $7.75 or you can pair them with an Asian Green Salad or have them served in a Noodle Soup for an additional $3.38 for a small or $5.95 for a large.

There are several heart healthy sides that can be ordered as well, Chili Sesame Noodle Salad, Cucumber and Jicama Sticks, Miso Mini Soup, Jasmine Rice, Chilled Edamame and a Dumpling Shot (don't know what this is yet, stay tuned.) On top of all of this, the chicken they use is naturally raised Bell & Evans and the Duck is from the Hudson Valley and they use organic ingredients whenever they can, I can give kudos for that!

Last night I had a scant 15 minutes to dine and dash before a Culinary History Primer class at the I.C.E. so I opted for my standby of the Classic Pork and Scallion. Knowing from experience the six of a kind would leave me wanting, I went for the larger load of 9.

My only complaint is that you can't mix and match dumplings, I'd love to try a medley and have asked several times, apparently I'm not the only one, so a girl can hope that an option is coming soon...

My meal last night was no disappointment even though I have to admit, I gobbled them down in an unhealthy 6 minutes due to my class time, I enjoyed them thoroughly and my fellow diners seemed a little wary when I did a little happy dumpling dance as I popped the last baby in.

Luckily for me, I checked my Facebook updates while I was cramming in my dinner, (lucky they're small) and saw Maureen's recommendation that I try the Chocolate Soup Dumpling for dessert. Now, even though I'm a very sweet person, I go for savory foods and don't usually eat dessert but I have to admit, the Warm Chocolate Shangai Soup Dumpling caught my eye when I ordered my dinner and with Maureen's recommendation, I had to get it, I felt it was a sign from above. I'm glad I did because the moment I took my first bite, yeah, I was in Heaven...

When I ordered it, the sweet girl at the counter said, "Just one?" almost curiously and I answered "Yes?" with an equal question mark.

Seconds later, as it was handed to me, warm and comforting in a cellophane sack with a sticker, I might have begun to understand her questioning intonation, and after I bit into the deep fried round mochi dumpling covered in black sesame seeds and filled with oozing dark chocolate, I definitely understood! I savored that little ball of happiness for longer than than my meal, a little sad about ending the experience too soon.

As I went up to sign in for my class, I crowed about them and for the next two hours, obsessed about another. Yeah, when you look up the word "glutton" in the dictionary, there's a picture of me, (also under the word "gullible" but that's another story). As soon as I left my class, I dashed across the street for another and my friend at the registered smiled, she knew I had gotten the answer to the question!

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