As freshmen, we cherished the nights that we could afford to splurge on yellow curry from Thai Basil — a happy respite from shoveling in bland pasta at Cafe 3 or Crossroads. By senior year, we memorized the best dining locations for every occasion — from Sunday hangovers to post-RSF workouts. Whether we choose to dabble in veganism or are unashamedly carnivorous, we each have a list of our favorite places to visit in Berkeley that fulfill our foodie fantasies. Still, we’re always eager to discover more.
This week, the Clog checked out a new restaurant you might want to add to your list of favorites: Dumpling Express. We sampled a variety of dishes in this up-and-coming restaurant and spoke with one of its owners to bring to you an account of its perks, tastes and flavorful touches.
Dumpling Express is located at 2328 Bowditch St., between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue. It’s on the outskirts of Southside’s Asian Ghetto, and despite being nearby popular competitors like Artichoke Basille and Top Dog, it looks inviting enough to attract a large number of new customers. Its physical appeal can be largely credited to the vivaciously red, eye-catching, bold signs advertising the “handmade” and “fresh” food available inside.
On the corner of one wall hangs a three-piece menu, featuring white font on a matte black background. Students tend to gather here while lost in thought, deliberating on which dish to order and whether to pair their entree with an appetizer. The end of this wall signifies the start of the kitchen and its bustling activity: With only a clear glass window separating you from the chefs, you can watch them stuffing pork into wet dumpling wrappers and sauteing vegetables, cooking fried rice in large pots and stirring bits of chicken. The transparency of the venue is a testament to its promise of offering “fresh and healthy” choices — being able to intimately view the process of preparation and see the fresh ingredients used to concoct your food will make you feel reassured that you’ll be biting into a crisp, original, unprocessed refection.
Terry Chan, co-owner of Dumpling Express, specifically caters the restaurant towards the average college student’s needs.
One way this restaurant administers to the needs of Berkeley students is through its speedy service. Chan says the restaurant’s ultimate goal is to provide food to each customer within a 10 to 12 minute time frame — a significant improvement from the average restaurant wait time of 15 to 25 minutes.
Additionally, the restaurant offers student-oriented pricing and style. Each menu item has two prices — one for cash transactions and another for credit transactions. This makes it easier for the average student to understand exactly what he or she must pay without any hidden fees added on. The price point hits a sweet spot for many college students, as options are affordable and won’t leave wallets feeling skinny or starved.
The menu features items ranging from soups to dumplings, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try a combination item like soup dumplings. There’s a variety of meats to choose from, including pork, chicken, shrimp and beef, and flavors that vary between sweet, savory and spicy.
We ordered the sweet and sour pork over rice, shrimp dumplings with chives (12 pieces), and chicken chow mein for $5.50 each, totaling just under $20 for our entire order. We loved each item — the sweet and sour pork was cooked to perfection and sank into our mouths, containing pineapples and chives that made the entree tangy and scrumptious. The shrimp dumplings were gooey and warm, but we thought the chef could have added a little more stuffing to overshadow the taste of the dumpling wrapper. The chow mein had a spicy burst of flavor reminiscent of Singapore street noodles and was a signature noodle dish that nailed it.
“For example, our kimchi dumplings are a blend of Chinese and Korean flavors,” Chan said. Though he doesn’t see the restaurant as a fusion restaurant, he does believe that its menu provides transnational diversity.
“We’re trying to make this restaurant as diverse as the Bay Area is,” Chan said.
He decided to open Dumpling Express this summer so that the restaurant would have time to grow and adjust before accommodating the influx of students in the upcoming fall semester. Now is the perfect time for students to try out this new venue and decide whether they want to frequent it in the semesters that lie ahead.
With its wide array of delicious entrees, transparent process of preparation and detail to wait time and customer needs, Dumpling Express provides an excellent first-time dining experience and encourages a promising chance of customer return.