There are plenty of trends I won't get behind- the bacon craze, the cupcake craze, for starters- but dumplings? I'm pretty sure that's a bandwagon I'd jump on.
New Upper East Side dumpling joint, Mahjong Dumplings, boasts offbeat fillings for the typical dumpling, and like any other good New York foodie, I visited the small resto with some friends, my curiosity, and an empty stomach. It was packed, and not just because of the limited seating (which is really an unfortunate situation). As soon as my drinks came out- faster than my food, actually, I realized that the crafty bartender must be the other reason for the masses. Bubble tea cocktails? Um, why is this even a question?
At $4.50 for 3 dumplings, Mahjong is much pricier than other dumpling venues- you can get 8 for $3 at my beloved Chinatown staple, Vanessa's- but I did enjoy their creative takes on their two vegetarian dumpling options. My ratatouille dumplings were covered in a tomato sauce that was surprisingly tasty and savory, but it overwhelmed the finely chopped zucchini-Japanese eggplant stuffing. I found their Ala Farm dumplings much more interesting- drizzled in a cream sauce and sprinkled with bits of fried mushrooms, these ricotta-spinach-mushroom stuffed dumplings managed to be both light and hearty.
For dessert, we indulged in a free bowl (to make up for how long our food took- still, not a good sign in my book) of shaved ice with mango and pineapple chunks, grapes, and shredded coconut- not particularly impressive, but I do like fruit and ice as a combo. We also ordered more decadent fried banana dumplings smothered in chocolate sauce. In quite the mix-up, one of our banana dumplings was a misplaced fried spicy chorizo dumpling- luckily, I did not consume the dumpling with the mistaken identity, but I imagine on a busy night, such switcheroos probably happen quite often.
Mahjong also offers some vegetarian soups and noodle dishes, but their focus remains on meaty dumpling combos. As with other fad restos, I'm not quite sure how often I'll be eating here, especially with such cramped dining quarters and long wait times for food, but if it feels like the Dumpling Festival every day, I'll certainly partake!
Mahjong Dumplings, 1542 2nd Avenue, between 80th and 81st Street, 212-717-7800