Chinatown’s Vanessa’s Dumpling House Lives Up To The Hype
I became something of a Chinatown dumpling addict after I discovered the price to deliciousness ratio after moving to the city a couple of years ago from the midwest. Sadly, the Financial District has little- to-no decent dumpling options so I decided to take the subway a couple of stops up to Vanessa’s Dumpling House on Eldridge St.
If you don’t have more than an hour for lunch, I would recommend getting the food to go as there’s usually a line and you may have wait for a fresh batch of whatever you ordered. The lunch crowd is decidedly less insane than the weekend crowd, when it seems like the place is filled with hipsters no matter when you go. In those cases, I usually head down the street to Prosperity Dumpling instead.
You get 4 dumplings for $1 at Vanessa’s, which I know some complain is inferior to the 5 for $1 offered at some shops. What you’re paying for is an actual seating space that’s not just a counter against a wall, and the joy of watching four or five ladies making dumpings, noodles and sandwiches in the open kitchen. Plus, $1 is still ridiculously cheap.
I ordered pork and chive dumplings (fried, of course) and a sesame pancake sandwich with roast beef. Ironically, the only guy I saw working there was the one taking the orders, and sitting down while doing it.
I started with the dumplings, as they are technically an appetizer and I had a strategy going, involving sopping up the pork juice, sriracha, and dumpling sauce left in the bottom of the container with the sandwich. The dumplings have a nice, thick skin and the pork has a lot of chives imbedded. It also actually tasted like pork, which is more than I can say of some I’ve eaten.
The sandwich was sizeable enough and a steal at $2. That’s right – my lunch totaled $3. Even if you factor in subway rides, this doesn’t break the Midtown Lunch barrier. Anyway, back to the sandwich. It was sort of like a bastardized banh mi, with sweet roast beef, carrots and cilantro. It was kind of dry despite the grease in the sesame pancake, but some sriracha (diluted far less than other dumpling places I’ve been to) and a drag through the dumpling juices nicely remedied that.
I’m still partial to a couple of the more bare-bones places on what I like to call “dumpling row” on Eldridge, despite once seeing a guy come out of the kitchen of one carrying a live cat. True story.
But it’s nice having a table to sit down at if you’re able to snag one, and Vanessa and the ladies make a fine dumpling.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Four dumplings, $1. What’s not to like?
- I can watch them cook my food.
- It’s less sketchy than some of the other dumpling shops.
- They don’t dilute the sriracha down to red water.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- They should give me 5 dumplings for $1.
- The place is always busy whenever I go.
- I don’t eat carbs and that’s all they serve.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118 Eldridge St. (between Grand and Broome ), (212) 625-8008