Some bites of food are so satisfying they immediately send a signal to the brain that says, ”I’ve got to eat as much of this as possible.” This might occur over cheese popcorn, Doritos, or the uni bar at your rich friend’s wedding - no matter what, you’re walking away stuffed and with some seriously orange fingers. At Qing Xiang Yuan, an upscale BYOB spot in Chinatown, you’ll take one taste of their broth-filled dumplings and know you’re leaving full, happy, and wishing you weren’t full just so you could do it all over again.
When you hear “broth-filled,” you might be picturing soup dumplings (xiao long bao), but that’s not what’s on the menu at QXY. Their dumplings are different - they’re firmer, with wonderful chewy wrappers, and filled with just enough salty soup to create a balanced, juicy bite. They’re also incredibly tasty and comforting, the kind of thing that seems perfect for curing a cold or a hangover.
What’s not so great for a hangover is this restaurant’s brightly lit and cheerfully loud atmosphere. And the decisions you’re faced with while scrolling through the long list of dumplings on the table’s iPad menu. And choosing whether you want them steamed, boiled, or fried, and deciding between fillings like pork and cabbage, shrimp and pork and leek, crab and pork, beef and onion, chicken and mushroom - wait, go back, they also have egg and tomato, oh, and egg and pepper - hold on, there’s also a lamb and coriander…
You get the point.
Thankfully they’re all good, and if you ask, your server can suggest a preparation for each type of dumpling you order. Not everything here is perfect - the more expensive seafood fillings (like the crab) are blended with pork, which overshadows the delicate flavor. And the fried dumplings are unreliable: sometimes they’re soft and barely fried, and sometimes they’re overdone and tough. The best strategy is just to make sure you have a variety of fillings and preparations on the table.
There are some other things on the menu worth ordering, if only to break up the endless procession of dumplings that should be making their way to your mouth. The spicy mushroom salad is a nice detour, and so are the smoky lamb skewers. But don’t make these the focal point of your visit. They’re just enjoyable diversions, like a commercial during the Super Bowl that stars Jeff Goldblum.
This restaurant makes us feel like nine-year-olds at the drive-thru after soccer practice, excited for the chance to eat more french fries than seems possible for any kids meal to contain. At QXY, the fries are swapped for dumplings, but the rest is the same: we know what we’re getting, we know we’re eating as much of it as we can, and we know we’re going to be glad we did.
These are the best dumplings here. They taste a little like White Castle sliders, and if you don’t understand why that’s wonderful then we can’t help you.
Pretty much any of the pork dumplings are worth getting - something about the way the fatty meat combines with the broth is just perfect. We can’t really taste the cabbage, but we trust that it’s bringing something to the party.
See above, but swap the cabbage for some shrimp and leek, which have a bit more flavor.
These dumplings are filled with scrambled eggs, diced tomatoes, and broth. They’re not as flavorful as the meat-filled ones, but when you add the vinegar and chili oil sitting on each table, it becomes a must-order.
Most orders of the dumplings fall in the $10-$13 range, but the seafood ones are a lot more. An order of the crab will set you back $29.99. The meat and roe are mixed with pork, which overshadows any crab flavor you’re paying for. Skip it and just get another order of pork and cabbage.
While you’re daydreaming about an oversized Pez dispenser full of dumplings, you can take a break with an order of the mushroom salad. It’s salty, spicy, and a perfect palate cleanser between dumpling platters.
The fatty lamb is seasoned with cumin, and these skewers are a tasty option if you want to mix things up. But given how well it worked when you “mixed things up” in your first marriage, you might want to stay faithful to the dumplings here.