220 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
The dumplings here are not good. Yet, I have them at least once every two weeks. Why? Because it’s the only place near me that specializes in dumplings and I ache for dumplings about once every two weeks.
I always get the basic: boiled cabbage and pork dumplings ($3.99 for eight). Cabbage and pork dumplings are classic. The cabbage adds moisture and sweetness to the meat. A quality dumpling would have thin, yet chewy skin, tender and flavorful, not-too-loose-nor-dense filling. As you can see here, Vanessa’s dumplings have thick skin, and despite the color of the meat, it actually is quite bland. Soy sauce and chili sauce is needed. In China, the classic way to eat dumplings is just to dip it in a little vinegar. The vinegar helps cut the flavor and fattiness from the dumpling itself.
Even though more expensive, I’ve started ordering the wontons with spicy sauce ($4.49 for eight). The fundamental difference between wontons and dumplings is the wrapper. Wontons have square wrappers and are meant to be paper thin. They are generally less chewy in texture because the skin/wrapper is thinner than dumplings. The filling then is usually the star of the show.
As you can see, Vanessa’s piles on the heat and sauce for the spicy wontons, ensuring flavor. The wontons are also made with shrimp and veggies, which given the fact that they can’t boil pork dumplings without making the pork into dense balls, wontons are a great alternative.
I can never eat a whole meal of just dumplings from Vanessa’s because after a few dumplings, I feel like I’m just eating dough. Here is something on the menu that I actually love and order not only because it is cheap and easily accessible from my apartment, but because it tastes fantastic. The sesame sandwich with egg ($2.49) is a sandwich the size of a small slice of pizza. The bread is airy, slightly greasy, and covered with sesame seeds. The egg is like a scallion omelet. Simple and delicious.
The sandwich here that we had most recently was on the dry side. Notice no extra juices drenching the bread. I used to always order this too until I found that Xi’an has better, more flavorful pork sandwiches.
So, Vanessa’s, good job picking out your spot. You have a fairly large radius of dumpling monopoly. That’s the only reason I keep coming back for you.