179 Second Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
New York, NY
When Mimi Cheng’s first opened in 2014, I was skeptical. But now I feel bad for judging Mimi before even trying them out. I was skeptical because it seemed like an upscale dumpling restaurant pandering to people who are willing to pay too much for, what I assumed to be, meh dumplings. There was too much branding. Too much buzz. For some reason, I thought a polished restaurant couldn’t be a great dumpling restaurant. It’s like having an expensive chicken and rice.
But now thinking about it, why can’t we have an expensive chicken and rice? Why is it that Korean food is in general more expensive than Chinese food? Or that French food is almost always pretty upscale? It can’t just be that ingredients may be more expensive. I should be promoting the elevation of Chinese food!
I had the boiled Reinvented Classic (six piece for $8), which had a filling of pasture-raised pork, baby bok choy, and cabbage. The classic is usually pork with cabbage. The addition of the baby bok choy was great. More color and an extra bit of crunch. You can taste that the meat is so much higher quality than the usual chinatown dumpling. It was tender yet not full of fat, and did not contain any cartilage bits that you sometimes get with chinatown dumplings… really tasty and light. How dumplings should be!
Their skins are manufactured by Twin Marquis (yeah… they don’t make ’em in house). Growing up, my mom always said that the skin is just as important, if not more (we are carb people), than the filling. We always make our own skins. Fresh skin + fresh filling = delicious dumpling. Mimi Cheng’s skins are still good despite the fact that their skin is manufactured. The skins were delicate, thin, and had a nice bite to them. Though, you can still taste the difference. In an interview of the Mimi Cheng sisters I read, they said that their dumplings are different form the thicker skin northern Beijing-style dumplings. They said, “it’s like thick crust pizza versus thin crust pizza.” The thing is, Beijing-style dumplings are not supposed to be thick skinned either. When made right, they are just as thin as the one pictured above. They just have a different texture. They’re chewier and softer.
I had the pork dumplings with Mimi Cheng’s secret sauce. “Secret sauce” is a nice branding thing to make it sound like more time and effort was put into concocting this sauce than say the sauce at Vanessa’s Dumplings. At Vanessa’s, you get one of those clear plastic bottles filled with a sauce they made (I think soy sauce + vinegar + sugar + maybe garlic?). There’s no label. I guess it’s a “secret sauce” in that they don’t tell you what’s in it. But it’s delicious nonetheless. Anyway, I sound bitter again about how nicely packaged Mimi Cheng’s is when I shouldn’t be. The sauce is good. They have a pretty custom bottle for it.
Since six dumplings is not a meal, I also got six pan-fried Thanksgiving dumplings ($8), which were filled with turkey, gravy, and stuffing, and paired with cranberry sauce. Sounded weird but I was intrigued.
The dumpling was oddly tasty. I didn’t like the texture of the filling as much (very mushy, wish there was maybe some celery or something to give it a crunch) but the flavors were … oddly good. It was salty and so tasted… oddly (there really is no other word to describe how I thought it tasted) good with the cranberry sauce. If you’re looking to attend a Friendsgiving or something and need to bring food, try these dumplings! They’re oddly delicious.
Next time, I’ll have to try their dessert dumplings. I saw on their Facebook that they have a pumpkin creamcheese one… mmm… only problem is it cost me about $20 for lunch. I didn’t even get a drink :(