The idea of a place where you can get only dumplings—and get them quickly—is a pretty great one. So it is little surprise that Dumplings of Fury (4302 S.W. Oregon St., 257-0695) is doing brisk business. If you live nearby, it should make for some no-brainer dinners or late-night snacks. But the buzz of the West Seattle hot spot has crossed the bridge and is attracting diners citywide to its Lilliputian space, which allows for maybe 10 people to cram in at counters by the window, with just enough wall space to hang a few Bruce Lee posters. In essence, it is a takeout spot. We braved the chill on a recent Friday night, however, and took a seat at one of a few outdoor tables because dumplings are never better than when eaten immediately. Unfortunately, the actual quality of the dumplings and the bao here didn’t wow me enough to inspire future crosstown drives.
Among the four types of dumplings (ranging from $7 to $9 for at least two per order), the Jumbo Kimchee Mandu were by far my favorite; four of them come stuffed with a pork, tofu, and kimchi mixture that is rich and earthy and speaks of gochujang, a Korean fermented bean paste. I’ve never had a dumpling interior quite like it before. These two-inch umami knockouts don’t even need one of the many tasty dipping sauces. The fried vegetable gyoza, on the other hand, while filled with tofu, Field Roast meat substitute, shitake mushroom, and water chestnut, are utterly bland, a pity for vegetarians. The round, pan-fried shrimp and chive dumplings in a tapioca wrapper are almost a success; they’re filled with lots of whole shrimp, but the exterior is a tad thick and pasty and the flavor too subtle. I was looking for a brinier blast from those shrimp. The shrimp and pork wontons (which are essentially dumplings with less filling and larger, thinner wrappings) are solid. The wrapper is thin and slippery and filled with bits of shrimp and pork generously bathed in a “spicy Szechuan sauce” scattered with shallots and Chinese basil. Like the mandu, the wontons are no shrinking violets. (They also make an appearance in the hot and sour soup, which I did not try.)
As for the bao (steamed buns), they come in two iterations: as standalones and as sandwiches. The buns themselves in both instances are not like the overtly fluffy ones you tend to find at dim sum restaurants. These are denser, though ultimately perhaps too dense, as they tend to crack when you eat them, particularly when acting as sandwich bread. They hold up better in the kalbi, with marinated short ribs, kimchi, and cilantro. In the chicken sandwich, however, the buns fail in part because of the disproportionate ingredients—though I can see why this particular item would be a customer favorite. It’s loaded with a fried piece of chicken that spills over the sides, a pickled radish the size of a silver dollar, crushed peanuts, and a mayo-based sauce. This is really just a yummy fried-chicken sammy to which the bao adds nothing—in fact it’s a detriment, as everything just falls apart on the way to your mouth. I hate a poorly constructed sandwich that leaves me picking at everything with my fingers or a fork. The standalone bao served in a paper bag fares better; its filling is copious, the pieces of pork generously sized and not sickeningly sweet as is common. Typically, these are all doughy buns with a spoonful of sweet Chinese barbecue-slathered minced pork.
Curiously, Dumplings of Fury offers a BBQ pork and Chinese broccoli add-on to any dumpling for $2.50. I got it, but wasn’t sure what to do with the stray rounds of pork and the stalks of broccoli. It’s not as though you can shove them into a dumpling, and they’re not amazing enough to just eat solo.
No longer on the menu: the soup dumplings. A staffer told me they were simply too time-consuming to make, and given the harried state of the cooks, I’m guessing they made a good decision. email@example.com