The Vibe: Ever since receiving and watching the complete Firefly for Christmas--a one-season space-cowboy series created by Joss Whedon wherein everyone, regardless of ethnicity, speaks Chinese and eats Asian food--all I've been able to think about is dumplings. Unable to stomach the prices and required trip to Bellevue for dining at Din Tai Fung, I headed for the ID.
My timing was terrible. On a Sunday afternoon, everyone is eating dumplings via dim sum. The most famous of the local steamed shumai sellers, Jade Garden, had a crowd of people milling outside despite the rain and an hour wait time.
"OK," I told my dining car companion, who wasn't feeling my obsessive drive for dumplings. "We can have sushi or something."
But I'd given up too soon.
The Cafe: Most dim sum places have enormous dining rooms where the staff pushes around carts of dumplings among dozens of hungry diners. But around the corner from Jade Garden at Duk Li Dim Sum (664 W. Weller, 340-6122), there are only a handful of tables. Most were full when we entered the tiny restaurant, a good sign at any ethnic eatery, but the wait was still zero minutes.
Rather than off carts, you order sushi-style off a menu at Duk Li. The selection is a little limited, but all the favorites are on it. On a card, we checked off steamed dumplings, shumai, Chinese broccoli, pork-filled baked and steamed buns, and steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves. I couldn't bring myself to try the chicken feet.
Tea arrived the second we sat. And a few short minutes after a staffer whisked away our order card, the steamed rice and buns also appeared.
At $1.10, I wasn't expecting much from the rice, but it turned out to be the best version I've had. The standard pork stuffed inside the buns is meaty, but at Duk Li it's joined by a thick hunk of Chinese sausage.
I was so excited for the dumplings that I burned my mouth on an enormous shumai ($2 for four) that arrived another two minutes after the rice and buns. But that was the only misstep of the afternoon, and it was self-induced.
We stuffed ourselves for $12.50 after tax (!), and headed back to the station with the smug satisfaction that comes from knowing that people arriving at Jade Garden around the time we entered the door at Duk Li were still waiting in the cold to hear their name called.