Staff Writer Vivian Zhou is starting a series on the Chinese food around Morningside Heights. This week, she hiked up the Broadway hill to La Salle Dumpling Room. Here are her thoughts.
We all get homesick. For some people home is a literal 10-minute walk away. For me, home is more than 10,000 miles away, a 15-hour flight, and at least 500 dollars. La Salle Dumpling Room may basically be in Harlem, but it’s really only an 8-block hike.
The Chinese food selection in Morningside Heights is not extensive. There are the food carts, Junzi, and a few restaurants here and there. La Salle markets itself as a dumpling room and they have soup dumplings, which is exactly what drew me in when my homesickness kicked in during my first few weeks of college.
The restaurant has a very nice ambiance– they have old pictures from China, blue and white china plates on the wall, a huge red mural that says “dumpling house” in Chinese, and little bird cages hanging from the ceiling. The menu is extensive and offers dishes beyond authentic Chinese food: kimchi fried rice, a rice bowl featuring cheese and egg, and popcorn chicken. The dishes are on the expensive side, with starters at around $10, noodles at around $12, entrées at around $15, and dumplings at around $9. Cheaper than that $500 ticket though.
On my first visit, I just got the soup dumplings because it is exactly what I was craving. Being from Shanghai, where soup dumplings originated, I’ve had all types of soup dumplings in all kinds of places. Frankly, I didn’t like La Salle’s soup dumplings. They were the right amount of thinness and were well made, but the filling was missing the juicy, umami flavor that soup dumplings simply must have.
In the following visits, I’ve tried the steamed pork dumplings, cold sesame noodles, pork belly sandwich, and shredded pork with dried bean curd. My favorite and a definitely recommended dish: shredded pork with dried bean curd. This dish comes with dried bean curd, which is tougher in texture than regular tofu, tender shredded pork, scallions, and a vegetable that Google Translate says is called “rice stem”. It goes perfectly with white rice (which comes with) and I’ve already gone back to have this twice. The cold sesame noodles are a starter and taste very light and healthy, if not a little too light. The pork belly sandwich is a little dry and does not have that much pork belly for how much it costs. The dumplings were not so memorable but they definitely weren’t horrible. For a place that’s a dumpling house, their dumplings don’t match up to the name.
TL;DR: go to La Salle for the shredded pork with dried bean curd!! It’s a cute place, but don’t just order dumplings, get entrées too. Make sure you take one of the guava candies on the counter before you leave– they will change your life.