Last week, Cascabel Taqueria's new dumpling joint in their former Upper East Side Space (they've moved up a block), Mahjong Dumplings, opened to the public. The chef Shlomi Biton serves an unusual roster of dumplings filled with everything from ratatouille to fried Maryland crab, offered alongside items like Thai curried chicken and coconut and homemade pickles. The early dumpling fans and local foodies have already checked the place out and filed their reports. Some are wowed, some are turned off by the pricing, and some think they should just change the concept altogether. To the early word:
The Great News: A Menupages reviewer is an early fan: "I decided to eat here last night after walking by the restaurant. The atmosphere looked very inviting. Although the space was small and may feel tight to some, it didn't bother me. The cucumber pickles were fantastic. I am a huge pickle fan and these were garlicky and simple. We enjoyed all of the dumplings we tried. Mom's Style were my favorite. The Traditional Monkey was my least favorite- if only because the more interesting dumplings overshadowed the more simple one. Overall I had a great dining experience and can't wait to go back." [Menupages]
The Not So Great News: A blogger who focuses on dumplings files a long review. This is the summation: "The design, the menu, and even the name (what does the Asian tile game have to do with dumplings other than the cultural reference?) are all rather uninspired and lack focus. Too many kitschy elements are going on and none of them add up to a real destination. I’m no restaurateur and certainly no chef, but I feel like this concept would work much better if instead of forcing other cuisines into a Chinese concept, why not show how dumplings are universal and offer every cuisines’ true take on dumplings? You could have jiaozi, ravioli, pierogies, and samosas all on the same menu. Instead we get a little bit of Asian, a little bit of hipster, and just a little bit of flavor. But I bet they’ll have a killer website." [Eat This NY]
The So-So News: This Yelper files a meh review: "Considering the pickings in this neighborhood, I will say that I will end up eating here again. Room: Cramped. Too small for what they want, I think. Will probably stick to take out unless they can't deliver in time (No idea they haven't started delivery yet). Best summed up as Asian Kitsch...Food: Food was good. Certainly more than ok. Nothing really all that interesting but nothing offensive. It was served waaaay to quick for it to be made to order....Service: Friendly people but I got 2 plates of dumplings before starters and didn't know if it was just a mistake or if there isn't a real structure desired when it comes to it. Didn't upset me or anything, just odd. Value: You don't feel all that ripped off but 3 dumplings for 4.50 is a bit on the high side, regardless of the creativity. Crab dumpling felt a little light on the crab for 2 of them." [Yelp]
The Bad News: An Eater commenter is not wowed: "Had dinner at this establishment with high hopes, but it was failure after failure after failure... It took ten minutes to place a simple drink order. Then ordered a ramen appetizer and was expecting ramen soup, but instead was a bland salad with crunchy ramen flakes on top. I was starving, so I placed my dumpling order for five dishes and after an hour they had only brought out two orders a half hour apart (how hard is it to make f*ing dumplins)...
Finally, I asked for the check because i didn't want to wait another two hours for the other dumplings to arrive (which were very small portions). The waiter was about to take my credit card but I asked him to bring the bill first. When he handed me the bill he said sorry for the wait... I only charged you for three dumplings, "but sir, we only received two" I replied. He corrected the mistake, but had the audacity to charge us full price for everything else we ordered - no drinks on the house, no dessert, nothing...." [Eater Commenters]
The Pretty Good News: A Yelper gives it a four star review. We bet the fact that the owner picked up the entire check to make up for slow service didn't hurt: "It was opening night, so the business was slow. To compensate, the owner came out and offered to get the entire check for us, plus another round of drinks!. The Traditional Monkey dumplings were more traditional, pork, cabbage, ginger, in soy mirin; The Spanish Breakfast were creative, chorizo dumplings, topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. My favorite may have been the Ratatouille, zucchini, eggplant, onion, tomato, topped with yogurt and olives. All in all everything was really tasty, but a bit expensive at $4.25 per order of three dumplings, with 6-9 dumplings required to make a person feel close to full. A great selection of beers on tap and in bottles to wash it all down with, at about $6-8." [Yelp]