The excellent Eastside dumplings (finally!) come to Seattle — prepare for the greatness, and prepare for the wait.
You might as well just go get in line now. You can finish reading this while you wait. Local dumpling favorite Dough Zone has — at last! — opened in Seattle, right across from Uwajimaya on Fifth Avenue South, and it is great.
I’m going to go out on a dumpling-limb here: Dough Zone is better than Din Tai Fung.
The dumplings at the brand-new branch of the Zone were significantly hotter, juicier and more tender (tenderer?) than my most recent batches of Din Tai Fung ones — which, to be clear, were really good. But while the latest Dough Zone is bigger than its siblings, it’s still not an enormous dumpling-emporium like Din Tai Fung, where the distance from the kitchen to your mouth and the ways your order can get, even slightly, delayed are increased. The service at the new Zone was nearly annoyingly efficient — we were asked no fewer than four times if we were ready to order yet, in about as many minutes — but saved by total friendliness. The first dumplings came out fast, the rest well-paced. And did I mention hot? I’ve never been happier to burn my lip.
504 Fifth Ave. S., Ste. 109 (Chinatown-International District); 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; 206-285-9999; facebook.com/pg/DoughzoneSeattle; also at 15920 N.E. 8th St. and 14625 N.E. 24th St. in Bellevue, 7625 170th Ave N.E. in Redmond, and 1580 N.W. Gilman Blvd. in Issaquah
I haven’t been to all four Eastside Dough Zone locations (Issaquah, Redmond and two in Bellevue), though that is research I would happily undertake. It’s possible that Dough Zone’s dumplings are the best in the state. Meanwhile, please send all candidates for this title directly to my mouth.
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Super-delicious dumplings: Dough Zone’s xiao long bao, or soupy dumplings, are a paragon of proportions: just the right amount of tender, elastic wrapper (which, yes, sags beautifully downward when lofted with chopsticks), to soft, savory, porky filling, to hot, delicate, marvelous broth, all in one perfect bite.
Pork-and-shrimp pot stickers are a lacey-outlined lineup of a half-dozen golden-fried beauties, with wrappers neither too thick nor too thin, and an excellent level of shrimpiness.
Steamed beef dumplings didn’t sound exciting, but their soft crescent of notably juicy, deeply flavored meatball sealed in with a dozen tiny pleats along the top turned out to be tantamount to thrilling.
And when we saw q-bao (Dough Zone’s name for sheng jian bao) being carried to almost every table, we broke down and ordered them, too. Puffy, super-cushy and not at all doughy, they’ve got swirled-pinched tops and toasty-seared bottoms, plus a bit of broth inside that turns all gravy-like. Recommended.
Save your stomach space: The noodles with onion soy sauce tasted like kids’ food, and while chili oil helped, they were already too oily. Green onion pancake struck a good balance between crispy and chewy, but was also bland. Save your stomach space for more dumplings!
Cute dots: The sleek space is more clean-lined contemporary than the Eastside editions. Dozens — maybe hundreds? — of felt-fabric dots suspended from the ceiling cutely punctuate the airspace and maybe even keep the sound down; the noise level is low-ish for a hard-surfaced spot, even when full. It’ll probably always be full.
Prices: Pork xiao long bao, pork-and-shrimp pot stickers, steamed beef dumplings, q-bao, noodles with onion soy sauce and green onion pancake added up to $38.65 before tax and tip, and added up to way too much food for two people. Note: There’s no beer at this writing, but they say it’s on the way.