Like many big-name restaurants, Little Ting’s Dumplings has taken a familiar expansion route, plopping on the ground-floor of a mixed-use development, another brand anchoring another new enclave.
Lake Hills Village in Bellevue is where you will find the latest iteration of Little Ting’s, a Seattle standby. It’s one of the more focused and interesting Eastside retail-residential projects: a microcosm of Chinatown food — dumplings, noodles, rice bowls, clay pots and bubble tea — all concentrated in a corner complex in southeast Bellevue.
HardWok Café, a popular Taiwanese hangout in the Chinatown International District, is here now, drawing hip Asian teens from around the Eastside. A few doors down, Shabu Shabu Kyoto hawks happy hour with Sapporo beer and spicy Japanese fried chicken. Joining them soon, Meet Fresh, a popular bubble-tea and Asian-dessert chain.
Little Ting’s, though, is its most critically acclaimed get to date, a mom-and-pop dumpling house in Greenwood that through social media has morphed from a modest neighborhood eatery to a dumpling destination.
The menu: What a cruel, cruel thing Little Ting’s did in its spring debut. In its first month of business, it didn’t put its signature dumplings on the menu. Instead, hoping to branch out, Little Ting’s wanted Eastsiders to give its new menu (meat and seafood clay pots) a try. What the …?!? But all is right again. Little Ting’s greatest hits (dumplings and buns), in all of their steamed-and-pan-fried glory, are now served in Bellevue.
A dozen dumplings (beef or pork) go for $10.99-$14.99. Pan-fried buns range from $8.99-$10.99 for six. Other appetizers (congee, Chinese fried doughnuts and onion pancakes) run $2.99-$7.99. Clay pots, eight variations of seafood and other proteins with veggies and tofu simmering in a beef broth, cost $12.99-$15.99; served with steamed rice.
Dumplings and bao buns: the shells are chewy with morsels that are so juicy the drippings might squirt right onto your lap or, worse, other diners a table away. (Oops. Sorry.) The popular pork-and-fennel and the pork-and-chive dumplings are meaty with a bright, herbaceous note. Pan-fried shrimp-chive bao is not a seafood bun, more a green foliage with specks of dried shrimp for a briny flavor. It’s stellar. Eat it while it’s pillowy and piping hot.
Clay pots: Each portion comes with a generous heaping of meat or seafood along with tofu or veggies. In the best of three pots we sampled, the goat meat comes with lean but tender cuts, not as gritty as some of the goat meat served in area restaurants. For those less adventurous, there’s beef wrapped in tofu skin — think hamburger meat, simmering in a delicate beef broth with a hearty serving with rice, though not as savory and satisfying as the goat. Its seafood version was a disaster; sesame oil overwhelmed the broth, with a medley of ingredients that seemed haphazardly tossed together as if it were a last-minute soup de jour. With shrimp, squid, hard-boiled quail eggs, chicken meatballs, tofu, wood ear mushrooms, tomato and cabbage in the broth, about half of the ingredients were overcooked.
The bill: Servers suggest dumplings to share, and a clay pot for each individual diner. The better move: Order several plates of dumplings and split a clay pot family-style. A sample menu: seafood clay pot ($13.99), goat meat clay pot ($15.99) and an order of pork-and-fennel dumplings ($12.99) totaled $42.97 before tax, a big dinner for two.
Little Ting’s Dumplings: 683 156th Ave. S.E., Bellevue; 425-502-9595