For a family dinner, we went to Jingle Bao, a Chinese restaurant on Denman Street (between Robson street and Alberni street). Jingle Bao is best known for their soup dumplings.
We had reservations and were seated shortly after we arrived.
They have a partially open kitchen where the kitchen staff will prep the dumplings before going into the back kitchen for cooking.
The menu bridges across different Chinese regional styles (including shanghainese, cantonese, taiwanese, and szechuan) but their signature dishes are soup dumplings
we started with some shrimp dumplings (ha gow)
These are seasoned shrimp paste stuffed in a wheat flour wrapper and steamed. These were pretty good. The wrappers were a decent thickness, and the shrimp were cooked through and seasoned properly.
vegetarian spring rolls
These spring rolls are thin wheat flour wrappers, stuffed with carrots, onions, daikon, all deep fried to a night crunch. These were actually pretty good. There’s a tendency for restaurants to stuff these spring rolls with prawns, probably because it’s more “fancy” (and they can charge more for it), but I kinda miss old school spring rolls stuffed with vegetables (and/or threaded pork).
shrimp and egg fried rice
This was a shrimp and barbequed pork fried rice dish, accented with peas, corn, carrots, scallions, and a hint of tumeric.
I had reservations about this fried rice when it landed on the table. The use of corn and carrots, and the bright yellow color triggered bad “asian fusion” vibes, but to my surprise, this was actually quite good. The rice was properly seasoned, with lots of aromatic elements. The bright yellow stemmed from tumeric seasoning, with gave the rice a light curry hint.
The main event, being the soup dumplings
classic pork xiaolongbao (小笼包)
these are the classic dumplings of minced seasoned pork with aspic in a pleated wheat flour wrapper. It’s steamed and served with a black vinegar and sliced ginger dipping sauce. These were pretty good (most of them anyways). There was an ample amount of broth in the dumpling, and the pork filling was lightly sweet and savory. I say ‘most’ because the first one I ate was a little mealy, but the rest were fine.
super sized xiaolongbao
This is another xiaolongbao, just bigger. The steamer basket has a single oversized bao, served with a straw so you can suck the soup out first.
Next were the spicy xiaolongbao, and signature seven xiaolongbao
Actually, the spicy soup buns were a mistake. We didn’t order that. We ordered the signature seven soup buns, so the restaurant comp-ed the spicy buns since they would otherwise go to waste. They’re actually not bad. They’re really just same pork soup buns, with a few drops of chili oil in with the aspic broth.
The signature seven soup buns include a pork, spicy pork, shrimp, spinach, mushroom, garlic and a curry bao. I had the curry dumpling, and it did indeed have a light hint of curry flavor in the broth.
crispy snow flake dumplings, pork, and vegetarian
These are pan fried potstickers (pork on the left, and vegetable on the right) that have been pan seared together with a starch slurry and binds the dumplings together when the slurry evaporates. It’s been dressed with seasoned mayonnaise and some edible flower petals. The dumplings themselves were pretty good. They were well prepared, properly seasoned. But the mayonnaise dressing seemed unnecessary. They added some creaminess, but their flavor didn’t compliment the dumplings.
The dining room is bright (it’s a radiant yellow!) and reasonably compact.
The servers were prompt and (by Chinese restaurant standards) fairly attentive and pleasant.
restaurant website: https://jinglebao.com/