When I moved to New York last summer, I pretty much crapped myself during my first trip to our local grocery store here in Midtown. A relatively normal box of cereal cost $6 if it was on sale, $8 if the grocery store really hates you. One day, my girlfriend brought home a $20 bottle of laundry detergent–and it turned out to be crappy faux-natural soap that didn’t even come close to taking the stink out of my shirts.
I got used to the New York prices pretty quickly, though. I just assume that $50 will magically fly out of my wallet as soon as I step out of my apartment. As soon as I step into a bar, I just assume that another $50 will fly out of my wallet, in addition to the $50 that escaped on my way out of my apartment. And it doesn’t even bother me anymore–my savings account is about as robust as a shriveled turnip, but I figure that it’s just part of living in Manhattan. Everything is expensive as all hell… oh, well.
So imagine my shock when I managed to take home a solid dinner for two people, and it only cost $10.25.
Now, let me explain something: my girlfriend eats like a truck driver. (Though she doesn’t look like one–click here to see a gorgeous picture of her without clothes on.) My girlfriend sometimes calls me her “boar”, since I eat even more than she does (trust me: you don’t want to see a picture of me naked). So this isn’t about to be a stupid story about how, like, we split a take-out meal and it was soooooo much food that we could just share one entree for dinner and still be happy. That never, ever, ever happens to us.
No, we actually ate meals. Well, OK: we ate assloads of dumplings. But I swear it was pretty much a balanced meal.
All of this was pretty much dumb luck. I wandered into the Chinatown location of Vanessa’s Dumpling House, and randomly called out numbers to the cashier. Thanks to the magic of receipts, I found out that I’d ordered basil & chicken dumplings (8 for $3.75), one steamed cabbage and pork bun ($1.50), one steamed vegetable bun ($1.50), a sesame pancake stuffed with vegetables ($1.50), and a sesame pancake with roasted pork ($2).
Total: $10.25. And I’d call it a balanced meal… we had carbs with vegetables, carbs with meat, boiled carbs, and carbs with lots of oil.
Who could ask for anything more?
Look, I’m not an expert on dumplings, and I’m not going to even try to critique a place that has received several hundred reviews
on yelp, as well as attention from nearly every major NYC food critic. I adored the basil and chicken dumplings, and probably wouldn’t have batted an eye if I’d paid twice as much for them in a full-service restaurant. The vegetable buns were a little bit on the salty side, but had a surprisingly dense pocket of vegetables inside. The sesame pancakes (imagine a slice of pan-fried pizza dough, covered with sesame seeds and stuffed with a thin layer of vegetable or animal) were a little bit on the greasy side, but still awfully tasty.
Best dumplings ever? I have no idea. Probably not, I guess. But they were damned good, and my wallet felt like it had finally escaped Manhattan, at least for one meal.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
118A Eldridge Street, Chinatown
Subway: Essex-Delancey (F, J, M, Z trains) or Grand (B, D trains)