Dublin gets a dedicated dumpling shop
Drury Hall, 4 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2
What’s the story?
In December, what had been Fudo Izakaya on Little Mary Street, reopened after a short and unsuccessful stint selling sushi, as dedicated dumpling shop Little Dumpling. Cautious excitement followed - we love dumplings but had been to Fudo and memories consist of every roll, whether it was meat, fish or fruit tasting the same. The stodge factor was high, the post-digestion was slow. Would this new concept from the somewhat secretive team behind several restaurants in the city be any better? Within weeks the praise was rolling in for the xiao long bao (soup dumplings), spicy prawn and fish egg wontons, and the dish throwing most of Dublin's food obsessed Insta heads into a spin - nutella dumplings. So dirty. So irresistible. So off we went.
Where should we go for a drink first?
Any time you're near Capel Street you would be doing yourself a disservice not to stop for a drink in Bar 1661, Dave Mulligan's hypnotic cocktail bar on Green Street (below). Once there you will understand why they were named cocktail bar of the year at last year's Craft Cocktail Awards, despite only opening in April. Trying their signature Belfast coffee is non-negotiable, and they have the best obscure spirits list we've seen - including a very impressive array of mezcal, at even more impressive prices. If for any reason you're off the booze you can head to The Virgin Mary, Ireland's first non-alcoholic bar, or for cocktails, New Orleans inspired Krewe is getting a good name for their Louisiana Bowlers and Sazeracs.
Where should we sit?
Going off our visit on a Saturday at lunchtime you'll be lucky to get a seat, so will probably have to take what you're given. You may have to queue (but can book by calling the restaurant - advised), and there are tables for two and four, as well as a couple of window seats. It only seats around 20 and it's a squeeze, but most people will be in and out relatively fast.
What's good to eat?
In the interests of thorough research, and because there were five of us, we ordered the whole menu. If you can find four friends to go with we'd advise you do the same. There were no dud dumplings, but some were definitely more standout in terms of flavour than others. The xiao long bao, those elusive soup dumplings, are on the menu with Silver Hill roast duck and hoisin sauce, or Castletownbere crab and pork. For us the duck was the winner on flavour, with deeply savoury threads of saucy meat, but no soup. While the crab and pork had plenty of soup, but were more subtle on the flavour front.
The chicken satay dumplings with fried peanuts and the beef dumplings with shallots and teriyaki sauce were both excellent, with scuffles over the beef in particular, and at €7 for six pieces (so just over €1 for each) really felt like fantastic value. The wrappers on the beef however were quite slippery and not sealed very well so they were hard to pick up.
Probably (if unexpectedly) the dumplings that came out on top were the beetroot with prawn and crabmeat, which had perfect chewy wrappers, and a slightest earthiness from the beetroot up against the fishy richness of the prawn and crab. The spinach and wild mushroom dumplings also got the nods of approval, and it's nice to see vegetable based options that don't suffer on flavour.
The other two dumplings are carrot and spicy kimchi (is there another type?), and spicy prawn and fish egg wontons with chilli sauce. Both good but slightly less memorable, although kimchi in dumplings is something we could get on board with.
On the day we were there the only available sides were jasmine rice, kimchi and miso soup. Two mystery sides were crossed out in black - maybe they'll make an appearance again in the future. We loved the addition of edamame beans in the rice, and the kimchi had the crunchy/spicy balance licked. No complaints.
Finally to the outlier, the Insta-dish, the caption grabber - Nutella dumplings with vanilla ice and mini marshmallows. We'll admit to one or two eye rolls when we saw these surface, but for whatever reason they just work. Go with it, live your life, order more than one portion.
What about the drinks?
Very basic - white or red wine with no information on what they are (presume the worst), prosecco (same), Krombacher or Heineken for beer, limited soft drinks and green tea. So many places miss the opportunity to put together an interesting, compact drinks list that will increase the per head spend and we will never understand it.
And the service?
The queueing system was non-existant, with no one coming out to give an idea of wait times or to take names. This meant everyone who newly turned up walked into the crammed restaurant first to see what was happening, and at times things got confusing (and a bit tense) as twos who had just arrived were seated ahead of threes and fours in the queue. A little communication would have gone a long way. Once inside staff couldn't have been nicer, and they did take a portion of nutella dumplings off the bill to apologise for the wait. They did however bring almost every dish at the same time - a pet peeve of ours - meaning half of it was cold by the time we got around to eating it. Next time we would order two or three plates at a time.
Little dumpling is a solid addition to Dublin's food scene and our first dedicated dumpling shop. It's tasty, fast and cheap, and while we're not going to say it'll change your life, we're glad it's there and would happily return. We're very much in favour of anywhere putting suppliers like Silver Hill duck and Wright's seafood on the menu, and hope the team continue to innovate and perfect the menu over the coming months. Judging by the current buzz it will be jammed regardless.
28 Mary Street Little, Dublin 7 littledumpling.ie