Dear Dumpling Dojo,
I know you're only a "pop-up" restaurant—a temporary restaurant filling a fleeting niche in Seattle's dining ecosystem. You'll be gone soon enough, replaced by yet another Bank of America outpost at the former site of Siam on Broadway. Maybe you see your impermanence as a reason to ignore the sort of things most restaurants obsess about—stuff like quality, taste, and value.
But I worry, Dumpling Dojo, that you're giving pop-up restaurants a bad name. And so, I'd like to offer some advice.
Gyoza photo—not Dumpling Dojo's—by Flickr user Purple Cloud.
First: If you're going to charge $2 a pop for dumplings the size of a typical restaurant gyoza, they need to be something special. Spectacular, even. And yours—sorry to be blunt, but you need to hear this—were, even by the charitable standards of takeout, blah. Four oblong beef dumplings came stuffed with an oddly red-hued mixture that had about as much beef flavor as the hide of a football. Plus, with the beef mixture pureed to a paste, every bite felt like eating a noodle smeared with Braunschweiger. Don't get me wrong, DD— liverwurst is great, but it doesn't belong in my gyoza.
Your vegetable dumplings, folded into cute-looking pinwheels, had the opposite textural issue: The filling, which included stringy bits of spinach, parsley, and mustard greens along with small cubes of flavorless tofu, was so inconsistently chopped that little bits kept getting stuffed in my teeth. Plus, the flavor reminded me of watery, freezer-burned pre-packaged spinach—and not, I shouldn't have to tell you, in a good way.
The sauces that came with our dumplings—described on your menu as "sesame citrus soy" and "Asian Chimichurri"—didn't add enough of a flavor kick to make up for your bland dumplings. The soy sauce tasted like, well, plain soy sauce, and the chimichurri tasted like oil mixed with parsley. Maybe you got your parsley and cilantro mixed up that night, or maybe the cilantro was just a little off—but these things can be resolved by, you know, tasting your ingredients before serving them to customers. Just a suggestion.
Can we talk, briefly, about your atmosphere? I know you're going to be gone in a month, but consider putting something on the walls, playing a CD, something to break up the monotony of bare walls and silence. Perhaps if your staff had talked to us while we waited for a good 20 minutes to get our take-out order, the room wouldn't have seemed so oppressive.
Finally, Dumpling Dojo, have you considered lowering your prices? We spent $21 and ended up hungry. For truly spectacular dumplings, that might not have been a problem; but until you step up quality or cut your prices in half, I'm sticking with Trader Joe's frozen potstickers.
Dumpling Dojo is at 616 Broadway Ave. East, and will be open for the next six months or so.
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