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Dumpling Haus

In a word: Gropius-elf some.

The specs: #0719  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Eat Drink Madison, Yelp, EarlyRunner, A.V. Club; chatter at TDPF; Twitter, Facebook, official web site, Dumpling Haus on Urbanspoon

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Ben, JM, Krista, Nichole, and Ryan ate the haus bao, the haus sticker, 2 plates of shrimp dumplings, pork shaomai, the haus noodle soup, peanut glazed noodle, seasonal harvest noodle, read bean bao, custard bao, and 3 sodas.
The bill was about $70, or $14/person, plus tip.
JM gave Dumpling Haus a B; Nichole gave Dumpling Haus an A-; Ben gave Dumpling Haus a B-; Krista and Ryan gave Dumpling Haus a C (see our grading rubric).

Dumpling Haus demonstrates that mass production does not necessarily have to have a negative impact on creativity or quality.

It was a Saturday night when we took in dinner. The line spilled out the door and into the mall corridor. The dining area is bright, small and sleekly but humanely appointed, with a capacity of 30 or 40, maximum. The tables turned fast, though - our party of 6 snagged seats by the time we'd ordered at the counter.

Tonight they were still ironing out the kinks*. Many menu items were sold out, notably most of the vegetarian options and the intriguingly named "taco style" steamed buns. That said, it was clear the staff were giving it their all, and the place has enough spunk to make Andy Rooney smile and reflect on the glory of daffodils.

We got four plates. They came out in waves, steaming hot from the kitchen.

Bao zi

The bao zi, described as "savory homemade steamed buns, baolicious!" on the menu, were cloud-light. The dough had a faintly sour, vinegar aroma that was not exactly unpleasant, and the filling was a spicy pork that appeared again in the shomai.

Pork shaomaiShrimp dumpling

These "open-topped dumplings stuffed with pork, onion, ginger, water chestnuts" had a very sage-heavy, breakfast-sausage flavor. They were comforting as get-out, hot, salty and moist. The shrimp dumplings were translucent, warm, and fresh, in a light soy dressing. The "haus sticker" with their pan-browned outsides provided a more structured variation on the theme of pork-in-wrappers. Everything came with fresh green onion garnish.

Haus sticker

We also took in three noodle bowls. Here the menu could use some clarification; everything is glumped under "noodles" but most dishes are what a typical Madisonian would think of as soup. Starting with the best and least soup-like, the peanut glazed noodle was a good choice. It's a take on cold sesame noodles with cucumbers, onions, and dried cranberries - an unusual choice but the tart flavor was the perfect complement to the rich noodles. We upped our order with four haus dumplings ("pork, veggies, scallions") which added heft.

The haus noodle soup - "signature braised beef or pork immersed in savory broth" - also benefitted from the addition of dumplings. Cabbage, carrots, cucumber and tender pork belly were all fine, if a wee bit boring.

The seasonal harvest noodle was one of the only vegetarian options available. It had carrots, bok choi, and onion in a mild broth, which we spiked with hot sauce from the counter (until it was a bit too hot to stand, actually).

Peanut glazed noodleHaus noodle soup with pork

For dessert there were bao with yellow custard or sweet red bean paste. The smooth, yielding exterior texture reminded us of a McDonald's hamburger bun, which made a certain amount of sense later when we learned that the dessert bao aren't made in-haus. The filling was smooth and subtly sweet.           

Red bean baoRed bean baoCustard bao

Our opinions diverged quite a bit on this meal. JM has slaked his curiosity, but Nichole loves the cheerfulness and joie de vivre of the place enough to want to move in. Krista and Ben were underwhelmed, and Ryan admitted that his standards for Asian food have been raised by years of life in SEATAC. But you know what, that's all OK.

There's a little thing we have to commend Madison for: one of us left a cell phone on a chair in the corridor, and an anonymous Samaritan returned it to the info desk. In some towns, so we hear, that just doesn't happen. So good on you, Madtown, for being awesome. Keep it up.

*We're also still ironing out kinks - there are definitely factual errors in this post, but we were so high on pork, carbs and good company that we didn't actually care. And we're guessing the German spelling of "house" is a goofy pun on Bauhaus (hence our Gropius reference, though we did not ask either [update: their answer]), "bao" being a key menu item. We regret the errors and speculation, but it bears repeating that if this were a professional review, we'd have visited more than once, interviewed the owners, done a little extra research, and worked over our story with an editor - all luxuries we don't have as self-funded bloggers.

Comments

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Bao Haus.

OH MY GOD THAT'S GENIUS.

And if memory serves, at least one of the owner's family members is an architect or designer.

I get it now.

The real winner in the noodle dishes is the Homestyle Tomato and Egg bowl. I dunno how they season it but it's pretty excellent. And the "Haus Pork" is worth and order alone - it's slow-braised pork belly, and it's terrifying, artery-clogging, and wonderful.

Isthmus has [at least Sat. opening] hours wrong. Tried to eat there Oct. 1 @10:15 a.m.
and was told by restaurant employees that hours don't start til 11. Recommend calling ahead.

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