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Xiao long bao/XLB (soup dumplings) have been around forever, but for some reason, their recent popularity has skyrocketed like the number of twitter followers Caitlyn Jenner racked after her first tweet.  The one thing that makes soup dumplings stand apart is the pork soup inside each dumpling from the rendered fat in the meat filling. If you ask your average/mainstream foodie where to get decent XLB in the Seattle area, the go-to response will be, Din Tai Fung – an international restaurant chain originating from Taiwan. I tend to shy away from mainstream spots and espeically places that have a ‘bougie reputation. To no fault of their own, DTF has unfortunately garnered a reputation of being both. Enter Dough Zone, a local restaurant specializing in all things dough and all things dumplings. With two locations in Bellevue, WA, we went to the original location on NE 8th St.  It’s a moderately sized restaurant with booths and tables on the dining floor and a fairly clean ambiance.  Arriving on a Sunday around 11am, I was anticipating a wait, but we were seated within 5-minutes. After looking over the menu, our server came by a few minutes later and took our order.

neccessities

neccessities

The Food:

chinese donut $1.75 each

chinese donut/you tiao $1.75 each

The Chinese donut or you tiao, is a staple in Tawainese breakfast/brunch. It’s commonly eaten between shao bing, a Chinese sesame flat bread. Overall, it was ok. The initial bite was warm and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Unfortunately, as it cooled the outside became harder and tough. We ordered the donut mainly as a toddler-friendly dish for Rylie, but Cherry and I ended up eating most of it.

 pig ears $3.75

pig ears $3.75

rylie approves

rylie approves

Braised pig ears are another very common side dish in Chinese meals and trust me when I’ve said I’ve had my fare share. The pig ears at Dough Zone were topped with a sweeter sauce than what I’m custom to (at home they drizzle it with sesame oil) and I would have liked them braised longer to bring out more of the anise/soy flavors.  They did get Rylie’s stamp of approval though, as she ate a majority of the plate herself!

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

I was pretty happy to see beef pancake rolls on the menu; even more so to see it offered spicy! The first time I’ve had a beef roll was in Vancouver at Peaceful Restaurant, which set the bar high. It looked nice when served, but my overall impression of the roll was mediocre. The green onion pancake was on the doughier side and the “spicy” element was a bit of chili oil inside. Like the pig ears,  I would have like to taste more flavors from the braising liquid (soy/anise.) The additional green onion added inside did add a bright pop.

 

 pork dumplings $4.25

pork dumplings $4.25

 These handmade dumplings were the highlight of my meal. The first thing I noticed was how good the dumpling wrapper was. Like Goldilocks eating baby bear’s porridge, it was just right. The pork had a rich flavor with the chives providing a pleasant accent. I can’t say these are the best dumplings I’ve personally had, but they’re definitely good enough for me to come back.

xiao long bao $9.5

xiao long bao $9.5

The featured item of our meal were the xiao long bao, or as they name it here, Juicy pork buns. Despite popular belief, I don’t think there’s a “right” way to eat a XLB, so I tried a variety of methods. The focal point of any XLB is always the soup, and the pork soup here carried a sweet and creamy flavor. Alone, the XLB were just ok. I felt the sweetness of the juice overpowered the meat filling. When combined with the vinegar/soy/ginger sauce, the tastiness took a a big jump up. I really enjoyed the bright flavors of the ginger when combined with the sour and salty flavors of the vinegar and soy. As a whole, all of the flavors came together quite nicely when eaten together.

My Conclusion: I had a very enjoyable meal at Dough Zone. The service was prompt and the servers were all very polite. Although there were a few dishes that could be improved upon, the ones that were delicious exceeded my expectations. Their menu is also quite expansive, ranging from a huge variety of different dumplings, to a ton of different noodle, congee and soup dishes. The prices are also very reasonable .  

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