Oh. Mah. Jong!

Mahjong Dumplings | 1542 2nd Ave. (bet. 80th & 81st Sts.) | 212.717.7800
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YES, IT'S BEEN A VERRRRY long time since I've done a PHUDE post. I've been busy. I've been very busy with a new full-time freelance job and my usual weekend responsibilities at Dorrian's that I literally (like, literally literally) didn't have my first full day off since late September until this past Monday.

As many of you know, PHUDE-ing is a great, genuine passion of mine, and I have truly missed having the free time to check out the new and exciting in the culinary mecca that is New York City, and sharing those experiences with you.

I am way overdue in bringing you the wonderful fare still being offered at the Big Social Holiday Market down at Open House Gallery and brought to all of us by the fine folks behind the Hester Street Festival (including the wonderfully neighborly Suchin Pak!).

That will pop up here soon enough. Now, I'm here to discuss the fine food being served at the new Mahjong Dumplings, open in the space of the original Cascabel Taqueria—so popular that they needed to move into the much bigger space down on the corner), and opened by the very same people who made Cascabel one of the most popular new restaurants in Yorkville.

One of those people is David Chiong, whose Cuban-Chinese roots, that so deftly informed the menu at Cascabel, make for some very creative and tasty dim sum at Mahjong. My friend and neighbor, Gina, volunteered to join me on my first visit to the new hot boîte, just a few blocks away.

Mahjong Dumplings

Mahjong Dumplings Menu

Before Gina and I got to the dumplings, though, we decide to sample some starters; I ordered the very colorful Shrimp Chips (deep-fried prawn chips with a side of sake scallion ginger aioli), and she chose a salad named the Lady Ramen (wild bok choy with water chestnuts, toasted ramen noodles, and toasted sesame seeds).

Shrimp Chips

Gina loved her salad, which had great layers of fresh, bright flavors, and plenty of playful textures. She claimed she could see herself ordering and eating it every day, and even I, not much of a salad person, agreed that I would look forward to having it again. The shrimp chips were fun, with plenty of crispy and prawn taste, with the smooth, aromatic aioli being a nice compliment.

I have since heard nothing but great things about Mahjong's soups and noodles, but on this Monday, Gina and I skipped them and jumped right into the dumplings. There are nine different varieties of dumplings available (three for $4.25); the first two that appealed to to us—the Italian Job (filled with house-made fennel sausage, garlic, chive, parmesan and truffle oil) and Mom's Style (braised pulled beef, caramelized onion, tomato, and demi glace)—they were out of, not surprisingly, so we ordered 6 of the remaining dumpling inventions.

Gina ordered the Traditional Monkey (ground heritage pork, napa cabbage, ginger, aged soy mirin, red chili), the A La Farm (wild spinach, wild mushroom trio, basil, ricotta "chunky monkey" tomato sauce), and the Thai Mania (curried Amish chicken, cabbage, carrot, young coconut milk, tomato sauce). I ordered the Run Forrest dumplings (wild shrimp, lemongrass, ginger, scallion, tomato salsa), the Spanish Breakfast (stuffed with house-made chorizo, topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce), and the Boardwalk Crab (crispy-fried dumplings, with Maryland-style Peekytoe crab and a side of light mustard aioli).

Traditional Monkey

A La Farm

Thai Mania

Run Forrest

Spanish Breakfast

Boardwalk Crab

As I try to finish this post before I work a long shift at the bar downstairs for the New York Jets AFC Championship game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, I am realizing that I don't have enough time to describe the many tasty properties of these dumplings, each one of them excellent! You can't go wrong ordering any of them (even the more than passable Traditional Monkey dumplings are far better than any else you'll find in this neighborhood!) Gina's very favorites were the very excellent A La Farm dumplings, rich with very homey, comforting yet light flavors, and the Thai Mania dumplings with their tender, juicy chicken and the soul-satisfying creamy, nutty, slightly sweet sauce. My favorites were the Spanish Breakfast (you had me at "chorizo", then kept me at "runny, poached egg"!), and the Run Forrest, with its simple prep, letting the shrimp flavor flow through the tender, only slightly toothsome dumpling skin, needing only the smallest dip into the the side dipping sauce.

Overall a wonderful experience and a great way to get back into the swing of all things PHUDE-related. Thank you David for opening another stellar, out-of-the-ordinary restaurant, and thanks to Gina for reminding me of what I've been missing, being "all work" for the last 5+ months. And although doing PHUDE is as much play as it is work, I have to start making more time to do this, either way. Maybe after football season, and I say this as I'm about to go downstairs to work at a place that will be busy to with people watching the Jets play.

So, as the blackboard at Mahjong Dumplings reminds patrons as they both walk in hungry and leave sated, "Let's Play!"

YouTube Video (PHUDEnyc)

[youtube width="600" height="470"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIxe1gTDzds&feature=feedu[/youtube]

Bun Apple Tea!


Mahjong Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Mahjong Dumplings | 1542 2nd Ave. (bet. 80th & 81st Sts.) | 212.717.7800