I’m pretty much a purist, especially when it comes to my beloved NYC foods. I don’t want pineapple or ranch dressing on my pizza, thank you very much; I want a barely-seen bagel nestled under a cloud of cream cheese, my sandwiches should be mile-high and gilded with golden mustard, and I expect dumplings to be served in skin as thick as a native New Yorker’s. But the twists I do love are ones that reflect the unique life of this city – unexpected cultures coming together to create something delicious, like Kosher Chinese takeout, Japanese-Italian fusion, and the sushi burrito.
Brooklyn Chop House, a beautiful, upscale yet down-to-earth Asian steakhouse in lower Manhattan (it gets it name from the nearby Brooklyn Bridge), has boldly crossed two New York classics, the dumpling and the deli sandwich – an idea that got my stomach growling. Not just a novelty, these little purses of joy did not disappoint.
I started with the French Onion Soup Dumplings (OK, not a sandwich, but certainly a restaurant and diner staple). Soup Dumplings (aka: "xiao long bao") are one of my all-time favorite things to eat. For those unfamiliar, they are delicate pouches of dough typically filled with pork and a mouthful of scalding hot soup. Mastering the proper eating process takes some practice: Rest a bao on an Asian-style spoon, take a nibble at a right angle to keep the liquid from spilling out, pour a touch of black vinegar in the hole you created and then once cooled a bit, finish off the combination of rich soup, fatty pork, and the delicate wrapper in a bite or two. Oddly enough, replacing the Shanghainese specialty's distinct flavor with the European-American cheesy comfort soup was an absolutely perfect swap – creating a new extension of a favorite comfort food.
The other dumplings fell into the more traditional pan fried/potsticker category. And the slice of deli life that filed them continued to thrill me. Both the Pastrami and the Reuben dumplings felt like some sort of a Jetsons-style food pod — you get all the deliciousness of the sandwiches in one convenient and not overfilling form (considering most NYC delis use the height of the Empire State Building as a goal when constructing their creation between the slices of bread). The reuben dumpling even comes with a Thousand Island dipping sauce — the complete package.
I know sliders have been all the rage for a few years now, but my new favorite mini-burger is the Chop House’s bacon cheeseburger dumplings. These little shumai-like dim sum are basically the best part of a hamburger – all the juicy meat and cheese goodness with minimal bread interruption. That’s basically everything I need and from a burger and nothing I don’t.
Moving out of the NYC deli space and over to the city’s famous street cart territory, Lamb Gyro dumplings were like a baby gyro, minus the pita, lettuce, and tomato (the latter two which always fall out of the former anyway). They even remembered the tzatziki; used here as a dipping sauce. Once again, these tiny pockets packed a playful and powerful flavor punch.
In addition to the dim sum selection, the restaurant also has a huge array of other tasty and quality choices from sushi to satay; plus duck, fish, and other more traditional steakhouse fare with an Asian flair. But oh, those playful potstickers! NYC has always been known as the melting pot of cultures and by fusing together deli sandwiches and Asian dumplings, Brooklyn Chop House has created a new local classic for me.