One of my absolute favorite things in the world is eating good dim sum and dumplings. While St. Louis has a number of restaurants that serve dim sum on weekend mornings, few seem to impress. As I was whining about missing about this one afternoon at work, a Chinese coworker told me I should definitely check out Mandarin House's dim sum. Mandarin House is located right around 170 and Page in a terribly outdated strip mall still sporting 90's-teal paint. Dim sum starts at 11:00 am and goes through 2:00pm, so we got there just around 11. Great decision. We were one of the first tables seated in the huge dining room and within 25 minutes, it was almost completely full.
There are a handful of older ladies pushing carts filled with yummy treats, but there's also a table in the middle where you can go and pick out dishes if you don't feel like waiting. The table also houses some of the more unusual dishes the restaurant offers, including a gelatinuous pig's blood stew and braised pig feet.
Our initial selections included steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed shrimp and leek dumplings, shumai and the king dim sum, the BBQ pork bun (char siew bao).
The two shrimp dumplings were great, tasting exactly like they do in Asia. They come four to a serving and are pretty hefty. They have a light skin and a soft, juicy center.
The BBQ pork buns let me down a bit. The filling was tasty but drier than I was expecting and hoping. That didn't stop me from eating two of them though. BBQ meat should never be wasted! The shumai (back left of the picture below), a mix of pork, shrimp and veggies, was my least favorite of the whole meal. It was incredibly dense, so it was more like a meatball than the shumai I'm familiar with.
Next up was my favorite dumpling treat while living in Asia (Din Tai Fung, I love you!): Xiao Long Bao, otherwise known as a Shanghai or "juicy" dumpling. In an ideal world, these have a soft meat filling and a hot soup inside of them. You put them on your spoon, poke a little hole, suck out the juice then eat the dumpling. Unfortunately, these were more like something you'd buy in the freezer section. Most of them were juice-less and a few were actually torn. They're not bad, but you should know that these are not what XLB's normally are like.
Our next round included a veggie medley, roasted duck (seen in the picture at the top) and a dessert bun.
The duck was surprisingly juicy and relatively flavorful, but it was really fatty. Once again, not a terrible choice, but not the best.
Surprisingly, the vegetable medley was really good. Spinach, edamame, onion and some other stuff all chopped up and stir fried together. A good healthy choice for a meal filled with a lot of meat and carbs.
The dessert bun, called a pineapple bun even though it contains no pineapple, has a buttery exterior and a custard interior. The custard was not custardy at all though, which was a real let down.
Mandarin House is good, but it's not what I expected. I probably had unreasonably high hopes going in, but that doesn't stop the fact that some of the dishes were subpar. Even so, I'd recommend it if you're craving dim sum in St. Louis because, at this point, I haven't found anywhere better.