I’m very excited to share my most recent special food journey with you. In fact, I’m so excited about it that I’m posting my images before the blog text because I truly believe that a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Marvel at the lush outdoor marketplaces, become enticed by the briny smell of fresh seafood, and be seduced by the sight of ripe fruits and crispy vegetables. You can’t help but immerse in the scent, feel, and culture of China…
Chinatown, that is, in lower Manhattan. Did I have you fooled for a moment? You have to experience this first hand to believe it. I love New York City, not only because I was born there but also because there are pockets of ethnicity folded deep within this urban landscape which are so genuine to their countryman, that you might actually feel, if only for a moment, as if you were visiting a foreign land.
In my humble opinion, I believe that Chinatown, more so than many other ethnic communities housed in and around the New York City area, is as close as it gets to the genuine feel of the Chinese community and marketplace. Streets are buzzing and crowded with vendors selling the most fascinating food items. I passed wooden and metal carts overflowing with exotic fruits and roots and greens that I couldn’t even begin to recognize. All the while the sound of chattering voices continued to resonate around me.
Segue to eating (you knew this was coming sooner or later). For the past year, I have been on what seems like (at least to me) a never-ending quest for the perfect dumpling. I’ve visited so many places and tried so many different dumplings that I’ve lost track of all of them because none were memorable enough…until this very special day. The finder’s fee goes to my friend, Toni, who stumbled upon this teeny tiny little gem accidentally in an online search for the ultimate dumpling bar. We decided to take a chance and try it out. It was a beautiful day. The temperature was a perfect 74 degrees. The sky was cloudless and powder-puff blue. We walked and walked for what seemed forever. And then, in the distance, there it was…Vanessa’s. Yes, I said VANESSA’s. And while the name was strange enough to make me scratch my head (so strange, in fact that I scratched Toni’s head, too), we decided to go for it!!!
The fancy outside awning is a bit contradictory to what you’ll find inside. This is not your wait-for-the-hostess-to-seat-you type of place. The atmosphere is very much like a traditional take-out Chinese joint that you find on every other corner in your own town. You simply place your order with the cashier, pay, find a seat and wait for your number to be called.
I’d say the most interesting and artistic décor was found in the bathroom (see photos), where graffiti was skillfully applied to every open space in the room, including the mirror and each and every square inch of wall space. I started to wonder if they paid someone to do this!
We ordered to our hearts content. Not two or three plates, but SEVEN plates in total, all of which held generously sized portions of the most delectably prepared dumplings and other delicacies I have come upon to date.
The Vegetable Boiled Dumplings were subtle and understated. The Wontons with Spicy Sauce (pork filled) were delicate, yet well seasoned. The special dumpling of the month, (Fried Shrimp and Scallion) were impressively light, crispy, and memorable. The Basil and Chicken Boiled Dumplings were tender and juicy. A plate of Noodles with Spicy Sauce was satisfyingly chewy. The Steamed Red Bean Bun was slightly sweet and pillowey. The homemade Kim chi was ridiculously zesty, crunchy, and cooling at the same time. Everything is made right there in front of your eyes, and everything is ultra fresh and delicious!
The bill was an affordable $25.00. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Get there early, because the seating area is small and this place fills up fast. Vanessa’s is open from 7:30AM to 10:30PM Monday through Saturday, and 7:30AM to 10PM on Sunday.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
118A Eldridge Street, between Grand and Broome
New York, NY 10002
The Big Tine