When you hear that a former executive chef of Din Tai Fung is making soup dumplings in Soho, you run, not walk, to that restaurant as soon as possible. While the soup dumpling scene in New York is improving, nothing quite compares to Din Tai Fung, and since we’re not getting a NYC branch anytime soon, I figured this might be the next best thing. We dropped by Pinch Chinese, the restaurant in question, on a Saturday night, praying that there wouldn’t be epic waits for a dinner table.
Unfortunately, these soup dumplings did not live up to expectations. There’s a saying that goes, “all seeds don’t grow in all soils”, meaning the Pinch Chinese chef’s successes abroad somehow aren’t being translated here. First of all, these soup dumplings were TINY, so I felt like i was getting ripped off paying $12 for the crab and pork dumplings when I could get cheaper and bigger ones at The Bao or Shanghai Cafe. The dumpling wrapper was a little tough and certainly not all that delicate or fresh. The broth was solid, better than a Joe’s Shanghai’s, but not as good as The Bao’s. Soup dumplings should warm you up inside, but these shortcomings left me feeling a little cold.
Lesson learned that day is to skip the dumplings and order something else on the menu. The best in show were the niman ranch cumin ribs, as long as you don’t mind paying $18 for three ribs. Measly, but delicious. I loved the seasoned crust on the ribs and the fall-off-the bone quality of the meat. I’d also recommend the stir-fried seasonal greens and the seafood fried rice, which came with generous portions of crabs and shrimp and had a bit of heat to it. The mapo tofu was fine but nothing to write home about.
In short, despite the chef’s background, you will not recreate the magic of eating Din Tai Fung dumplings at Pinch Chinese. There are some good dishes to be had, but you will be paying a high premium to cover the Soho real estate. Might as well walk a few more blocks to Chinatown for a better deal.
177 Prince St (between Sullivan and Thompson St)
New York, NY 10012