Friends invited us to meet them to try out Journey to the Dumpling, a new-ish restaurant in Elk Grove, CA owned by Yvonne Nguyen (local to Elk Grove) and her boyfriend Chris Tan. They teamed with head chef, Justin Yang to create a fabulous new dining option in Elk Grove.
Their soft opening was back in October. When I had driven by on previous occasions, the line was out the door, so we opted for an early dinner this past Saturday to beat the crowds. We arrived right before 5:00 p.m., they open at 4:00 p.m. for the dinner shift. This worked out great and we were able to get a table quickly – the restaurant filled up very fast and the waiting area was full by the time we left.
I loved that the decor was fairly understated, I enjoyed the overall vibe of the place.
I was super excited to try the soup dumplings, their signature dish. Xiao Long Bao (XLB) is a thin-skinned dough wrap (similar to a wonton) filled with ground pork or whatever meat or veg ordered and filled with a delicious broth, making them fun to eat.
Photo: Pork Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao
We used our chopsticks to gently lift the dumplings from the steamer basket, in some cases they wanted to stick, so we had to help them along with our human spoons, aka… fingers. You have to be careful to not puncture the dumpling, otherwise the soup will empty out. I plopped the first XLB into my mouth and bit into the skin to release the soup.
Carolyn watched this all go down and then shared some Anthony Bourdain tips for us newbies. She placed the dumpling into her ceramic spoon, used her chopstick to make a small hole to let the steam out and to release some of the broth before eating. This method helped since my method led to a hot burst of soup filling my mouth – ha-ha!
Photo: Pork and Snow Crab Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao
The lone carrot marked the difference between our two dishes. These were the “off the menu” special. Pork and Crab Dumplings (made with real snow crab). They recently added their very first vegetarian dumpling – stuffed with tofu, mushroom, egg and cilantro – I’m going to try that one next time. Speaking of next time, Carolyn and I planned our next visit and items to order before we were even finished with dinner. I’d say that is a good sign.
To use the ginger, vinegar and soy sauce for dipping – you can add it to your spoon before placing the dumpling onto it. Genius! I’m not going to lie, I did pop several more straight into my mouth for the single bite soup release instead of being all Anthony Bourdain. The guys also went with the full mouth bite as well and nobody died or suffered from severe mouth burns.
Photo: Pan Fried Pork Bun
On the recommendation of our waiter, we also ordered the Pan Fried Pork Bun – pan fried, soup filled buns with pork and corn. It was a nice change in texture, but Dan and I both agreed that the thicker dough made it harder to eat. We both preferred the steamed dumplings, but these were also pretty damn amazing.
Photo: Pork and Chive Dumplings
The simpler Pork and Chive Dumplings were also a very solid choice, especially when teamed with the dipping sauce. I preferred the soup dumplings, but would order these again.
Besides all of the dumplings, we ordered a good sampling of other menu items and as I said above, made our mental wish lists for next time.
Photo: Roujiamo (Chinese Meat Burgers)
Roujiamo (Chinese Meat Burger) – Stewed pork ﬂavored with numerous spices stuﬀed between a lightly pan fried ﬂour bun. According to Journey to the Dumpling’s FB post, Roujiamo dates back to the Qin dynasty and has been called “the world’s first hamburger” – makes sense. I expected the Roujiamo to be more “team moist” but they were a little dry, so dipping it into the sauce helped.
Photo: Wonton in Chili Oil
We also ordered the Wonton in Chili Oil. This was a close tie with the pork XLB as my favorite dish of the night. It was more like a chili paste combined with a chili oil – topped with green onion and peanuts. The perfect amount of heat, this made the repeat list for our next visit.
Photo: Pork & Cabbage Potstickers
Photo: Pork & Cabbage Potstickers
The Pork & Cabbage Potstickers weren’t like any other potstickers I’ve ever had. They were formed together and surrounded by a crispy skirt. The flavor was good and it was a nice change from the more familiar potsticker. Carolyn was a fan of the crispy bits.
Photo: Green Onion Pancakes
The Green Onion Pancakes were another “off the menu” item that recently came back after some changes were made to the recipe. These were the right amount of flaky and perfect when teamed with the dipping sauce.
It should also be noted that two of us had not eaten anything during the day before this meal. What? We were excited to try everything, no judging allowed.
And on that note, there is ALWAYS room for dessert.
Photo: Fried Mantou with Condensed Milk
Carolyn wanted to try the Fried Mantou with condensed milk and I was happy to join in. I preferred to peel apart the layers and dip each piece into the condensed milk… because… duh, more sweetness to every bite.
We had a great night out with friends and are happy to have a new place to add to our “go to” list. If you are local and haven’t tried it, you should. If you have tried it, what should I order next time that I didn’t mention in this post? If you aren’t local and have a fabulous soup dumpling place you like, please share below.