Most of these dumpling houses are so segregated in Chinatown that it’s hard to get much information on them. Trying to find a website, a menu online, a company back story is next to impossible. Besides an entry on yelp and some unhelpful blog reviews (like this one now), there’s not much info on C & L Dumpling House. I discovered it’s the newest addition (it opened in 2009) to the dollar dumpling craze. But as much as I’ve researched and dug through old posts, I could not for the life of me figure out what the C and the L stand for. If anybody has any ideas, I’d love to hear.

The cynic in me can only assume it stands for something like “Cheap and Lousy”. Because both those things are true of this homey space on Chrystie Street on the outskirts of Sarah Roosevelt Park. It’s much more spacious and cleaner than most of the dumpling houses in Chinatown, but I’d much rather cram in and keep my bag off the dirty floor if it meant I’d get good food.

Since they were so cheap, I ordered both the boiled dumplings and fried dumplings. Along with a bottle of water, the whole meal cost me under $5. The lady running the show was polite but seemed to have no time for anybody who didn’t know the routine. I realized since I was staying in, I could have a seat and they’d bring the food to me. I checked out the sad display case of pre-made dumplings before taking my seat and waiting just a few minutes.

As is usually the case, the fried dumplings arrived first. By looking at them, I could tell that disappointment was imminent. They looked stale and pathetic. And as soon as I picked one up, I realized they were cold. Not quite frozen, but they may as well have been. Normally, when I pick up the dumpling to take a picture of it, I struggle with the heat and burn myself in the name of food pornography. Here, the dumpling was greasy and brown, but was below room temperature. It broke open and the pork/chive mixture clung together like a meatball. The judgements began before the first bite.

I added some soy vinegar, but even that didn’t save these limp, flavorless pockets. The wrapper was chewy and not tender. And the pork mixture lacked much bite or flavor. It was really a pathetic example of what Chinatown has to offer.

There was a glimmer of hope when the waitress brought over my order of boiled dumplings. They were delivered in a silver bowl and the steam pervaded the air. I was surprised that these dumplings were a different shape – they were closer to the bun shaped soup dumplings than the typical crescent shaped pot stickers. But if all their crescent shaped versions were as bad as the fried ones, this was a welcome change of shape.

When I popped the first one open, I could tell it was a lot juicier inside. I enjoyed the pork juices and there was definitely more flavor here, but I got a bit of funky earthiness (not terribly pleasant in this form). And I couldn’t help notice how pink the pork filling was. Was it possible that this was undercooked? Based on the other travesties here, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

This dough was also rather tough and took a bit of chewing to break it down. And as I was working on the dumpling, I crunched down on a few things. At first I thought it could be the scallions, but the crunch was more reminiscent of sand or an egg shell. I don’t care how clean the dining room here seemed, I had a bad feeling about the whole thing. And there was no DOH grade on the window to assuage my fears.

Needless to say, I threw most of the dumplings away and left hungry. So what does the C & L stand for? Cheap and Lousy? Came Hungry and Left Hungry? Chewed and Loathed?

Does C & L Dumpling House have the best dumplings in NY? Rule number one is to serve hot dumplings and it all went downhill from there. And it’s a bad sign when I choose to stop eating, so it can’t get higher than a 3 out of 10.

C & L DUMPLING HOUSE
77 Chrystie Street (between Canal and Hester Street)
Chinatown
(212) 219-8850
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Category: Dumplings

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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