From the outside, you can’t see through the glass of the doors and windows, only your own reflection and the red writing of Chinese symbols and the words “Jeng Chi.”
I was recently persuaded to drive up to Chinatown in Richardson to this small Chinese restaurant that, based on my friend’s experience, was guaranteed to have superb dumplings. Seeing as I was already yearning for fall, I was ready for the comfort that a steaming dumpling full of meat could provide.
The large menu probably has plenty to offer, but the dumplings are what you come here for. The sheer number of choices in this category alone will have you dedicating ample time to it.
Before your order of however many dumplings you think you’re hungry for comes out, you may think it’s too generic to order the $1 egg roll. This fried appetizer is thick with seasoned meat that makes you pause to appreciate the chef who took this taste beyond those you’ve enjoyed at any place in Dallas.
The green onion pancake (listed in the dumplings section) is a flaky, pastry-like appetizer that balances out perfectly after a few drops of soy sauce are added to the top. The crisp dough is just the surface of the softer, tangy layers between.
One serving is enough to share between two people. While on most occasions, you might be fighting over the last slice, the execution of this varies. Sometimes, it can come out a light, golden brown, other times, it may be a bit too dark (as photographed, and even the soy sauce doesn’t save it from tasting just a bit off.
As for the real reason you drove all the way to Richardson — the dumplings come out as they’re ready, causing a waitress to shift your half-emptied plates to the back of the table as you’re mid-bite into a pancake wedge.
The steamed shrimp and pork dumplings are fine, filling the dumpling completely with a well-seasoned, slightly ambiguous mound of meat.
The boiled beef dumplings were better than expected (and more difficult to maneuver with chopsticks because their slippery exteriors still dripped with water). The smaller amount of meat inside is an appropriate complement to the surrounding dough, for the flavor and spices unexpectedly overwhelm you in an incredibly good way.
The pot stickers are good, too, crispy, savory and greasy, similar to many other places — even chains of the same cuisine — in Dallas.
What makes a return drive up North Greenville Avenue truly worthy are the small juicy steamed dumplings. These large dumplings, served the same way as the shrimp and pork–over leaves inside a dumpling basket–are worth any embarrassment that comes with being unable to eat them with grace.
The liquid surrounding the spiced mound of pork is slightly complex in flavor and better than it has any right to be in this small restaurant.
With autumn (hopefully) approaching soon, I plan on adding these pockets of warm, mellow spice to my list of comfort foods.
Jeng Chi Restaurant
Location: 400 N. Greenville Ave., Ste. 19 in Richardson, 972-669-9094, jengchirestaurant.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Ambiance: Mostly full of families having a quiet meal, with abrupt servers who do just what they need to get the dumpling basket to your table, and that’s all.
Special thanks to Allison Wisk for recommending Jeng Chi Restaurant.