First Look: The Team Behind Hunan Slurp Explores Tsingtao Flavors at Dumpling Lab

Chef Xiaomei Ma offers a contemporary take on coastal Chinese cuisine.

Dumpling Lab
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

The sophomore effort from the team behind popular noodle spot, Hunan Slurp, Dumpling Lab in the East Village draws inspiration from chef Xiaomei Ma’s hometown of Tsingtao, China. Working once again in collaboration with co-founders Chao Wang and Lu Dong, Ma’s menu at the newly opened restaurant focuses on dumpling-centric and seafood-forward offerings, and evokes nostalgic childhood flavors from her upbringing in China’s eastern Shandong province.

Chef Xiaomei Ma
Chef Xiaomei Ma | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Similar to NYC, the coastal location of Tsingtao makes seafood an integral part of its local cuisine, and when it came to designing the menu at the trio’s new concept, dumplings were top of mind for Ma.

“Bringing Tsingtao flavors to NYC is a cure to my hometown nostalgia,” says Ma. “Starting from 17, I grew up away from home to study abroad but those flavors are still what’s most dear to me. Specifically, mackerel dumplings are the most important and familiar dish of all.”

Mapo silky tofu with mixed mushrooms
Mapo silky tofu with mixed mushrooms | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

In addition to the signature mackerel dumplings made with Spanish mackerel, pork, chive, and dried shellfish, additional varieties include organic chicken dumplings with wood ear and corn, and zucchini and cucumber dumplings made with eggs and vermicelli. Cold and hot seafood-centric small plates are available as well, such as the shun de crudo with sashimi, makrut lime leaves, and ginger; truffle shrimp toast; or mapo silky tofu with mixed mushrooms.

Enhancing the dining experience at Dumpling Lab is a bespoke beverage menu curated by sake sommelier, Xin Feng. Choose from draft cocktails like the Kochi Breeze (shochu, yuzu, lemon, elderflower, shiso, miso), or draft beers and wine.

Interior of Dumpling Lab
Interior of Dumpling Lab | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Complementing the restaurant’s exploratory cuisine is co-founder Chao Wang’s restaurant design. Featuring stainless steel tables, acrylic seating, leather banquettes, artful greenery-filled walls, and ripple-effect ceilings, the two-story, 30-seat space features a sleek, modern, and futuristic style.

Dumpling Lab is now open Tuesday-Sunday from 5 pm to 10 pm at 214 E 9th St.

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Izzy Baskette is an editorial assistant at Thrillist.