Where to Find DC’s Best Dumplings, According to the City’s Top Chefs
We tapped local chefs from spots like Maketto, Moon Rabbit, Lucky Danger, and more to help us find the city’s best dumplings.
For people across the globe, the first of this month marks the start of the new year and an occasion for indulging in some of the best food of the year. Lunar New Year, often considered one of the most important days of the year across several Asian cultures, is a time for celebration, excess, and most importantly, symbolic food.
“The culture around Lunar New Year is all about bringing as many blessings to the table as possible for the year to come,” explains Erik Bruner-Yang, the chef behind popular DC restaurants like Maketto and Yoko and Kota. “Different dishes have different symbols or metaphors to represent those blessings.”
For example, eating long noodles brings hope for a long life, and dumplings, which look like little pouches or purses, channel wealth in the new year. “Lunar New Year is all about bringing prosperity,” Bruner-Yang says. “And, as the American saying goes, ‘you are what you eat.’ So if you put the two together, it makes a lot of sense that dumplings play a big role in the Lunar New Year.”
So whether you want to order dumplings for your Lunar New Year celebrations or just want to devour dumplings on any old day, we have you covered. We tapped Bruner-Yang, along with chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants like Lucky Danger, Moon Rabbit, Bantam King, and CHIKO, to help us round up the best places to get dumplings in DC, so here are their recommendations.
At Bruner-Yang’s Maketto, the menu fuses together Cambodian and Taiwanese traditions for a series of plates that range in size from small to large. Among the options are dumplings like vegetable gyoza, crystal shrimp dumplings, and crispy Gruyere dumplings with Chinese beef chili, but the star of the small plates section is the roast pork bao buns, which Bruner-Yang says are another little package of goodness perfect for Lunar New Year or anytime. “They’ve really been the heart and soul of the Maketto concept from the beginning,” he said. “Since we started, our dim sum master Oanh Tran has been making these dumplings for us.”
Hong Kong Pearl
If you’re looking for a full dim sum spread, Utagawa suggests making the trip to Hong Kong Pearl in Falls Church, where the shrimp and chive dumplings are a star of the menu. Hong Kong Pearl does justice to this dim sum classic, Utagawa says, and other offerings like roast duck, rice rolls, steamed buns round out the menu and are extremely well done.
How to order: Order takeout via Uber Eats.
New Big Wong
Chef Kevin Tien leads the kitchen at Moon Rabbit, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant that made a huge splash when it opened in 2020, and a new fried chicken spot called Hot Lola’s. But when he’s not in the kitchen at his own spots, he’s frequenting New Big Wong for the pan-fried dumplings. Located in DC’s Chinatown, the Cantonese style restaurant offers a wide range of classic Chinese dishes for dine-in and carryout. “The dumplings have a thicker skin, and are incredibly crispy from the pan sear,” Tien says. “Plus, the dumplings are huge, and I love sharing them with my restaurant team when we order late night Chinese after work.”
Another favorite of Tien’s is Panda Gourmet, a DC destination for spicy Szechuan food. The dumplings are just the start of the peppercorn-enhanced offerings at this landmark restaurant, but the steamed dumplings in red hot sauce and the wontons in hot and spicy sauce are among his favorites. “I always order the dumplings to-go from Panda Gourmet, and they pack them in a pint container with the sauce,” says Tien. “The dumplings and wontons get a chance to marinate in the sauce and are just steamed or boiled so they’re slippery when eaten. That’s why I like to just pour the pint container right into my mouth to get the dumpling and all that saucy goodness.”
Chef Tim Ma knows his dumplings. Laoban Dumplings is his fast-casual ode to the dish, as the name suggests, with options like ginger chicken, a veggie version called Livin’ on the Vedge, and pork soup dumplings. In addition to standard dumplings and a slate of noodle dishes and other sides, the restaurant hosts a guest chef series where chefs from around the city craft their own dumpling for the menu—right now a bacon cheeseburger version dreamt up by Alex McCoy of Lucky Buns is on offer. And if you can’t make it in or want to pick up some to take home for later, the shop has frozen dumplings available at some local grocery stores.
At Lucky Danger, Ma’s latest Chinese delivery concept, dumplings are part of the restaurant’s DNA. “Dumplings have a very significant narrative in my family,” Ma says. “More times than not, our family gatherings were centered around dumpling making—we would make the dough, make the filling and season it by smelling the mixture, roll the dumpling skins with a sanded cut up shovel handle, compete about who could make the most folds, and then finally, we would boil or pan fry the dumplings.” At Lucky Danger, Ma offers pan-seared pork dumplings that are enclosed with homemade wrappers, and the dish makes a perfect kickoff to a takeout spread from the restaurant.
For a Southeast Asian version of dumplings, head over to Thai favorite Baan Siam, where Ma says the chicken tapioca dumplings with sweet fermented radish are not to be missed. But beyond that option, he’s a fan of many of the restaurant’s dumpling-esque offerings, which also include the golden fried pockets, a deep-fried chicken and shrimp dumpling covered in a rice paper wrapper and served with sweet chili sauce.
The pork and kimchi potstickers at CHIKO are a local favorite—and there’s also a top pick from the spot’s chef Danny Lee. “That was one of the first recipes Scott Drewno and I worked on together before we opened the first CHIKO location, and it hasn’t changed since,” Lee says. “The filling has Korean flavors but the process and texture resembles more of a Chinese dumpling, so it’s fairly unique in that sense.” Beyond dumplings, the menu at this spot blends Chinese and Korean cooking techniques for dishes like spicy bulgogi stir fry, crispy chicken spring rolls with a Chinese mustard dipping sauce, and an offering they call Orange-ish Chicken.
Peking Gourmet Inn
Lee also recommends the fried pork dumplings at Peking Gourmet Inn, a Chinese institution located in Fairfax. While the restaurant may be best known for its Peking duck, the dumplings are the understated star of the menu. “You cannot start a meal there without ordering the fried pork dumplings, and I love the ritual of the server going around the table, French serving the dumplings individually to each guest,” Lee says. “Then make your own mix of black vinegar and chili oil on your plate, and everything is right with the world.”
How to book: Call 703-671-8088 to make a reservation.
Dumplings & Beyond
For a spot with a truly incredible variety of dumplings, look no further than Dumpling and Beyond, where you can find something for just about every palate. Options range from chicken and black mushroom to veggie options, but the best dumplings, according to Lee, are the pork and napa cabbage variety. “The dough used for the wrappers is dense in order to hold up to the juicy filling, and the flavor is delicious,” he says. “They even travel great for delivery.”