Steamed Up

Dumpling Empire: Truth in advertising

The place is not named Ma Po Tofu Noodle Empire. It is not named Curry Fish Ball Empire, either.

This South San Francisco spot, which opened about a month ago, is Dumpling Empire, which provides your first clue about what you should–and shouldn't–order.

In short, ignore everything but the dumplings. There are two dozen different varieties on the menu, all of which, save for the xiao long bao, come in orders of 12, and none of which cost more than $8.

All of the dumplings bear homemade hallmarks, including hand-pinched wrappers with a pleasant chew and a welcome irregularity–no factory-made specimens, these.

Fillings aren't revolutionary, but in addition to the more commonly seen pork dumplings with garlic chives, the menu also lists juicy, sweet chicken-and-corn dumplings, ones stuffed with preserved Chinese vegetables and lamb, and a variety filled with ground beef and carrots.

The last time we went, a customer plowed through his plate of fried rice, that obligatory menu item found at all Chinese restaurants in the States. When he paid his check, the affable waiter couldn't resist: "Next time," he said cheerily and hopefully, "order the dumplings."

Dumpling Empire, 216 Cypress Ave., South San Francisco; 650-742-0838 or dumplingempire.localon.com