Dumpling Era (San Bruno)


Dumpling Era on El Camino Real joins the wheaten stronghold of Millbrae/San Bruno. The chef is from [ed. Hebei], and the menu is northern dumplings and noodles. The paper menu I ordered from had eliminated some of the more unique items initially offered, like thom yum xiao long bao, but the items I had were well made enough that I’ll return in a month or so once they finalize.

On a rainy Tuesday, everything happened in the back, but I think they make dumplings and noodles in view of the patrons during busier times.

The basic model of Xiao long bao were very good, small, structurally sound, infussy not fatty broth, solid meatball. Clearly made to order, skin thicker than some other places, but not in a way that detracted from this being good stuff.

Northern Chinese (brown) version of Zha jiang mian come with lots of meat sauce and a choice of thinner or wide (allegedly) hand pulled noodles. Wide noodles were more al dente than most wide hand pulled noodles, and they were certainly very long. Not sure whether the noodle machine behind the counter help make these.

Fried tofu appetizer had a crunchy coating and was quite good. Spicy seasonings included what I believe were battered chopped up fresh chilies.


(Jimmy ) #2

Terrific photos. Nice report.


(tanspace) #3

It’s great that you put the word “allegedly” in front of the description for hand-pulled noodles as it is increasingly rare these days.

The sauce seems be in Korean-Chinese influenced in that it contained onions, but the presentation goes back to the Beijing style of the raw veggies. I wonder whether the taste is more Beijing (mostly salty tones) or Korean-Chinese (savory).



I don’t think I ever thought of the Beijing v Korean in terms of savory vs. salty, but I’ll pay more attention next time!

When it was put in front of me, I noticed the blackish color, but the texture of the sauce, sheen, and minced pork and tofu cubes but no seafood felt more like a Beijing style.



Been to this place a couple of times after my daughter’s swimming class nearby. I am a fan of their boiled dumpling. The texture of the skin is more chewy; I prefer this style compared to the more delicate or tender style at Tasty Place. Their standard XLB is pretty satisfying; I agree with most of hyperbowler’s observations, particularly that the broth is not too oily. It certainly beats a couple of restaurants that have “Shanghai dumpling” in their name. Other table’s potstickers looked pretty good to me.

Spicy beef tendon appetizer is really nice. Good amount of spice, with Sichuan peppercorn flavor throughout. The tendon is shaved uncommonly thin, which gives the dish a finesse that most places don’t match.

The noodle soups are more of mixed bag. The oxtail noodle soup comes with wide, flat noodles, which were severely overcooked. I think they are supposed to be 扯面. The broth and oxtail is not bad, basically red braised like a beef noodle soup. I personally cook oxtail longer, but these are cooked enough so that the meat comes off the bone fairly easily. The other bowl I had was pickled mustard greens with pork. This supposedly came with hand pulled noodles. The waitress remembered me, and asked if the noodles were better than last time. They were, but still overcooked. The soup and toppings were good.

The menu also states it has knife shaved noodles. On this, I just don’t believe it to be true. I clearly saw packages of “knife shaved noodles” from a Taiwan brand that you can buy from Chinese grocery stores around the Bay. That also leads me to wonder about the other two kinds of noodles they have.

Lastly, the taro cake on the dessert side is a stand out. I think the English menu says it is fried, but I believe it is baked. It’s a little flaky ball, stuffed with mashed taro. The layers of flake is really nice when hot, and doesn’t taste greasy. I don’t know if they make these. It heats up pretty well in a toaster oven as a leftover.

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Well since I saw this topic, I just realized that the Dumpling Era restaurant replaced an old HK style cafe (Cafe Mario). In any case, I wanted to try a few things.

First off was the mustard green noodle soup with pork. I’m actually a fan of the fresh mustard greens that they use versus the pickled/preserved ones. I thought the pork had a good amount of marinade, and the soup was quite hot and light. I think it was mentioned before, but I found the noodles on the softer side but wasn’t a huge deal breaker.

Next up were the pork, shrimp dumplings with chives. Like @Kirk_T mentioned, the texture of the skin was quite good. Insides were still juicy and certainly quite satisfying.

I personally found the wrapper to be on the thicker end. I also would have liked it to be juicier inside, but taste-wise it matched up to previously mentioned bits.

Overall, I would go back just for their boiled dumplings and try a few other things.



I edited the original post to say the chef is from Hebei rather than what I initially said was Hubei (i don’t have secondary confirmation other than slowy reducing my ignorance of Mandarin pronunciations).



A helpful way to tell the four provinces from North to South- Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, apart besides pronounciation:

Bei- north
Nan- south
Hé- river, specifically referring to the Yellow River
Hú- lake, specifically referring to the Dongting Lake.

So Hebei is just the province north of the blue line, which represents the Yellow River. Henan is south of it.

Hubei is north of the Dongting, the blue lakes just north of Changsha. Hunan is south of the Dongting.


(Gary Soup) #9

The “u” in Hubei and Hunan is a very distinct “oo” sound, while the “e” sound in Hebei and Henan is like the American “e” in taken (IPA “ǝ” sound).

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(Gary Soup) #10

Now you can wotk on Shaanxi versus Shanxi :slight_smile:

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(psb) #11

I though the next level was THE SHI POEM: