Delectable Drunken Dumpling: Asian fusion cuisine


Drunken Dumpling’s Fijian Rice Bowl with rice, curry, spam and various garnish. Taken by Garrett Hartman, Nov. 17.

The sun disappeared behind the horizon as we stepped over the threshold of Drunken Dumpling, a small Asian fusion sit-down restaurant on Park Avenue. The first thing I noticed, aside from the red, paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling was the homey feel of the restaurant.

The room was warm, which was welcome due to the cool temperature outside, the tungsten lighting added to this feeling. We were then greeted warmly, myself and Garrett Hartman, my significant other, and asked if we only needed two seats. We were then directed toward one of the many open tables.

As I sat down, our server brought us menus and paper-wrapped chopsticks. I was able to take a look through a row of large windows with white cloth curtains on the left side of the restaurant. It provided a view of the damaged street and nearby homes, not the most pleasant view, but great for people-watching. A bar-like table was positioned at the window with tall chairs and small, cherry blossom tree lights. The other side of the restaurant had various spices on display in glass jars on metal racks behind an actual bar topped with various knick-knacks.

Drunken Dumpling, which started as a food cart in 2018, has come a long way. They opened up a restaurant location and have won multiple awards, including CN&R’s 2021 Best New Eatery Award, which can be seen framed on the wall next to the bar. 

The menu itself was just as inviting and personable as the restaurant. The descriptions of the food included small symbols signifying which dishes were vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

We especially enjoyed this easy-to-read menu due to Hartman’s gluten restrictions. Most restaurants we dine at do not have this courtesy. Before ordering we were brought a blue glass bottle full of water and two short glasses. The 21-year-old Hartman ordered the $3 House Sake, which is on the happy hour menu, available Tuesday through Friday from 4-6 p.m., I ordered a Topo Chico, a drink that shows how intent the Drunken Dumpling is on combining food from multiple cultures. For example, dishes like the Fijian Rice Bowl, which is described as a classic Hawaiian rice bowl, Nor-Cal style.

Drunken Dumpling’s Fijian Rice Bowl with rice, curry, spam and various garnish. Taken by Garrett Hartman, Nov. 17.

The classic Hawaiian rice bowl had vegetables served with crisply-cooked spam and curry, priced at $14. The latter packed a heavy punch with its heavily seasoned palate, adding color and flavor to the soft white rice, topped with broccoli, carrots, citrus fruit and seasoned spam. The meat’s savory, and slightly smoky flavor, tasted especially interesting when dipped in the curry and topped with a bit of the white rice. Despite being a rice dish, it was not considered to be gluten-free due to some of the ingredients used, such as soy sauce.

Drunken Dumpling’s Takoyaki, octopus dumpling drizzled in sauce and topped with flakes. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

As the small candle on the table melted away, our server delivered five beautifully plated Takoyaki, a type of octopus dumpling described on the menu as “Saucy and delicious…A Japanese treat!,” priced at $4. The katsuobushi flakes danced on top of the dumplings that were drizzled in Takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo. Similar to meatballs in look, their flavor was very different. The thin dough layer gave way to an explosion of sauce, which was surprising, I was expecting a chewy texture. Instead, the small bits of rubbery octopus provided that expected texture. Maybe there is such a thing as too saucy, but it was quite delicious.

Drunken Dumpling’s Spicy Pork Dumplings with garnish. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

We also tried the Spicy Pork Dumplings, it would be remiss to not try dumplings at someplace with “dumpling” in the name. They were served with house ponzu and priced at $7.50. These dumplings were the exact opposite of the Takoyaki. The dough was thick and provided a chewy texture alongside the minimal amount of pork inside and was bland in comparison to the vegetables surrounding it. The purple, orange and green surrounding the ponzu-doused, beige dumplings almost distracted from the lack of filling. It was spicy as the name indicates, but was not overly in-your-face. You could very easily taste the spice, instead of just feeling it.

Drunken Dumpling’s Sexy Spice Noodles with tofu and gochujang glaze. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

This level of spice was consistent with the Sexy Spicy Noodles as well. The almost sweet and definitely spicy gochujang glaze made the noodles pop. The tofu and veggies atop the noodles added some needed color and protein. The tofu was nicely marinated, but overall unnecessary in the dish. The latter added a crunchy aspect to the soft and chewy noodles. This was easily my favorite dish.

Drunken Dumpling’s Spicy Malaysian Prawns with rice, curry and veggies. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

Another spicy dish, the Spicy Malaysian Prawns, priced at $16, was one of the few gluten-free meals. Growing up, my dad worked at Red Lobster, and sometimes my family would go to the restaurant and feast on seafood. Drunken Dumpling’s prawns may not have been on the same level as Red Lobster, but were perfectly cooked and added dimension to the dish. Hartman was not overly impressed by the prawns.

 “You know shrimp is shrimp, prawns are prawns, but the curry is really good,” Hartman said. 

This was still his favorite dish of the night. The curry brought a high level of spice to our palates, probably the hottest dish we tried. A strong taste of onion could also be tasted in the curry, almost rivaling the spice.

Drunken Dumpling’s Kimchi Bao with pork. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

The last main dish that we tried was the Kimchi Bao, priced at $6.50. The plated dish reminded me a little of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, however the dish itself was far from horrible. Steam billowed from the sweet supple bao bun as it was placed on our table. Inside, there was a variety of hidden flavors.

“The sweet and the savory pairs well with the sour of the kimchi,” Hartman said.

Similar to the pork dumplings, the pulled pork in this dish seemed to take a backseat to the other ingredients, including the kimchi.

As our night came to a close and the table candle had almost completely melted, it was time to order dessert. A pleasant chatter filled the room as Serena Faith Kuhn, a local singer-songwriter, started to set up at the Tiny Dumpling Desk, with Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon” painting as her backdrop. A black curtain hung on the wall to Kuhn’s right, revealing the store room. Presumably done for employee convenience, it did slightly disrupt the flow of the restaurant’s floor plan. When she started performing at around 6 p.m. her voice and amped acoustic guitar created a gentle ambience under the conversations circling the room. Unfortunately at first, few noticed her presence, evident by the lack of applause. 

Drunken Dumpling’s Pear Cashew Cakelette surrounded by cream. Taken by Ariana Powell, Nov. 17.

By the time our pear cashew cakelette, priced at $5, had reached our table, applause became a regular occurrence that sprang up across the restaurant after Kuhn’s songs. The cakelette arrived beautifully plated. The small cake sat in the middle of a pool of cream with a dusting of sugar. It almost looked like it belonged at a five-star restaurant.

My initial thought was that it was going to be bad, due to the stereotype of small portions, but the cake was delicious. The caramelized pears on top of the cake were sweet and chewy, which was very different from the dense cake that became infused with the cream surrounding it, adding even more sweetness to it. My sweet tooth may be showing through, but this cake has become my favorite dessert at any local restaurant.

The total of the night ended up being slightly under $90, before tip. Considering the amount of dishes that we tried, and the high food quality and large portions, this was quite a surprise. The only critique I would offer is to include more gluten-free options, aside from that, I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to dine there. If you’re looking for somewhere that is inexpensive and tastes great, go to Drunken Dumpling, if not just for the food, then for the homey atmosphere and fun performances as well.

Ariana Powell can be found at [email protected].