First Look: Mr. Dough Has Soup Dumplings and More Near Ala Moana
The former MW Restaurant space is now home to the Hong Kong-based chain specializing in sheng jian bao.
Last year when the coconut wireless was abuzz about an incoming dumpling spot, it got me thinking. Can you ever be surrounded by enough dumpling joints? Of course not. New to Hawai‘i, Mr. Dough soft-opened on Sunday, March 20 with a limited takeout only menu. You can order by calling the restaurant directly or online through Uber Eats and Postmates.
Mr. Dough started in Hong Kong and specializes in the pan-fried cousin of xiao long bao called sheng jian bao. Before dine-in service starts, the restaurant is using this time to work through kinks and perfecting its operations. Plans are in the works to open multiple locations to serve up quick and tasty dumplings across town.
In addition to puffy, soup-filled dumplings, the menu includes starters of honey cream prawns ($10.25) and sweet garlic ribs ($9.22). Black truffle chicken karaage ($19.52) and fish dumplings ($7.95) made of ground eel filled with pork and broth round out the other options.
The House Special Q Buns are made with “pork in special seasoning” ($9.22). The shrimp and chive Q Buns are filled with shrimp, pork and chive ($10.25) and the Black Truffle Gold Q Buns conceal kurobuta pork, black truffle and truffle oil and have a gold leaf garnish ($19.95). I also snag an order of the intriguing fish dumplings and consider ordering the black truffle karaage, but forgo the indulgence because tonight is all about dumplings.
At first, everything looks good. Dumplings arrive evenly fried and uniform in shape and size. The packaging is graphic and so cute. The house chile vinaigrette comes in a paper lace box tied with ribbon. Each order is packed in a reusable tote. Of the few beverages on the menu, nothing catches my eye. I am told that the milk tea is popular, though.
If you’re not familiar with these literal flavor bombs that are sheng jian bao, you’ve been warned. Whatever your strategy is for dealing with them, just know that the hot soup within these dough balls will find its way out, one way or another. My technique is to poke a few holes on one side to reduce the pressure, and biting from the same side.
Both the House Special Q and the shrimp and chive buns are full of hot, tasty broth. But my first order of black truffle buns is hard and cold. Since I’m tucking into these in the parking lot, I promptly exchange them for a new order. Sadly, even my second batch doesn’t have any soup. I also can’t detect any truffle flavor. Unfortunately, while these are the most expensive buns, the skin is a bit too thick on the sides. If there’s any redeeming quality, the gold leaf is pretty.
The House Special Q Buns are tasty with a rich, porky broth but I’m not a fan of the pork’s texture. Instead, I find my favorite in the shrimp and chive dumplings. Of the buns I try, these have it all: a variety of textures; a juicy, umami combination of shrimp and pork; freshness from a generous swath of green onion; and a nice, thin dumpling skin. The house-made chile vinaigrette imparts pops of tanginess backed by a serious lingering heat. For $10.25, one portion would make for a satisfying meal. There are minor irregularities in bun thickness and doneness, but at this stage, these are just signs of the struggle towards consistent execution of what appears to be a handmade product.
My sleeper favorite are the fish dumplings filled with pork and pork rib soup. If you enjoy fish cake, you’ll love these. They’re tender yet chewy with a nice seafood flavor. A ball of pork floats in a dark soup with a concentrated yet mild bone broth flavor that’s a nice respite from the saltiness.
From what I can tell, four days into its soft opening, Mr. Dough is about to catch its stride. Takeout lines are busy and from what I hear, everyone is excited. I’ll be back for the black truffle karaage to pair with a milk tea. For now, I’m adding this dumpling joint to my good list.