When you walk into Chinatown there are a lot of those well populated restaurants trying to pull you in with offers of unlimited buffets, but if you are smart or if you want something a little more real, then keep on walking until you get to the edge of the area and you will find a few little gems like Jen Café on the corner of Newport Court.
This is a no frills Chinese restaurant, where you will be greeted efficiently, perhaps a little brusquely, and be shooed to the communal seating around one of the tightly packed tables. You are not alone, everyone else is also perched on a stools wherever they could find a seat.
If you are not making friends very quickly then you are finding yourself in the wrong place which is a shame, we were sat with an American lady and her charge who seemed to be struggling gamely with the chopsticks. The lady was dispatching her dish expertly with her wooden sticks.
Jen’s Café is serving up some excellent authentic Beijing fare. Bowls of noodles, plates of Chinese BBQ meat and freshly made Dumplings seemed to be the favoured choices in this place. We were here for the dumplings, which we had watched being made just minutes before in the window.
First off was a plate full of fried dumplings. They arrived glistening and looking well kind of awesome. I know it is so simple a dish and it is really so hard to find a lot of clever words to describe them, but I will try. Filling wise there was a combination of soft pork mince with a gentle yet memorably herby mixture that was light, fresh, and really quite delicious
I had mine with a dip I made of Chinese vinegar mixed with a bit of soy, this is my go to table top dipping sauce. I find that it compliments any dumpling. The casing is lightly fried but you still get that crunchy bite on the side of the dumpling that sat for a while on the hot steel of the wok.
The other dish that we ordered was a plate of the steamed dumplings, yes I admit it was just one big theme of dumplings. The filling was probably the same but they were a bit softer and perhaps less chewy that the fried ones. You had to be just as careful eating them as jets of scolding liquid shoots out as you bite in. The alternative was to stuff the whole dumpling into your mouth and then take the pain as the juice burns your mouth if you bite in too quickly.
This place really was for me all about the dumplings. They had other stuff that looked good, we almost ordered some more plates of the BBQ meats, but they were keen to shoo us out the door to let the next diners in.
Price wise we found ourselves looking at just over 10 quid for two plates of dumplings. I didn’t find that to be too bad as they were very good.
Jen Café is located at