Monday, March 1, 2010

Where, oh where, can my dumplings be

 Not actual dumplings

Sometimes I get so excited at the prospect of a new opening that I have to be standing at the doors when that day comes. It rarely happens with movies, and I am usually disappointed by the result anyway. This happens a little more often with food. I was the first customer when Nicky's opened in Brookyn (a half hour later than scheduled). My twenty dollar bill was on the wall until someone broke in after closing one night and stole it.

Not necessarily first-customer-in-line excited, I eagerly awaited the opening of Eton in Cobble Hill a couple of years ago. I noticed the unopened shop while traveling to Fairway one weekend. The single name on a plain UPS-brown awning got my attention. A little bit of Google helped. Eton Chan was a chef at Asiate and struck off on his own to open this small dumpling and Hawaiian shave ice joint. I was there to pick up dinner on the opening night.

The wait for dumplings is long during the slow hours, excruciating around prime lunch and dinner times. This is because the dumplings are cooked to order... on a pair of hotplates, first fried in some sesame oil and then steamed. There is always some sort of activity occurring in the background. Dough is being rolled out, dumplings stuffed and sealed, ice being shaved and doused with a variety of syrups and toppings.

None of the varieties are bad, but the pork and beef dumplings far exceed the other two regulars. Chicken dumplings tastes like...chicken, but good chicken. The filling in vegetable dumplings can come spilling out, as is apt to happen with vegetable dumplings all over this great land that we call New York. Specials show up sporadically. For awhile they were making noodle soups, but that seems to have disappeared. The homemade chili dumpling sauce, kept off the counter, is much better than the soy sauce and huggable, squeezable Sriracha sauce left in plain view.

Shave ice gives way to bubble tea in the colder months, and is much missed. My favorite combination is to add a flavored syrup or two with condensed milk on top. Marshmallow Fluff has been tempting, but I have not tried it yet. For awhile, Eton set up a dessert-only shop on Sackett and Smith. Now that is the only shop. The original store on Henry Street closed down. The new space is somehow smaller. This means that the counter space and few tables are completely gone, rendering Eton takeout only (at least during the colder months). Though shave ice is not yet in season, there were a few alcoholic suggestions posted - to turn that kiddie piña colada into a grown up piña colada.

Did I mention that they are $3.75 for an order of five? Go with a friend, split three orders (2 meat and pork, 1 chicken) and get a small shave ice each. Perfect.

Eton, 359 Sackett Street (at Smith Street)

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