Dough Zone Delights with Noodles, Dumplings, Pancakes, Buns, and More in Bellevue

Dough Zone's juicy pork buns (xiao long bao)

Dough Zone’s juicy pork buns (xiao long bao)

I’ve become so obsessed with food that I now believe flour is more beautiful than flowers.

That’s what I was thinking while working my way through the menu at Dough Zone, a flour-y (!) new restaurant in Bellevue, behind the Crossroads Mall. With the kitchen pumping out baskets of xiao long bao (a.k.a. soup dumplings, or juicy pork buns here), there are inevitable comparisons to Din Tai Fung, with Dough Zone giving it a run for the money, albeit at a little less cost (and usually less wait time) for its customers.

But it’s not just dumplings on the diverse menu of things dough-related. Green onion pancakes? Check. Chinese doughnuts? Fresh-made noodles? Check. Biscuits and “burgers”? Check. There’s even shengjian bao (here called jian buns), making Dough Zone about the only place in the area to find the pan-fried relative of xiao long bao.

So what’s the verdict on quality?

Pretty good, overall. The xiao long bao ($8.50 for 10) are about the cutest I’ve seen—a dollhouse variety that’s small but with a decent amount of broth inside the delicate wrapper. The pork flavor of the meat is good, but while the broth was “clean” tasting, a little more depth of flavor wouldn’t hurt.

Skip, though, the crab meat buns. At $10.50 a basket, it’s the most expensive item on the menu, and not worth the upgrade from the pork version. There’s no discernible crab in the broth, and the crab texture of the meat is somewhat disconcerting.

Shengjian bao, with crisped bottoms

Shengjian bao, with crisped bottoms

Back to pork, the jian buns are good. My understanding, though, is that the dough should be a little thinner and therefore crisper when pan-fried. The thickness of the dough means that most of the broth gets absorbed, so the anticipated juicy explosion goes missing.

Spicy beef pancake rolls

Spicy beef pancake rolls

Pork potstickers

Pork potstickers

From the list of house specials, the spicy beef pancake rolls are worth a try, with lots of green onions to offset the meaty flavor. Our group didn’t try anything from the boiled or steamed dumpling sections of the menu, instead opting for pork potstickers from the pan-fried dumpling section. These are cooked to a nice crispness, but are perhaps too porky—with clumps of meat crying to be countered with something crunchy and vegetal, such as Chinese chives.

Szechuan sauced cold noodles

Szechuan sauced cold noodles

Noodles with onion soy sauce

Noodles with onion soy sauce

The noodles are fun, made fresh in the back kitchen. They come in small bowls, but as with the rest of the menu, at a rather small price ($4.75 for sauced noodles, or $7.75 for soup noodles). If you’re sharing among four, you’ll each get just a couple of bites. The Szechuan sauced noodles are cold and refreshing, made ma la to be both numbing and spicy. Even more impressive are the noodles with (green) onion soy sauce. The relative simplicity of the sauce allows the warm noodles to shine.

Non-dough delights: “mix flaver beef” with sweet and sour cucumbers in the background (well worth $2.50 just to see the spiraling knifework)

Non-dough delights: “mix flaver beef” with sweet and sour cucumbers in the background (well worth $2.50 just to see the spiraling knifework)

Dough Zone’s current popularity might mean a short wait for seats during the busiest of hours, unless you’re willing to sit at the counter—arguably the best seats in the house, as you get to watch the dumpling-making. The servers are young and friendly, but with mixed language skills, so persist if you need someone to explain any of the description-less menu items. At pricing that allows for lots of menu-sampling, Dough Zone is off a great start. With a little more focus on the fillings (and toppings) than the dough itself, I can only imagine it will get even better.

Seating at the counter, watching the dumpling-making

Seating at the counter, watching the dumpling-making

Dough Zone Dumpling House ??? on Urbanspoon

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