At the corner of an innocuous strip mall in Cupertino is a large but not grand restaurant, and yet it serves up some of the tastier Shanghai dumplings in the South Bay.

The lack of frills is present in the restaurant’s simple name, Shanghai Dumpling.

A Shanghai dumpling, spelled xiao long bao in Chinese and nicknamed XLB, is a soup dumpling which has gained popularity with diners across the US. An XLB contains seasoned meat, usually pork or seafood or a mixture of both, and solid pork broth cubes folded into the dumpling pouches, before being steamed to cook the meat and melt the broth cubes, earning the name soup dumpling.

They are best enjoyed by biting a part of the dough, sucking out the soup, and then eating the rest—though different people have different preferences on a one-bite versus multiple-bite approach. Often it is accompanied by a soy vinegar sauce, although a properly made XLB is intensely flavorful on its own.

On a weekend morning, the restaurant is crowded but not packed. Two walls are lined with windows, resulting in a bright and open atmosphere well suited for lunch. With assembly line precision, two women wrap dumplings in a small station near the front of the restaurant. They work behind glass walls so customers can see how their dumplings came to be. After getting seated, wait staff attention is a bit slow and lacking in the kind of warmth and cheer often expected of customer service. However, the food is served promptly to assuage any qualms over wait staff attitude. All can be forgiven once the first plate of food is placed on the table within minutes of ordering.

As an appetizer, we ordered a cucumber with garlic sauce salad ($4.95). The cucumber came in large, peeled chunks, roughly muddled with seasoned garlic. This offered a simple and refreshing break between various dishes. The wontons with spicy sauce ($6.50) proved to be particularly tasty, served with a mix of chili oil, sesame oil and peanut sauce topped with crushed peanuts and scallions.

Although the wontons were small in size, with some slightly undercooked, the sauce provided layers of flavor to the dish and quickly won me over as a surprise favorite of the meal. Six wedges of crispy green onion pancakes ($4.95) came next and left a decent impression on the palate. They were satisfying, yet lacked a sauce to give it a memorable punch. The problem was remedied by dipping the pancake pieces into the spicy wonton sauce, which seems like it would go great with many other dishes, too. Since a few dumplings do not make a proper lunch, we filled up on a plate of Shanghai Stir Fried Noodles ($7.50). The noodles were thick like udon and sauteed with large onion pieces in a bland soy sauce mixture which left much to be desired. Maybe this could also be fixed with a drizzle of spicy wonton sauce.

Last came two bamboo steamer baskets of the main attraction, the namesake of the restaurant, the Shanghai dumplings. In one tray were six pieces of the pork soup dumplings ($6.50). As promised, a steaming doughy pillow plopped gently onto the spoon, delivering a rivulet of pork broth upon the first bite. The meat was savory, the dough was soft and chewy, and the entire bite contained the variety of flavor and textures an XLB enthusiast expects.

The second tray of six dumplings held a surf and turf twist on the classic, a pork dumpling with real crab meat ($7.95). This simple addition of seafood enhanced the flavor of the classic pork dumpling, making it just slightly better than the regular pork dumplings, though both are equally enjoyable.

While it is not near rivaling the dumplings of the world famous Din Tai Fung restaurant chain, Shanghai Dumpling is one of the better options in the South Bay. The menu offers a variety of other delightful dumplings, appetizers and entrees to round out the meal. With an easy-to-find location, ample parking and no crowd, Shanghai Dumpling makes a great lunch option. It will surely satisfy that XLB craving.

Shanghai Dumpling
10895 S. Blaney Ave., Cupertino. 408.777.8786