It can be a bit tedious sifting through Yelp in an attempt to find new and interesting restaurants to review. After two years on the beat, it can sometimes feel like there’s nothing new worth writing about. And then I strike gold and am reminded of why I love this job.

My latest find, Mingle’s Mango, is a hidden gem, tucked away in the back corner of a strip mall deep in south San Jose, just off the old Monterey Highway. Mingle’s specialty is the ever-popular Chinese steamed buns xiaolongbao (aka the XLB), which is normally enough to grab my attention, but their specialty dessert steamed bun is really what made my mouth water. This was the first time I had seen or heard of such a thing, and it got me pumped.

Mingle’s is unique in a lot of ways, from the tacky hand-painted signage outside to the hard-to-locate front entrance (which is actually facing Roundtable Drive), to the interesting interior décor that can only be described as anime chic. They also broadcast random episodes of various Japanese anime on a draped sheet at the back end of the restaurant. We did find it a smidge annoying at first, but once we acclimated, the charm of it shone through.

The menu is pretty simple (which I prefer) and features a slew of house-made dumplings, as well as traditional Chinese soups with hand-pulled noodles. They also have some of the usual cast of characters that we Westerners have become accustomed to, such as chow mein and various fried rice dishes.

To get a nice sampling of the menu, we got two orders of XLBs ($9.95/seven pieces), one with just the standard pork and one with pork and shrimp; green onion pancakes ($2.50); and some veggie fried rice ($10.45) to help round things out. And, of course, we had to get an order of their dessert dumplings ($4.25/two pieces), which feature Godiva chocolate and hazelnuts.

First up was the green onion pancake, and it might be the most unusual rendition yet; instead of the usual fried dough, it came out more like a flaky, savory pastry. The texture was crunchy, tasty and had just the right amount of oil to toe that line between too greasy and perfect. The same could be said of the veggie fried rice; the flavor and seasoning were truly divine—perhaps the best fried rice I’ve ever had.

Next, the XLBs were presented, and while they were a bit on the smaller side, they were packed with flavor. The skins were a touch thicker than I like, but the tasty, rich broth and juicy, delicious fillings more than made up for it. While the pork and shrimp dumplings were each terrific, I have to say that the traditional pork ones were slightly better. It is also worth noting that not one of the XLB skins broke to release the precious broth innards as a sacrifice to the great soup gods.

Finally, the dessert dumplings arrived. This was the moment I had been waiting for, and they did not disappoint. They were also a bit on the smallish side, but man, did they pack a flavorful wallop. The rich, dark Godiva chocolate melted perfectly in their tasty dumpling skins, while the delectable crunch of hazelnuts made this the Asian Ferrero Rocher. After grudgingly sharing one with my girlfriend, I decided I needed more and ordered a second serving. I could’ve easily had a third, but I suddenly recalled the appointment with my cardiologist next week.

Mining for culinary treasures can be a slog, but it’s finds like this that make the search worthwhile. Now, where did I leave my pickaxe? I’m getting hungry.

Mingle’s Mango
5278 Monterey Hwy, Suite D, San Jose