100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes: No. 100, Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

It used to be that you could only get decent dumplings in the confines of Chinatown -- new or old, take your pick -- and nowhere else. And then Heights Asian Cafe opened up in a once-derelict Long John Silver's and changed that.

Although the name itself might not lead one to expect much from the little restaurant, the old Chinese woman making dumplings in the partially open kitchen will quickly change your mind. The steamed pork and vegetable dumplings here are her creation, and they're frankly fabulous.

The gently crimped and hand-pinched dumpling wrappers are just thick enough to hold together but not so much that all you taste is dumpling skin; instead, the soft, slightly chewy wrappers give way to a savory mixture of ground pork and spinach inside that's brightened up with a vinegary sauce served on the side. The rest of Heights Asian Cafe's menu may be pretty straightforward, but these dumplings hold their own with the best in town and were one of the greatest surprises of the year.

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Katharine Shilcutt