I was not stoked to try Zouji Dumpling House. The month-old Glen Cove restaurant is affiliated with Zou Ji Northeast China Home Style Cuisine, which opened in Syosset last year and was closed, temporarily, according to management, by a fire in September. On two visits there I found it long on potential, but short on execution.
Then too, Zouji Dumpling House’s location, at the intersection of Glen Cove and Sea Cliff avenues, has been a revolving door for short-lived Asian eateries, among them, Gem Stone, Tao’s Peking duck House (an offshoot of Tao’s Fusion in Selden), and Sushi Time. (Old timers may remember Bamboo Cove, Hsin Hsin Gourmet or, going way back to the '80s, Hunan Dragon.)
But lo, the new owners have spruced up the place a bit, freshening the exterior and covering the dining-room walls with murals depicting noodle manufacture. They converted the sushi bar into a dumpling station, with a cook filling and crimping dumpling where the sushi chef once stood; the counter is now a mix-your-own-dumpling-sauce station, equipped with dispensers of vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil and more.
The kitchen leans hard on dumplings and buns: boiled or fried dumplings filled with variations on pork, shrimp, beef, chicken, lamb and vegetables; soup dumplings, pot stickers; and pan-fried wheat buns filled with beef. The rest of the menu features a handful of Cantonese-American dishes (kung pao chicken, beef with broccoli) but the emphasis is on the cuisine of Northeastern China, with such delicacies as meatball and cabbage soup, beef hot pot, ginger-scallion sea cucumber, shredded pork with spicy garlic sauce and twice-cooked pork-belly slices. Vegetable dishes include sauteed okra, sauteed snow-pea leaves, shredded potato with green pepper and shiitake mushrooms with baby bok choy.
While I was enjoying my okra, I overheard a waiter taking a phone order for sesame chicken and fried rice and I wanted to weep. The manager told me that it’s been a challenge conveying to the neighborhood that, while the kitchen happily fills these orders, Zouji is at its best cooking the kind of Chinese food you’d find in China. To my knowledge, Zouji Dumpling House is Nassau’s first Chinese restaurant north of Route 25A that can make this boast. Residents of Glen Cove, Sea Cliff, Glen Head, Locust Valley, Old Brookville and Lattingtown: take note! You can see the menu here.
Zouji Dumpling House is at 188 Glen Cove Ave., Glen Cove, 516-801-4848.