Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we're having a sloppy, slurpy noodle-fest on the very edge of the new west end of Glasgow.
Well, that's the way it turns out anyway. If you're wondering where that is, incidentally, it seems to be a rapidly growing strip running away from the tail-end of Byres Road out to Finnieston.
We are in Dumpling Monkey, and it's bright and clean; there's an open counter with three or four people bustling about. Well, mainly chatting intensely to each other right now. Hello? Anyone serving? Behind them a door swings open to show a couple of guys furiously flash frying in a tight kitchen.
Loading article content
From above our tiny table comes the constant thump, thump, thump of footsteps as staff go up and down the stairs to a store. There's an Asian game show on the telly, chillis, vinegar and soy in dishes on the table and, when we eventually get some attention - which it takes far too long - plastic bottles of tepid Diet Coke are brought straight out. No ice, no glasses, no nuthin', but hey-ho there's a studenty buzz to this place so we go with the slow flow.
Everyone goes back to their conversations again and we consider the telly until a while later a hot, pillowy, freshly steamed baozi stuffed with pink, sweet char siu pork arrives, then another with pork and green beans. A bowl of sweet-and-sour soup is next with large floppy pork and ginger wontons floating in it, the soup tasting of citrus and chilli and oil. Spicy beef noodles come in a footbath-sized dish and start the game-show-like eating problems as writhing noodles slip from chopsticks and spoon and whiplash in the air, showering us - well, me mainly - head to tie in a bland broth. Nice beef, though.
It's while I'm trying to wipe the gloop from the tables that the unexpected dish of the evening appears: special brisket beef curry, it said on the menu. Unexpected? Well, there's been a smattering of a hands-on home cooking feel to the first few dishes even though the broth with the spicy beef is very bland, but this curry? Isn't it one of those green Chinese curry sauces looking just like the stuff from catering packs that's served in Chinese takeaways up and down the land? It sure is. There are even big chunks of onion among the hunks of juicy brisket. It's congealing so fast in the cool air that we leave it at a quarter consumed, but you know what? With good beef and a taste that brings back memories of teenage takeaways it's not bad, in a retro way.
Fortunately at this point, and I say fortunately because Debs and Luca are raising eyebrows at my choice of Saturday-night restaurant treat, what we have been waiting for finally arrives. Potstickers. Soft folded dumplings allowed to sit on the frying pan just long enough for their bases to crispen, adding texture and taste. These are stuffed with pork and Chinese leaves and cost a fiver for 10. We're not actually fighting over them, but there's a definite scramble to grab the last two because they are so crunchy, soft and very juicy. Delicious, actually.
I ordered fried sauce noodles too, but someone forgot and frankly by the time I realise they haven't arrived we've lost interest. But they come anyway, thinnish wheat noodles with a grey, gluey pork mince, chopped cucumber and yellow soy bean paste. Tastes a tad soapy to me and they remain largely untouched.
Dumpling Monkey, then? Nice fast and casual studenty feel to the place, which remains clean and bright looking. The non-dumpling dishes are sometimes bland, largely ordinary and not really worth crossing Dumbarton Road to sample. But the dumplings? Fresh, juicy, full of flavour and great value. If I had known that before I came in we wouldn't have wasted time and money ordering anything else.
121 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow (0141 583 8300)
Potstickers, not by the dozen, but in batches of 10. Many other - largely noodle-based - Chinese dishes too. 3/5
Bright and cheery without being too fast-foodish. Has a studenty feel but don't let that put you off if you're a fan of dumplings. 3/5
Casual feel to the place. Was quiet when we were in and the service seemed slow and preoccupied. 2/5
Absolute bargain basement prices with dumplings at a fiver for 10, and most noodle soups hitting £6. 5/5
The dumplings are fresh, juicy when they should be and delicious. Nothing outstanding about the other dishes we had, though. 7/10