There’s an exploding restaurant concept in New York City: small restaurants that showcase a particular type of ethnic cuisine with an emphasis on freshness and quality. Kathy’s Dumplings in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn is one of those places. This type of restaurant has gained widespread acceptance all across the city with customers who are typically fatigued by the same old ethnic restaurants that have become cliché.
A Pinch of Northern Flavor
Kathy’s is not a place for dinner. It is intended to serve lunch or a snack to people on the go. Unlike the previous concept of Asian restaurants that most New Yorkers are familiar with, Kathy’s menu is quite small. In exchange for the limited number of choices, everything is vibrant with freshness.
Nick, an owner of the restaurant along with the eponymous Kathy, is from Northern China where the cuisine is influenced by Korean food. Kathy’s is the first restaurant of its kind in Bay Ridge. The other Asian restaurants in the area are more familiar Southern Chinese and sushi joints. There is a sense of monotony that permeates this niche of the market, and Kathy’s Dumplings offers a return to vitality.
Northern China is a wheat growing region, so there’s more emphasis on noodles and dumplings rather than rice. Pickling vegetables is common in this northern region, and the pickles are used in the salads that appear on the menu. The Chinese Cabbage Salad and the Violet Cabbage and Pear Salad are the most popular salads on the menu.
Of the noodle dishes, Nick loves the Noodle Soup with Beef while I favor the Korean Cold Noodle Soup with the chips of ice floating in it. The icy cold broth is a little sweet, a little tangy, and is a unique taste sensation. The vegetables in the soup are crunchy and it is liberally garnished with cilantro.
All of the dumplings at Kathy’s are made-to-order, which is unusual. It takes a little more time to get served if you order dumplings, but it’s well worth the wait and it’s well worth ordering a variety. Kathy’s serves the ubiquitous Pan-Fried Pork Dumplings, but there are more interesting choices in the Pork Dumplings with Spinach Juice, Chicken & Pork Dumplings with Carrot Juice, and the Pork & Egg Dumplings with Violet Cabbage Juice.
Juicy Meat with Steamed Bun is a form of the soup dumpling. Kathy’s Special Pancake, possibly my favorite item on the menu, is a crisp-fried thin pancake filled with chopped shrimp, eggs, chive and bean thread noodles. It comes in a neat little packet full of delicate flavor.
To accompany Kathy’s food, there is an assortment of bubble tea drinks. The black tea drinks are served with sweetened condensed milk while the green tea drinks are dairy-free. Nick prefers the Passion Fruit Flavor Tea, which is made with green tea. They also serve cucumber juice, which Nick thinks is quite special.
Nick and Kathy initially thought they would get breakfast business, but were obliged to adapt when they discovered that their target customers were not going to eat dumplings for breakfast. They’re learning as they go, as they are both first-time restaurant owners. Now, they open a bit later for lunch and stay open until 9:30 p.m. during the week and 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
There’s a little bit of a learning curve for new customers at Kathy’s. First of all, it is not a dinner restaurant. In Northern China, places like this are open for breakfast and lunch and generally close early. Service is actually remarkably quick for what they’re serving. When everything is this fresh, it takes a little more time than it does at other Asian restaurants where much of the food is pre-made, especially the dumplings. Expect to wait a little longer and you will be rewarded with vibrant tasting food.