Shanghai Cafe Deluxe (25/30, $4.95 for 8)
Skin: (8/10) A little thick, but handmade, nicely chewy, and holds together.
Soup: (9/10) The best. Savory, porky, and viscous, they leave your lips sticky. Not too sweet, with a nice cabbage flavor and only a mild amount of aromatics.
Filling: (8/10) Moist, tender, and springy, it tastes like a good pork meatball.
Shanghai Cafe Deluxe: 100 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map); 212-966-3988
Shanghai Asian Manor (24/30, $5.45 for 8)
Skin: (9/10) Great skin with a hint of chewy stretchiness and none of the tough doughiness that plagued other skins.
Soup: (7/10) Very porky and rich, but a bit too sweet with a distinct aroma of toasted sesame.
Filling: (8/10) Better in texture than its cousin at Shanghai Asian Cuisine, but still a tad too sweet.
Shanghai Asian Manor: 21 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map); 212-766-6311
Shanghai Asian Cuisine (23/30, $5.45 for 8)
Nicest interior, comfortable and friendly. Dumplings made to order.
Skin: (9/10) Nearly perfect skins with just a bit of delicate chew and stretchiness, they just barely hold it together.
Soup: (7/10) Nice and fresh, but a bit too sweet. The flavor has a strong sesame oil aroma that overpowers the porkiness.
Filling: (7/10) Like the soup, a little too sweet. It's also slightly mushy.
Shanghai Asian Cuisine: 14 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013, 212-964-5640;
456 Shanghai Cuisine (22/30, $5.25 for 8)
Skin: (10/10) Delicate but intact, stretchy, fresh and clean tasting, nicely chewy but not tough, it's exactly what you look for in a skin.
Soup: (6/10) It's a little too gingery and oniony, but is balanced as far as salt and sugar go. It leaves a nice sticky sheen on your lips, but is not quite is porky as it could be.
Filling: (6/10) Ever so slightly bland. Needs more salt and a little more fat to be a real contender for top spot.
456 Shanghai Cuisine: 69 Mott St # A, New York, NY 10013, 212-964-0003
Shanghai Gourmet (19/30, $4.50 for 8)
Skin: (7/10) The very tips of the nubbins were a little tough, but otherwise nice skins with good pull.
Soup: (6/10) Quite sweet—almost too sweet—but reasonably well balanced.
Filling: (6/10) Slightly gristly meat with a tad too much fat..
Shanghai Gourmet: 23 Pell Street, New York, NY 10013, 212-285-0668
Joe's Ginger (18/30, $5.40 for 8)
Skin: (6/10) Mostly good—nice and stretchy, but the little nubbin at the top was too thick. It ends up in your mouth as a little ball of dough after the rest of the dumpling is gone.
Soup: (5/10) Very salty with a distinct ginger and soy flavor with not much porkiness to speak of.
Filling: (7/10) Very generous with the meat, though it's not the absolute tastiest pork. A little bit spongy.
Joe's Ginger: 25 Pell Street, New York, NY 10013-5168, 212-285-0999
Old Shang Hai Deluxe (17/30, $4.50 for 8)
Skin: (7/10) A little thick and clumsy, but fresh and well-shaped.
Soup: (5/10) Strong sesame and ginger aromas and a little too much sugar in an otherwise very decent soup base. Could use a bit more viscosity.
Filling: (5/10) Slightly mushy but plenty of seasoning and nice pork flavor.
Old Shang Hai Deluxe: 50 Mott St, New York, NY 10013, 212-566-4884
Joe's Shanghai (13/30, $5.40 for 8)
Skin: (4/10) Very thick with a doughy, undercooked tip.
Soup: (4/10) Salty and thin, it tasted of take-out wonton soup broth.
Filling: (5/10) Large and juicy, though it had a somewhat funky porkiness to it and a bit of gristle.
Joe's Shanghai: 9 Pell Street, New York, NY 10013, 212-233-8888
Shanghai Cuisine (11/30, $5.45 for 8)
Skin: (3/10) Very thick and not handmade, though they are hand-stuffed. The tops of the batch we had had a strange, rancid oil aroma, like the skins had been sitting around a bit too long before being filled
Soup: (4/10) Sticky and rich, but unconscionably sweet. Pork candy.
Filling: (4/10) Meaty but a bit mushy with an overt sweetness.
Shanghai Cuisine: 89 Bayard St # B, New York, NY 10013, 212-732-8988
Nice Green Bo Restaurant (7/30, $4.95 for 8)
Skin: (2/10) Not a single dumpling made it through the steaming process intact, though at least they stuff these skins themselves. The skins were flaccid, mushy, and full of holes. The dumplings are small and cooked directly from the freezer.
Soup: (3/10) Vinegary and fatty without much viscosity or meatiness.
Filling: (3/10) Gristly, fatty meat with mushy bits of congealed fat squeezing out. Not appetizing.
Nice Green Bo Restaurant: 66 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013, 212-625-2359
XO Taste (7/30, $4.95 for 5)
Skin: (2/10) Thick, mushy, and pasty. These are frozen dumpling skins, no doubt about it.
Soup: (3/10) Not much real meat flavor to speak of with too much sweetness. Not to mention that the soup wasn't in the dumplings, but outside it.
Filling: (2/10) Tacky, dry, pasty meat that is overcooked and clearly has been frozen. It sticks to your teeth like wet cardboard.
XO Taste: 96 Walker St, New York, NY 10013, 212-343-8625