Where to Dumpling Daughter, so named because owner Nadia Liu Spellman’s family ran Sally Ling’s, the pinnacle of high-end Chinese dining in 1980s Boston.
What for Buns, dumplings, and noodles within a snug mini-mall in Weston’s town center. Did Norman Rockwell eat ramen?
The scene Improbably cozy. The layout is vaguely Chipotlian, with a minimalistic dining area, counter-service ordering, and an assembly-line kitchen. But that’s where the similarities stop. Spellman and her husband, childhood sweethearts, greet friends. Ladies in fluffy scarves bid one another happy new year. Cleanshaven men in corduroys tuck into soup and talk business. In one corner, a group of friends host a baby shower and coo over bibs. Poinsettias dress up a picture window, and a high-heeled dumpling with red lips makes a welcoming logo. Hypnotic Muzak seems to whisper, “Slurp. Slurp more.”
What you’re eating Spellman’s favorite recipes, many from her mom. Fluffy buns ($4 for two) are stuffed with protein; the most popular version is savory, tangy barbecued pork. There are plenty of dumplings — naturally — steamed or pan-seared ($6 for six). There are also several kinds of ramen, aromatic braised beef Beijing noodle soup, and rice bowls, many of which are gluten-free. Fish comes from Captain Marden’s; the virtuous might opt for a salmon salad with organic mixed greens. Request a tub of chili paste or Sichuan sauce to accompany your meal.
Care for a drink? There’s an assortment of canned sodas, Chinese iced tea, and bottled water. Guests can BYOB, with no corkage fee. Frugal diners should note the tumblers of free iced tap water toward the back.
Overheard The satisfied hum of post-holiday suburbia. A group of women swap tales about sleeping arrangements. “My side of the bed’s near the heater, and I’m always throwing off the sheets!” Two men take a break from discussing “deals” and “slots” to attack the menu. “I’m gonna do a pork, I’m gonna do a chicken, and I’m gonna do a ramen,” one announces. “I couldn’t possibly eat all this!” a gracious grand dame tells a server, who fetches a to-go box. Another group of ladies approach the cash register and gaze at the menu. “For here or to go?” asks a server. “Oh, for here, please,” they chime in unison. “Bibs! Bibs!” cries the feted mom-to-be, displaying her bounty. “The best shower gift I ever got was a basket of wine,” says her friend. 37 Center St., Weston, 781-216-8989, www.dumplingdaughter.com.Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org