If you’re looking for comfort, come to Kent’s

Kent’s Dumpling House is a small business serving Chinese comfort food in a homespun atmosphere.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Kent’s Dumpling House, located on 220 E 14th St, serves Chinese comfort food. This location underwent renovations in 2019 and re-opened under its new name with new management. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

By Felicity Huang, Staff Writer

In the search for bubble tea on a sunny fall day, my friends and I stumbled into the first location for boba we saw on Google Maps — Kent’s Dumpling House. The sizzling sound of toasted sesame and the smell of frying sweet onions caught our attention as we waited to order. Since we were hungry from a long day of walking around the city, we ordered two servings of dumplings each along with our bubble tea. To our delight, the seemingly large orders barely met the $10 credit card limit. 

Our orders were hollered from the cashier’s desk down the line to the back of the kitchen. A bit more bickering in Mandarin ensued as we waited. While it was not the typical restaurant soundtrack, the yelling and clattering gave the place a homespun feel — in fact, it sounded a lot like my house an hour before Thanksgiving dinner. We watched as delivery drivers flowed in and out. The empty restaurant we stumbled into began to fill up. 

When our food arrived, we scarfed down the golden-brown bites, not bothering to wait for our bubble tea. The unexpectedly juicy pan-fried pork chive dumplings burned the roof of my mouth, but I guess that was my fault for eating them right away. It was not until the end of the meal that I realized I was thirsty, and remembered we originally came here for bubble tea. 

Kent’s Dumpling House, on 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, was formerly a Vanessa’s Dumpling location, a local chain of Chinese restaurants in New York City. The location was closed for renovation in 2019 before opening again under a new moniker and new management. 

Since that first experience, I have stopped by many more times. I stopped by after getting my COVID-19 vaccine from the Duane Reade around the corner, on a random Wednesday night when I was sick of dining hall food, and when my friend was learning food vocabulary in Mandarin class. 

While I have tried something new each time, the pork chive dumplings are still my favorite. Sure, they might come out a little different each time I go. Sometimes, they are full of soup with a soft exterior, sometimes dark brown on the outside and crisp all over, but that’s part of the fun. I have yet to find a dumpling place that is comparable in terms of price and convenience, short of buying a bag of frozen dumplings from H-Mart and cooking them myself. 

Less than a block away from Palladium and University Hall, Kent’s is a convenient place to grab a quick sesame pancake for a snack, or a filling take-out order of spicy wontons and chicken teriyaki lo mein to share with friends. The sticky tables, soy sauce in old sriracha bottles and hectic environment only add to the uniquely homey experience of Kent’s.

Email Felicity Huang at [email protected]