The Stanton Social – Soup Dumpling Disappointment

I want to tell you how incredible this restaurant is. How it lived up to, and even surpassed, expectations. How you should run there this weekend.

But that just ain’t gonna happen.

The Stanton Social opened in 2005 with a bang, and ushered in the era of the ultra cool bar/restaurant hybrid. With its sleek design, beautiful servers, and innovative menu of small plates, it has garnered praise from foodies and fashionistas alike for the last 8 years.

So…was my wait for the French onion soup dumplings worth it?

pix 039 The restaurant is – in a word – LOUD. And that’s coming from someone who has a voice like a foghorn. I am talking wall vibrating, music pumping, hoarse-by-the-time-you-leave-the-restaurant loud. It’s also a little cramped, but that adds to the cool bar/club effect of the restaurant. It was a big noisy for my tastes, but for brunch with a few girlfriends, I could see it being a fun vibe. 

pix 043 Ahi tuna poke

One of the best dishes of the night. When I tasted this, I figured we were in for a great meal. The tuna is finely chopped so it literally melts in the mouth, and is so fresh that it is almost sweet, like the best sushi. The wonton is crisp and the tuna is flecked with fiery chiles, creamy avocado, and an herbaceous cilantro dressing. This is a must order. 

pix 044 French onion soup dumplings

The dish that made the restaurant famous. These dumplings, based on Chinese soup dumplings, are supposed to be wafer thin dumpling wrappers filled with sweet, savory, beefy onion soup broth, served under a blanket of melted Gruyère cheese. They are…not quite that. The dumpling skins are thick and flaccid, the interior is tasty onions, but there is no broth to speak of, and the cheese atop is tasty to be sure, but not enough to make up for that lackluster delivery. The presentation is beautiful, and they must have been novel when they were first on the menu, but these have sadly not stood the test of time.

pix 046 Fava bean and ricotta ravioli

A strong dish. Buttery little pasta pockets filled with a creamy, grassy filling. The fava beans are wonderfully apparent – they are earthy and fresh, mixed with garlic and just enough salt. The pasta for this is tissue thin and perfect – if only they used this dough for the dumplings! This is so flavorful that even carnivores will love it. 

pix 047 Cuban baby back ribs with mango-chipotle glaze

Good, if not memorable. The meat is tender and the portion is substantial, but there is nothing super special about these. A sweet, vaguely spicy glaze. A creamy, oniony slaw. Charred in some parts, sticky in others. No unbelievable smoke ring, no world-class sauce. It’s just tasty, not crave-worthy.

That’s the whole feel of this place – good, but not anything special. The food is pretty fairly priced for a fancy, special night- 2 people can dine there with cocktails for about $12o. However, the food doesn’t hold up for a fancy night out – the tuna is great and the pasta is good, but neither are worth a special trip there. And the dumplings were a major disappointment. Quite frankly, I might come here with a group of friends if they wanted to go, but I can’t see myself going here again on my own.

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