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July 22, 2006

Katy's Dumpling House

Dominic Armato
As usual, I'm way behind the curve on this one, but this afternoon I finally made the trek out to Katy's Dumpling House. Katy's has been one of LTH's darlings as of late, and these folks have once again shown their remarkable collective talent for sniffing out little culinary gems. This place is as about as low-profile as they come. They haven't even settled on a name, it seems, as the permanent lit sign above the storefront reads "K's Dumpling", while the large paper sign in the window reads "Katy's Dumpling House". It's a tiny hole-in-the-wall joint housed in a strip mall space in Westmont that can't be more than 12' wide, about half an hour west of the city if traffic cooperates, which it rarely does. It's more of a carry-out spot than a restaurant, though the front quarter of the storefront has seven or eight small tables and a tiny counter that are overseen in an attentive, if stern, manner by the owner. The space is incredibly sparse, the yellow walls decorated only by the handwritten menu. It's mostly in Chinese, though one of Katy's champions was kind enough to compile a translated menu. Sadly, I'd forgotten this list, but we did just fine ordering off the portion that was translated.

Dominic Armato
Though dumplings are the restaurant's namesake foodstuff, they're mostly sold frozen in bulk as a carry-out item. We did, however, start off with some potstickers. They were fairly crisp on the crispy side, nice and doughy elsewhere, filled with a lightly seasoned pork and greens mixture. What took them from good to great, however, was the fact that they were exceptionally juicy, with a full teaspoon of liquid deliciousness spilling out of each. I heartily recommend having them with a little bit of the house chili sauce. As good as the dumplings were, however, the noodles were the star, and we had them in four separate iterations. Katy's noodles are made in-house, and they're really wonderful. They're thick and moist, with a flavor that's great and a texture that's fantastic. They're fairly dense, they have a great bite, they're pleasantly chewy, and though it may seem like a small detail, their somewhat nubby shape is really enjoyable.

Dominic Armato
The first noodle dish we tried was the Niu Rou Mian, translated as Beef Noodle Soup. It was an exceptionally generous bowl of seasoned beef broth with some sliced beef, a bit of what seemed to be some kind of cabbage, and a large pile of noodles lurking below. The deep color was somewhat misleading. The broth was plenty beefy, but it was surprisingly light and the accompanying fresh cilantro was quite potent and a great complement. The beef was quite tender, and a tasty cut to boot. It had a lightly sweet soy flavor with a very strong star anise component. I'm a sucker for star anise. It seemed that the greens might've been lightly pickled, and were just a touch spicy, though the rest of the dish was fairly mild. I might've enjoyed it more if the soup's flavor had been a little more intense, but the balance was right on and it was a great dish just as it was.

Dominic Armato
Next up were the Stir-Fried Noodles with Dried Chili. Though billed as "hot", I didn't think they were especially so. They were, as noted, stir-fried in a slightly sweet soy-based sauce with a handful of dried chiles, along with a mix of vegetables and a number of meats, including chicken, beef, shrimp and... somewhat unexpectedly... imitation crab. I thought the krab was totally unnecessary and somewhat distracting, but otherwise the dish was simple and delicious. For all of the Americanized Chinese joints that serve limp, lousy, oversauced lo mein, it was nice to find a place where I can get the real deal. While this type of dish is all too often a flat, tasteless afterthought, here the noodles had body and life.

Dominic Armato
As good as the first two noodles dishes were, these next two were even better. The Szechwan Cold Noodle was the perfect sort of dish for a hot summer day. The noodles had a significant kick, dressed in a sauce that contained chiles, sesame oil and vinegar, though it focused primarily on the chiles and exercised remarkable restraint with the latter two. The noodles were accompanied by a generous pile of some wonderfully fresh, cool, slivered cucumber and some sort of ground pork concoction that was both potent and complex. But despite the bold accoutrements, the focus was Katy's delightful noodles. It was a great dish, and doubly nice to get a cold Chinese noodle dish that wasn't dominated by an overly sweet sesame sauce.

Dominic Armato
The big, big winner for the day, however, was the Dan-Dan Noodle. Another soup concoction, this one was fairly fiery, but it wasn't all about spice at the expense of depth. It was an extremely complex and powerful soup, and I can only take a vague stab at the contents. The underlying broth was quite bold and rich, and put down a nice baseline for the sharp and pungent aromatics. It was very garlicky, a little tart, a little sweet and had a the kind of fullness that's usually only achieved with coconut milk or dairy, though I'm certain neither of those were present. The chiles were the central focus, with a nice, citrusy huajiao accent. The noodles, greens and pork mixture (I believe the same as the cold noodle dish) were all delicious, but while I'm sure the soup appreciated the help, there was plenty of goodness for it to stand on its own. This and the cold Sichuan noodle are the dishes that will put miles on my car. With a bustling Chinatown just a few minutes away, it's a little frustrating to have to truck out to the 'burbs for superlative noodles, but Katy's is well worth the trip.

Katy's Dumpling House
(K's Dumpling)

665 N. Cass Ave.
Westmont, IL 60559


The deliciousness of those noodles will haunt me in my dreams. Must have more! MORE!

Thank you so much for your pictures. My wife and I went to try out the dan dan noodles and found them FANTASTIC. The person waiting at the register tried to warn us off in favor of the beef noodles, but we stuck to our guns. Totaly worth it, can't wait to go back and try the other dishes you highlight here.

Thanks again.

Yes these guys serve up some seriously authentic Chinese (as in mainlander) food.


The people who work here don't speak English very well. I didn't have a menu and ordered Cashew Chicken and Mu Shu Pork. They never stated they don't serve this. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed we didn't get these two entrees and called and they said they don't serve these two entrees! This was upsetting as I had family over and we didn't have enough food for everyone

Hey, Moira!

It's true, there's a very distinct language barrier, and navigating it can be a bit tricky. My suspicion (and my hope) is that your unfortunate problem was the result of miscommunication rather than negligent service.

That said, if you're going to Katy's for cashew chicken and mu shu pork, I'd urge you to return anyway and explore the less common menu items. I understand they do some Americanized Chinese dishes, and they may do them very well (haven't tried, myself), but that clearly isn't where their talents lie :-)

If you like noodle soup, this is the place with A excellent hand-made noodle soup.

The beef noodle soup is in my opinion the best I had in the continental US. There might be some places in California with better beef or soup, but as an over-all beef noodle soup dish, this is truly a delectable dish with a remarkable balance.

I guess you need to have the cultural background (Taiwan) to fully appreciate it.

Lucky for us suburbanites, this place is awesome!
Take your time and learn what THEIR specialty is, the noodles. Why would ANYONE waste their time with Cashew Chicken and Mushu Pork???????????????? Just go to your corner "chop suey" joint for that slop.
Here you get huge portions of home made authentic noodles! REAL Chinese food.
Always worth the drive.
Beef noodle soup is my favorite.

Katy's Dumpling House has been a personal favorite of mine for years, strangely though they are closed on Wednesdays only, it's always a treat for me every time I go there, being of asian heritage myself, I find it quite rewarding from the usual Americanized 'asian' eateries around the 630 area.

My favorite as well is the Dan Dan noodle dish, you can never go wrong there!

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