in the zone
Seattle's favorite soup dumpling restaurant steams up Houston with 2 hot new locations
A Seattle-based restaurant known for its soup dumplings is coming to Houston later this year. Dough Zone Dumpling House will open two Bayou City locations in 2023 and 2024, the restaurant recently announced.
A representative tells CultureMap that Dough Zone has leased the former Ibiza space in Midtown (2450 Louisiana St.) for a restaurant that will open this summer and the former Sozo Sushi Lounge space in the Galleria-area BLVD Place development (1700 Post Oak Blvd. #250) for a second location that will open in late winter 2024. The Houston restaurants will be first Dough Zone’s first outposts east of the Rocky Mountains, joining locations in the Seattle area, four in California, and one in Portland, Oregon.
Founded in in Bellevue, Washington in 2014 by Jason and Nancy Zhai, Dough Zone serves Chinese comfort food that includes dumplings, noodles, vegetable dishes, and more. In particular, it is known for its Berkshire pork-filled soup dumplings (xiao long bao) and signature Q-Bao, which are steamed and then pan-fried. It also earns praise for its take on classic Sichuan dan dan noodles.
Comparisons with Din Tai Fung, the globally renown dim sum restaurant that has two Seattle locations, are inevitable. If the city’s food critics are to be believed, Dough Zone comes out on top.
“Dough Zone is better than Din Tai Fung,” Seattle Times food writer Bethany Jean Clement wrote in a 2017 review. “The dumplings at the brand-new branch of the Zone were significantly hotter, juicier and more tender (tenderer?) than my most recent batches of Din Tai Fung ones — which, to be clear, were really good.”
“For what it's worth, Dough Zone's xiao long bao are just as good as Din Tai Fung's and they cost a full $2 less per order,” food writer Angela Garbes declared in Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger in 2016. “More importantly, Dough Zone, unlike Din Tai Fung, also serves sheng jian bao, the wonderful pan-fried cousins of xiao long bao.”
Credit for that success goes to the way Dough Zone makes its dumplings, which feature a delicate wrapper, flavorful broth, and a tight seal that doesn’t leak. They are a “paragon of proportions: just the right amount of tender, elastic wrapper . . . to soft, savory, porky filling, to hot, delicate, marvelous broth, all in one perfect bite,” Clement wrote.
Notably, opening in Midtown puts Dough Zone near other popular soup dumpling purveyors, including Japanese gastro pub Izakaya, dim sum restaurant Taste of Mulan (formerly One Dim Sum), and Sichuan restaurant Wanna Bao. In a few more months, Houstonians will get to decide for themselves which restaurant they like the best.