The charms of Qiu Broth­ers Dumplings

Wel­com­ing and mouth-wa­ter­ing, Qiu Broth­ers Dumplings is one of the city’s best new restau­rants.



favourite restau­rants are the ones that feel per­sonal, the ones that com­bine not just a point of view, but a point of ref­er­ence. Think of the needle­point on a com­pass: That steady leg rooted into the very core of what de­fines a per­son, the hinge stretch­ing out as their ra­dius of ex­pe­ri­ences ex­pands, build­ing per­fect arcs of in­ter­est that, no mat­ter how far or close they hap­pen to be to that cen­tre point, al­ways ra­di­ate from the heart of it.

Those restau­rants are the ones that feel like home. Even if the food is the farthest from the food you ate grow­ing up or even eat at home now, there is an es­sen­tial homi­ness to it. You feel in­vited to the ta­ble and cared for, like you are with friends or fam­ily. It’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a kitchen ta­ble and a din­ing room ta­ble.

Qiu Broth­ers is a restau­rant that makes me feel, even when I am there alone, like I am at a friend’s kitchen ta­ble. It’s a low-key space with bright yel­low walls and red ac­cents in the few dec­o­ra­tions strewn around. The only decoration by my ta­ble is a ma­son jar with fake hy­drangeas tucked into the nearby win­dowsill.

The restau­rant spe­cial­izes in north­ern Chi­nese cui­sine, starch-laden wheat-based dishes like steamed and fried dumplings (jiaozi), steamed buns (bao) and noo­dles. There is also fried rice, and some clas­sic Cana­dian-Chi­nese dishes avail­able, though the lat­ter should never be con­sid­ered the draw here.

Vine­gar, oil and gar­lic fig­ure heav­ily into the var­i­ous dishes I order, from the chili and sour shred­ded potato ($4.99)—a room tem­per­a­ture salad of juli­enned strips of pota­toes and car­rot that are quickly stir-fried with thinly sliced gar­lic and flecks of chili pep­per, then sea­soned with vine­gar and salt—to the sausage spicy pig ears ($6.99).

My server is vis­i­bly de­lighted when I take her rec­om­men­da­tion for the pig ears—they are her favourite dish on the menu, but “most peo­ple say ‘No, thank you!’” she tells me with a laugh af­ter I order them—and the sug­ges­tion pays off. The ears are boiled and then served cool, dressed in a com­bi­na­tion of vine­gar and chilli oil, topped with some sesame seeds and bright leaves of cilantro. There is chew and crunch in each bite, the wob­ble of the outer layer giv­ing way to a dis­tinct car­ti­lage pop. Much like the candy-sweet, su­per-fatty house­made Chi­nese sausage ($6.99)—you’ll prob­a­bly love it or hate it. I love it.

The pan-fried dumplings come in a set of 16. They are tiny, but plump, con­nected by a del­i­cate lat­tice­work of starch, es­sen­tially a pa­per-thin pan­cake that adds a crispy tex­ture to the lit­tle doughy nuggets un­der­neath. It’s a sim­ple tech­nique—you fin­ish the fry by steam­ing the dumplings in a shal­low bath of wa­ter and starch, then let­ting the mix­ture evap­o­rate into the crust, which is of­ten called “wings”— with a pretty pay­off on the plate.

The dough on the jiaozi is a lit­tle bit thicker than it is on, say, the larger gy­oza you find at some Ja­panese restau­rants in town, which I like in this par­tic­u­lar dumpling as it adds a bit of heft, mak­ing the tiny dumplings more fill­ing than they ap­pear. Each one is filled with a sim­ple pork mix­ture that pops with the del­i­cate sweet­ness of corn ker­nels. Dipped into a tangy-spicy mix of black vine­gar and chili oil, it proves dif­fi­cult to show any re­straint. I quickly pol­ish off the plate.

My server seems happy ev­ery time I am happy, ev­ery time I say how won­der­ful each dish is, which is ad­mit­tedly a lot. She feels like a friend at the end of the meal and she sends me off with my left­overs packed, telling me she hopes I en­joy them as my din­ner. (I do.) As I leave, I tell her I can’t wait to come back. (I can’t.)

Qiu Broth­ers Dumplings feels like a friend’s kitchen ta­ble.

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