A Lunchtime Oasis: Dumpling Park
I never imagined Astroturf could be so adorable. I'll admit, aside from a driving range or two, I judge those who have chosen the artifical fescue over my dandelion-infested (read bee santuary) lawn. But the founders of Dumpling Park, Krista O'Leary and Kellie Vu, have managed to create a picturesque gem, hidden behind The Morning Owl Coffeehouse in Ottawa's Little Italy, on a large patch of the fake green stuff.
O'Leary and Vu met as servers at Canvas Resto-Bar-Etc. in 2012, but they bonded over a mutual admiration for dumplings. Both are influenced by their chinese heritage and collaborate to design the menu, incorporating clean and simple ingredients with lots of ginger, lemongrass and soy.
On one of their first dates, O'Leary's husband Jordan, owner of The Morning Owl Coffeehouses (five locations in Ottawa, a sixth just opened in Kanata with more on the way), suggested Krista start a food truck after trying her homemade dumplings. Two years later, after secretly hunting online, he surprised her with a dilapitated trailer he picked up on Kijiji. It had been used as an ice cream truck, complete with all the plumbing and electrical needed to pass inspection, but the walls and roof required a complete overhaul. And of course, he had an ideal location to park the trailer — not visible from the street, yet within a bird's eye view of the more than 20 storeys of the nearby federal office building.
Operating in such a small kitchen for their second season, O'Leary and Vu are wise to keep the menu simple and when you execute them well, three dishes are all you need. The Mega Bowl is loaded with freshly spiralized zucchini noodles, 10 homemade dumplings, soy broth and jasmine rice; the barbecue lemongrass chicken is served on a bed of noodles with mango salad; and the sticky ginger tofu comes with edamame, quinoa and fresh greens. The menu changes slightly week to week.
Hidden no longer — it's best to go early as word of Dumpling Park has spread. It's open Monday to Friday, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Cash only.
538 Rochester St., Ottawa, Ont.