I went back to the Food Hall at Crockett Row (3000 Crockett St, 817-885-7331) for the first time in a month or so, and a few staffers greeted me like their ex –– guardedly polite but happy that I’ve gained weight and my life is a train wreck. My enthusiasm for the Hall hadn’t waned. It’s just that restaurants in this town are sprouting from the ground like so much crab grass, and it’s my mission to visit them all. All of that eating takes serious hours.
I did spend an absurd amount of time at the Hall when it opened, so when I heard there was a new restaurant inside the giant food court-type space, I needed to see it for myself.
Dallas-based Monkey King Noodle Company has taken over the spot vacated by açaí bowl and smoothie shop Rollin’ n Bowlin’, which is opening a locale at Chef Kyle Cowan’s upcoming Neighbor’s House Grocery downtown.
For the owners/operators of Monkey King, the popular Deep-Ellum-rooted purveyor of authentic Chinese street food, this is their second stab at a food hall. They recently closed their short-lived outpost at Plano’s beleaguered Legacy Hall.
I’ve read and heard great things about Monkey King, which is why I was a heartbroken when I learned that the Fort Worth version of the eatery won’t be serving its signature hand-pulled noodles, at least for a while. I thought it strange that a place with “noodle” right there in the name wouldn’t serve the thing for which they are best known.
Rest easy, noodle noggins. Monkey King may not be hand-pulling noodles in Fort Worth yet, but they are serving perhaps the finest dumplings this side of wherever Chef Hao Tran is sitting.
Dumplings are a craze in other cities. Right now in New York, someone is standing in line at Tim Ho Wan, and has been for hours, just for the privilege of being called a few hours later when a table opens up. So if the Monkey King’s entry to the local market is the opening salvo to the next big thing, I’m all in.
My guest and I arrived at the Hall early on a weekday to beat the crowd, and the shoebox-sized Monkey Noodle space was easily the busiest of any of the hall’s dozen or so eateries. The line moved swiftly, and my guest and I opted for three orders of dumplings from a menu of only five varieties (and a couple of sides). We were deciding on a fourth when the man working the counter warned, “They are really big portions.” He was right.
The pork soup dumplings ($10), umami bombs served eight to an order in a plastic to-go container, are made with a gelatinous center that heat transforms into a fantastically juicy, pork-laden pent-up broth that will gush if you approach them too lustily. The dumplings arrived swaddled in a thick, tender, and swirled wrapping paper, still steaming. Each bite was a new experience of salt, garlic, and ginger.
The most attractive offering was the pile of 10 mushroom wontons ($9.50), topped with a vibrant red, almost-grainy chile vinaigrette, cilantro, and scallions. The classic pork dumpling ($9.50) was stuffed with pork, napa cabbage, and a savory garlic-chive filling, and it was accompanied by a Taiwanese soy sauce.
These dumplings are so craveable, their draw is almost magnetic. They’re reason alone to revisit the Food Hall – or in my case, move back in.