Dragon House, 2640 E Southlake Blvd. 682-503-4646. 11am-3pm and 5-9:30pm Sun, 11am-2:30pm and 5-10pm Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm and 5-10pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Dragon House is unusual any way you look at it. You wouldn’t expect an upscale Chinese restaurant to land in the space that formerly housed a fast food joint, especially in Southlake, but the newish eatery makes it work. The menu offers a combination of classic Chinese staples and familiar crowdpleasers to keep most people happy. Best of all, dim sum is on the menu every day.
With all the dumpling options available, you’d be forgiven for sticking around in the appetizer section of the menu and never wanting to leave. The steamed dumpling combo (two each of veggie, pork, chicken, and the Three Delicacy fish/shellfish) seemed the best way to try a little of everything. The clear winner: the slightly horseradish-y, savory veggie dumplings, replete with tiny glass noodles tucked inside their tender wrappers. The sweet Three Delicacy dumplings offered a finely ground mix of shrimp (the only delicacy I could identify) and other fish in a mild white sauce. Ground chicken in a brown soy-type sauce made a tasty, if uninspiring, filling. The pork dumplings were the blandest of the four choices.
Since my dining companions were both hungry and indecisive, we stayed in our happy places and ordered the honeycomb pork dumplings. Six plump pan-fried dumplings stuffed with a flavorful mix of veggies were coated with a crunchy batter and served bottoms-up like an upside-down cake. The extra crispy batter, almost like a pancake, formed a beautiful pattern on top. It’s worth noting that the pan-fried versions were a little tastier and less gooey than the steamed ones.
The scallion pancake was an homage to the intersection of Italian and Chinese food. The Chinese have the Italians beat for serving noodles. At Dragon House, you can see staff making the noodle dough, and if you don’t notice it, you’ll definitely hear them snapping the 2-foot-long rolls from high in the air to the counter below. The same flour and water used for the noodles also made a crispy, crunchy, delicate pancake appetizer reminiscent of the best pizza crust, lightly flavored with green onion. The appetizer even came cut in pizza-like wedges.
Ordering off the lunch menu meant that the portions were a little smaller, but everything came with a choice of soup. The egg drop was comforting, if a little lackluster. The hot and sour offered the perfect mix of spice, vinegary sourness, and a little crunch from the veggies. Unfortunately, the more exotic hand-pulled noodle offerings weren’t on the lunch menu. Still, lo mein is a bellwether of a Chinese kitchen, and the version here, with its smoky soy-drenched noodles, chunks of white meat chicken, and thinly sliced veggies, did not disappoint. And at the end, there was an almost perfect ratio of noodles to chicken.
The sweet-and-sour baby-back ribs, listed on the menu as a traditional Shanghai dish, were absolutely perfect two-bite morsels. A dash of vinegary spice kept the honey-sweet sauce from becoming cloying. The small bowl of knuckle-sized ribs was enough to share if everyone was in a sharing mood but perhaps not enough to be considered lunch.
The sweet-and-sour shrimp were giant, lightly breaded tail-on crustaceans. The tempura-like batter wasn’t greasy, and the butterflied shrimp were fresh and perfectly cooked. The cherry-pink sauce was pretty much like any other standard Chinese restaurant condiment.
You’ll probably find Dragon House is busy – even at the end of lunch hour, my table of four waited a bit to be seated. Dishes come out as they’re ready. If you’re really lucky (or if you have more than four people), you’ll be seated at one of the dining room’s coveted round tables with a Lazy Susan for your Chinese food-sharing pleasure. Be warned: If your palate is more tuned to the Pei Wei/PF Chang’s end of the spectrum, you won’t necessarily love the food here. Dragon House is definitely more traditional, although there’s no red-smoked Pekin duck or odd bits of pig in the windows. Settle in, be patient, and prepare to be surprised.
Steamed dumpling combo $10
Honeycomb dumpling $12
Scallion pancake $5
Short ribs $9
Chicken Lo Mein $9
Sweet and sour shrimp $14