I spend a lot of time on Somerled Avenue in NDG. It is close to my home and office; my bank is there and a frequent the grocery store and pharmacy often.
For the past year I kept noticing this small storefront with the name “Ai Dumpling” on the awning. I kept promising myself I would go inside and check the place out. It was only when a friend suggested we meet for lunch there that I did so and how glad I am that occurred for this is a most unique dining experience.
An intimate setting, with only 18 seats, it is usually packed with people calling ahead as well for pickup orders or deliveries via Uber Eats or Door Dash. All Ai Dumplings are prepared fresh for you just before cooking. They include the finest choice fresh quality ingredients. There are no less than 22 delicious combinations and variations and counting of Ai Dumpling fillings for you to choose from.
First let me introduce you to Jiay Du. she is the ever so charming owner of this establishment and devoted mother of two young children. One of the things she did upon opening up was install a desk with a laptop and writing space for her kids to amuse themselves, do homework or whatever else keeps them busy. She chose the 6592 Somerled Ave. location because it is a short walk from home.
Jiay came to Canada from China 18 years ago, studied English French and accounting and worked at a variety of different jobs. At one point she owned and operated the Calories dessert restaurant in Westmount, since closed. She has always loved to cook. “One day my daughter told me how much she loved my dumplings,” she recalled. “She would invite friends over to try them. Her opinion was that I should open my own restaurant serving dumplings. I thought about it and agreed. It all happened very quickly. I found this small cozy place near my home and with the help of a friend I proceeded. It is working out quite nicely!”
There are already people calling Jiay to open franchises and she herself is on the verge of announcing yet another restaurant concept she might partner in.
All the menu items are neatly written, with the prices, on a tall chalkboard. They can also be accessed on the website.
My friend and started off with some soup: won ton for me and sweet and sour for him. Our server was Lydia, a teenage student who says he loves working at this place because of its growing loyal clientele and the diversity of her responsibilities. She started us off with two salads: carrot cabbage and seaweed. They were both very good. Then came time to get full in a hurry. There is soy sauce and spicy pepper oil at each table, the perfect accompaniment and you can have your dumplings steamed, boiled or fried.
We asked Jiay to select some items for us.
Out came fried shrimp, steamed chicken coriander shrimp, pork and chives shrimp and beef and onion. There were 15 pieces in each order and with another meeting to attend afterwards my friend happily took the leftovers home to his family. The thing is I could stop not eating. They were that delicious! At one point we looked down at our serving plates and bamboo serving containers and we could not believe how fast they were disappearing! Jiay confided that she has many secret recipes associated with her menu items.
Oh yes, they now sell Tsingtao Chinese beer.
Ai Dumpling (Ai, pronounced “Eye” and the Chinese word for love) is located at 6592 Somerled Avenue in NDG. For reservations or pickup, orders call 514-369-1777. Log on to www.aidumpling.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Hours of operation are 11 am to 9 pm Monday to Thursday and 11 am to 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays. On the latter two nights, you can make your app orders on Uber Eats and Door Dash often until 4 am.