Allen Pierleoni

Take a quick taste tour of China and Italy, with a stumble in Maine

Pan-fried pork-chive dumplings at Dumpling House in Davis
Pan-fried pork-chive dumplings at Dumpling House in Davis

We’ve been tasting here and there lately; come join us:

The reason the Dumpling House in Davis adds “& London Fish ’n’ Chips” to its name is because the space once was a fish ’n’ chips house – duh! At the time, the new owners chose to keep the beer-battered cod, calamari, shrimp and clams on their menu of Chinese-type dishes. Whatever; our deep-fried fish and prawns were nearly impossible to find inside the thick coating of spongy batter.

On the other hand, the Asian part of the menu offers a tastier deal: $7.25 for a dozen dumplings in a choice of seven flavors cooked three ways – pan-fried, deep-fried and in “soup broth,” which was more like a bowl of warm water.

The menu says: “Each dumpling is hand-wrapped with care and filled with yummy goodness.” We had a brief look inside Dumpling House last summer after eating at the next-door Davis Noodle City, and saw three women at a table doing just that.

Recently, two lunch pals and I sat on the crowded Dumpling House deck – the indoor restaurant was full – and watched a scene of semi-controlled chaos unfold. After a while, we discovered the fat dumplings are the size of small plums and are really very good, with excellent “skin” (dumpling wrapper). Choose from pork-veggie, pork-chive, shrimp-chicken, kimchee-pork, veggie, chicken and beef.

We asked for deep-fried shrimp-chicken, pan-fried veggie, and kimchee-pork in “soup broth,” which turned out to be our favorite. Instead of a plate of veggie dumplings, though, the server mistakenly brought 12 pork-chive dumplings, so the vegetarian lunch pal opted for broccoli sautéed in garlic, which was wet, undercooked and tasteless. She would have done better with a veggie-rice, veggie-noodle or tofu bowl, three of the 28 menu items. But she’s a good sport, saying only: “If you eat here, don’t be in a rush and don’t fall in love with your order.”

Dumpling House, 129 E St., Davis; 530-753-7210.

Back on the street, we popped in to the Davis Creamery for excellent hand-crafted ice cream. From now on, it’ll be a must-stop whenever we’re in Davis. Which will be soon, as the nearby Hotdogger displays a Schwarz Sausage sign in its window. The wurstmaker opened in 1911 in San Francisco, a good omen.

Davis Creamery, 113 E St., Davis; 530-564-4315,

Rolling with the lobsters

We’re fans of the lobster roll, hitting the Cousins Maine Lobster truck when it stops at breweries around town, Morgan’s Lobster Shack in Truckee, and Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay. So we were excited last fall about the opening in Roseville of Old Port Lobster Shack, the sister of three similarly themed restaurants in the Bay Area.

We called shortly after it opened in October and were told the lobsters and scallops had not yet arrived from New England; call back later. We did, but the lobsters still hadn’t arrived. Pulled pork and brisket were on the menu, though (huh?). We called back later, but the restaurant had temporarily closed.

We dropped by the other day, finding a fast-casual model with nautical touches, a patio and big-screen TVs. The live-lobster tank had sprung a leak, so flavorless frozen lobster meat was being subbed for fresh.

The “Maine lobster roll” on the chalkboard is cold lobster salad (mayo, green onion, lemon squeeze), while the “naked lobster roll” comes with mayo and melted butter on the side. Each is $19.75, or two for $38.

In New England, the “naked roll” is called “Connecticut-style” and is a pile of melted butter-drenched warm lobster on a grilled split-top bun. Our side of mayo and melted butter were no-shows. The lobster salad tasted mostly of onions. When you claim to have the “ultimate lobster roll” at premium prices, you’d best bring it or rewrite your slogan.

Old Port Lobster Shack, in the Olympus Pointe center, 1565 Eureka Road, Roseville; 916-797-3191; is “coming soon.”

Sausalito dreamin’

For us, a good day trip to Sausalito includes not getting run over by packs of entitled bicyclists and a stop at Poggio, where a sidewalk table is the place to be. The upscale trattoria is attached to the historic Casa Madrona Hotel, a vintage showpiece well worth a look-see.

Sure, our wood fire-grilled squid with shaved fennel and preserved lemon was excellent, as were the spinach gnocchi, but the star was a bowl of housemade linguine and Manila clams with garlic, parsley, white wine and “mullet bottarga” ($13/$21). That would be cured fish roe, which adds depth of flavor to pasta dishes and is rarely seen on American menus.

Poggio, 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito; 415-332-7771,

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe