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First Bite

Plano’s China Blue Boasts About Dumplings, but Offers So Much More

Go ahead, order the “New Orleans” seafood dumplings. But save room for the cumin lamb and other stir fries, too.
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Spicy wontons (bottom left), dry fried green beans (background), and cumin lamb (right) at China Blue. Brian Reinhart

Dumplings and wontons come in all shapes and colors at China Blue: big, floppy shrimp wontons drizzled with gently spicy, sesame-flecked chili oil; pan-fried pork buns that are seared a crisp golden brown on the bottom but steamed soft on top; soup dumplings concealing broth inside. Some of them come with colored dough.

Since it opened in a Plano strip mall in October, China Blue has gained a reputation for its dumplings and bao. But some of the best dishes on the menu don’t fit under either category.

Still, let’s start with the signature dishes, as proclaimed on the sign out front. My favorite varieties included the shrimp wontons, with a bit of Sichuan pepper tingle in the chili oil rather than straightforward spicy heat; the “New Orleans” dumplings; and the soup dumplings. Why New Orleans? The filling is an assortment of shellfish, still in big fresh chunks rather than ground up. It’s delicious.

China Blue’s soup dumplings aren’t the flashiest in town—Fortune House fills its wrappers with even more piping hot broth, and boasts even more delicate folds—but they are well-made, well-balanced, and flavorful. None of ours tore open or leaked broth out. And although we went with the standard pork filling, there are also soup dumplings with pork and shrimp or pork and snow crab.

On the other end of the spectrum, I think both Fortune House and Wu Wei Din score ahead of China Blue on the pan-fried pork buns. If soup dumplings feel magical because they have broth inside, pan-fried buns are special because they are steamed through and then fried on only one side, so you can enjoy both crispy and soft textures at once. There’s something delightful about eating food that’s chewy on one side and fried on the other. China Blue’s buns are fine, but the contrast between the two sides isn’t as big as in the very best examples.

Truth be told, we liked China Blue’s stir fries best of all. Cumin lamb is served differently here than it is at Highland Noodles in Frisco or Xi’an Famous Foods in New York. Here, the lamb is cubed up rather than thinly sliced, and in addition to being tossed with loads of cumin and onions before cooking, it is also plated with huge handfuls of uncooked cilantro. The result is almost a cross between stir fry and salad. I didn’t eat all of the cilantro, but fell in love with the crispness of the lamb and the rich, aromatic coating of cumin.

Dry fried green beans are well-executed at most Dallas-area Chinese restaurants, but these are especially good. Our least favorite dish was an order of kimchi fried rice, with soft rice and not too many veggies mixed in. When I took home a tub of leftovers, I chopped up more kimchi, carrots, and bok choy to mix into our remaining portions.

There’s a lot more to explore on this menu. Friends tell me the dry pot spiced veggies are good, and I’d try the rice noodles in curry sauce, too. Given the strong Sichuan pepper leanings of the spicy wontons, the ma po tofu is probably a boldly flavored knockout. I’ll happily go back and find out.

China Blue, 2001 Coit Rd., Ste. 135, Plano.


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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