Photo from Paper Lantern
A new quick-serve concept from restaurateur Allan Tea of Hello Kitty Cafe and Capital Seafood Group—now lights up Diamond Jamboree plaza, Irvine’s Asian eats epicenter. The smart, cheery decor includes a neon “i like it juicy” sign, rows of bamboo steamer baskets, and contemporary pendant lights. The layout makes maximum use of a sliver of space, making it feel relaxed and airy with an inviting horseshoe counter inside and 30 outdoor seats. The menu centers on xiao long bao—known as XLB on the menu—juicy meat dumplings hand-sealed at the top with precisely 18 folds. Cantonese chef Ken Cao, formerly of Din Tai Fung, turns out between 3,000 and 5,000 of the pork variety daily. There are black truffle and chicken versions, too. The spicy wonton is another standout. Other favorites: scallion pancake, tofu with sweet soy glaze, pan-fried chicken-and-cabbage dumplings, sesame pork bao, and a pork belly rice bowl. Beverages include seasonal agua fresca and chrysanthemum tea. Dumplings, wontons, and sides, $4 to $6.50; noodles and rice bowls, $8 to $9; truffle XLB, $10.
2730 Alton Parkway, 949-748-8064, paperlanterndumpling.com