While this restaurant’s name may raise some initial misgivings, the predominance of families happily chattering away in Mandarin over dinner at Wang’s Fast Food — an unassuming little hole-in-the-wall far from Chinatown — should reassure. The décor is spare but tidy, and the bustling kitchen adds to the pleasant din of the room, mercifully drowning out whatever made-for-TV movie is playing on the set in the corner. It’s homey and comfortable — you pour your own Styrofoam cup of tea from a pot near the door — just as a family-run establishment ought to be.
Though the menu lists the usual array of Chinese-restaurant standards, go straightaway to the special " Northern Chinese Pastry and More " section. Unlike the warm, wet South, the arid plains of Northern China are not suitable for rice cultivation; since wheat is the region’s staple grain, Northern cuisine features excellent bread, noodles, and dumplings. And what dumplings! For these, Wang’s has justifiably attracted quite a following. Here you won’t find the gummy, tough-skinned, lackluster " Peking ravioli " popular at so many local eateries. Wang’s enfolds its offerings in tender, handmade skins that don’t disintegrate on contact with chopsticks (a result of over-boiling or reheating), leaving behind a soggy mess of filling all over your plate. But how to choose among the eight varieties of filling? The toothsome pork with leek has an almost silky texture, while the vegetarian spinach is a delicate yet substantial mixture of tofu and rice noodle, along with chopped greens (both are $4.50 for 12 dumplings). The standout, though, is the shrimp delight; with bits of fresh-tasting shrimp added to the pork and leek, it’s almost addictive ($4.75). They all come boiled, but you can request the equally tasty pan-fried version. And with dipping sauce made to your specifications from the bottles of soy sauce, black vinegar, and chili oil on the table, these dumplings are almost as good as my mom’s.
Wang’s also offers traditional cold appetizers, such as spicy pork-tripe salad or jellyfish and cucumber in garlic sauce (both $4.50). On the weekend you can order the excellent steamed meat buns ($5.50 for 10), with pork filling encased in a fluffy white roll. Also perfectly respectable is the regular menu’s salt-and-pepper squid ($7.95), batter-fried expertly without a trace of heaviness or oiliness.
If you leave wishing you could make dumplings like these yourself, Wang’s offers them frozen and bagged ($10–$12 for 50 dumplings; $20–$23 for 100). And the best part? The restaurant delivers.
Wang’s Fast Food, located at 509 Broadway, in Somerville, is open Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30 to 1 a.m. Call (617) 623-2982.