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The Dumpling Specialists Behind Qing Hua and Sammi & Soupe Bring Sheng Jian Bao to Montreal

Chef Lee’s pork and shrimp dumplings are crisp-bottomed, soft-topped, and broth-filled

hand holding shrimp dumpling half bitten into
Chef Lee’s shrimp sheng jian bao
Chef Lee/Supplied

The experts behind well-attended Chinese dumpling spots Sammi & Soupe Dumplings and Qing Hua (each with locations in Montreal’s Chinatown and Shaughnessy Village) have swung open the doors to yet another spot for small, doughy orbs filled with savoury mixtures.

Their latest restaurant, Chef Lee, has been operating in “soft opening” mode out of a space at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Marc for a few weeks now, but is calling tomorrow, June 9, its official first day.

Unlike Qing Hua, which sells traditional northern Chinese jiaozi, and Sammi & Soupe, which specializes in Shanghai’s famed xiao long bao, at Chef Lee, the sheng jian bao, a style also originating in Shanghai, is the focal point.

To achieve their crisp, bronzed bottoms and silky-soft dome tops, sheng jian bao are huddled tightly into a large circular pan where they are first fried in oil and then steamed with water, before being given a liberal dusting of green onions and toasted sesame. (A segment of the cooking process can be seen on the restaurant’s Instagram account.)

dumplings being cooked in pan Chef Lee/Supplied

Rebecca Guo, who handles digital marketing for the restaurant, tells Eater via email that these particular Shanghainese dumplings “hold a solid place” in owner Xiao Dan Song’s heart, and that he has “always wanted to bring them the Montreal.”

And so Song and his wife and partner, Ting Liu, have enlisted the help of chef Wei Lee after whom the restaurant is named. Lee is a Shanghai native, who Guo says was born into a multigenerational family of cooks and has raked in numerous awards in China, where he began his career in 1990.

Chef Lee (now the restaurant, not the person) takes up the locale just next door to Liu and Song’s Shaughnessy Village outpost for Sammi & Soupe — giving diners the option of trying both Shanghainese specialties in one trip to the neighbourhood, replete with eateries serving up some of the city’s finest Chinese, Japanese, and Korean fare to the Concordia crowd.

bun stuffed with fried chicken
Chef Lee’s garlic fried chicken bao
Chef Lee/Supplied

Though Chef Lee’s sheng jian bao, filled with either a hot brothy mixture of pork or shrimp, are the effective star of this show, the restaurant also serves Taiwanese buns filled with pork belly, garlic-flavoured fried chicken, teriyaki beef or mushroom, or vegan steak and taro. Wontons in soup, or doused in peanut butter sauce, are also available, and soon some new dishes will be added, too.

Chef Lee is open Monday and Tuesday, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to midnight, at 1901 Saint-Catherine Street West.