2/F SM City Fairview, Quirino Highway corner Regalado Avenue, Quezon City
Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) There's no denying that Chinese food has long been a part of the Filipino dining experience. From fine-dining spots to stalls, you can get easily your fix of the cuisine when the cravings hit. Knowing that there are countless places which offer good Chinese food in the Metro, Happy Dumplings, which has recently opened in SM Fairview, hopes to stand out.
The restaurant's interiors can accommodate big groups of friends or family, pairs, and even individual diners out for a quick meal. It's a bright, casual space with colorful hakaw—a dish which they serve in eight flavors—adorning the walls.
Owners Anderson and Rhea Hao drew inspiration from Hong Kong cuisine. While the duo values authenticity, they also want to play with flavors that Filipinos are familiar with. As such, the restaurant's star is hakaw, a shrimp-filled dim sum that's encased in a thin yet tender dumpling wrapper. From curry to even local bagoong, there isn't an Asian flavor profile they haven't considered fusing the classic hakaw with.
For starters, customers can order any flavor of Hakaw (P108/three pieces). You can also go for their 4 Kinds of Hakaw (P128), which lets you sample their Original hakaw; their Garlic version; the Szechuan, which packs a spicy punch when you take a bite; and green Satay for a taste of Thailand. If you want to try all eight flavors in one go, you can order 8 Kinds of Hakaw (P238), which includes the four aforementioned flavors plus Wasabi, Salted Egg, Curry, and Bagoong.
Anderson talks about the dilemma of bringing new flavors while still adhering to their philosophy of quality food. "We don't want to overpower the shrimp flavor. For the Szechuan flavor, di mawawala ang chili, so pinasok na namin ang chili."
"We encourage our customers to try the hakaw without a dip first so they can really taste the flavor," Anderson says. During their travels to Hong Kong, they noticed that dumplings and dim sum are served without condiments, unlike here in the Philippines where toyo and calamansi are a given. "Try muna nila 'yong lasa talaga ng hakaw, kapag gusto pa rin nila i-dip, pwede naman," Anderson adds.
Anderson describes their menu as "simple" and adds, "It has staples everyone wants. We try to limit everything but still offer what everyone knows and are comfortable with."
Their Shrimp Siomai (P128/four pieces) looks like any other siomai but a closer look says otherwise. At the very top is the shrimp laid flat on the pork base, different from most siomai where the shrimp is incorporated into the pork. Anderson explains that they want customers to be able to see and taste the shrimp. Sticking to staples, they also have Asado Siopao (P98) in their menu, which has two buns in one serving—great for sharing, but you can have a full order for yourself too.
Aside from their hakaw, Happy Dumplings also offers affordable rice meals and noodles to keep hunger at bay. Their Salt & Pepper Spareribs (P148) comes with generous cuts of tender pork coated in salt and pepper and topped with sauteed green and red bell peppers on top of hot rice. It comes with an egg and vegetables to fill you up.
For something slightly sweet but still savory, their Pork Asado (P148) is a must-try with its thick slices of pork marinated overnight. This dish also comes with an egg and vegetables on the side. For seafood fans, they have Fish Fillet with Corn Sauce (P148) which has a thick corn-and-egg sauce drizzled over breaded fish fillet. Each bite is crunchy on the outside, the perfect foil to the soft fish inside.
"We put 'magic sauce' on our rice because some people find just rice dry," Anderson says. While he hasn't revealed what goes in the sauce, it's what gives the rice a nice salty flavor without overpowering the dish. "Lahat ng rice meals may kasama ring soup, because people usually ask, but here, we give it already," Rhea adds.
The soup each rice meal comes with is also the same soup base used for their individual orders of noodle soup, which are made fresh every day from pork bones. "We don't want the customer to feel cheated when they eat," Rhea says.
The Beef & Wonton Noodle Soup (P168) has a generous helping of noodles topped with beef brisket, wontons, and vegetables on the side, all nestled in a clear broth that tastes of pork along with the rich sauce of the brisket. Sprinkles of toasted garlic and spring onions complete the dish.
And as a treat, Happy Dumplings also offers unlimited rice until June 15. Go ahead. We won't judge.
Despite its name, Happy Dumplings has a diverse menu, allowing you to find something familiar you can come back to. More than the options they present and their unique take on hakaw, you get to enjoy a hearty meal without breaking the bank.
Photos by Criselda Carreon