"I am the dumpling lady."
Jessie Wong stands at the bar of her newly reopened restaurant, Jun, and slides a plate of fresh pork dumplings, some steamed, some fried, onto the counter.
Whether or not she is the dumpling lady of the Twin Cities -- though fans of her Roseville restaurant Szechuan could make that argument -- Wong is certainly the dumpling lady of the North Loop. The neighborhood's lone Chinese restaurant returns this weekend, with all the hand-pulled noodles and springy dumplings its fans have been missing.
Closed since last October, Jun (730 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-208-0706, junnorthloop.com) bears little mark of the flood that shuttered it all those months ago. A sprinkler system malfunctioned and the damage was extensive enough that owners opted to close up shop, renovate and get back up and running in due time.
That time is now.
If you visited Jun before its watery setback, you might not recognize any change in the space -- the decor is more or less the same as you left it last fall.
What you might notice is a smaller menu. Wong and her son Jack Wang, along with the help of chef Kyle Dahl, condensed their offerings to a tidy single page of elevated Szechuan dishes.
"It's a chiseled-down concise menu that's going to work really well for the North Loop," Dahl said. "My goal was approachable and authentic Szechuan. You have spice levels where people can walk in the door and basically order anything off the menu and be comfortable with it. Your mouth will pick up on the spice, but it's going to go well with the deep complex flavors in the dish."
The highlight of Jun remains the dim sum, especially the housemade dumplings in vegetable or pork with fragrant ginger and onion. This is what our food critic, Rick Nelson had to say of them in 2017:
Dim sum may be the original small-plates format, and grazing your way through steamed, baked and fried variations on dumplings and buns can be a happy and delightfully satisfying way to approach a meal. It sure is at Jun.
Next on the list for those reacquainting themselves with the menu are the noodles, prepared from scratch on a special custom steam table. The process is intense and requires speed and precision -- about 30 seconds from laying out a special cloth on the table, pouring the batter and steaming it. Then you fold the sheet and cut it into individual noodles.
Twice a week, the kitchen focuses on noodle preparation -- cranking out the foundation for dishes like Dan Dan noodles, beef chow fun, spicy beef noodle soup and wonton soup.
Other menu standouts: a Chong Qing spicy chicken, a showy dish of crispy birds nest noodles and a surprisingly flavorful fried rice. The cocktail list makes Jun an equally fine stop for happy hour or a Saturday night out. Try the Gardens of Szechuan; this vodka, hibiscus and Szechuan peppercorn drink isn't as spicy as it sounds, but the "buzz button," a flowering herb garnish, will shock and numb your whole mouth -- if you're brave enough to eat it.
Jun officially reopens on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.