Food & Drink Editor
These aren’t your grandmother’s dumplings. These aren’t your grandfather’s dumplings, either. Well, one of them is. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back to the beginning.
Ozi Dumplings, at 19 Bogart St., was quietly opened last November by Danny Cai and two partners. I first heard of the spot when I visited Amitoufo, which occupies the space next door. I’m a big fan of dumplings of all sorts, and I heard that Ozi does some untraditional stuff, so I thought I’d stop by.
I learned that, as is the case with many restaurants, Cai and crew opened Ozi out of a desire to recapture and share the flavors they loved in their childhood, putting a unique spin on them in the process.
“This is a childhood memory for me,” Cai said. “This is something I grew up eating, I grew up eating dumplings. My grandfather used to make it for me every day.
“I just took the foods that I like and I enjoy and decided to infuse them into a dumpling. Try to get them as close to what it is [originally] and have customers enjoy it.”
That’s the spin at Ozi — dumpling-ifying foods that aren’t generally thought of as dumplings. The two whackiest dumplings on the regular menu are cheeseburger and buffalo chicken.
I’d heard about the cheeseburger dumplings before visiting and, to be frank, I was not looking forward to eating them. In my imagination, the beef would be dry and crumbling, and the cheese would break, sweating its grease everywhere.
My imagination was wrong.
The cheeseburger dumpling — ground beef and onions, topped with cheese sauce and pickles — was both quite tasty and like an actual cheeseburger in flavor. The filling was good and juicy, the cheese sauce silky, and the pickles the proverbial icing on the cake.
The buffalo chicken dumplings were also very good. Filled with a dense but moist chicken-ranch filling and topped with buffalo sauce, they tasted exactly like what you’d expect a buffalo wing-turned-dumpling to taste like. Nobody would complain, though, if there was more buffalo sauce drizzled on top.
The surprise standout for me were the shrimp dumplings. Among the most traditional dumplings on the Ozi menu, Cai included them in honor of his grandfather — they were his favorite kind before he passed away shortly before Ozi opened. The shrimp are cooked well and obviously fresh, bringing their natural sweet flavor and a touch of oceanic brininess without overwhelming fishy odors. Bits of water chestnut bring a nice textural element.
On the other side of the coin there are the teriyaki dumplings. Originally a seasonal offering — Ozi offers two seasonal dumplings, one savory and one sweet, every month or so — Cai kept the teriyaki on semi-permanently due to customer demand. For me, I found the filling to be dry and the sauce to be, you know, pretty standard teriyaki. This dumpling was the outlier, the only one that didn’t really work.
Aside from the permanent dumplings, Ozi offers the aforementioned seasonal ones. They had Thanksgiving Dinner and pumpkin pie in November, and the Hawaii 5-0 (honey, pineapple, and ham with barbeque sauce) and apple pie for December. While it hasn’t been officially announced, I got the inside scoop on their next upcoming savory dumpling — Korean kimchi pork with pickled radish and carrots, which sounds excellent to me.
Ozi also offers an extensive selection of alcoholic beverages, including an impressive range of sakes, sake-in-a-cup (essentially a jar of sake, $7 or $8 for four to five shots, depending on how heavy you pour), and sparkling jelly sake shots in a can, which are conceptually weird but actually really delightful.
So that’s Ozi Dumplings. These aren’t your grandparent’s dumplings (with the exception of Grandpa’s shrimp). If you go there to sate an urge for classic, traditional dumplings, you might leave a little disappointed.
But if you come to Ozi with an open mind and a sense of adventure, there’s a lot here for you to enjoy.
Industrial-chill spot serving inventive, non-traditional Asian fusion dumplings and a collection of sake.
19 Bogart St., Bushwick (off the Morgan Avenue stop on the L train)
Sun-Thu: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri-Sat: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Photos by Andrew Tobia. Meal was provided by Ozi Dumplings.