Simple yet flavorful soup dumplings from Dan Modern Chinese’s newest location

By Kerry Slater

A dumpling restaurant recently opened in downtown Santa Monica–its third Westside location–bringing simple yet flavorful Chinese food to the table.

This fall, Dan Modern Chinese opened in downtown Santa Monica at 1403 2nd Street. The restaurant–which also has locations in Sawtelle, Playa Vista and Pasadena–replaced short-lived ramen spot Ippudo that closed over the summer.

“Dan Modern Chinese is a modern take on traditional Chinese cuisine, featuring hand-made dumplings and noodles, wok-fried rice, vegetables and other delicious delicacies,” the restaurant’s website reads. “Here is a finesse to each dish on the menu which comes from the techniques used to prepare our food, and also the use of fewer ingredients, letting the food speak for itself. Dishes are flavorful and clean.”

Does Dan Modern Chinese’s self-assessment hold up to scrutiny? For the most part, yes, though like many restaurants amid the pandemic, the delivery process slightly hampers the final product.

I ordered for lunch two types of dumplings: pork xiao long bao (soup) and chicken steamed, each order containing five dumplings. The soup dumplings were by far the superior dish.

The rich and savory broth of the soup dumplings immediately filled my palate after biting into the delicate bao. There was just the perfect amount of ground pork inside the dumpling–enough to add texture while letting the soul-warming broth shine. Even though these dumplings were not piping hot upon arrival, they still travel well due to the thin dough (doesn’t get chewy) and just overall deliciousness.

The steamed chicken dumplings did not hold up during the delivery as well. The dough was thicker than the xiao long bao and without the added moisture of the broth, the steamed dumpling became a bit tough after the 15-20 minutes travel time. The chicken itself–also ground–was very delicious: lightly seasoned with spices I could not figure out. If these buns were fresh out of the steamer, they would be phenomenal, but that will have to wait a few months until in-person dining returns.

The baby bok cho was top-notch, almost as good as the soup dumplings. Cooked with a simple sauce similar to the soup dumplings and ample garlic, this is a dark leafy green that even vegetable-averse-kids may enjoy. In addition, there were a few cloves of caramelized roasted garlic, adding a memorable crunch of umami.

One of the highlights came at the very end of the meal: slurping up the remaining broth from the steamed dumplings and the bok choy. Even though it had become lukewarm, its soul-warming properties remained; a few sips of pure, flavor-packed comfort food.

The total bill was just under $30, pricey, but it could have easily fed two people for lunch. After six dumplings and a healthy serving of bok choy, I was full and have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow. While there are cheaper options for Chinese food on the Westside, the quality and simple yet bold flavors of Dan Modern Chinese make it worth checking out when in the mood for dumplings.

Value: 6.5/10
Taste: 8/10
Quality: 8/10
Overall: 7.5/10