Stepping into Packed, Hyde Park’s newest and highly anticipated restaurant, you are greeted with bright blue exposed-brick walls, smiling workers, and a diverse menu.
After the enthusiastic cashier broke down the contents of the menu for my friend and me, she informed us that they were out of the duck dumpling. In fact, she told us that the dumplings had been so popular that Packed, unable to meet the demands of hungry, dumpling-crazed Hyde Parkers, had had to close early the previous day.
Bearing Packed’s highly anticipated opening in mind, I eagerly awaited my butternut squash dumplings. Unfortunately, aside from Packed’s three non-dumpling sides, butternut squash dumplings were the only vegetarian option for vegetarians like me. I wasn’t very hungry; luckily for me, Packed’s menu offers two serving sizes: two dumplings ($4) and four dumplings ($7).
The squash dumplings did not disappoint. I appreciated this seemingly simple dish’s intricate marriage of textures and flavors: the sweet, nutty flavor of the squash, herbal sage, and balsamic caramel garnish came together in the form of a soft, squishy dumpling.
On top of my two dumplings, my friend and I sampled the hush puppies, the pastrami dumplings, and the short rib dumplings. I had never tried hush puppies before. Packed’s take on the traditional Southern side dish includes Shishito peppers and a light and creamy coconut-rosemary aioli. It is a must-try for Packed visitors. The crunchy, fried cornmeal dish balanced out the smooth aioli to create a harmonious blend of fresh and fried foods.
My meat-eating dining partner ordered the pastrami and short rib dumplings. He admired both dishes’ plating but favored the short rib’s taste; he found his stomach much fuller than expected, given the small portions (each dumpling was about half the size of my fist). Packed stuffs each dumpling to the brim and left us both satisfied.
The portions are small, but the amount loaded into these tiny dumplings is so great that you get your money’s worth. I regret missing out on Packed’s variety of vegetarian side options; I guess I’ll just have to go back.