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Dumplings Divine: Helen's Asian Kitchen

Dumpling creator and The Commissary class instructor
Helen Jiao has had her own kitchen serving diners in
the Northland area in Columbus since 2012.
I was introduced to the dumplings of Helen Jiao courtesy of class held by The Commissary. During that class, Ms. Jiao prepared dumplings of all types and cooked them in several different ways, and made it seem ridiculously easy. But as we found out that day, the preparation was nowhere near as easy as she made it seem, and the dumplings were just darn good.

The best thing is you don't have to take a class to experience Helen's dumplings - all you have to do is drop by her Northland area restaurant nestled on the northwest side of the Highway 161/Interstate 71 interchange.

The building's former life as a gentleman's club is slowly fading
faway with lots of food-oriented media and a few quirky touches
As mentioned in this previously written alt.eats.columbus article, the building in which Helen's Asian Kitchen sits had women "cooking" prior to this restaurant's arrival, though not at all in the culinary sense. These days, the mirrored walls lining the interior give a visitor the biggest clue of this venue's former life as a strip club, but the overlying feeling one gets is as an operating restaurant, with the requisite special menu and a couple of quirky touches, including Christmas-themed tablecloths on a few tables and a serenade by one of the restaurant's employees on the centrally-located piano during our meal.

Helen's Asian Kitchen menu has its share of Sichuan specialties
with that ma la profile, along with those tasty dumplings
The restaurant's Sichuan menu, with many dishes probably not too familiar to those more used to the Americanized styled Chinese food, is helpfully divided out into categories such as "Spicy", "Non-Spicy" and "Chef Selection". For this visit, we were here for the dumplings and the ma la combination of numbing and spicy that typifies many Sichuan preparations. 

Helen herself took our order and recognized me from the class, and gave something of a smiling approval our dumpling appetizers. They were delicious and plentiful, and typically would be enough to go with a main dish for the spouse and I for a full meal. But we were here to indulge, so we added some dry fried green beans (a simple personal favorite of ours from our orders at similarly-styled Fortune Restaurant) and the Boiled Beef in Hot Chili Oil, something that seemed similar to a Sichuan-styled hot pot. Both dishes were just a touch salty, full of that ma la profile, and quite satisfying.

Columbus may not have many restaurants that fit into that Sichuan Chinese profile, but the three that exist here all do a pretty good job of representing this style of cuisine well. Perhaps Helen's Asian Kitchen's biggest asset is Helen herself, both in terms of her well-made dishes and her personable demeanor.

Helen's Asian Kitchen
1070 E Dublin Granville Rd (Northland - Google Maps)
Columbus, OH 43229
(614) 987-5121
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Note: Thanks to the fine folks at Columbus Food Adventures, who dropped a line to say that Royal Ginger (owned by the same folks behind Hong Kong House) on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington also serves Sichuan dishes.

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