Tentrr Munch Madness - 2018 Recap

In March 2018, a small startup in Chinatown NYC hosted New York’s first, greatest, and only dumpling competition (organized by yours truly). 16 Chinese restaurants battled head to head for the title of World’s Greatest Dumpling in Chinatown.

The entire Tentrr office – 20-some individuals – participated. Each day, we’d bring a few orders of dumplings from two restaurants and hold a blind taste test, judged on three criteria: Flavor, Texture, and Overall. Results would be tallied and shared later that day. Winners would progress to the next round, and the office could keep track of standings on the 2018 Munch Madness Official Bracket.

Participating Restaurants

For your amusement and edification, copies of the recap emails are provided below:

March 12, 2018

Hello NYC office,

It’s that time of year again! The First Annual Tentrr Dumpling Contest was a huge hit last year, and we’re excited to sync this year’s contest with that other big contest in March. But instead of dunks, we’re talking dumps. (attn HR: that’s short for ‘dumplings’)

Participation in 2018 Tentrr Munch Madness is simple: Over the next few weeks, we’ll bring dumplings* into the office around 1pm. You just need to do what you do best – eat and judge. Voting sheets will be provided.

You’ll be able to track the winners here: 2018 Munch Madness Official Bracket

The ultimate winner will receive a physical plaque/poster to hang in their restaurant, to show the world they are the best. Around. Nothing’s ever going to keep them down.

Check the Tentrr Team Calendar for game days – first one’s tomorrow!

  • We plan to bring mostly fried pork and chive dumplings, or its closest approximation. There is one vegetarian restaurant competing, which is kind of like having the Ivy League participate in March Madness, but this way everyone in the office can enjoy the contest in some way.

Munch Madness 2018 Official Poster Poster credit: Zach Freed

March 13, 2018

Howdy Munchers,

Today is round one of Tentrr Munch Madness. Dumplings will arrive around 1pm today – your job is to eat and vote!

Today’s Matchup: We begin Munch Madness with a classic neighborhood grudge match between Shanghai Cafe Deluxe and Deluxe Green Bo. They both claim to be “deluxe”… but who’s the deluxiest?? Only a couple blocks from each other, the “Battle of Deluxes” (as the media have dubbed it) will decide which is the the best dumpling near Mott and Canal.

Munch Madness ‘18

March 14, 2018 - morning

Good Moooorning Munchers!

Big day today. Picture day, all hands… and two Munch Madness games! Whew what a whirlwind.

The matchups today:

Mimi Chengs vs Nom Wah Nolita – A bougie brawl! These two are as much ‘brands’ as they are restaurants. Mimi Chengs performed surprisingly well last year and is currently favored over Nom Wah Nolita. The Nolita extension of Dumpling Royalty, Nom Wah Nolita has been unable to live up to his father’s legacy. Can the prodigal son turn things around and upset Queen Cheng?


Fu Zhou vs Vanessas – Reigning champion Fu Zhou goes up against the vastly more famous Vanessa’s. Only a half block from each other, these two restaurants couldn’t be any more different. Vanessa’s has online ordering and its own instagram. I’m not sure Fu Zhou has a sign in English, and I think their door is made of cardboard… but apparently they don’t need any of those things to deliver excellent dumplings. Can they once again trounce their neighbor?

Given the hectic schedule, the first matchup will happen around 1pm and the second will happen a little later.

Thanks for your votes!

Munch Madness ‘18

March 14, 2018 - afternoon

Thanks for everyone’s participation today! We had a pretty eventful double-header today. Dumple-header??

In a nail-biter of a Bougie Brawl, Mimi Chengs lost in overtime to Nom Wah Nolita! They tied in “overall” category, but folks overwhelmingly preferred Nom Wah Nolita’s extra crispy crunch (the “texture” category). Maybe it’s just about the fried goodness after all?

Or maybe not! Game 2 featured title-holders Fu Zhou versus their more famous neighbor, Vanessa’s. When the dumplings arrived, it didn’t look good for Fu Zhou… they’re not fried at all, and this office seems to love the fried. But, in an unprecedented walloping, Fu Zhou put any rumors of Dumpling-Gate to bed. The champions move on to fight in the Elite Eight.

And what about yesterday’s matchup?

Ah, the Battle of the Deluxes… remember the matchup? Shanghai Cafe Deluxe were the smaller and more fried ones, while Deluxe Green Bo were longer, less fried, and more spicy filling. There were more texture votes for Shanghai (we love the fried), but in the end Filling beat Fried, and Deluxe Green Bo moved on.

We’ve got another double header tomorrow! Had enough dumplings yet?? Don’t stop til you get enough dumps! No sleep til Dumpland! Hit me dumpy one more time!

As always you can stay tuned with our bracket: 2018 Munch Madness Official Bracket

Munch Madness ‘18

March 15, 2018 - morning

Howdy Dumpster Divers,

We’ve got two games today. Red Egg vs XO Kitchen, and North Dumpling vs East Dumpling.

Red Egg vs XO Kitchen A newcomer versus an office favorite. The Tentrr office is no stranger to XO. Just a couple blocks away, XO is a frequent and favorite haunt. Can they fend off newcomer Red Egg? From the looks of it, Red Egg is aiming for a “higher end” Chinese food experience, but as we’ve learned, “decor” does not make “delicious.”

North Dumpling vs East Dumpling Ok ok ok…. these restaurants are like a block from each other. “North Dumpling” is due east of “East” (not any further north), and “East Dumpling” is west of North! What’s going on here?? We’ll find out today.

Given meeting schedules today, the games will play later this afternoon.

March 15, 2018 - afternoon

Game Day Wrap Up:

Lunchtime game: East Dumpling vs North Dumpling What a game! This one was neck and neck to the buzzer. With every vote, the tides would turn back and forth. In the final moments, it looked like East Dumpling would win by a hair (hair, dumpling, gross)… but then Jeff’s vote right at the buzzer sealed the deal for the North! North Dumpling proceeds to the Elite Eight.

Afternoon game: XO vs Red Egg Office favorite XO mopped the floor with fancy wanna-bes Red Egg. As Chris noted, some of us are still trying to get Red Egg’s doughy wrapper out of our teeth. Wrapper? Covering? Sleeve? Sheath? What’s the right word for the dough part?

We’ve got a few more first round games, and they’re all new dumpling spots – and guess what? They’re all close to the new office. Boy how I can’t wait for the new office.

Munch Madness ‘18

The old office The old office, 134 Bowery

March 19, 2018

Happy Monday, Munchers –

Two games today, appx around 1pm-ish. Ops team should be arriving for their meeting around then, so it’ll be an extra “mad” munching.

Game 1: Wu’s Wonton vs Mings Cafe Game 2: Tasty Dumpling vs Nom Wah Tea Parlor (the og)

Munch Madness ‘18

March 19, 2018 - afternoon

Week 2 of Munch Madness started with a couple exciting matchups – here’s the wrap up:

Nom Wah Tea Parlor vs Tasty Dumpling A little background. Nom Wah is the world’s oldest dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. They’ve been here for 98 years and have branched out into other NYC restaurants (as well as one in Philly). In fact, the current owner’s son started Nom Wah Nolita, which competed last week (and beat Mimi Chengs). Everyone has an opinion on Nom Wah, they’re the restaurant you love to love and love to hate. However you feel about them, one thing is undeniable: they are a goddamn institution.

Tasty Dumpling? Not much is known about Tasty Dumpling. Their website features some other restaurant’s logo (Sam’s Deli??) and 900px fixed width web design. One superlative I can offer them is: possibly the tournament’s cheapest dumpling: five dumplings for $1.25. That’s one shiny quarter per dumpling. Try not to think about what atrocities make that even possible.

Given the overwhelmingly lopsided match up, this game was surprisingly close. Nom Wah won 31 to 21. Compare that to some other games, Vanessas lost by a wider margin. So, in a sense, there’s a moral victory here for the little dirt cheap dumpling that could. But in a more accurate sense, Nom Wah won.

Wu’s Wonton vs Ming’s Caffe This is another very-close-to-the-new-office matchup, which means these restaurants could easily enter our weekly lunch rotation in the near future. Wu’s Wonton is a very well respected restaurant, recently featured in the NY Times. They go up against Ming’s Caffe, which was recently reviewed on yelp. Ok that may not be as notable as NYT, even Sarah Palin has a yelp listing… but remember Fu Zhou vs Vanessa’s? More famous doesn’t mean better.

Sometimes David hits Goliath square in the nose. Sometimes UMBC’s 5’7” point guard can demolish the best college basketball team in the country. Sometimes the nice guy gets the girl.

Well, I’m here to tell you this time wasn’t one of those times. Wu’s Wonton beat Ming’s 42 to 2. This game was so lopsided that Markus refused to vote. He drew a big X on his voting card, folded it, and placed it in the voting bowl. Just think about that for a second: instead of not voting, he submitted an X. That’s like waiting in line to vote in the 2016 general election, only to write “HELL IN A HANDBASKET” as a write-in candidate. I mean, it’s a statement.

I don’t know what’s more surprising, the 40-point difference or the fact that Ming’s got two points at all. Ming’s got two points and two of us got food poisoning. Maybe the extra F in their name stands for “F-ed up dumplings.” I wonder if Ming’s will even make the cut for next year. I suppose someone has to be the worst. Sorry Ming.

Munch Madness ‘18

March 21, 2018

We wrap up the first round of Munch Madness with a curious matchup: Wo Hop City vs Original Buddha Bodai Kosher Vegetarian

Wo Hop is a real workhorse and fixture in Chinatown. They’ve been around for about 80 years and they’re open 24 hours, 7 days a week. They still do old school no-frills Cantonese, and their menu will probably stay the same for a very long time. If you’ve spent some time partying in the LES, you may have a blurry memory of these sticker-and-dollar-bill encrusted walls. Ringing any bells in that alcohol-abused brain of yours? If so, that place was – and always will be – Wo Hop City.

There aren’t many options for vegetarian and kosher munchers in Chinatown, but Original Buddha Bodai delivers the goods. They feature an exclusively vegetarian/kosher kitchen, so patrons can rest assured they won’t find a stray hoof in their tofu and vegetable medley. Buddha Bodai is one of those restaurants that found a niche and delivered so well, a knock off restaurant opened up a block away (Buddha Kosher Vegetarian on Mulberry). Maybe that’s why they added “Original” to their name. Anyway, It’s a tall order for a vegetarian restaurant to compete head to head with meat, but if any restaurant has a chance, it’s Original Buddha Bodai.

So, who won? The late night workhorse or the vegetarian’s delight?

It was a close game, but ultimately Wo Hop’s double-fried, dough-heavy entry failed in the texture category. Buddha Bodai’s lighter touch ultimately prevailed, and the no-meat athletes move on to the next round!

Strange, in earlier games we were all about the deep fried. Perhaps we’re experiencing Dumpling Fatigue Syndrome (DFS)? It’s a common affliction for those who dumpling for dumplong. Well, snap out of it! Next week we’ll start round 2 of Munch Madness, or as the international media have dubbed it, The Edible Eight:

Deluxe Green Bo vs Fu Zhou

Nom Wah Nolita vs XO

North Dumpling vs Wu’s Wonton

Nom Wah Tea Parlor vs Original Buddha Bodai

Until then, do your colon a favor and get some raw vegetables and drink plenty of water…

Munch Madness ‘18

March 28, 2018 - morning

Ladies and Dumpleman,

I hope you’ve been eating your kale, because we’re back on the dumpling diet today. Two games to kick off the Edible Eight series:

Deluxe Green Bo vs Fu Zhou – Office favorites Fu Zhou try to fend off upstarts Green Bo to defend their title.

Nom Wah Nolita vs XO Kitchen – These two are close to the old office… ah nostalgia. With so many more options closer to us, it could be a while before we see these guys again. XO are favored to win, but the prodigal son can surprise us again.

Games around lunch, I think.

Picking up dumplings Picking up dumplings

March 28, 2018 (afternoon)

Good afternoon Dumpaholics – we had two big matchups today, Deluxe Green Bo v Fu Zhou and Nom Wah Nolita v XO Kitchen

Deluxe Green Bo vs Fu Zhou Fu Zhou has a reputation around here as the cheap, no-frills working-class heroes. Just ask around. Baxter will tell you they were the overall champs from last year’s Munch Madness. Ask Gareth who makes a mean wonton soup for $2. Hell, I’m pretty sure Tyler is 60% peanut butter noodles at this point. When you compare their regard around here to Deluxe Green Bo’s – a relatively unknown entrant – you’d expect Fu Zhou to coast through this matchup. Well I’m here to remind you they don’t call it Munch Sanity….

Was it the steamed vs fried difference? Is it because we’re bigger now and the newer taste buds crave the Bo? Maybe Bo is a sleeping giant in this contest. Whatever’s going on, they beat the reigning champion Fu Zhou handily, 30 to 14.

Nom Wah Nolita vs XO Nom Wah Nolita surprised a lot of folks last week with an upset over Bourgeoisie Favorite Mimi Cheng’s. Today they go against XO, an office staple. XO came in second place last year and many would claim they’re the real reigning champs, since more people voted them the best (ask me offline how that could be possible and not win). Nom Wah Nolita’s ace in the hole is apparently frying the shit out of their dumplings, which seems to be an effective strategy – they got to the Edible Eight. But ultimately, XO proves that experience beats pedigree with a whomping: 31 to 13.

So, Deluxe Green Bo and XO move on to the Fried Four!

Tomorrow we’ve got two more games to wrap up the Edible Eight… North Dumpling v Wu’s and Nom Wah Tea Parlor v Original Buddha Bodai.

Keep Munching,

Munch Madness ‘18

March 29, 2018

OK Munch Maddie Baddies – two more games today to decide the Fried Four:

North Dumpling vs Wu’s Wonton

Nom Wah Tea Parlor vs Original Buddha Bodai

North and Wu’s are on Essex, just a couple blocks east. Nom Wah and Buddha are just across Bowery, a couple blocks west. Today we find out who’s the Beast in the Near East and who’s the Best in the Near West.

I think game 1 around lunch, and game 2 a little after.

Munch Madness ‘18

March 31, 2018

The results from Thursday’s matchups are as follows:

North Dumpling vs Wu’s Wonton King The more I visit Wu’s Wonton King, the more I realize that the NY Times didn’t “discover” anything. They’re always packed, the place is bright and clean, and the staff work operate like a well (sesame) oiled machine. The whole operation buzzes with prosperity: Happy Buddhas and Lucky Cats are doing their jobs. By contrast, North Dumpling feels a little… “go with the flow.” It’s smaller, less busy, a little darker, and a lot dingier. Plus, the dumplings were delivered unnervingly quickly. Fast service is good. Too fast and you start wondering about the shortcuts.

Big prosperous Wu vs the little dumpling shack in the North. You could say this matchup is a Tale of Two Chinatowns. The Peking Prince and the Pauper. Guangzhou Goofus and Gallant.

Well, who won? Wu. Wu who? Wu’s Wonton. Wu’s Wonton won? Whoopie!

Disney movies have bred us to believe in the scrappy, broke, disorganized team with a big heart (and Emilio Estevez). But this ain’t no goddamn Disney movie. This is Munch Mother-Flipping Madness. All hail King Wu.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor vs Original Buddha Bodai Going into this matchup, Nom Wah Tea Parlor was a heavy favorite. Not only are they the World’s Oldest Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, their dumplings are filled with pork and fried. That’s a winning combination, and Buddha Bodai’s steamed vegetarian competitor would have its work cut out. But just moments before tip-off – in a stunning display of bravado – Nom Wah sends their vegetarian dumplings to compete! Do they dare believe their B team could go up against Buddha Bodai’s flagship dump?

Who do you think won? Perhaps you think Buddha Bodai, being specialists in making vegetables taste good, have the edge. Or perhaps your money’s on Nom Wah, since their dumplings are still fried (and we know how much we love the fried).

Well good news for history buffs and haters of clean arteries – Nom Wah upholds its 98-year heritage with a decisive 44 to 12 victory.

Well boys and girls, we have our Fried Four! Deluxe Green Bo XO Kitchen Wu’s Wonton King Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Submit your championship predictions before the first Fried Four game for a chance to win something special! https://goo.gl/forms/Dtad1UfnaP7rRhm62

Munch Madness ‘18

April 3, 2018 - morning

Ok Office, Fried Four game one starts today! Deluxe Green Bo vs XO Kitchen.

If you haven’t yet, submit your prediction for the tournament champion! Submissions end when Zach and I get back from picking up dumps: https://goo.gl/forms/Dtad1UfnaP7rRhm62

April 3, 2018

Party people, here we go! Put my hands upon your chopsticks, I dip, you dip, we dip dumplings!

Fried Four: Game 1 – Deluxe Green Bo vs XO Kitchen These restaurants compete for the West-of-Bowery title – the Best in the West. The Sunset Sultan. The … Walk Left Winner…? Ok that one’s terrible.

In one corner, we have Deluxe Green Bo, AKA New Green Bo, AKA Nice Green Bo… they’ve changed their names so much you’d think they were in the Witness Protection Program. No matter how many times they change it, we’ll always be able to identify their dumplings by their distinctive long shape. Looking at historical data, there are a few of us who are Deluxe Green Bo superfans (ahem, Laurel…), but since they’re going up against the XO juggernaut, Green Bo are the underdogs.

Pretty much any restaurant would be an underdog against XO. The funny thing about XO is it’s not super well rated on yelp, it’s pretty unknown in the foodie blogosphere, but it maintains a stellar reputation in the Tentrr office. Have we found a diamond in the rough? Do we just have terrible taste? Does it matter?

XO Kitchen won the matchup 39-9. That’s pretty decisive. I overheard murmurs that perhaps Green Bo was having an off day. Perhaps, but you can’t have an off day in March. Maybe in April you can have an off day. You can have an off day in May. But March? March is the month when heroes are forged. XO advances to the finals.

Tomorrow we have two 1st seed leviathans: historic Nom Wah Tea Parlor vs NY Times darlings **Wu’s Wonton King. It’ll be a barn-burner, don’t miss it!

Munch Madness ‘18

Photo of office tasting Office tasting

April 4, 2018 - morning

Ok team! Sorry for late update. Munch Madness Semifinals: Fried Four (Game 2) – Eastern Conference Finals today… Wu’s Wonton King vs Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Game begins around 3:30pm (leaving now to pick up)

April 4, 2018 - afternoon

Ladies and Gentledumps,

What is life?

Is it a series of unrelated events that accumulate to a collection of experiences? Does that collection have meaning? Purpose? Or is any semantic interpretation of the sum simply an apophenia created by an ego that insists it exists? If the concept of “self” is a perceptual fabrication, is the natural conclusion one of nihilism or stoicism? Seneca believed “ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence to something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.” Yeah, I think he was hedging his bets too.

If you, like me, refuse the nihilist conclusion, then you will agree that it’s important to make every day count. This is never more true than in the final games of Munch Madness. For in these late stage throes of competition, even the slightest error can have dire consequences.

It is on this razor’s edge that our two competitors danced – Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Wu’s Wonton King. Two restaurants decorated with praise. Both adorned with accolades. Hallowed in the annals of epicurean history. Dueling titans of Chinatown.

The day was grey and wet. When the rain cleared, the dumplings arrived. Nom Wah delivered on their promise of greasy, heavily fried pork goodness. Wu – in a stunning turn of events that will go down as one of the biggest shockers in the history of Munch Madness – had run out of pork fried dumplings and instead sent a team of steamed shrimp.

When the dust cleared, trails of dumpling sauce on the conference table hinted at the carnage. Strewn plastic forks and littered styrofoam containers sing the King’s swan song. Wu’s sudden and inexplicable lapse was the dumpling heard around the world, and trying to make sense of Wu’s fate has driven many to madness. And so, the Janus face of Munch Madness reveals its sinister side. For where there is mirth, there too lies mourning.

So again we ponder, what is life? Not much if you’re Wu’s Wonton King, that’s for damn sure. Nom Wah Tea Parlor advances to the 2018 Munch Madness Finals, to compete for the Glory of All Chinatown against XO Kitchen.

Going into the Finals, we have the following contestants still in the game:

Jeff de Picciotto De Huang Tyler Woodsmall Zach Freed Gareth Chisholm Jamie Czuy Lindsey Dartsch

We wish you the best of luck as we go into the Finals.

Munch Madness ‘18

April 10, 2018 - morning

Ok Munch Madness fans,

Today’s the big day. The Finals, XO vs Nom Wah Tea Parlor. By the stats (yelp, zagat, blogosphere) XO are the underdogs by a wide margin. In this tournament, however, XO have dominated. They won their last game by 30 points, and the one before by 18. Will Nom Wah’s extra-fried offering keep these upstarts at bay?

Game will begin around 1pm. Winner will be announced later today, and the person who most accurately predicted the final game will get their prize at happy hour tomorrow.

April 10, 2018 - afternoon

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning A cloudburst doesn’t last all day Seems my bracket’s up And has left us with no warning But it’s not always going To be this grey All things must pass All things must pass away

To borrow the words of the inimitable George Harrison, all dumplings must pass. Today, the tenth day of the fourth month of the two thousand and eighteenth year of the Common Era, we mark an end as well as a beginning. It is the end of this season’s Munch Madness, the largest known dumpling contest of its kind. Sixteen restaurants from around Chinatown competed for the title of World’s Best Dumpling In Chinatown, from the mighty and famous to the humble and anonymous. But, for the lucky restaurant that wins, today marks a beginning. For after today, that restaurant will forever be known as the Restaurant That Dared To Hope. To Dream. The Restaurant That Did. The World’s Best Dumpling In Chinatown.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor and XO Kitchen. The Uber-famous versus the Underdog. Shooter McGavin versus Happy Gilmore, if both Shooter and Happy were Chinese restaurants. Apollo Creed versus Rocky Balboa in the first Rocky, if both fighters had breaded and deep-fried their hands instead of wore gloves.

It’s been a long road for both restaurants. XO’s journey started with a new bourgeoisie entrant Red Egg, then faced Nom Wah Tea Parlor’s son, Nom Wah Nolita. XO had no trouble with these two. In the semifinals, XO defeated Deluxe Green Bo – a favorite among Laurels in the office. Through every match up, XO remained consistent and maintained their values and integrity.

Nom Wah’s path was different. In nearly every matchup, Nom Wah sent a different dumpling to compete. When competing against vegetarians Buddha Bodai, they sent their vegetarian dumplings. Against Wu’s Wonton, their “special” dumpling. And to the finals, their classic “pan-fried.”

Why did Nom Wah send different dumplings to different matches? The question will be debated for years to come. Some believe it’s the restaurant’s hubris. Others insist Nom Wah played strategically to their competitor. Perhaps it was a clerical error. Regardless of why, the chips fell where they did.

There’s an old saying in sports: Defense wins championships. XO, the most consistent restaurant in the entire tournament, proved that solid fundamentals and consistency are the two main ingredients for success (after pork, chive, and fried dough). XO Kitchen, the office favorite that pretty much no one else knows about, defeated the oldest and most famous dim sum restaurant in the world (in Chinatown) – 31 to 9.

Who guessed XO would win?? Jeff, De, and Lindsey. Who guessed closest to the 22 point difference? Find out tomorrow at Happy Hour!

Until next year,

Munch Madness ‘18

PS: I would like to thank the team of organizers who helped coordinate Munch Madness this year: Zach Freed, Tyler Woodsmall, Baxter Townsend, and to a nominal degree, Gareth Chisholm. Next year will be even more grand in scope, so if you’d like to join the groundswell, reach out to munchmadness@tentrr.com – we’re hiring in all departments!

Winner of the 2018 Munch Madness Official Pool

Lindsey Dartsch, winner of "Tentrr's Lucky Guesser" award Lindsey Dartsch, winner of Tentrr’s Lucky Guesser award!

Written on February 24, 2019