Downtown San Mateo has a new Chinese restaurant called Dough Zone Dumpling House, serving affordable comfort food like dumplings and bao to the public.
William Wang, the owner of the San Mateo location, said bao, which is a filled bun, is a common street food in China but has become more upscale and expensive in the United States. He wants to keep it affordable for the public.
“Our goal is to bring this food back to the community. You can come to our store for an easy lunch,” Wang said.
Dough Zone’s specialty is Q-Bao, or pan-fried buns, which are filled with Berkshire-Duroc pork using aspic, a savory jelly. Q-Bao is half steamed and fried, and the recipe is based on the Shanghai Sheng Jian Bao. The restaurant’s other specialty is Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings, which are filled with pork and crab meat and steamed. Its menu is almost the same across all stores. Wang described the cuisine as a mix of middle and northern China, with dim sum based on a northern- and central-style.
“Q-Bao is our signature dish and is our trademark,” Wang said.
The downtown restaurant is at 111 E. Fourth Ave. and opened May 1. Its restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, with hours extended to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Wang said the restaurant is targeting lunchtime office workers from San Mateo and Foster City once employees return in person, as well as San Mateo and other Peninsula residents.
“We are targeting the mainstream customers of all backgrounds. We don’t want to just focus on Chinese people. We see the marketing future in mainstream customers,” Wang said.
He plans to open another Dough Zone in Cupertino in the middle of July and is looking at aggressive expansion into other Bay Area cities.
“We are actually looking for several spaces in San Francisco, Dublin and south San Jose and another in the East Bay in Fremont or Milpitas,” Wang said.
Dough Zone Dumpling House was first established in Seattle in 2014 and soon opened its first store in Bellevue, Washington. It now has several stores throughout the Washington area, with its San Mateo location the first in California. Wang said the company reached capacity in Washington and decided on a significant California expansion to reach new areas and customers. He likes the Peninsula because of the large population and different cultures mixed in San Mateo. Numerous tech companies, banks and close transportation links to the East Bay also made the location attractive.
“If we can be successful in California, we can be successful everywhere,” Wang said.
Wang graduated from the University of California, Berkeley as a civil engineer. He built bridges as a civil engineer for 10 years and spent part of that time working worldwide. He came back to the United States and decided to get into the restaurant business due to the difficulty in career advancement in the engineering field. The chairman of Dough Zone was a classmate, and Wang partnered with him to expand into California.
“I wanted to try something new,” Wang said.
Dough Zone was originally scheduled for an opening early in the year, but delays and continued restrictions from the pandemic led to its May opening. The pandemic has caused equipment delays, extra cost for delivery and hiring issues. The restaurant is still short on wait and kitchen staff, but Wang believes things will be easier once the restaurant hires a store and kitchen manager.
“Right now, our biggest problem is we can’t find workers,” he said.
Wang apologized to customers for some long lines and delays over the past month due to social distancing restrictions for staff and customers. However, he believes dining will be easier and more customers will come after June 15 when California reopens its economy and further reduces COVID-19 restrictions.
Since Dough Zone opened, dining has been half to go and half in person. However, this week saw in-person dining become the majority of business, a positive trend for the restaurant as it pushes for more business.
“It’s a great time for us to seize the opportunity,” Wang said.
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