Just Desserts: A Day for Dandan

Dandan, the surprising new Chinese restaurant in the Third Ward, serves up some lunch.

The Just Desserts team landed a reportorial coup on Tuesday by catching Dandan’s first weekday lunch service. (Actually, the Sichuan and Taiwanese restaurant is right next to our office.) While some critics think you should give an establishment a little time to find its feet, we’re too hungry for all that. Dandan, which has been serving dinner since this summer, is fairly buzzed about, so let’s see how it holds up.

Matt Hrodey: Swell parking. One can say that right off the bat, although we walked. And you’re so close for a stroll along the Riverwalk after eating.

Claire Hanan: Right. Forgetting the Third Ward’s favorite meter maid, there is usually plenty of parking the corner of Erie and Corcoran. Backing up a bit, what are your thoughts on the news of Brad and Angie’s split?

MH: I run about 72 hours in arrears when it comes to celebrity news. I’m still stuck on Corey Feldman.

CH: Ok, I’ll ask you again on Friday. Anyway, so we walk into DanDan, located in the former Tulip space. There seemed to be a suspicious amount of FBI-agent types there. But one can never be sure about that. What did you think of the space?

MH: To quote Kurt Cobain, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” It’s a nice space. It feels moderately private. The booth seat backs are relatively low, meaning you can spy into the next table’s social space pretty easily.

CH: I didn’t notice that because I was facing you and the wall. I did notice that the booths are huge, and the regular chairs around the rest of the tables look quite comfortable. I am always impressed by chairs with high backs.

MH: Yes.

Chinese ham crepe and pork egg roll.
Chinese ham crepe and pork egg roll.

CH: It was pretty dark in there which is great for dinner, so-so for lunch. How did you like your grub?

MH: I was thoroughly pleased, especially since I learned that the chewy fried things I ate weren’t the world’s toughest fried onions but fried rice cakes. The sour sausage had great texture. Sausage texture is totally underrated.

CH: But sausage texture can be dangerous! What happens when you get one of those tough, fatty bits, maybe even cartilage?! It renders it unchewable for me. I literally have to spit it out and the meal is over. No sausage for a month or so after. Another sausage-wrecker: too many fennel seeds. Did this have any?

MH: No, I don’t think so. I mean texture sausage as a spectrum from poor to great. This was somewhat smooth and became smoother and more tender in the mouth. How was your crepe? You were having a crepe day?

CH: I had the Chinese ham crepe, which came styled as a wrap with ham, bok choy, scallion, hoisin and “crispies.”

MH: It’s all about the crispies.

CH: Yes, but the crispies couldn’t save this crepe. None of the elements were really working.

CH: It was soggy, the scallion was totally saturated and stringy, and there just wasn’t enough of any one flavor to hold it up. “Ham broth” seemed, to me, to be the dominant flavor. My pork egg roll, however, was great.

MH: It seemed like a weird combination of words to appear on the menu, and googling it has not helped to normalize. The combination peanut and mustard sauce (according to my palate) for the sausage I ordered was dynamite. Had you eaten at this establishment before, pray tell?

CH: No, and I had been so excited about it. I’d still go back to try one of the pancakes I keep hearing about. What was that salad business that came with the sausage?

MH: It was heavily cucumber, big long slabs of it, in a dressing with peanuts and the fried rice cake bits.

Hot doughnuts at Dandan.
Hot doughnuts at Dandan.

CH: Sounds uber nummy. And what of the momo?

MH: Great, some flavorful greens inside. Dessert was a real highlight and included some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had.

CH: Wow. Stop right there. How much research have you done in this area?

MH: Not enough. The completely vegan but whatever it’s really good cashew?-coconut cheesecake with fruit sorbet was also excellent.

CH: That was good. Didn’t really taste like cheesecake, but fun to eat. Actually, both were fun. Who doesn’t have fun dipping doughnuts in different sauces?

MH: The dark sauce got something wrong. It was bitter.

CH: You wanted to yell ‘cacao’ didn’t you? I liked the red sauce, something strawberry-y, best.

MH: Yes. If given three words to describe this new restaurant venture, and only one of them had to be a kind of ice cream, what would you say?

CH: Umm. Hmm. OK. “Fried roll crispies” would be my three words. Now that I think about it, many things were cylindrical or circular.

MH: Huh, yeah. “Dim Chunky Surprises.”

CH: Oh that’s an auto-classic right there.




Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.