ON A ROLL: Mason’s brings LA dumpling delights to Aurora

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Marinna Williams picks up her to-go order from Mason’s Dumplings, May 11, 2020. Mason’s was all set for their grand opening until COVID-19 reared it’s head and have accomodated by offering take-out options.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Rejoice, dumpling aficionados.

It may be about two months later than expected, but Mason’s Dumpling Shop has finally burst onto the north Aurora restaurant scene after months of hype.

The highly anticipated L.A. export formally opened the doors of a revamped, 52-seat location at 9655 E. Montview Blvd. on May 7, more than six weeks after the joint was slated to host a sold-out, reservation-only soft opening.

Though the new coronavirus slightly derailed Mason’s original rollout, takeout orders have been zipping out of the shop that previously housed the Del Norte bar. Owners razed the former watering hole with help from the city’s new restaurant incentive program, which offers grants to restauranteurs interested in breathing new life into derelict storefronts. A trio of other incentive program businesses, including Baba and Pop’s Pierogi, Third Culture Bakery and Carm & Gia’s Metropolitan, have opened in the same neighborhood off of East Colfax Avenue in recent months.

In its first few days, the dumpling shop, the germ of which opened as Luscious Dumplings in 2001, has watched orders come in faster than cooks can bag them, according to Shan Zi, one of the owners.

Fried Pork Dumplings from Mason’s. Photo provided by Mason’s

“We’ve been sold out every day at like 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.,” said Zi, who grew up in northern China before moving to Colorado Springs at age 10. “We’re unable to last like five hours. It’s crazy.”

Zi, a petroleum engineer by trade, opened the new restaurant with his wife, Eleven Li, a former U.S. business manager for a national fashion company. The couple, who live in Denver, are carrying the familial dumpling flag from Zi’s cousin, Ker Zhu, who started Mason’s in California in 2012. That’s when Zhu and his wife, Michelle Wu, jumped into the family business after Wu’s parents retired from their original outpost, which earned rave reviews from famed Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold.

But opening a new restaurant amid a global pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges, Zi said. Aside from adjusting quantities and equipment to account for Aurora’s altitude and humidity, just getting brown paper bags has created hiccups. Soaring beef prices are also on Zi’s mind, he said.

“We’re getting by, but eventually if the price doesn’t come down, or if we can’t even source it, we’re going to run into problems,” he said.

For now, the eatery is offering a slightly reduced menu of a few appetizers, rice and noodle dishes and, of course, boiled, steamed and pan-fried dumplings. Zi said he’s thinking of soon extending his current hours past 6:30 p.m. to offer a more robust dinner menu.

Whenever the restaurant opens for dine-in service, Mason’s is slated to add soup dumplings to its menu, which are designed to be eaten while the soup inside remains piping hot.

“We can’t do that with to-go right now because the soup is going to be cold by the time you get home,” Zi said. “The dumpling is best if you eat it right away.”