Try Pink Samurai’s Creative Street Food Before It Opens Later This Month

Chef Matt Cunningham is sharing his modern take on dumplings, ferments, and more at the Frogmore this Friday.

Pink Samurai

From left, Squid ink bao with lobster, and fried lamb dumplings from Pink Samurai’s Friday night pop-up at the Frogmore, Photos via Instagram

Pink Samurai Dumpling House will open on Centre Street in Jamaica Plan later this month, but chef Matt Cunningham isn’t waiting for his own space to be ready before he shares the food. The forthcoming restaurant brought late-night snacks to the Frogmore last week, Eater Boston reported, and Cunningham says he’ll be there again this Friday from 11 p.m.-1 a.m.

The first Pink Samurai pop-up featured squid ink bao with lobster, gochujang mayonnaise, sweet nori pickles, fried alliums, and cilantro; braised lamb dumplings with collard green kimchi, honeyed yogurt, sesame, and scallion; beef tartare with shallot, cilantro, mint, Thai muesli, and fish sauce meringue; and a raw okra salad with soy, pickled chilies, crispy garlic, bonito, and scallion. This week’s a la carte offerings will again include the lamb dumplings and okra salad, plus two or three other Asian-inspired small plates Cunningham hasn’t quite nailed down yet, he said.

The snacks are culled from the types of plates Pink Samurai will have on its opening menu: Steamed and fried dumplings, buns, stir-frys, salads, and other dishes, made with a variety of house-made ferments, pickles, vinegars, and tofu. “For me, [fermentation is] an interest, a love. I feel like it gives the finished products more flavor and depth,” he said. “A lot of the things you can do with fermentation, preserving, and aging is versatile.”

An omnivore himself, Cunningham is also excited to showcase tofu, which he believes is disregarded by many non-vegetarians. “You can get lots of different textures: soft, really firm, silken tofu, pudding. For the most part, it’s neutral in flavor, though really fresh stuff has gentle, sweet flavors, which is another reason why we want to do it in-house,” he said. “But it’s really good at soaking up flavors, too, so it’s a good vehicle for anything.”

The dumpling format is also very adaptable. Cunningham has worked handmade dough onto menus throughout Portland, Maine and Boston over his near-decade career, but the concept for this restaurant actually came from the restaurant’s chief investor and partner, Daniel Gerber. Gerber had it in mind to open a dumpling house, just because he likes the foodstuff, Cunningham said.

“A mutual friend matched us together [this summer]. It was really just random timing,” Cunningham said. The Strip-T’s and Sinclair alum was in the midst of his Farmhouse Dining Club pop-up series—including an educational dinner about vinegar, a tofu-focused menu, and one based on fried chicken and fermented sauces—but he wasn’t really thinking about his next move.

 “I had kind of a background with Asian food. I taught a class for Farm & Fable on dumplings, and people heard that was my thing. It turns out [Gerber’s restaurant] space is a 10-minute walk from my apartment. We liked each other right off the bat, and started coming up with ideas.”

When Pink Samurai opens by the end of this month, the menu will be similar to the sneak preview Eater Boston shared back in August, but Cunningham anticipates mixing it up often. “Lots of people are doing tacos and burgers, and it’s kind of the same thing. Dumplings are good vehicles for lots of ideas,” he said. “Every few weeks, we’ll change out things here and there.”

The narrow restaurant will have communal tables for about 20 people inside. It won’t have space for a sit-down bar, but Pink Samurai has a hearing this week about securing a beer and wine license. Eventually, the team wants to upgrade to full liquor, but it’s not the immediate priority.

For now, he’s focused on finishing up the head-to-toe buildout of the former Charlie Chan’s space, which was vacant for about two years. And, he’s cooking, of course. Find Pink Samurai on Facebook to stay in the loop about the pop-up at the Frogmore this Friday.

Pink Samurai, coming soon to 658 Centre St., Jamaica Plain;