Wilton Chinese restaurant cooks up homestyle experience

Ren Dumpling & Noodle House aims to provide homestyle Chinese comfort cuisine to the Wilton community, a community that Ren founder, owner, and head chef Eric Xie, a Wilton resident himself, has already pledged to benefit.

Opening on Friday, Oct. 23, the new restaurant in the Gateway Plaza at 14 Danbury Road will donate all of the proceeds from its opening weekend to the Riverbrook Regional YMCA.

“It may not be the best business move,” admitted Xie, “but I want to be a part of the community and do something to give back.” Xie’s comments were translated by state Senator Tony Hwang, there in his capacity as a friend. “It’s my hometown,” Xie said.

Xie immigrated to the United States in 1989 from Shanghai, China, where he learned to cook at a four-star hotel restaurant. His first restaurant, Village Gourmet in Norwalk, has been in business for 19 years. Xie has lived in Wilton for as long.

As a business owner in both Norwalk and now Wilton, Xie saw the Riverbrook Regional YMCA to be the ideal recipient of what he hopes will be a considerable gift.

“The YMCA is an integral part of Wilton and now, with its recent merger with the Norwalk Y, it seemed like the perfect combination of the two communities that I serve,” Xie explained.

But it’s not just who the Y serves for Xie; it’s the nature of the service it provides.

“The other reason why I’m doing this is that the YMCA is such an important part of the community,” he added. “My children have benefited from it, and I wanted to be able to give back and ensure that other residents and people in our community will get the continued service of the YMCA, which is facing very difficult financial challenges. They do so much beyond just physical fitness. They do childcare. They do education. They serve as a community center. What a terrific organization to be able to support and ensure the success of.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, at the restaurant, and every penny made between then and closing-time that Sunday will be donated.
About the restaurant
Unlike many Chinese restaurants in the United States, and even somewhat of a departure from Village Gourmet, Ren Dumpling & Noodle House features menu items that are diet staples in China but are not traditionally associated with Americanized Chinese dining — items such as rice cakes, pork bons, steamed fish and noodle soup.

“I believe a lot of people have never tasted these kinds of foods before in their lives,” Xie said. “I’m trying to bring those kinds of things over.”

But make no mistake — while Ren offers these foreign meals, its menu retains the common classics Americans have grown to love, like Kung Po chicken, broccoli with garlic sauce, egg rolls and spare ribs.

Either way, whatever his customers are hungry for, Xie hopes his new restaurant will be a place of familial recreation and camaraderie.

“Simply said, it’s a place that I would want my own family and friends to come to and enjoy,” Xie said. “That would be a true measure of my success.”

“To me,” commented Hwang, “the joy that I see when he sees friends, families and guests enjoying a meal is indescribable. It’s a picture of happiness.”

Hwang also made a remark concerning his reasons for taking time out of the work day to interpret the interview.

“I’m here as a friend who understands the challenges of language and business demands,” Hwang said. “I’m here to offer my support, because I have seen this same experience with my father and his restaurant business. It is a tremendous challenge not understanding the language, not understanding the nuances of it. I wish that there were friends around to help when my dad was running his business.”

“Ren” means cooking in Mandarin, and that’s what Xie loves to do most.

“I just want to cook,” Xie said. “It’s what I love to do, and I want to share that love with my community.”

It’s too bad that no Bulletin reporters speak Mandarin, because, according to Hwang, “To listen to Eric describe cooking will make your mouth water in anticipation.”
Ren offers dine-in and take-out.

”We don’t deliver,” said Xie, “but if companies in the region want us to cater, we would be willing to explore that for special occasion orders.”

The webpage for Ren Dumpling & Noodle House is currently under construction, but will be available soon at WiltonChineseFood.com.