Australia’s food capital Melbourne offers up exciting dumplings that are certainly NOT what one would expect. Previously you could only search for dumplings in Chinatown, but this is not the case now. There are so many creative Asian restaurants here that it is difficult to choose what to select, so on this occasion I have chosen some of the unusual eateries as well as a couple of hidden gems. My top five picks in Melbourne are the following:
Pick 1. A dumpling place I found purely by chance in the busy hub of Bourke Street’s retail area is called ‘Drumplings.‘ This is a trendy, fresh and somewhat crazy space, with an interesting vibe and extremely unusual dumplings. I usually visit dumpling places with friends so you can taste a huge array of dishes and share, share, share! On this occasion I had done a little retail therapy so was happy to relax in the haven of dumplings and rest my arms which had been laden with lots of bags. From the onset I took delight in the upbeat menu, I chose their Beef Rendang dumplings and their Citrus Prawn Bao. Both were delicious and I enjoyed a peach tea to accompany them. At $26 including tax the price was about right for a quality offering. The spicy Beef Rendang dumplings were everything I thought they should be, delicious morsels of heaven, nicely presented and certainly awakened my tastebuds. You receive five in a portion which was very satisfying. The Citrus Prawn Bao was packed with prawns and was surprising light and refreshing — you get two in a portion. It seems that the creators of these designer dumplings are targeting not only lovers of dumplings but lovers of food. Packing usual delights and tastes such as cheeseburgers, mac and cheese and even truffles into dumplings — I think I need to explore their menu further and slowly work my way through it.
Pick 2. Oriental Teahouse has three places in Melbourne. I chose the Chapel Street Teahouse which was beautifully designed and of a similar feel to their sister company ‘David’s’ in Prahan (another favourite of mine owned by David and Cathy Zhou). The zen feel of the Teahouse was delightful with a bar area at the front and at the rear you will find the tea tasting room and a comfortable environment to relax and enjoy their pristine dumplings. In the tea area they showcase a wide variety of teas with something for everyone….cleansing, powerful, mellow and traditional. All inspired by owner David Zhou and his Chinese heritage. At this seating I must confess I was like a kid in a candy shop…no, a dumpling eater in a teahouse…well anyway I couldn’t stop myself — forget family hold back, I was off. The Xiao Long Bao (my hubby’s favourite) was on the menu so I had to order these soup dumplings which take a little mastering. You bite the tip where the dumpling is gathered and then suck out the soup — you can try the whole dumpling in your mouth but remember they can be super hot and the delicious hot liquid can scorch your mouth so be warned and perhaps try the careful way of eating these. The Chilli Pork dumplings (with Chinese cabbage, and sesame) were sensational. They are a little spicy but great for the wintry temperature at this time of year. I washed my dumplings down with some quality Jasmine tea. (Top tip some lovely Chinese friends of mine in Sydney once explained to me that if you should want your tea topped up with boiling water then you simply slide the lid of the teapot on an angle and leave open which indicates that your tea needs attention by the waiting staff — try it out). I met with Marlo Guerrara the venue manager who allowed me to select some interesting delights on the menu such as the XO Scallop and Prawn dumplings, the Flame Thrower Pulled Pork dumplings served with slices of Pork Belly — wow! and also my absolute favourite the Chilli Wagyu Beef Dumplings marinated in Kaffir lime in a homemade chilli oil, the depth of flavour was outstanding.
Pick 3. For a quick bite and cheap eat in the heart of Chinatown is a super canteen style restaurant called Shanghai Street. Don’t be put off by the queues around the corner, it is worth the wait. The etiquette is you put your name on a list by the door or give it to a staff member. You get a hearty portion — so you will only need a couple of dishes here. The boiled homemade chicken and prawn dumpling is one of my fav’s, you get 10 pieces and at $10.80 this is a steal. They also do delicious fried veggie or pork dumplings. Great to eat and run, in this no frills environment. In true Melbourne style they have lots of water jugs on offer at the rear of the restaurant so very consumer friendly.
Pick 4. Red Emperor in Southgate is a must if you like long leisurely yum cha sessions. If you delight in a room with a view this is the place for you. I love the terrace which overlooks the Yarra River, it is good throughout the year in the summer you can dine al fresco and in the winter they will pull down coverings to protect you from the elements. The staff are professional and the service is just right. It is licensed so a bottle of Prosecco whilst shooting the breeze is a super way to while away a good few hours. Red Emperor have superb yum cha trolleys laden with various treats, their dumplings are delicious and what I particularly like is that there is no MSG and they do gluten free. Their vegetable dumplings are sensational. If you should have time to go for dinner with a bunch of friends, then I highly recommend their banquet menus which allow you to try a varied array of interesting dishes and have fun twirling the lazy susan to bring closer your favoured morsels. I do recommend booking.
Pick 5. Minh Tan 11 This is a Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Richmond (190-192 Victoria St, Richmond, Victoria 7131 – sorry no website). Here I love their Ginger Prawn dumplings which are so yummy I had to order two portions, and their scallop dumplings are like manna from heaven. Their Shanghai Meat dumplings (always a worry when they simply say meat as you don’t know what you are going to get), but rest assured they are delicious. This is a casual dining style restaurant with no frills and terrific prices.
Please let me know what your top dumpling houses in Melbourne are and I will gladly check them out.