229 Exhibition St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 1888
I’ve had more than several horrible experiences at dumpling restaurants, but when another one opens up I’m usually there before anyone can say “dumplings, bitch!” And when I heard all about Dumpling Sister, the new dumpling restaurant on Exhibition Street you can imaine how elated I was. This place has been around for a few weeks, I’d say. My bus would pass the incandescent outlet each morning on the way to work and although the word ‘dumpling’ would catch the corner of one sleep-deprived eye, I always thought that my mind was playing tricks on me. After all, what normal person would be wide awake enough to absorb their surroundings fully at 7:45 in the morning? But anyway. It wasn’t when I read Half-Eaten’s review did it dawn on me that, yes, this place definitely existed, no, I was NOT seeing things and yes, yes, yes, I HAD to visit!
Adam and I rocked up in one late afternoon the other week and apart from a table of tradies, the place was virtually empty. I wouldn’t attribute the emptiness to the fact that it was after 2pm as it IS possible to step into a dumpling restaurant in the city and still be told to wait for a table to open up even at 2:30pm. I guess it was the fact that the Exhibition Street location, being not as densely populated as other CBD spaces, was a detriment.Oh, and you will have noticed that the sign says “Dumpling Sisters”, yet I’ve referred to this place as “Dumpling Sister” – I am just going by what it says on their business card and their menu.
Adam checks out the the talent while I set about ordering some dumplings. One thing that I noticed (and was also commented on by Half-Eaten) was the fact that the lighting was harsher than most dumpling restaurants which gave the place a bit of a hospital-like feel to it. The lightning certainly assisted in making the place look clean rather than dingy, but it just felt a bit too … sterile.
We ordered a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings (12 pieces for $7.80) and pan-fried lamb dumplings (also 12 pieces for $7.80) to share. They looked identical so there was no point in me taking separate shots of them, heh. These dumplings were cooked differently to what we were used to, and we both suspect that they were deep-fried rather than pan-fried as eating one of the dumplings was akin to eating an Aussie dim sim. There was no contrast of textures normally evident in REAL pan-fried dumplings and while these were certainly interesting I think I prefer my dumplings pan-fried the old school way, thanks.
A close-up of the lamb dumplings. I’d like to blame Adam, who was holding the dumpling with his chopsticks for me, for his shaky hands… but realistically-speaking, the blur is all my fault – noob camera skillz. Sigh. Skin textures aside, both dumplings’ fillings were quite tasty. Indeed, the pork ones could certainly give the better dumpling restaurants a run for their money – it was just the skin that let me down. The lamb one tasted more moorish than ‘Chinese’ which isn’t essentially a bad thing – Adam gave it two thumbs up.
Finally, we shared a serving of xiaolongbao (‘steamed Shanghai pork dumpling’ 8 pieces for $6.80). They weren’t bad (they all had soup in them, which is such a damn feat for most places these days) but they were nowhere near the standard of Hu Tong’s illustrious XLBs.
In spite of the lacklustre dumplings, I have to say that this was one of my more pleasant experiences at a dumpling restaurant. Although the dumplings did take longer to come out than other places and although we had to ask for a bowl to put our vinegar and chilli oil in, the service provided by one lone waitress was complying and sunny. Although the dumplings weren’t THAT fantastic, I’m not quite ready to write this place off. I mean, I won’t be running here in a hurry if I was on Swanston Street and had four other closer dumpling restaurants to choose from but if I happened to be catching a show at Her Maj’s or working up some hunger after several hours at the adjacent LibeRated Bookshop (haha), then I wouldn’t mind ducking into Dumpling Sister again.