342 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 2250
Stumbling out of Money Order Office (MOO) with Shirley one night and into the quieter end of Little Bourke Street, I never knew that I would find a brand new dumpling restaurant for all to see (sorry, Chicago reference). Had it not been for the fact that I had already had a two course dinner, I would have ran up to the shop with the red sign and ordered my weight in dumplings that very evening. I did, however, return after a brutal circuit session followed by a pump class at the gym a few days later and ordered a plate of dumplings for myself.
At 2:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon, the place was dead except for two other lone diners. I tucked into a plate of fried pork dumplings (15 pieces for $8.80), which would have been enough to undo all my hard work at the gym. The filling was nice enough – it was clean, but probably a little sweeter than what I’m used to. I can’t say the same about the skin though; I thought they weren’t crispy enough and they were a little too oily. At this stage though, I wasn’t going to rule this place out. After all, their claim to fame was good xiaolongbao and good shengjianbao. And the thought of biting into those goodies (and more) were what made Caron (Cathy + Aaron), Adam and I come here for dinner last night.
We started off with a plate of ‘boiled’ Peking dumplings (15 pieces for $7.80). Again, they contained the same clean and sweat filling that I enjoyed when I had the fried pork dumplings the other week. While I thought that they were okay, I would say that the same dish at the cheap and nasty Grand Asia kiosk at the Target Centre would make me better. Tastier, not as soggy, and at least they come with chilli oil.
Yep, they didn’t have chilli oil at Shanghai Street. Instead, they had this chilli sauce which, I think, you can buy in jars at Vietnamese grocery stores (it’s pretty much just pounded fresh chilies). I have nothing against this chilli sauce but I just don’t think it goes well with dumplings at all. Hrrrmph.
The xiaolongbaos were advertised as “steamed Shanghai juicy mini pork buns” (eight for $7.80). Although I wasn’t expecting them to taste anything like Hu Tong’s XLBs, my expectations were set quite high as this was one of the dishes that Shanghai Street claimed to be a pro at. The skins were thicker than the oh-so-lovely paper-thing skins that you got at Hu Tong but not exactly gluggy. There was a reasonable amount of soup and the pork filling was nice enough but alas, the pork and the soup was so sweet! (see a theme here?) At this point, I would have drowned the thing in chilli oil but dammit, there was none.
They also had chicken and prawn XLBs (eight for $8.80). They were nowhere near as good as the above, for they did not contain as much soup (but they packed more meat into it). And yes, the filling was sweet too. Cudos to them for attempting something ‘different’ though.
Aaron had just come back from studying in China and wouldn’t shut up about eating these amazing “fried meat buns from Wu’s.” When describing them to me, I instantly knew that he was referring to the shengjianbao which are like XLBs. But bigger. And with a darker, more intense soup. And fried. We ordered a plate (six for $7.80) and despite the fact that they were oily, saggy rather than perky, and only had their bottoms fried rather than fried all over, I think these were the most successful dumplings we had that night. We all had one each and had to squabble for the remaining two, before breaking them into halves (not an easy feat!). Having said all that, I do think that the ones at Auntie’s Dumplings are much better.
Finally, we shared a plate of Shanghai noodles ($8.80). I wasn’t expecting much for a place that doesn’t specialise in noodles (and the noodles were a new addition to the menu because I don’t recall them being there on my first visit), but I was delighted when I tasted how good they were. They were amazingly tasty and not too sweet (can I get a HELL YEAHH). Plus, they packed in the fungi. Oh yes, bring on the fungi, baby. I would have preferred the thicker, chunkier and knobbier Shanghai noodles but whatever. These noodles were better than the ones served at other city dumpling places so who was I to complain?
Okay so these dumplings weren’t mind-blowing, but they were okay. I can’t really see myself coming back for dumplings (unless they introduce chilli oil, make the dumplings less sweet and then fry the SBJs all over) but Shanghai noodles, definitely. On both occasions, it was quiet for a dumpling restaurant but I attributed it to the fact that no one knows that it exists. Plus, the fact that it’s on the ‘wrong’ side of Lt Bourke Street doesn’t help either. They did seem to get a lot of phone take-away orders though so they have started to establish some regulars. Either way, there is a new player on the Melbourne dumpling scene. I was going to say “Hu Tong, Shanghai Village et al, watch out!” but those places actually offer chilli oil so I think it’s fair to assume that Shanghai Street won’t be a threat :).