Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Shanghai Street Dumpling

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 :) .

Shanghai Street Dumpling on Urbanspoon

10 Comments on Shanghai Street Dumpling

  1. Hannah
    January 26, 2011 at 22:46 (4 years ago)

    I…. have never had xiao long bao. Nor have I ever taken gym class. My life seems feeble in comparison.

    Reply
  2. msihua
    January 29, 2011 at 14:59 (4 years ago)

    It always comes down to comparing to HuTong doesn’t it.. I do that so often… but it’s true.. once you’ve had one of the best, you can’t but help comparing… It’s tough finding good dumplings…

    Reply
  3. Fiona
    January 30, 2011 at 22:26 (4 years ago)

    Hey Libby – love reading your reviews! It’s a great way to keep track of what’s going on in the Melb food scene while I’m in Europe.

    Just wanted to check if you’re aware of ‘Gram Magazine’? http://gram.net.au/ There’s been a bit of a fuss made about them lifting bloggers’ content without permission, and I notice that two of your reviews are on their site.

    A couple of bloggers have been a bit outraged – http://sarah-cooks.blogspot.com/2011/01/gram-magazine-and-dodgy-content-lifting.html

    Anyway, just wanted to make sure you were aware!

    Cheers,
    Fiona

    Reply
    • libishski
      February 1, 2011 at 15:41 (4 years ago)

      Hi Fiona!

      Your blog is awesome, though I must admit I got a tad jealous when reading about your European adventures! Well done on getting your stuff published on Trespass mag too :)

      Yep, a friend of a friend picked up the first issue of Gram late last year and saw that I was featured on it. I was a bit annoyed (not just because they featured my site without my permission but also because they chose to quote my less-than-profound lines haha) but figured that this was a one-off incident and I stopped worrying about it. Thanks for letting me know about the second review – might have to do something about it as this ain’t cool!

      Hope you’ve been well :) x

      Reply
  4. Faith
    January 31, 2011 at 06:11 (4 years ago)

    The noodles definitely look fantastic! The more mushrooms the merrier for me! ;)

    Reply
  5. Editor
    January 31, 2011 at 15:16 (4 years ago)

    Hi Caterpillar – I really love your blog especially your photos. Just wondering if you have a best fried rice recommendation?!
    http://www.cookmybooks.com.au

    Reply
  6. teenagefoodie
    January 31, 2011 at 23:33 (4 years ago)

    You can get ShengJianBao’s that are fried all over?

    Reply
  7. Wayna
    February 17, 2011 at 16:22 (4 years ago)

    Most Shanghai foods are a bit sweet. I have been to Shanghai Street for several times. In my opinion, its XLBs are the most similar taste with the real Shanghai Taste. Mybe it’s not your favorite but it is definitely MINE!!!
    Chinese food tastes varies a lot between different areas. Shanghai foods are sweet but Wuxi foods are even sweeter. Northern Chinese food are not sweet at all. So if you like traditional Shanghai foods. I highly recommend Shanghai Street!

    Reply

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