4 Market Street
Box Hill VIC 3128
+61 9899 1520
It feels like forever since my last entry. Okay, so a week isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things but in TheVeryVeryHungryCaterpillar world, it’s longer than a light year. Should I apologise for being overwhelmingly busy with work and two essays (one of which was a constitutional law essay that not only required reading more than ten cases that span more than 100 pages each, but also summarising AND critiquing those cases in ONLY 1500 words. WTF?!) which were due in the space of one week? Absolutely not. I still have yet another effking essay to write before I’m home free but just because I love you all (most of you anyway), here’s another entry for your reading pleasure (or not).
Like most hardcore foodies, I still have time to visit eateries while I’m tearing my hair out over essay deadlines. Okay, so my visit to the newest dumpling bar in Box Hill may be an incidental one, seeing as the whole point of my Box Hill visit last week WAS to pick up my sexy, new iMac (Oh, how I love you, 21.5″ monitor and 8gig RAM!). But c’mon, like you can’t walk past a new dumpling place without screeching to your partner, “OMG! WE HAVE TO GO HERE. NOW!” (well, I can’t anyway).
The sign indicates that this joint is called “Dumpling Bun Bar” but according to its business card, the place is called Yu Ji Dumpling & Bun Bar so let’s go with the latter, shall we? So Adam and I walked into the new eatery which wasn’t so much a restaurant or even a cafe, but a small takeaway shop with only a couple of tables inside and maybe five more outside for people who were willing to brave the stronger-than-ideal winds last Saturday. In addition to your standard dumpling fare such as chive and pork dumplings (steamed or fried) and xiaolongbaos, Yu Ji also (bizarrely, I might add) sell chicken nuggets. Odd.
We ordered our dumplings at the counter, a feat which was easier said than done as the chick behind the cashier was taking her dear time and taking something like five minutes to punch my order into the system (for example, I said that I wanted “fried pork and chive dumplings.” Her: “pork… steamed or fried?” “Fried.” “With what?” “Huh?” “Cabbage? Chive? Mushroom?” “I said chive.” *she gives me a greasy – seriously, WTF?). Then we took our place at a table outside seeing as there was no space to sit inside.
Condiments are located at the counter for customers to help themselves with and in addition to the obligatory tins and bottles of soy sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce and a piss-weak chilli oil (see above), there are salt and pepper shakers which, for some reason, makes me laugh. Probably for the chicken nuggets.
Despite not being particularly busy and despite Yu Ji having a terracotta army of staff in the kitchen, the dumplings took forever to come. Like, 15 minutes. Which is pretty long as far as quiet dumpling places go. There was a middle-aged couple sitting next to us, who had been sitting there before we arrived. They weren’t looking too happy and at one stage, the guy actually stormed into the cafe and yelled, “We’ve been waiting 20 minutes for our dumplings!” to which the counter chick replied, “Oh, sorry, sorry, be another five minutes?” Sure enough, five minutes later she frantically ran outside with a plate of dumplings and delivered them to the couple… only to be told that the xiaolongbaos that they received were NOT what they ordered. In fact, they were ours. Heh.
For $8.80, 10 gluggy pork-filled gemstones were presented to us in a bamboo steamer. Each of them also contained some sweet-tasting soup, though the amount of soup in each dumpling was negligible. The skins were way too thick – a far cry from the delicately thing skins that are the hallmark of Hu Tong’s XLBs – and way too dough-y. I wouldn’t say that the pork filling was the best I’ve ever had either. In saying that, these XLBs were strangely addictive despite their mediocrity (and Adam agreed too). I don’t know what it was but I guess it was like me eating a packet of Homebrand chicken-flavoured chips and enjoying every bite, even though I know that stuff’s nasty.
And here are the pork and chive dumplings (12 for $7.80). If I thought the XLBs were meh (but good, in a WTF and weirder-than-I-Am-Walrus kind of way), these dumplings were awful. Firstly, you’d think that the burn marks on the skins would indicate that they were at least crunchy – sadly, they were not. They were still soft and almost soggy. Secondly, the pork; it tasted off. Now, I don’t expect dumpling restaurants to use Otway pork or anything like that but still, you wouldn’t expect them to use pork that smelt so bad that it could only be masked by a ton of chives. Bleurgh. Even the frozen dumplings that I bought from my local Colonial Market tasted way better than this.
What’s that funky smell?
I left Yu Ji as disappointed as I was when I found out that I could not find a mac equivalent of MP3 rocket (though if any of you can assist me, I will be forever grateful :)). Box Hill has a lot of fantastic cheap eateries that make excellent food, but I’m afraid Yu Ji ain’t one of them.