264 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 1818
I’ve been meaning to use the Christmas downtime during work to catch up on my blog-writing. Unfortunately, a killer hangover followed by a killer cold followed by compulsory viewing of a killer Glee Christmas special last night combined with general cbf-ness (of the killer kind, naturally) meant that my endeavours to blog have been delayed. Fear not, folks, for I’m feeling a bit more chipper today so I’m using this opportunity to write a review before I start to get irritable again in time for late night last-minute shopping at Doncaster Shoppingtown tonight. Good times.
So the other day, I caught up with my good mate, Matt, for a bite after work. Our initial plan was to try out that Taiwan Café joint which seems to be astonishingly popular at the moment, but we were discouraged once we reached the venue and saw a queue *this* big outside. As I frantically looked around Swanston Street, trying to find an alternative venue that wasn’t a Thai or Vietnamese place, we saw a spanking brand, new restaurant in place of the old Chinatown Dumpling Restaurant, Noodle Kingdom. Probably the third or so franchise in the ever-popular Northern Chinese noodle chain that started off on Russell Street before branching out to Preston (or was it the other way around?). Since I had a massive craving for dumplings and since easy-going Matt usually agrees with whatever I suggest, we ended up crossing the road where we were greeted by a smiling waitress who told us to take the elevator (yes, elevator!) to the second floor of the restaurant.
Flower Drum, they were not – though they certainly did try with the elevator and the better-than-average furniture – but they did alright in terms of friendliness, efficiency and good customer service for a cheap noodle restaurant. Drinks were refilled promptly and dishes were served with a smile (even if they did take a while to arrive). Despite the longer-than-normal-at-noodle-and-or-dumpling-restaurants wait, we barely noticed that the delay anyway as we spent a good portion of the evening giggling over stalkerish losers we knew (both of who coincidentally happen to work in IT).
We decided to share three dishes. First up, a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings (12 pieces for $8.50). Each thick-skin beauty was filled with a generous glop of pork and coriander mixture which had a sweet edge to it. I don’t normally like dumplings (or any savoury dish, for that matter) which err on the sweet side but for some reason, I thought these weren’t bad at all. Plus, I had good ol’ chilli oil to diffuse some of the sweetness. Meanwhile, the skins were as thick as the cankles of this annoying lady I work with but surprisingly not soggy or overly doughy. That said, the dumplings could have done with a bit more time in the hot oil for extra crispiness.
On par with the pan-fried dumplings were the xiaolongbaos, or ‘steamed Shanghai pork dumplings,’ (7 pieces for $8). Like the pan-fried dumplings above, the fillings in these beauties were generous, however that meant that there was less breathing room for the all-important soup. Thus, the amount of soup we got in each dumpling was negligible. Oh, and the skins were perhaps a bit thicker than what I’m used to as well when it comes to eating xiaolongbaos. Sure, they were tasty enough but I’d rather my xiaolongbaos come from Hu Tong’s kitchen, thanks.
We were originally going to get one noodle dish each, but thankfully we played it safe and ordered just one to share between us for we were half-full by this stage. Although I had my eye on some dan-dan noodles, it was actually Matt who chose a bowl of beef brisket in noodle soup ($9.50) for us. And I’m glad I agreed with his choice. A surprisingly big bowl of steaming hot beef-flavoured broth filled with slippery, long hand-pulled wheat noodles arrived as we were munching on our dumplings. And although we both found the amount of beef brisket in our bowl annoyingly minuscule and the length of the noodles a pain in the arse (chipping them away with chop sticks proved to be a challenge for the two of us), we both thought this noodle soup was a winner. We both loved the stock soup that would have been slowly cooked for hours and hours, allowing the flavours of the beef bone to seep and permutate with the beautiful spices and coriander – lots of it. Oh yeah. What really made the dish a winner, however, were the noodles. The beautiful long, ribbons of slippery, un-even, chewy, gluten-y goodness. Hell yeah.This is a dish that’s definitely one to return to for winter.
As we departed the restaurant – via the lift – I kept asking myself why I hadn’t visited any other Noodle Kingdom before this dinner for the noodles we had were pretty damn good. Even the dumplings, which were not the best we’ve had, we were still on the ‘yeah, I’d do her again’ side. After running out of cheap and nearby CBD places to have dinner at, Matt and I are now glad that we have a venue that we can return to in a rush if we ever feel like talking about stalkers over noodles, and the odd side of dumplings.