269 Swanston St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9663 8181
Melbourne has no shortage of Shanghainese dumpling resturants. The infamous Camy’s, stalwarts Shanghai Village and Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant, as well as relative newcomers Chinatown Dumpling, North East China Family and Hu Tong Dumpling Bar. Dumplings plus fits into this latter cohort of Johnny-come-lately dumpling joints, which on the whole, are quite good at taking on the incumbent restaurants at their own game. Hu Tong in particular, but that post is on its way. Dumplings Plus also definitely holds its own.
Though the specialty of any Shanghai dumpling specialist is the xiao long bao – steamed soup dumpling – in my opinion, the staple is the pan-fried pork dumpling. Dumplings Plus scores high on this dish. Not too oily, and with the slightly thicker, chewy skin that denotes handmade wrappers, these dumplings were a joy. My one criticism was that the filling was a touch bland. But hey, that’s what the black vinegar and chilli are for.
One of our group was particularly eager to try the Shangahinese pork buns, which were interesting. They’re a lot like the steamed buns – bao – that you get at yum cha, only they’ve been par-steamed and finished off with a pan-fry. The filling had more flavour than the dumpling counterparts, though I found the dough a little heavy. Still, an amazingly filling entree, and great value at 2 for $4.50.
Next up were my favourite dish of the evening. The steamed pork dumplings with chilli oil sauce.The pork dumplings were similar to the pan-fried ones, though the steaming made the skins softer and more yielding. I was expecting something of an intense chilli hit with the sauce, but it was on the milder side of hot. Cleverly, the soy and chilli have been balanced with a fair dose of honey, which made the sweet-savoury-spicy dumplings incredibly moreish, and a quick dip in the sour vinegar dipping sauce made it a perfectly balanced mouthful.
Then came the xiao long bao. While not as good as Hu Tong’s, these certainly impressed the uninitiated at the table. I like that Dumplings Plus gives you the flexibility of ordering a serve of four or six buns, so you can tuck into them even if you’re eating alone.
We rounded out the meal with some fried rice, which was decent, if not all that memorable, and stir-fried rice vermicelli with chicken and (loads of – yum!) lemongrass.
All in all, Dumplings Plus is a winner in my book. While not as ludicrously cheap as Shanghai Village or Chinatown Dumpling, it’s still great value – five of us walked away stuffed, with drinks, for under $70. Some may call the seating a bit cramped, but ironically, I’m sure those same people don’t mind the communal dining thing which a lot of trendy restaurants deal in these days. Personally, I think the lack of personal space in a Chinese restaurant adds to its authenticity? Certainly that’s how they roll in China!
Also, one final note: the service, while a bit patchy at times, was lightning quick when it came to serving food. I believe the food started arriving at the table within 10 minutes of ordering. So it’s a good place to go if you’re in a hurry.