China Red

Shop 6, 206 Bourke St, Melbourne
Phone: 9662 3688

Never one to miss joining in on a chorus, here’s my take on the recently(ish) opened China Red. Compare and contrast with that of Penny and Jess. Oh, and The Age. 1500 words due in at the end of the week.

A while ago, a colleague of mine told me how her husband had been to this place in Chinatown where you can order the food off touchscreens. I was immediately intrigued. She also said that he claimed they produced the best xiao long bao in the city. Doubly intrigued. So it took a little while, but I ventured down, and caught up with my old housemate La Singe for lunch one day. Before mid-afternoon karaoke. Because that’s how we roll.

We had some fun playing around with the touchscreens, and in the end, because we were both a little ill, we both chose soup noodles. Yes, we were ill, and karaoke was on. Because that’s how we roll.

I chose the venison noodle soup. It wasn’t that exciting, which is just was well, because bland food was what the doctor ordered. The venison was well cooked, though not particularly gamey – I like gamey, because that’s how I roll – which was a bit disappointing. The noodles were pretty good too, though I’m not sure if they were hand-pulled. Looking back at these photos, I’d have to say they don’t look it.

La Singe had the mushroom noodles – I think it was called something like ‘Eight Treasure’ mushroom noodles, but the flowery over-promising artistic licence is to be expected of a place which has a section on their touchscreen menu called ‘Melbourne-style Classics’. These classics include such gems as Sweet and Sour Pork, and Lemon Chicken. Yeah, Melbourne-style. If you live in Zone 2.
Anyway, La Singe really enjoyed her noodles, and the little bit of broth I tried seemed to be a lot more packed with umami than my own.

Next time I went back, it was with young Master Dumplings. Given it was the first time we met in person, I figured we should really have dumplings. So we tried the xiao long bao.

Penny’s right, and my colleague’s husband is, sadly, wrong. These are far from being the best in the city. HuTong‘s are streets ahead, and I think even Dumplings Plus‘ version are better. The main problem I had with China Red’s xlb was that there really wasn’t enough flavour. And there was a strangely consistent amount of cooked blood in each one. Not sure what was going on there, but texturally, it didn’t really belong.

The steamed dumplings were considerably better. While not stellar, if all your regular dumpling haunts are full, China Red isn’t a bad option. Again, the filling lacked flavour for my taste, but the skins were satisfyingly doughy.

We also tried the kim chi fried rice, which on the touchscreen, was adorned with one (out of a possible three, I believe) chilli. It didn’t live up to the advertised spiciness. Thankfully, the chilli oil provided at China Red is pretty damn good – there’s some Sichuan pepper in the mix – so we just adjusted to our own needs.
China Red is an odd place. The touchscreens are fun, and the food is decent, if not that great. The service is a little too attentive – on account of the waiters not having to take orders? – and plate clearance will be requested by staff before you’re finished. All in all, I’d go there again, but I’m not sure I’d suggest it to others. There are too many other good options in the vicinity.

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