Friday, September 16, 2011

Shanghai Street Dumplings, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Fools that we were, we thought that arriving at Shanghai Street at 11.50 would enable us to choose a table inside the café, before the lunchtime crowd arrived. Instead all it enabled us to do was grab a spot at the front of the queue. And that was before the ravenous hordes really started to arrive just after twelve.

Fortunately after a minute or two one of the waitresses was able to convince an already seated lone dinner to share at another table, freeing up a roadside table for Snooze and I. It wasn't the best of places to sit - it's a pretty hilly part of Little Bourke Street and sitting on a down slope below the table it felt like I had been drinking one of the Alice's potions. However, this minor inconvenience was forgotten as we started reading through the menu.

For such a tiny place the menu is impressive, with a large variety of dumplings available including multiple versions of xiao long bao. These aren't restricted to just the normal pork but included amongst others chicken and prawn, crab and pork, and a fried shanghai mini pork bun (Sheng Jian Bao?) which is effectively a pan fried pork xiao long bao.

With just two us we were restricted to dumplings only but the other noodle and rice dishes we saw coming out of the kitchen looked impressive, the Hokkien style noodles fat in their coating of sauce and the rice fluffy and steaming hot, with both generous in size.

It's only based on sampling three types of dumplings on a single visit, but I thought these were the best of these style of dumplings I have had in Melbourne. Not just because of the impressive variety but the quality of the fillings, the top notch dumpling skins and the way they were all perfectly cooked.

First to hit the table were our pork dumplings in chilli oil soup. Simple in style but excellent dumplings, generous with their pork fillings but also containing a real hit of ginger. Unfortunately the soup let the dish down a bit, lacking the chilli punch I was hoping for.

Next up were the fried mini buns. These had great colour on the pan fried base, nice contrasting texture between the crispy bottoms and slightly chewy tops and a rich interior broth.

Our final choice was the crab and pork xiao long bao. Again a very rich broth with the dumplings quite strongly flavoured. Perfectly steamed though, and no issues at all with either the dumplings sticking to the paper or threatening to break and prematurely release their soupy interiors.

Kudos to the staff as well. Obviously under pressure with roughly as many people lining up as seated, service was naturally slightly slowed but never felt rushed, harried or confused. That was until we tried to pay our bill, when the waitress didn't realise we 'd already eaten outside and we were told there was a 20 minute wait for takeaway.

Great dumplings at very good prices, the main issue is whether it has or will become too popular for its own good. There are already stories of dumpling run-out later in the day and with the queues growing noticeably longer each week, there is the question of whether they can expand while still maintaining the quality which made them popular in the first place.

Food - 8.5
Service - 7
Ambience - 6
Price - 8

342 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9600 2250

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