Dumplings Plus is one of those places that I've been to several times but still can't really get a firm grasp on whether I like it or not. It's very popular at work and my companions for the day seemed to like it a lot, but I always find the food here a bit hit or miss. Surprisingly for a place where the dumplings should be front and centre on the Thursday before Easter it was the dumplings that were a bit off the mark.
With a comparatively upmarket setup it does look and feel a bit different to most of the cheap and cheerful dumpling houses around town. The options aren't restricted to just dumplings either, with the menu spreading over several pages and including a variety of snack and larger size items.
Firstly though, the hits for the day. The biggest surprise hit was the cold Shanghai style salted duck. I didn't have any real expectations for this, it was more that we were curious to try at least one dish that none of us had ever ordered before. Very different to the usual roast duck, I think the best way I can describe it is duck flavours and texture but without the fattiness which can make it rich but greasy.
The two things which the other hit dishes had in common is that they were all fried and it didn't include any of the dumplings. The lamb and vegetables in wrapped roll came lightly fried giving a slight crispness to the wrap. While it could have fried a touch more to boost the texture the lamb was nicely moist and tasted delicious with the accompanying sauce.
Showing that it is quite hard to go wrong with fried dough (donuts anyone?) was the shredded pancake. Crisp and brown on the outside, still slightly fluffy in the middle, it hardly qualifies as fine or healthy eating but that combination of dough and hot oil just works whatever the culture.
And while they looked more liked chicken legs than wings, the deep fried chicken legs were great beer style food. Tender and moist, much less oily than most fried chicken, after a big night out I could happily have just sat down with a large plate of these.
The dumplings though I found a little mediocre. That is except for the fried chive and shrimp dumplings. These were just bad. Not crispy skinned liked we were expecting but quite doughy in texture, and the filling almost all chive so that we had to search for any shrimp.
The steamed shanghai pork dumplings and the pan fried pork dumplings (pot stickers) had opposite issues. The steamed dumplings were nicely cooked but I found the fillings quite flavourless. The fried dumplings on the other hand had good flavoured filling but something had gone wrong in either making or cooking them, as several had burst before being served.
One of those in-between places, where I liked my meal but not enough to be desperate to go back. One thing that would improve it would be more staff. Everyone seemed to be working very hard to cover off that it probably had only two thirds as many staff as needed, at least during the lunch time break. And a little more spacing between tables, as everyone is pretty crowded in.
Food - 7
Ambience - 7
Service - 6
Price - 7
269 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000