Friday, September 4, 2009

A novel Dumpling experience

Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant
23-25 Tattersalls Lane
Chinatown, City
Ph: 9663 8555

I'm not the kind of person who is afraid of complaining if I'm not happy with something at a restaurant. If I ask for my steak rare and it comes out well done, I won't hesitate to send it back. I have close friends who would never do this - I'm looking at you Synonym - for fear of upsetting the chef and wait staff. There is one place, however, where everything changes - I take what I get and do what I'm told - and that's at Shanghai Dumpling.

I know there's already a million reviews of this place online but tonight was just such an experience that I need to document it. For those who haven't been, this is a cheap, no nonsense restaurant that has rules and a very set way of doing things. You get your own tea, you eat quickly, you get out quickly so the long line of customers can file in from outside in the street. J had never been so I knew she'd be in for a treat when she witnessed the staff in action!

After waiting in line at the door for about ten minutes we were shown to a communal table; we hadn't been looking at the menu for long when a waitress approached us and asked, "Hi order?" Sorry, we told her, we still need a moment; she walked off and we were asked the same question about 5 times in the next few minutes. Finally we ordered, starting with soup and a "snack". As we were waiting for our food the two guys sitting next to us were asked, midway through eating their meals, "Finished?" The waitress was already reaching for their plates before the guys responded with "Uhhhh... No."

Please excuse these terrible pictures! I felt the staff watching me like hawks when I whipped out the camera.

Hot and Sour soup - $3.50

I love the combination of hot and sour flavours and was pretty excited about this soup. The clear broth itself was great, the spice got me first and then that sour, tangy flavour came. However the rest of the stuff floating around in the soup wasn't so great. I'm not really sure what it was and maybe I don't want to know - there was beancurd and something else in there.

Steamed mushroom and vegetable dumplings - $6.50 for a serve of 20
These dumplings are addictive and the serving size is fantastic for the price.

J had already gotten into her meal when I realised I hadn't taken a picture yet...

Pumpkin cakes - $3.50 for a serve of six

Delicious, light, sort of a mix of sweet and savoury, although not a lot of pumpkin flavour.

There's no delicate placing of the dish on the table, no checking to see if we needed anything else; the waiter delivered J's food to the table, yelling "PUMPKIN CAKE!" before plonking it down in front of her.

We thought that we might want to order more food later, so we kept a menu after our order was taken. On his way past a staff member grabbed the menu; I grabbed it back and asked if we could keep it for later. That was a mistake. He glared at me like I was a child at school who had broken the rules. Oops.

Earlier in the night, everyone wanted to take our order. Now, when we wanted to order more food, it was hard to track someone down. We asked two different waiters for another dish, and were simply told "No, not me" before they walked away without giving us some direction as to who we were allowed to ask. Eventually we found a waitress who was taking orders, and we asked for a plate of Chinese broccoli after seeing it on the table next to us.

As I write this post I realise that I forgot to take a picture of our final dish which is a shame, because the colour was so vibrant and it looked so fresh. The dish came with oyster sauce and cost $9.90.

This is a place that makes you want to come back for more, and to bring people who have never experienced it before. The food is dirt cheap but the quality is great, there's free tea, and every dish I've had has been delicious. The confusing, impatient wait staff can get a little annoying after they've tried to take away your unfinished meal for the seventh time, but the service just adds to the novel experience of this dumpling house.

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