I tried out the new Jimmy Grant’s in Richmond this week with my friend Farrah. Russell Howcroft was sitting at the next table so it was clearly the place to be. We ate and discussed food. We started with George’s Souvas and ended up arguing over the quality of Dim Sum in Hong Kong. ‘I had great Yum Cha in Hong Kong’ I explained, prompting Fars to make the stunning accusation: ‘yeah but you like white man dumplings’.
Fars then challenged me to name my favourite dumpling place in Melbourne. I may not have a Chinese background like her but I think I know where to find good dumplings. I have two favourites. An expensive one and a cheap one.
Hu Tong Dumpling Bar is my expensive one. Everyone knows it and it’s good there can be no argument about that. But the dumplings are expensive which I know Fars will use to prosecute her ‘white man dumplings’ case against me. To prove myself, I needed to name the kind of dumpling place where the chef preps food at a nearby table and the owners daughter brings beers to your table.
The problem was, I couldn’t remember the name of my cheap place, I just knew where it is. ‘It’s on Little Bourke St and it has a big red door’. Farrah’s unimpressed. I can tell she thinks I’m making it up.
So what Dumpling place does she recommend anyway? ‘Din Tai Fung at Emporium’. I’d never heard of it…
On Thursday, in the pouring rain, I went to Emporium to find Din Tai Fung. No wonder I’d never found it, it’s above the food court on level 4 and 1/2.
I joined a queue of middle aged men in business suits, none of whom were quite sure what was going on. We were handed a sort of Dim Sum bingo card and a pen on the way in and assigned a table.
Two guys next to me were hopping into calamari, fried chicken and fried rice and discussing office politics. The food was on the small side, perfect for sharing. It felt a bit like a Japanese Izakaya. I ticked a few boxes on my card – Xiao Long Bao, Kung Pao chicken noodles, a pork bun and a coke.
My Xiao Long Baos beat my coke to the table and they were amazing. They tasted like like a little parcel of ramen and meatball. They were perfect dumplings. Not too much liquid, not too hot, a tasty little meatball inside. I successfully negotiated all of them into my mouth without one splitting open either so these dumplings are a triumph of design (or my chopstick skills have improved).
After I finished the dumplings, the Kung Pao Chicken Noodles came out. Not quite as exciting as the Xiao Long Baos but it was tasty, kind of like a Pad Thai/ chicken and cashew hybrid. It had egg tossed through it, cashews on top and whole chillis scattered around the edge so you could regulate your own heat.
The bill came in at $34 suggesting Din Tai Fung qualifies as ‘white man dumplings’. Clearly Farrah is keeping her real favourite dumpling place a secret.
Have you tried Din Tai Fung dumplings at Emporium? What did you think? Leave a comment below…