656 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn, VIC 312203 9818 8886
|Opening hours||Daily 11am-10pm|
|Features||BYO, Cheap Eats, Yum cha, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
Where and what
Let's call it dumpling creep - the spread of dumpling mania across the Melbourne 'burbs. Case in point: Dumpling King. The original was opened in Box Hill in the mid-1990s. Now the place that Cheap Eats dubbed its hottest spot in 1998 has opened a sibling in Hawthorn. It's an inexpensive dumpling house, so don't expect to be knocked out in the decor and service department (although one waitress was a model of sweet, smiling efficiency) - it's unpretentious, but there's good eating to be had.
Where to sit
Smart utilitarian is the design brief for this Glenferrie Road eatery just south of the railway overpass. Expect Chinese artwork, a mirrored wall, grey-tiled floor, bare tables and paper napkins.
When to go
Daily 11am-10pm. Don't forget to take cash to pay at the counter - they don't accept any cards.
There's a short Australian and New Zealand wine list, and a greatest-hits beer list that runs from Tsingtao to Heineken and James Boag. You can BYO wine only - corkage is $2.50 a person.
The menu is predominantly Shanghainese, so you can expect the soup dumplings known as xiao long bao to take a starring role on the list of 17 types of dumplings. They're good. Also worth trying: the fish and chive dumplings (like ShanDong MaMa's cult versions, you can get them boiled or pan-fried) and classic steamed prawn dumplings in their tightly packed gummy wrappers. Value-add with the Sichuan-style dumplings in hot and spicy soup - a meal in itself, it'll set you back $9.
You'll also find Beijing and Sichuan cuisine on the typically lengthy numbered menu. Sichuan eggplant is intermittently silky and fiery - soy and chilli sauce and a splash of black vinegar makes it addictive.
Mop up the juices with the doughy fried spring onion pancakes, the Chinese answer to Malaysia's roti. Peking duck is worth a look. Plated by the waiters, if you choose, the duck has that desirable crackable toffee quality to the skin and the meat is juicy and fragrant (although as a reminder this is Hawthorn and not Box Hill, there's no duck head split in half for eating the brain).
Chinese students, gweilo families and plenty of people waiting for takeaway.
The dumpling legend continues.