Deep fried and flavoured with rosewater, the "doughnut dumplings" at Prahran's newest eatery are no eye-rolling novelty.
The small, sticky orbs of glazed, fried dough are topped with a slice of lychee and served with a tingling housemade lychee and coconut ice-cream. They're more of a sweet pastry dumpling rather than the wrapped and filled variety, and are not dissimilar to fragrant Lebanese doughnuts.
Don't come to Charlie Dumpling expecting a down-and-dirty mountain of traditional dumplings hurled on a plate for chump change. Chef Dylan Roberts (ex-Claremont Tonic) crafts much finer, more complex fare - at a price point to match - served on rustic blue plates instead of towering bamboo steamers.
The Peking duck dumplings come draped with a jaunty duck meat hat and served with a jammy house-made plum sauce. Gluten-free chicken dumplings are more like light, flavourful meatballs, spiked with cabbage and ginger, and wearing a mortarboard of pressed, cracker-like chicken skin. Steamed prawn and bamboo shoot har gow are glossy and tender with a refreshingly simple filling.
And if dumpling doughnuts don't sound like your thing, the eatery also serves up milk chocolate dumplings – warm globes with melted chocolate in the middle, topped with chilli sugar for a hot, sweet kick, and offset with a scoop of crimson raspberry sorbet.
Charlie's fit-out is simple and cosy, with plump cushions and a feature wall of multi-coloured window shutters patchworked together. You can grab a table, a bar stool, a seat on the footpath or a table for two in the backyard. Drinks-wise, there's a compact wine list, half Australian, half European, some good Asian beers and a small clutch of signature cocktails such as the T.T.T. with sake, apricot brandy and oolong tea. And if dumplings aren't your thing, there's a range of small bites too, spanning fried chicken ribs and grilled barramundi skewers.
Service maintains a friendly smile, dealing sweetly with the slam of just-opened popularity and, while the food might not hit the table in a nanosecond like they do in your cheap-and-cheerfuls, it is worth the wait.
Details: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High Street, Prahran. 9510 4213. charliedumpling.com.au, Mondays 6pm til late; Tues-Sun noon til late.