489 Nepean Highway Frankston, VIC 3199
|Opening hours||Mon and Wed-Sun, noon-10pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9783 6668|
Baysiders eat only fish and chips, right? It's a myth perpetuated by the ratio of deep fryers per capita. But man shall not live on fish alone, so it's a good thing Johnny Sun has opened a Chinese dumpling restaurant.
It's an unassuming little place with fresh white walls, fire-engine-red details, and cheery cushions, and it's exactly what it claims on the box - ''cosy'' and ''tasty''.
Dumplings are a feature, steamed or ''grilled'' (although they are cooked in a frying pan), and handmade daily by Sun, who hails from Shanxi, west of Beijing.
Blackboards tell the dumpling's story: they are eaten during celebrations and family reunions; their shape is similar to ancient Chinese ingots; and they originated 2500 years ago in a wheat-growing area, their skins stuffed with vegies and meat, and steamed in little bronze pots. Sun, who has been making dumplings for five years, is a relative newcomer in terms of dumpling masters who have at least 15 years' experience. Sun's thin skins are great - light and delicate but still elastic enough to hold the fillings.
The pork dumpling had a nice amount of ginger and a lightly browned bottom - tasty indeed, dipped in chilli sauce or black vinegar. The prawn in the ''chicken and prawn'' was good and chunky. And the fresh rockling version was good, though quite mild, despite its addition of ginger, Sichuan pepper, spring onion and deep-fried eggplant for creaminess.
These aren't perhaps the most awesome dumplings you'll ever eat, if benchmarking them against HuTong, for example, but they're certainly worth a try and all the better for no MSG.
Of the KongPo chicken, a traditionally hot Sichuan stir-fry, Sun says Australians ''aren't too crazy for a very spicy dish'', so he tempers the heat. If you do want it the traditional, super-hot way, just ask; he's happy to do it.
Nasi goreng is an Indonesian classic of spicy fried rice, this one is straight-up, packed with mushroom, capsicum, bean shoots, spring onion, egg and a generous serve of meat, including pork, and tender prawn.
Also on the menu is a spread of Chinese and south-east Asian staples, from barbecued char siu pork to satay skewers to curry laksa to marinated barbecued beef.
As a youngster, Sun spent time at his father's restaurant in China and says his ability to cook home-style Chinese food is his ''father's legacy''.
Cosy & Tasty started life as a 36-seater but Sun says it packs out at weekends, and now there's room for 50. Come with the kids, as a solo diner, or share a bottle of wine with a few mates. It's a sweet, friendly place for a low-key meal, and, besides, you can always eat fish and chips another day.
Do … They serve Tsingtao? They sure do
Don't … Try to park on the Nepean Highway
Dish … Handmade dumplings
Vibe … Cute and cosy
Licensed & BYO (corkage $1.50 a head)
Follow Nina on Twitter: @ninarousseau
The Age Good Food Under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagents, bookshops and at The Age online shop, theageshop.com.au.