I Love Dumplings

Posted on June 11, 2013

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I do love dumplings, but I Love Dumplings (311 Racecourse Road, Flemington VIC) is actually the name of a restaurant. How original. Most of my trips to Flemington in the past had involved Malaysian food, either at the infamous Laksa King or the more laidback Chef Lagenda. Venues located on Racecourse Road generally weren’t even within my field of vision. I Love Dumplings only came on my radar because a friend had mentioned she spotted a ‘new’ dumpling venue when passing by on a tram one day. It’s not actually new; I Love Dumplings has been around for a little while under another name, Chinese Spicy & Barbeque House. We’d just been too preoccupied with laksa to see it! In any case, my first attempt to eat here was a fail. See I had rather underestimated its popularity, on that Friday night it was a full house with a waiting list! For my second effort, I was better prepared and booked a day in advance to secure a table.

The venue is bright and clean looking with a smattering of Chinese ornaments around the place. You could tell they’ve put some thought into decorating the place, although they’re a little off the mark. Take the gaudy wallpaper covering all 3 walls for example. To be honest, the wallpaper itself isn’t half bad, it just looks gaudy because it covers so much space. It would have been more on trend if they just used it on one wall. The heavy wooden tables are quite a nice departure from the usual dingy card tables that dumplings joints are more known for, and the chair are voluminous and comfy if oversized. As with most Chinese cheap eats, it’s a cosy fit with the tables packed quite closely together and by the time the large chairs are factored into the mix, there’s hardly any room to move.

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The menu specialises in Liaoning cuisine and there’s plenty of pictures to help with food selection. Liaoning is a province in north eastern China and it’s cuisine is heavily influenced by Beijing cooking styles. Dumplings here come in at under $10 a serve and the mains tend to be priced in the mid teens with only a small handful of dishes tipping over the $20 mark. With just the 2 of us, we weren’t able to sample much of what the menu offered. But given they renamed the venue to I Love Dumplings, we went with their headline offering: 3 dumpling dishes and a veggie dish.

First up we had to try their xiao long bao (soup filled dumpling), because who would go to a dumpling house and not order this? (Xiao long bao is the correct pinyin for this dumpling, I Love Dumplings uses ‘shao long bao‘ instead, this may be a dialect thing, but I don’t know enough about Liaoning to comment.) At I Love Dumplings, only the pork variety is on offer and it comes in a serve of 8, 4 each in the 2 steamer baskets ($9.80). These were decent. They had plenty of hot broth inside and the filling was tasty. What lets them down is the pastry; it’s not quite as thin as they should and could be. In spite of this, it’s still a better than average xiao long bao.

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Next up was the beef and lamb pan fried dumplings ($9.80 for a serve of 15) and what a winner these were! Neither of us had come across a beef and lamb dumpling before, so it was an easy choice to try them. Being a mix of 2 red meats with a little bit of vegetable matter, the filling is quite rich and meaty in flavour. And while the pastry of the xiao long bao had room for improvement, the pastry on these babies were perfect. Thin and delicate, they crisped up so nicely when fried. Look at the golden crust on the bottom – delicious! I also liked that they weren’t drenched in oil, it was just perfectly cooked. Possibly the best pan fried dumplings I’ve had in Melbourne. It’s a big call I know, but they were that good.

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The last 2 dishes don’t strictly belong within Liaoning cuisine, they’re more Cantonese than anything, but one sounded interesting and the other is always a good staple veggie dish to order. The ‘interesting’ one was the pan fried barbeque pork buns ($9.80 for a serve of 4). We have only ever had them steamed and also this is the first time we’d seen Cantonese styled barbeque pork bun appeared on the menu of a dumpling house so it piqued our curiousity. They were pretty good, we liked the crunchy based but in all honesty, it wasn’t anything special. I’m also doubtful that they would have made these buns in-house. In future, I would order the pan fried pork buns instead because that would probably be more representative of Liaoning cuisine.

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There’s not too much to say about the steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($12.80). It was done well and I’m not complaining. Just would have been a nicer touch if they’d cut the broccoli in half so that it would have been easier to eat.

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Service here was friendly and efficient. Table turnover is quick without being rushed. Overall we had a good experience. From this first glance, the food here ranges from being decent to exemplary. I have no hesitation in saying that I will definitely be back to eat their pan fried dumplings again while also sampling the more classic Liaoning dishes from the mains list!

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