Wherever we go, seeking out the local cuisine is a must. Food and flavors tell the story of the people of the place we are visiting and I crave biting into their history. Australia, however, might be an exception. Besides their affection for pumpkin soup, the multi-cultural cuisine is quite similar to what we have in America. However, I was determined to get a taste of a local specialty, which led us to the Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle Restaurant, more widely known as the Dumpling House in Chinatown. The online reviews were varied (mostly citing rude wait staff), but, in the end, we were lured in by the All-You-Can-Eat offer and heeded the nod of approval from locals.
Melbourne, Australia Chinatown
Chinatown is positioned in the northeastern portion of the Melbourne Central Business District on Little Bourke and bounded by Exhibition and Swantson Streets. The ornamental gates and hanging lanterns only confirm what is already made obvious by the string of Asian cuisine restaurants and businesses. Some places are more authentic than others and we were hoping the Dumpling House in Chinatown would feel real.
Dumpling House in Chinatown
Along with our friend visiting from the States, we set out on our culinary mission, arriving early evening to avoid a long wait. We found the restaurant on a dimly lit laneway in a brick building. The entrance was marked with a bright sign and, looking through the glass doors, we saw an even brighter interior. There was no kitschy décor, in fact, there was barely any décor at all.
Tables were pushed close together, maximizing the number of diners. Drink price lists were taped to the wall above the booths. Wait staff moved through the room, but without any identifying uniform, it was difficult to tell if they worked there or were patrons. Near the front door was a desk and the woman behind it seemed to be in charge, both orchestrating the seating and taking payment.
All-You-Can-Eat at the Dumpling House in Chinatown
The place was hopping, but we got a seat straight away. Seeing only individual entrees on the menu, I had to inquire about the All-You-Can-Eat option. Our waiter presented to us a list of the included dishes, but very firmly advised that the price is normally $15, but a minimum of $60 per table. Therefore, our budget buffet was elevated to $20 AUS per person. Encouraged by the scene, we threw caution to the wind and decided we were all in.
While we were still perusing the menu contemplating which dumplings to order first, platters of food started arriving at our table in an unstoppable stream. First it was spring rolls, then it was pumpkin dumplings, followed by mixed vegetable dumplings, pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings and fried dumplings. Fried rice, fried noodles and pork buns were also delivered to the table. We attempted to keep up with the hurried pace, devouring the contents of the plates to make room for more. We quickly learned that we would not be requesting anything from the menu; instead, they were bringing us every item on the list.
With nine of the 14 dishes on our table, we started to dramatically slow down. I wished I was wearing yoga pants. The waiter, recognizing the look on our faces, perceptively asked if we were finished. In a surprising response – and even though I was about to explode – I asked for one last dish: the pumpkin cake. My curiosity for local specialties won out over my jeans that had suddenly shrunk two sizes.
Favorites from the Dumpling House in Chinatown
We are far from experts in the terms of dumplings, so it’s difficult to say how the dumplings at the Dumpling House in Chinatown rank as compared to others. All I can say is that they were tasty and filling. My favorites of all the dishes we tried were the fried beef and pork dumplings and the steamed pumpkin dumplings. The pumpkin cake wasn’t cake as we think of it at all, but rather small, deep-fried, sweet and creamy, pumpkin disks, which was a delicious treat at the end of the salty meal. Honestly, there wasn’t anything delivered to our table that I didn’t like. However, next time (if I can ever again bear the thought of indulging in the doughy cuisine), I think we will forego the All-You-Can-Eat option.
The Dumpling House in Chinatown can be found at 22-25 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne, 3000. Click here to see the location on Google Maps.
We want to know: Have you been to the Dumpling House in Chinatown in Melbourne? Tell us about your experience in the comments!