I have an infatuation addiction. For the last month or so I’ve been keen on anything to do with the humble dumpling. I’m not sure how long this addiction will last but I’m on a high and I’m loving it. I blame it on my recent visit to China and Hong Kong where I ate myself stupid on these divine little pockets of pleasure. The word alone makes me salivate.
When I recently caught onto the increasing whisper about a certain Surry Hills establishment with a name that contains the “d” word, I decended upon it like an addict. Bamboo Dumpling Bar. How can a name like this not get you excited?
I checked the website and knew what time they opened on this gloriously blue-skied Saturday where, thanks to CityRail doing trackwork, it took about an hour to get from Erko to Surry Hills by crowded replacement buses. Ordinarily this would take ten minutes and for the first time ever I wasn’t annoyed or stressed regardless of the fact I was hungry.
The pub that this dumpling bar is tacked onto is one that only the locals know about. To be honest I had to use the GPS on my iPhone to find it as I’m a little unfamiliar with this little part of our metropolis. Looks like we’re the first to arrive and we are casually seated by the chirpy co-owner Tinh To, where I can’t help but feel that he’s just welcomed us into his home. I won’t talk décor as you’ll get the idea from some of my photo’s but what I will say it that you can get the same decorating inspriation from Mao & More on Cleveland Street not too far away. I’m loving the visual energy of this place.
Dumplings, of course, were first on the cards … in the form of the classic pork and chive (8.5) variety. I literally had a few seconds to photograph these little babies before Mr K ravenously jumped in wielding a pair of chopsticks. It seems his hunger made him forget the rules – photo’s then food … even if it gets a little cold. I was just as hungry but I still made sure I stuck with dumpling tradition: bite off the tip, drink the delicious juices from within and then finish off the rest. The plate of sauces made these little guys even more tasty.
As I’m burning my lips while hastily devouring the dumplings our next plate arrives. Somehow I got the impression the seafood & kaffir lime skewers (8.5) would be pieces of prawn or squid on bamboo skewers but I’m pleasantly surprised to see ground seafood moulded onto juicy sugarcane sticks. The lightly-spiced and peppery seafood makes me start dreaming of one of those sandy beaches littered with coconut palms in south-east Asia. Just like something you’d pick up from a street food vendor.
The next to arrive is so good it deserves four photographs – chicken sticky rice in pandan (8). I’m in love and somehow I’ve forgotten about my dumpling addiction. The dried leaves the rice is wrapped in give off a beautiful, almost tea-like earthy fragrance and it isn’t until you dig in with your chopsticks that you get a sense of the sticky nirvana within. The crunch of the fried shallots, the steamy and sticky rice and the little surprise of fatty sausage hidden in the centre.
Our euphoric haze is is temporarily broken by the very friendly Mick, owner of this fine eating house. At first I thought I was about to be scolded for photographing the food and surrounds but after an introduction and brief chat about biz, not only did I learn about an exciting new dessert menu on the near horizon and chef Tinh To’s other master talent on the espresso machine, but we were offered more samples from the fine menu. One of which was the tasty Peking duck pancakes (12). Everyone knows Peking duck has its traditional procedure but here the rules are broken and simplified and the outcome is the most perfect pocket oozing with hoisin, succulent duck and its delicious skin. This is definitely one I want on my Last Supper table.
One of our other choices is the good old bbq pork with sesame soy sauce (12.5). The plate comes chocker-full of tender and juicy slices of pork wading in a shallow pool of salty soy. Dave asks if we’d like some salt & pepper squid (15) and I find it hard to say no. I was eyeing it off on the menu and didn’t come around to choosing it so there was no way I was going to say no. The small triangular pieces of curled squid are some of the most tender I’ve ever eaten: the soft yet crispy coating is beautifully salty and the spiced pepper has a hint of cinnamon. What makes all of this shine is the creamy wasabi mayonnaise on the side.
This little gem arrived onto Sydney’s food scene quietly and confidently and I sense they’re about to be hit by the hungry hoards in a very big way. You’ve got the right formula, keep up the good work and please consider the Inner West Erskineville for your next venture.