It appears my little request to the Bamboo Dumpling Bar crew didn't fall on deaf ears. When I dropped by the Surry Hills branch several months ago I wished for the same set-up a little closer to home. Since that time one opened in Balmain and just the other week the fourth BDB opened up the road from me in downtown Newtown.
Where can you find it? According to the official website (at the time I published this) for Bamboo Dumpling Bar the newest location is at Cameron Street Balmain. This isn't the case. If you remember the Newtown Hotel, yes the one that closed for business many years ago, you'll discover it has re-opened and has this dumpling joint located out the back. The Newtown Hotel in the old days was all about grungy Inner West gays lounging back with a beer and the occasional drag queen slagging off anyone that looked at them the wrong way. Today it's decked out in faux tropical garb with bamboo matting on the walls and bright green astro turf on the floor. Something tells me that whoever the designer is for this place just got back from a very gay holiday in the Asian tropics.
Heading out the back of the pub to where the pool room used to be is where you'll find the restaurant. The décor is a little rough around the edges and holds onto remnants of the old pub plus a few colourful bits that are signatures of Bamboo Dumpling Bar. There's a kimono up on the wall, colourful birdcages swinging from the rafters, retro artworks here and there and that glorious crunchy green astro turf underfoot. You've gotta love it.
Every Sunday is roast suckling pig day so why not drop by for a Sunday lunch? For the hour-or-so we were there we were the only people having lunch. Beers and other bevvies can be bought from the pub bar so don't bother bringing your West Coast Coolers or $5 Spumante.
Now, back to the suckling pig. It's pretty damn good. Just like the stuff you see hanging up in Chinatown before it's unhoisted and hacked into bite-sized pieces. Juicy, meaty, fatty, salty and crunchy in all the right places. This went down a treat. Why bother with the steamed boc choy? Give me pork lard any day.
It's dumpling time. We all know xiao long bao is a delicate soup-filled dumpling that calls for equally delicate handling otherwise it'll burst and make a big old mess. Right? The XLB I received here came with much disappointment. First of all they were already on a plate wading in soy sauce. Second there was no spoon to cradle it to my mouth before biting and sucking its juices. Third there were no thin strips of ginger to have with it. And finally all but one of the dumplings was already torn and had lost its juices before it even hit the serving plate that was delivered. To round things off the pastry was on the dry side, very firm and a little floury. Can you hear my shoulders slumping?
It didn't take me long to perk up with these little babies - sui mai - pork and prawn dumplings. Once again they're in a very shallow pool of soy sauce plus a squirt of mild chilli sauce and every one of them goes down with pleasure. I love these things.
When I saw there were two dessert dumplings on the menu I had to have both. The icecream dumplings caught me off guard with their simple, tasty construction. Vanilla icecream cocooned in a thin mochi-like pastry. It's dry on the outside, slightly powdery, yet when you bite into it you're hit with cold sweetness. Fantastic. Mr K instantly came up with icecream variations such as black sesame, green tea, pandan or coconut. Now we're talking.
The chocolate dumplings were good in theory but not in substance. They look great but once you sink your teeth into them you're met with a dry and doughy casing before making way to the delicious molten chocolate hazelnut centre. It's more dough than filling so a dipping sauce of chocolate probably wouldn't go astray. Maybe even some coconut milk.
Bamboo Dumpling Bar is definitely a welcome addition to the King Street strip. Now all it needs is for the word to spread and the hoards to decend.
Other Bamboo Dumpling Bar locations I've visited -Bamboo Dumpling Bar174 King StreetNewtown 20429517 1728Mon-Fri 12pm-9pmSat-Sun 12pm-10pmbamboodumplingbar.com.au