A few years ago when I came to Melbourne for work I remember stopping in for dinner at a cheap and cheerful Indian joint on Flinders Street and I’m now positive it has closed down and is replaced with another cheapie – Old Beijing Dumpling Restaurant. It’s the same long and narrow room with seating to one side, a takeaway counter and stairs leading down the the kitchen at the rear. Yup, this is definitely the place. A dumpling restaurant, hey? Yeah, this will do.
A solitary flat screen tv sits high up on the rear wall playing vintage Jackie Chan flicks on very low volume and the only soundtrack the restaurant has is the people and road traffic on the wet street out the front.
I may like my cheerful food but I’m not all that keen on the stuff they offer in the baine marie. Instead I select a few bits from the menu, pour myself a vino and flick between being mesmerised by Mr Chan throwing kicks up on the flat screen and what’s going on in the Twitterverse on my phone. The crispy fried calamari skewers (6.5), my first arrival, are much like what you get when having salt & pepper-style. Green and red capsicum breaks up the squid pieces and for a takeaway joint like this, I’m quietly impressed. Although a cold beer would have gone down better than the shiraz I was drinking.
The handmade pork mini-buns (8.8) are a bit of an xlb wannabe with a thick-ish pastry, minimal soup and meat filling that is ground unusually fine. Tasty but not fabulous. The crispy shrimp and chives pie (5) sounded curious enough on the menu and I should have guessed it wouldn’t resemble one when they were delivered. Much like the northern Chinese variety, these are just a fried flat dumpling packed with garlic chives, glass noodles and next to no shrimp. Very tasty, a crap-load of garlic and a perfectly bubbled and crispy skin.
Not much of a sweets list can be found at this dumpling joint, I’m afraid. All I went for was the steamed egg custard bun (3.5), slightly sweet with a very firm vanilla custard that almost had a passionfruit flavour to it. This may not be a destination restaurant anybody could rave about but it’s location may prove positive to the Friday night crowds yearning for no-fuss food to soak up the booze.