A work trip to Melbourne is something I always look forward to. Change of scenery, trapsing the expansive Retail Trade Fair at the Exhibition Centre in search of exciting new products to purchase, sore back and feet from not sitting down for nine hours. Fun and games. Food-wise, the canteens in the halls are all about dry premade burgers festering beneath heat lights, potato wedges and sad looking sandwiches with price tags that rival those at airports.
Another option is to leave the Exhibition Centre and head across the road to the Crown foodcourt where the prices are equally high and the choice almost as dismal. If only the food options are as exciting as they were at last years work trip to Yiwu, China.
When the long day ends I usually drop by a wine shop to grab a bottle and crack it open after I've kicked my shoes off and sprawled across the hotel bed for a spot of solitary peace and quiet. I'm not one for room service and seeing it was cold and wet outside my body needed something specific. Any guesses?
Not too far from my hotel was this little laneway Shanghainese eatery that just had to be tried. Shanghai Street. A quick glance at the menu and I was taking a seat in no time. It was just what I needed. Looking around I figured this place is popular with uni students and when I overhear one of them confidently declare the xiao long bao as being "the best" I had to take his word for it, even though it wasn't directed to me. A little smaller than the average xlb, the dumplings weren't the soupiest critters I've encountered, the skin was a little on the thick side and the highly seasoned meat filling had an almost "processed" quality about it. I think the confidant uni student needs to eat out a little more.
Crispy chicken is always a winner in my books, albeit a simple one. A juicy thigh portion on the bone, crispy skin, a squirt of chilli sauce, sip of wine. Me happy. If the uni student can rave about a not-so-fab soup dumpling I can can rave about the glorious pork and prawn wontons in chilli oil. They may not gain points in the looks department but I tell you what I could have easily scoffed a bowl twice the size. The words chilli oil may make you run for cover but I can safely say there wasn't a great deal going on with the heat factor. The weakest chilli oil I've had. A sesame butter is ungracefully smeared over the dumplings and the sweet, salty and squishy sensations are more rave-worthy than the ordinary xlb's.
The dumpling finale had to be a sweet one and rather than order one or the other, I asked if I could have two each of the red bean and egg custard buns. No probs. I found the custard filling too dry and firm, almost like a boiled egg yolk, and the red bean paste was just the way it ought to be. That's it for me. Back to the hotel.