Eat here: Seoul Soul, Melbourne (Korean)

Seoul Soul, Northcote, Melbourne
http://www.seoulsoulgroup.com/

IMG_2673.JPG

Another delicious lunch with my best friend. She’s the one that put me onto Ascot Food Store and Nieuw Amsterdam, she knows her food, so no pressure when it’s my turn to choose somewhere to eat! I chose well this time with Seoul Soul in Northcote. I’d heard a lot of good things about this little Korean eatery, the second of it’s name, with the first having opened in Abbotsford. It’s a simple, industrial-type set up, high bench communal seating, and shiny metal chopsticks lined up and ready to go.

We ordered a serve of the deep fried prawn dumplings to start with ($6.00 for 4) and they were amazing. Really nice and crisp without that sickly deep-fried taste, the dipping sauce was fantastic too. Would definitely want to eat these again!

IMG_2674.JPG

Mains were dosirak, one each. The “meal buckets” basically entail your choice of protein (I went with teriyaki chicken, which was a bloody great choice), rice, and assorted other goodies including a spring roll and a mixed salad. At only $11.00, this is probably one of the best valued meals in Melbourne at the moment. The chicken was magnificent, tender and juicy. Tons of teriyaki sauce. Liberal serving of rice. Lots of other tasty bits and pieces in there too, which I loved. Already planning another visit to have this again. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve eaten (that didn’t break the bank) in quite some time.

IMG_2676.JPG

Melbourne’s northern suburbs are really stepping up the food game at the moment, and those of us who live in and around those suburbs are so very thankful. Amazing food at a reasonable price – not sure what else you can ask for! Well done Seoul Soul, I’ll be back.

Seoul Soul Plus on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Noodle Kingdom, Melbourne (Chinese)

Noodle Kingdom, Preston, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1512514/restaurant/Melbourne/Noodle-Kingdom-Preston

I’m a big fan of the neighbourhood, family style, honestly good Asian restaurant, like Maney’s.  This is another one. Located out in the northern suburb of Preston (it’s actually got another spot in the city), it looks like a lot of the other little places on the same street – always busy, always smells amazing, always tempts you to cross the threshold through the front door. Husband and I first visited on a friend’s recommendation when we moved into the area, and now head back regularly – it’s pretty amazing!

This last visit saw us order a nice big serve of pan fried pork dumplings to share (12 pretty big dumplings for around $9.00 = amazing value!). These are seriously delicious dumplings, and one of the main reasons we keep going back. They’re the perfect share plate, and very filling.

20140530-215503-78903156.jpg

 

Next up was another share plate – the main meals are ridiculously enormous. We shared a Shanghai fried noodles (again, only around $9.50 from memory), which was MORE than enough to fill us both up after the giant dumplings. These noodles are incredible, freshly made (you can see the chefs hand making them in the front window on entry) and just so perfect. You can’t get this kinda food out of a packet!

20140530-215503-78903784.jpg

It’s not fancy food, it’s honest food. It’s delicious, it’s home made, it feels like home. And it’s super cheap, a rare luxury for such good food. That’s why we keep going back, and why you should check it out too!

 

Noodle Kingdom on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Shandong MaMa, Melbourne (Chinese)

ShanDong Mama, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/shandongmama

20140523-074217-27737415.jpg

I visited ShanDong MaMa on a tip from one of my lovely followers, Felicia. I found it nestled away in the heart of the city in a little arcade I’d never noticed (that’s what I love about Melbourne – you may have lived there your whole life, but there will always be something new to discover!), which was literally wall-to-wall Asian restaurants. And they were all busy, on a Thursday night, which meant they must have all been pretty damn good!

We decided to order the boiled fish (mackerel) dumplings (10 pieces for $15), the fried pork dumplings (10 pieces for $10), and the scallion pancakes (2 for $7.50).

First up, the signature mackerel dumplings (with ginger, chives and coriander, made into a mousse-like filling); honestly, I didn’t think they were all that special, I found them a little bland..

20140523-074216-27736737.jpg

The pan fried pork dumplings (coriander, black fungus, cabbage and dried shrimp) were pretty good, but nothing special. They were not your standard dumpling in that they came out looking like little mini pan fried upside down tacos – they were tasty, but I’ve had better.

20140523-074215-27735436.jpg

The huge surprise and by far the stand out of the meal were the scallion pancakes – holy wow these were good!!! I usually enjoy the crispy, traditionally shaped round pancakes you get at Asian restaurants, but I wasn’t expecting them to come out the way they did, all stringy and what not! They were perfectly golden and crisp, and tasted absolutely amazing – I’d go back just to order them again, they were THAT good.

20140523-074216-27736390.jpg

Melbourne has some pretty amazing dumplings on offer and I didn’t think these really made the cut, but those pancakes will be reason enough for me to visit again. Wouldn’t mind trying some of the main meals too now after that unexpectedly pleasant surprise!

 

Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon

Eat here: HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne

HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne CBD
http://www.hutong.com.au

IMG_6040

Melbourne’s dumpling trend seems to have passed (our latest obsessions are American diner style food and Asian street food), yet HuTong Dumpling Bar is still consistently a top 5 fixture on Urbanspoon’s most popular restaurants (on the moderately priced list). So, when it seems that for the most part the city has moved onto the next big fad, how is it that HuTong is still so popular and so relevant?

Traditionally, a HuTong is a narrow alley or lane way in China, consisting of a number of traditional courtyard residences, particularly prominent in Beijing. Appropriate, considering you need to make your way down the alley that is Market Lane, in the heart of Melbourne’s pulsing CBD. If you’re turning up for dinner or a weekend lunch and don’t have a reservation, expect a wait. I’m normally very anti-waiting to be fed, but this is one of the few places I will advocate a short delay for.

This most recent visit of mine was after work on Friday night with a good friend, also a dumpling fiend. We’d both had one of those weeks, and needed wine, quick service and incredible dumplings to dull the pain of our mundane Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 lives.

IMG_6023

We got in pretty early, 5:30pm (right on opening time) and were promptly seated down stairs. If you can get a seat upstairs, that’s even better – the atmosphere is electric and you no longer feel like you’re in the heart of Melbourne’s business district. That said, downstairs is where you get front row seats to the show that is professional dumpling making. This girl took little lumps of dough and rolled them into perfectly formed circles, the likes of which I’d need a cookie cutter to achieve. We watched, completely mesmerised, until we realised we probably needed to order if we wanted to eat them any time soon – we’d been seated 10 minutes and there was already a line at the door.

IMG_6022

We ordered four plates of dumplings:

  • Shao-long Bao
  • Pan fried dumplings
  • Crab meat and prawn dumplings
  • Duck meat dumplings

They started coming out within 5 minutes of ordering, which we’re putting down to the fact that we got in early before the Friday night mayhem really began. Whatever, we were happy!

IMG_6025

IMG_6029

The Shao-long Bao were first out, and are their signature and most delicious dumplings. Delicate, steamed little parcels filled with the most magnificent broth, pork and prawn, they’re best left a few minutes to cool if you’re like me and want to pop the whole thing in your mouth at once so you can get that whole (literal) flavour explosion in your mouth. You could also take the classier route and nibble the parcel a little to release some of the steam, suck out the broth and delicately eat the rest of the dumpling. Or not.

The crab meat and duck meat dumplings were delicious too, translucent skins somehow simultaneously packed full of flavour and very subtle at the same time. Last out were the pan fried pork dumplings, a favourite of mine. All magnificently uniform and standing to attention on their crispy base, they are meaty and juicy – the ultimate (albeit unexpected) comfort food.

IMG_6032

If you’re a dumpling lover, there’s not much on the menu that will disappoint you. They do main meals as well, which are also delicious, but they’re so well known for their dumplings that it’s hard to order anything else! HuTong sometimes gets a bad wrap because, for dumplings, it’s not super cheap (we paid around $65 for 20 dumplings and 4 glasses of wine), but I honestly believe that you get what you pay for, and these dumplings are worth a little more. So, while Melbourne may be past it’s dumpling epidemic, we still appreciate good and authentic food, which is why while the other food fads continue to come and go, HuTong will most likely continue to be relevant and top 5 worthy.

 

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Maney’s Dumplings, Melbourne (Chinese)

Maney’s Dumplings, Bundoora, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1559031/restaurant/Melbourne/Maneys-Dumpling-Bundoora

 

Maney’s is a northern suburbs institution and absolute favourite of locals, for two simple reasons:
1. The food is simple, yet ridiculously delicious.
2. The food is crazy cheap. As in, 12 – 15 dumplings (each dumpling around half the size of my fist) for under $10.00. Shit by Asian standards, absolute bargain by Melbourne’s!

It’s a little place on an inconspicuous little corner behind the main shopping plaza, always busy, yet you’re always met with a greeting and a smile within seconds of walking through the front door. We eat here relatively regularly because of the reasons above, and thought it was worth sharing – sometimes the suburbs really have some incredible hidden gems. This is particularly amazing because Bundoora may be situated in one of the most Caucasian parts of Melbourne – you’d never think that you’d be able to find spot on Chinese food there!

Our order doesn’t change a heap from visit to visit (if it ain’t broke..) – husband and I always share a plate of the fried pork dumplings (12 pieces for $9.50, and they are not small!)

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

After the dumplings, we get a main each – what we order varies, but my favourite is the Shanghai fried noodles ($9.00 for a plate piled precariously high). The noodles are great and soft, the sauce is incredible and in no way re-creatable at home, it’s just a damn good plate of food!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Husband likes to try something new each time; this time he settled on the Hot Spicy Chicken Noodle ($8.50, massive serving – he didn’t finish it!). I’m not a fan of anything of the hot and spicy variety, but he is, and he loved it!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

It’s not fancy or over the top – it feels like walking into an auntie’s house, and being served up some good home cooking. Because that’s what it tastes like – it’s not the usual Chinese-by-numbers crap that you usually find in the suburbs, which puts off most people. This is good, honest-to-goodness Chinese food, served up in a warm family environment, where you can fill up without breaking the bank. What’s not to love?!

 

Maney's Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Miss Chu, Melbourne (Vietnamese)

Miss Chu, Melbourne.
http://www.misschu.com.au

I have my baby sister to thank for this one – she first took me to Miss Chu in November last year, for my birthday.

For those of you not familiar with this gorgeous little place, Miss Chu bangs out some incredible Vietnamese food, with a bit more spunk than your standard Vietnamese establishment, and a hipster vibe to boot.

Melbourne has two locations to choose from – CBD and South Yarra. We chose the South Yarra one in November, and again last week when I took husband to give it a try.

They’re self-touted as a “tuck shop” on their website, and that hits you as soon as you walk in; the front counter really looks like a little school tuck shop window (albeit a hell of a lot cooler), and walking around the corner leads to little tables lit by globes nestled in upside-down china.

So, the food. You sit down to 2 notepads, one for food, the other for drinks. It’s no-nonsense – select what you want from the list and write a little number in the box next to it to indicate how many servings you want. A lovely waitress picks it up, runs through it with you to make sure you’re happy with your selections, and dead-set, 5 minutes later, the first plate was being laid on our table. Granted, we were there at 12pm Sunday – we were pretty glad then we beat the lunch rush that started to build up by the end of our meal!

20140312-182207.jpg

20140312-182215.jpg

Let’s be honest, we went a little nuts for husband’s first time. We got:
1. Peking duck pancakes (yes, yes, dear God, yes!!!)
2. BBQ pork buns (this is favourite of ours and these didn’t disappoint – soft and fluffy and full of pork!)
3. Shanghai pork dumplings (these were the highlight of the meal – they were absolutely perfect. Honestly some of the best dumplings I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a LOT of dumplings!!)
4. Traditional Hanoi seafood spring rolls (veryyyyy seafoody… Too much so, really overpoweringly fishy, wouldn’t order again)
5. Omelet, avocado & caramelised onion rice paper rolls (these were seriously amazing, highly recommended)
6. Tiger prawn & green mango rice paper rolls (nice, not incredible, wouldn’t order again)

And for drinks, I went with the absolutely top notch coconut water, cucumber and lychee slushy thing (dead-set the best thing served in a cup), and husband got the coconut water, pineapple and mint. That was pretty good too.

Overall, delicious food, but pretty expensive at over $60.00 for all of that. Great for a special occasion, but I don’t think we can afford regular trips!!

Miss Chu on Urbanspoon