You are a doctor working in the intensive care unit of a tertiary hospital in the Eastern Suburbs. Your partner (who didn’t get a job at said intensive care unit though he really wanted one) is celebrating his birthday today, although he’s trying very hard not to celebrate or let anyone know. The options for lunch where you can walk there and be in, out, and back in the unit within thirty minutes are vanishingly slim – and you’ve already been to Cafe Mckenzie fifteen times this year. One of your Eastern Suburbs colleagues recommends Dumplings & Beer for a quick bite. You take the bait.
Dumplings & Beer’s website goes into great lengths to describe Alex Ly and Rose Ly-Schmidt’s parents, both of whom were Asian, but apart from that do not seem to have any other other qualifications relevant to the dumpling industry. Sure, dad seemed eat a lot and mum made dumplings for dinner parties, but so does every other Chinese person’s parents. This kind of story doesn’t lend your restaurant any additional authenticity. If anything, it makes me wonder what isn’t being said. What is it about you yourself that makes this restaurant special?
After a few long paragraphs of shit talk I must admit that the Duck Wraps (3 for $11.50) were actually quite good. To be fair, it’s quite hard to screw up wrapping some roast duck, cucumber, shallot and hoisin sauce in a thin pancake. My only complaint would be the pancake itself. I’ve had better.
The Panfried Pork & Cabbage Dumplings (5 for $9.90) is where it all started to go wrong. Just look at them. The wrappers were absolutely not the right kind for anything that a normal Chinese person would dare to call a dumpling. The wrappers were in fact very thick and bready, almost as if they had been made from self raising flour. The fillings were just fine – it’s hard to mess up the combination of just two ingredients, however I think the presence of these dumplings and the absence of the classic pork (+/- prawn) and chive dumplings on the menu speaks volumes about the restaurant’s target audience – a group that’s probably less discerning about what Chinese food they eat.
The Xiao Long Bao (4 for $9.90) just weren’t very good. Two of the four came with their wrappers stuck to the paper so that they broke when handled, and at $2.50 a pop they were quite expensive.
The Bean Curd Roll (2 for $8) weren’t great but they’ll do. Just about twice the price as what you’d get at a good yum cha restaurant.
The Steamed Scallops, Pork and Chives Dumplings (4 for $9.90) were more of a shao mai than a dumpling. I actually thought these were quite good, large, and reasonably priced compared to the rest of the food on offer.
The Crackling Pork Belly Sliders (2 for $10.50). The meat was warm and the skin crispy. They came with a very sensible amount of sauce, and were not oversauced as sometimes tends to happen at places like this. These bao were completely inoffensive, and we actually ended up getting a serve for takeaway for one of my partner’s colleagues.
I love dumplings, but not the ones on offer at Dumplings & Beer. To be fair, I don’t think I’m the kind of customer Dumplings & Beer targets – the kind that actual authentic Chinese food might offend.
I’m not coming back to a dumpling restaurant where the dumplings aren’t even as good as what I can make myself.
2/5. Try elsewhere.
Dumplings & Beer Randwick
NewMarket Shop 9 162, 164 Barker St, Randwick NSW 2031
(02) 9310 0030