Sigh. The eternal conundrum of Docklands.

Every time I visit the area I think to myself that on paper, it should work. There are restaurants, shops, markets, free events, lots of space for people to rest, stroll and ride their bikes, public transport access, heaps of parking, pleasant water and city views and close proximity to the CBD.

Yet it just hasn’t captured the interest or imagination of Melburnians. Maybe it’s because we like feeling part of the underground, finding little hidey-holes and enjoying things that are not necessarily easily accessible. And Docklands is just so clean and shiny, coolly organised and straight-angled…

Now what about our visit to Yum Cha Dragon? On the plus side, it features exactly all the pleasantries that make Docklands nice. The restaurant is light and airy and the huge open windows let in the breeze from the water. It is easily accessible by car or public transport. The food is also pretty good (I’ll get onto that later) although definitely not in the calibre of my favourite yum cha restaurant, Shark Fin House.

On the down side, it’s in Docklands. Which means that despite winning the national award for Australia’s favourite yum cha in the I Love Food awards 2010, it was completely empty between 11-12 on a Sunday, traditionally the prime time for yum cha diners. RM and I felt uncomfortable being the only people there and conducted most of our conversation sotto voce. There were no trolleys due to the lack of diners so we ordered our dimsum from the (English only) a la carte menu. At least we know it was made fresh to order.

The har gow ($6.50) were plump prawns prettily pleated into a sticky and translucent, albeit a little too thick, wrapper. The choi gao (prawn and vegetable dumpling) ($7.50) contained no trace of the advertised vegetables and in fact I would just call them har gow in another shape. The siu mai ($6.50) was a well-packed cylinder of pork mince, not too dense and lifted with a dab of chilli sauce. Out of the steamed dumplings I think the har gow(s) were the most successful.

I very much enjoyed the light fluffiness of the BBQ pork buns ($7.50) and it was commendable to see that they didn’t resort to fluorescent red food colouring for the filling, though I would have preferred more meat and less runny gravy inside the bun. They did a passable rendition of glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves ($7.50) though I’m pretty sure they used pork mince instead of the promised chicken.

The only real misstep was the oven-baked chicken pies ($5.50). I love the sweet shortcrust pastry that is used in these sorts of pies and the chef’s deft touch was evident in the crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth butter pastry. However, the whole pie itself I’d describe as a sort of like chicken whoopee pie. The filling was a bland paste of what I think was a whole heap of cornflour and water with some desultory speckles of meat. RM, normally a big fan of chicken pies, left half of it on his plate.

Within the conundrum of Docklands is the smaller conundrum of Yum Cha Dragon. I debated whether to rate it HOT or NOT and in the end have fallen on the positive side of the fence. Basically, I recommend trying it out if you are already in the area, but I hesitate to urge you to make a special trip to the Docklands just to have yum cha there.

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