North East China Family, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

I love dumplings. I like making them, I like eating them, I like sharing them. So imagine my joy at discovering North East China Family (Traditional Dumplings) right near my work when I met up with my equally dumpling-loving friend, A.

The restaurant was heaving during the lunchtime rush hour, and we had to wave a couple of times to capture the attention of a waiter with a menu. Looking around at the dishes of the shared tables around us, we decided on some noodles and of course dumplings.

The fried noodles with seafood ($11) was a huge mountain of soy-soaked noodles with prawns, squid, sliced fishcake and vegetables. We were more bowled over by the quantity than the quality – it was a good but unremarkable basic stir-fried noodle dish.

North East China Family, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Then to the main event, the vegetarian steamed dumplings ($8). I don’t know whether we made a bad menu choice, but for a restaurant that sells itself on dumplings, these specimens were really disappointing. A thick and gluey casing held an unappetising mash of carrot, celery and cabbage which tasted of water, water and water. It was like eating boiled ravioli missing the napoli sauce.

North East China Family, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Dumplings can be quick, rough-and-ready food, but that doesn’t have to mean that it should be so unrefined that it’s just a vehicle for getting a lot of stodgy carbs into your stomach in a hurry. We didn’t finish our dumplings and I didn’t feel so great afterwards at my desk as I fell into a food coma.

Of course there’s a market for quick, cheap and filling food. Maybe I’d go back to North East China family for the noodles, but frankly, I’m not sure why people are packing into this place for the dumplings.

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