On the Wednesday of our Canberra trip, we ate breakfast at the hotel buffet. Our hotel stay included full buffet breakfast every morning; we ended up eating there three mornings. It was great – I’ll be writing about it in a separate post.
After the buffet breakfast, I went to my conference, which was all day Wednesday and Thursday. Jac spent her time alone playing tourist, walking and shopping. I got back to the hotel room after 6pm starving for dinner! We decided to follow the recommendation of a couple of TFP readers and grabbed a cab to Civic to the Shanghai Dumpling Cafe. I can’t help smiling and feeling a little excited when I hear the word “dumplings”. A number of words/phrases perk me up every time: dumplings, bacon, pancakes, and lately, macaron… What are your perk-up words?
Shanghai Dumpling Cafe
Ordering proved challenging. Our waiter didn’t speak any English and barely seemed to recognise the English words for the items on the menu, nor the items’ numbers in English. Even if our waiter had understood the numbers of dishes in English, it probably didn’t help that the numbering of items on the menu started over in each section e.g. Entrees were numbered 1 to 18, desserts numbered 1 to 5, cold dishes numbered 1 to 14 and so on – so you couldn’t simply ask for number 5, as across the whole menu there were at least half a dozen number 5s. My Cantonese isn’t brilliant and I don’t speak Mandarin at all, so a lot of pointing was required. We ordered dim sim dumplings and a soya sauce egg to share for starters, then spicy eggplant with sliced chicken noodle and stir-fried green vegetables to share for main course. Perhaps not surprisingly, the food arrived in a completely different order!
The stir-fried green vegetables with garlic (AU$13) arrived first. The garlicky bok choy was delicious – the stems were crisp, the leaves juicy with sauce. Jac was disappointed that “vegetables” turned out to be just one vegetable. At the time, we hadn’t paid much attention to the price – in hindsight I realise $13 is on the expensive side for stir-fried vegetables.
The soya sauce egg (AU$2) was inelegantly presented in a sauce-stained little bowl. The egg itself tasted good though. It reminded me of a dish my grandmother used to cook with pork, Chinese mushroom, tofu and hard-boiled eggs braised in soya sauce.
Next to arrive was the spicy eggplant with sliced chicken noodle (AU$12.50). There was a lot of minced chicken, though not “sliced” as described on the menu. The soup was fiery with plenty of chilli, but I’d expected that. This dish was incredibly oily. I’m quite happy to eat greasy food, but the thick layer of oil coating the eggplant, chicken and red-hot soup made the dish a challenge to swallow. Later on, I thought it was strange the stir-fried Chinese green vegetable dish was more expensive than the noodles with spicy eggplant and chicken. The photo below shows the shiny, slimy, oil-slicked noodles before we stirred them up.
By this stage Jac was squirming in her seat and looking grumpy. I hoped the dim sim dumplings (AU$9.80, 8 pcs) would be OK. Alas! They were not at all like what she expected – she likes a nice meaty porky dumpling (presumably she’s used to a more Hong Kong style dim sim dumpling?), but although the filling had plenty of flavour, they were filled with some sort of mystery red meat. I didn’t find the dumplings unpleasant – in fact, I didn’t mind them at all, but I guess the cumulative effect of the disappointing dishes had left Jac unwilling to forgive any more letdowns. The steamer basket didn’t seem particularly clean either – we detected a few bits of old dumpling skin stuck to the basket, which was also off-putting.
Shanghai Dumpling Cafe’s dumplings are more suited to group dining – you get 8 or 15 dumplings, buns or wantans in a serving, which is a lot if there are just two of you. If you’re looking to try a few kinds of dumplings, definitely go with a group of friends.
It wasn’t the dumpling haven we’d expected. We really wanted to like Shanghai Dumpling Cafe, but I guess it just wasn’t to our taste. There were many happy customers in the restaurant that evening, just not us. Jac said afterwards that when we walked in, her first impression was that the restaurant was quite dirty – but she was willing to give it a try as we’ve eaten delicious food in many scungy-looking places. Oh well – this meal was the lowlight of our trip, but the rest of our meals were highlights of sheer gluttonous delight.
Shanghai Dumpling Cafe
Shop 2, 35 Childers Street
Civic ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6262 8884
That Pizza Place
Jac’s perk-up word after this meal was: PIZZA.
She was cranky and still hungry when we left Shanghai Dumpling Cafe. Earlier that day while walking around the shops she’d found a little pizza shop where she ate lunch. We headed back there so she could get a slice of pizza to supplement her unsatisfying dinner. The pizza bar is covered in signs that say “I love New York Pizza” and all the pizzas have American/New York-themed names.
I didn’t write down what the pizza was or what the toppings were – I think it was called Statue of Liberty. Jac really enjoyed it. I’m sure those of you with partners have been in situations where your partner’s in a bad mood about something and you’re not – and you’re secretly racking your brain to come up with something that will change that mood (I know I was)! On this occasion, good old pizza saved the day – phewww!
That Pizza Place
117 London Circuit
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6247 4992
Canberra trip, November 2010
See the full list of posts from our Canberra trip, November 2010 in correct reading order.