It seemed fitting to go to Charlie Dumpling with my friend Charlie. Almost as if it was meant to be. As if the stars had aligned. As if fate brought us to this magnificent eatery. Or it could just be that Georges recommended it to us. However it was we ended up there I'm bloody pleased we did. Tucked away next to the window we got ready to discover what had been described to us as one of Melbourne's gems.
Unlike the name of the restaurant may suggest our first couple of dishes were not of the dumpling variety. Yes the dumplings were amazing but don't discard the other, just as incredible, dishes.
"A dumpling......BUT not as you KNOW it"
Now what comes to mind when I say chicken ribs? Small, scraps of minuscule meat clinging to tiny, bits of bone? A single mouthful? An appetizer for ants? Well guess again, I don’t know how but these chicken ribs were a very generous size. Crispy and golden and drizzled with a sweet sticky glaze. They were piping hot but with a cooling mayo to dunk them in, it was the perfect combination hot, cool, sweet and salty.
So our second dish (still not a dumpling) was the pork belly and crackling steamed bao. It was by far one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The bao itself was super soft and fluffy and there was a hefty amount of filling. The belly was cooked perfectly and matched with a sweet pineapple achar.
OK, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Time for some dumpling action.
First up the peking duck with yellow curry and lychees. I had never heard of let alone tired dumplings in a curry sauce but after these ones I’m hoping it won’t be my last. The sauce was light and didn’t fight with the flavours of the duck and the lychee added a beautiful freshness to the dish.
Next we ordered the braised beef with cauliflower and pickled onion salsa.........OK, you might have caught onto the fact that Charlie Dumpling don't dish up your "typical" Asian dumplings. I love that they have fun with their flavours and offer something really unique. It might not be to everyones taste but I think it's extremely innovative. The beef dumplings were rich in flavour and the burst of cauliflower puree was a pleasant little addition.
Hang on a sec, I just need a moment before I introduce you to the final dumpling..........right, deep breath.
Dear tastebuds, We've been through a lot together. Tasted some amazing things, tasted some strange things and tasted some God awful things. But what I'm about to lay onto you will be unlike anything you've tasted before. All I can say is I'm sorry we don't live in Melbourne and will therefore be unable to devour this dish on a weekly basis.
Apple and rhubarb dumplings with salted caramel sauce, pie crust and buttermilk ice cream. It's apple crumble in bite size!!!!! They were honestly to die for. The caramel sauce was thick and sweet and balanced the tart flavours of the fruit. The pie crust added great texture and of course no crumble is complete without ice cream and when it’s buttermilk ice cream all my problems simply washed away in a waterfall of sugary joy. This is one of those dishes where secretly you're hoping your dining partner is full and politely lets you finish the rest. However, with a dish this good ain't no one giving up their last mouthful.