A brave move is the best way to phrase any new restaurant opening on Swan Street in Richmond these days. With competition getting to an untenable level it is scary to take on the host of established eateries in this area, but equally where there is risk there is reward.
Dumpling King is a chain (or franchise). The name is a little misleading given the offerings on the menu going far beyond just dumplings. The expectation before tonight was that the sole focus would be on dumplings.
We started off with pan fried pork dumplings, but that is where our dumpling journey ended as we also started with steamed pork buns and duck san choi bao. The san choi bao was nicely presented. While quite tasty I had trouble with the lettuce to filling ratio, and the finely minced duck, which lost some of the flavour. The steamed pork buns were quite good but the filling was a bit light on. Luckily the bun was nicely prepared and fluffy.
The pan fried pork dumplings are good, with a taut wrapper, and particularly generous and tasty filling. While you should expect this from a restaurant called Dumpling King it is never a foregone conclusion.
With four of us sharing dinner we ordered some of the larger dishes on offer. The Mongolian beef was easily the highlight, served on a sizzling plate and adorned with onions and a rich sauce. On the other hand the satay chicken can be best described as reasonable surburban Aussie Chinese, though the pineapple had no place anywhere. The surprise it provided when expecting potato was unfortunate.
There was some uncertainty and nervousness shown by the staff when we were ordering, but they were polite and friendly. There is no attitude which is always nice, but there is also no polish. It is a skill to understand what you are offering to customers, and to execute with confidence.
At Dumpling King there is a nice base quality of dishes on offer, much more diverse than the name suggests. To survive on Swan Street more thought needs to go into the fitout and more confidence needs to be shown by the staff. Starting from scratch I’d reduce the number of tables, and use what they have done at Jimmy Grant’s, or even Anchovy, for some inspiration, particularly the long bar offering tap beer, and the separation of the counter (where takeaways are collected, which is currently in the back corner) and the restaurant.