Shanghai Street: Dumplings worth waiting for?

When you see a queue outside a bar or restaurant do you join it? Or do you walk away?

For the last few months, we’ve seen the queue outside Shanghai Street in Melbourne’s chinatown and walked away. There is so much choice for dumplings that we never thought it worth the wait. Last week we decided to join the queue and finally see what all the fuss was about.

A real spread at Shanghai Street, Melbourne

Shanghai Street is not a street, it’s a dumpling house on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne’s  bustling chinatown. During our time here we’ve eaten a lot of dumplings (an embarrassing amount actually) and I like to think I’m a bit of an expert now on what constitutes great yum cha.  

Yum Cha is a Chinese phrase meaning ‘to go for dim sum and tea’. Traditionally this is a lunch time activity and you’ll see the dumpling houses around Chinatown are busiest between 12 – 3pm. We ate a selection of different types of dumplings including a soup with noodles so technically not strictly yum cha but I love the saying and what it’s meaning encompasses. 

China Town in Melbourne

One of the things I love about Chinatown is the abundance of front window kitchen areas. I love to look in and see the chefs rolling dumplings, or using giant meat cleavers to chop crispy duck portions. There’s a big front kitchen area at Shanghai Street with at least 5 people rolling dumplings at an alarmingly fast rate. Mesmerising!

chefs rolling dumplings at Shanghai Street, Melbourne

So, back to that hazy Saturday lunch time. We joined the queue and waited patiently for our turn to enter to rather utilitarian dining room. Eventually we were in! We chose four dishes between three and ordered individual pots of steaming green tea.

Traditional pork XiaoLongBao

Here’s what we ate:

  • Traditional pork XiaoLongBao
  • Wontons in chilli oil with peanut & sesame butter sauce
  • Prawn and pork wonton soup with noodles
  • Fried vegetable dumplings

Interestingly, all three of us had a different favourite. For me, the XiaoLongBao was a clear winner. I’ve had these a lot and love to lift the delicate parcel up with my chopsticks, nibble the corner off and drink the meaty stock inside, before eating the rest in one or two bites (depending on size!). These particular XiaoLongBao were perfect. Soft, silky dough and a flavourful pork mixture inside. Truly perfect.

The vegetable dumplings were something new to all of us, fried on one side and reminiscent of  Japanese gyoza. The filling was delicate in flavour and mostly cabbage. I doused mine in soy and vinegar for additional seasoning.

fried vegetable dumplings

We’ve eaten and loved wontons in chilli and peanut sauce before, at Juicy Bao just along the road. Those ones were deliciously spicy from the generous coating of chilli oil whereas these ones were slightly mellower heat wise. The peanut and sesame sauce was divine, and once we’d devoured the wontons, I used my spoon to scoop every last drop I could.

wontons in chilli and peanut sauce

Finally, the noodle and wonton soup. Ordered on a whim because we’d not tried dumplings in soup before. The broth was almost clear and I had low flavour expectations. How wrong I was! It was a delicious, delicate pork and vegetable broth (at a guess) which complimented the pork and prawn mixture perfectly. The cabbage was green and fresh tasting which worked well against the rest of the meaty and spicy dishes we’d ordered. The noodles were spot on too, with a little bite. This dish was Dave’s favourite and one we’ll reorder for sure.

So, to conclude. Was Shanghai Street worth the wait? My answer would be a resounding YES. There are many great dumplings to be eaten in Melbourne and if you’re short on time I think there are other places you can go and enjoy immensely. But, the food we ate at Shanghai Street was beautiful and truly some of the best we’ve eaten in Melbourne’s Chinatown.

Queues can often raise expectations beyond reality but on this occasion, the place and the flavours wowed us!
I’ve added this blog post to the travel blogging linky #WanderfulWednesdays!Join the fun: it’s hosted by Lauren on Location, Snow in TromsoThe Sunny Side of This & What a Wonderful World


Shanghai Street Dumpling Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Leave a comment

  1. 7th March 2017 / 9:36 pm

    Yum yum – food looks lovely. Australia, and Melbourne in particular (Sydney too, I suppose), are top of my Australia list. Always like visiting the Chinatowns of world cities – my wife (a Thai) and I love Chinese food! Good post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 8th March 2017 / 4:42 am

    I find that the places with the longest lines are usually that way for a reason! This place looks like it was definitely worth the wait. Dim sum is one of my fave meals! I recently moved and haven't found a new place yet and this just inspired me to renew my search!

  3. 8th March 2017 / 5:04 am

    Glad to hear Shanghai Street exceeded your expectations. It can be hard to determine whether the line will be worth the wait, if you aren't familiar with the place. I love watching chefs in front window kitchens. I don't usually eat dumplings since I try to limit my meat intake, but you made it sound so good!

  4. 8th March 2017 / 6:12 am

    It's always great when you can see the chefs in action isn't it? There were plenty of vegetarian options available too although the traditional dumplings are usually pork and prawn fillings.

  5. 8th March 2017 / 6:13 am

    I also love visiting different Chinatowns. I can lose hours in the chinese and asian supermarkets! Just so many interesting and unusual things to look at and try!

  6. 8th March 2017 / 1:38 pm

    Wow looks so good! I'm a big fan of dumplings but too often you come across mediocre ones! Never had wontons in peanut sauce so will be on the look out for them 🙂

  7. 8th March 2017 / 3:13 pm

    There are lot of restaurants here in London with such long lines and yet, when you finally try it – you wonder what the F was the line for. Lol. Sometimes, I think restaurants pay people to create a line outside just to stir the curiosity of people. Good to know though that Shanghai Street lived up to the expectation. I probably wouldn't mind falling in line for that gorgeous Japanese gyoza. :p

  8. 8th March 2017 / 5:24 pm

    WOW these dumplings look amazing! Wish I could tuck in to them! We are moving to China this year and can't wait to get dumplings from the place they originate from!

  9. 8th March 2017 / 6:12 pm

    I must admit I normally walk away when I see a line outside a restaurant. I'm glad it was worth the wait. From the plates you mentioned I liked the look of noodle and wonton soup.

  10. 8th March 2017 / 7:12 pm

    Yuuum!! I love dumplings! Those look and sound delicious and just reading about it makes me hungry. Thanks for sharing!

  11. 8th March 2017 / 7:35 pm

    I love Chinese food so this looks perfect! We are going to Melbourne hopefully later this year so this is super handy to know! Always on the look out for good food recommendations!

  12. 8th March 2017 / 11:44 pm

    I had no idea Melbourne had a China Town – love that! Long queues can often be deceiving but glad the wait at Shanghai Street was well worth it!

  13. 9th March 2017 / 3:52 am

    Yes! Melbourne has a big chinatown and really great asian food. Turns out the wait was worth it 🙂

  14. 9th March 2017 / 3:53 am

    We leave Melbourne in a week after being here since November so I'm super jealous. It's an amazing place!! Plenty of recommendations on here for you too 🙂

  15. 9th March 2017 / 11:13 am

    So glad I finally got to read this post! I know it's only been a few days but I've been dying to hear about the dumplings. They look fantastic!

    I once wanted to eat at a Bao spot in London but the queue was so so long, it spanned the entire street across from the venue! I didn't wait and regret it. Next time I go, I'm standing in line!

  16. 9th March 2017 / 3:50 pm

    They certainly look delicious so I would totally join the queue too!

  17. 11th March 2017 / 4:06 pm

    I've only heard good things about the food in Oz – and this just reinforced everything. I love this kind of food – I'd be there like a shot

  18. 11th March 2017 / 6:58 pm

    Any time there's soup dumplings involved… I'm getting in that line. I'm a little jealous that you have access to them. I haven't found them in Dallas yet… BUT I WILL.

  19. 12th March 2017 / 10:05 pm

    I Love dumplings, all kind of dumplings! unfortunately, I can't make them! too fiddly I like the choices of this place. Hope to find somewhere like this in London R

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