I'm sometimes a bit shy with making suggestions for meals with my friends. Take a weekend or so a go when I discovered my beloved Squeeface (known to others as David) was in town, down from Sydney for the weekend, and we decided to go out for lunch.
David's previously been a bit reluctant to spend money on food that traditionally is the best when it's cheap ie. Mexican, Chinese etc. etc. which made me a bit apprehensive to suggest Charlie Dumpling…but I did any way, and warning David it was what I dubbed 'hipster Asian'.
Fortunately he's warmed up to going out to just about anywhere (although I think he'd still get pretty cross at $5 tacos, since he did spend a lot of time in California…) and on a very wet Saturday afternoon, after hunting around for parking we slipped into Charlie Dumpling on High Street to warm up.
I had read reviews that Charlie Dumpling could get very tight and squishy on space, which I could certainly imagine, but during lunch, when just a smattering of people were seated, it was very comfortable, and I was surprised how much I liked the space. A bit quirky, and not overly dressed, with nice little pops of pink, which I thought was rather adorable.
Although this picture I spied out the back freaked me out a tiny bit…
We both got cosy on the bench side of the table, a sensory lab coffee for him and a cup of lemongrass and ginger tea for me. A nice break after a few boozy nights!
Although dumpling is in the name, Charlie has quite a lot more to offer as we discovered.
I was stunned by the gorgeous presentation of the kingfish sashimi, fennel, ponzu and horseradish dish. Looking more like a bouquet of flowers than a dish of raw fish. More than looks though, it was utterly delicious as well, the fish smooth and delicate, with light and bright complementary accents from all the garnish. Nice and refreshing way to start the meal!
But if the kingfish was a light way to start the meal, our next small bite brought it crashing back down to decadence. Charlies fried chicken ribs with five spice honey and kewpie mayo.
It sounds good.
My parents have long been cooking chicken ribs as a fun and easy kids treat at parties, but this was the real adult version with intensely light and incredibly crunchy batter that you could probably hear someone chewing from the other side of the room. Drizzled with that beautiful spiced, sticky, sweet, honey glaze and rolled in kewpie…bliss. I was very, very tempted to order a second serve which the waitress had warned would happen!
On to the actual dumplings! I was quickly swayed to order the chicken with ginger, cabbage and crispy skin, the cabbage acting as the dumpling skin. This was nice, but not as amazing as I hoped it would be, as the skin wasn't super duper crispy (like the chicken ribs were) and cabbage skin just didn't appeal to me incredibly, although the chicken was well seasoned and well flavoured with a nice hit of ginger.
On the other hand, the panfried beef gyoza with red curry was absolutely one of the best things I've put in my mouth recently. A dumpling that's just right for winter, piping hot, and packed with rich decadent flavours. A slight crunch to the skin from the fry, a big hit of beef and then that curry sauce, oh my, so much flavour, so thick, so moreish. Definitely wanted another serve of these as well!
But really, the reason I wanted to hit up this 'Asian Hipster' spot, was for the dessert dumplings that I had been checking out on the menu…frequently. I'm a bit of a menu peeper. I can't help it!
Although sorely tempted to order two desserts, we settled on the milk chocolate dumplings with raspberry-chilli sorbet.
Just yum. So many levels of yum. The fried chocolate dumplings, which we ate like lollipops, were soft and slightly gooey with a rich cocoa flavour. The sorbet was all fruit on the front of the palate, with a nip of sneaky heat coming up the back later. Smitten. Smitten, smitten, smitten!
I left, so happy and so impressed. I was certainly more than estactic with what I got and thought that for around $35 a head, we had one of the tastiest feeds I've had recently, with such a vast variety of flavours and textures. Sure, Charlie Dumpling is a bit trendy (for dumplings), but at least it's all completely delicious and doesn't compromise at all on quality.