Charlie Dumplings – Dumplings with a Twist

panda 4.5 rating

We had to organise a catch-up dinner in an area that was inner city with food that catered for vegetarians on a Monday night and ended up deciding on Charlie Dumpling. I had heard a lot of good things about this newly opened place located in High St, Windsor.

As you assume by the name – Charlie Dumpling – this venue by Dylan Roberts (ex Claremont Tonic, Ezard, Cutler & Co.) and restaurant manager Jamie Munro-Lynch (Anada, Cutler & Co, Circa) is all about the dumplings – but with a twist – and also serves up other delicious and interestingly flavoured bites to eat. Do not expect to see dumplings coming out in bamboo steamers here – instead you get beautiful rustic plates to match the vibe and feel of the venue. The fit-out is intriguing – complete with a feature wall of multi coloured window shutters (which is reminiscent of Potatohead in Bali) and rather funky – as well exposed brick walls, fishing nets – which have been turned into light shades (a very smart idea) and funky lights that hang over the bar. The design is by renowned architects DC Group & Newline Design and the result is a simple yet cosy and chilled vibe.

There is a selection of dining possibilities from tables in the front main dining area, stools at the bar, along the outside footpath or the courtyard area out the back – in total Charlie Dumpling can seat 60 people. There is also a private dining room located upstairs for 14-16 people which can be booked for functions as well. Another option is takeaway – you can order in advance via a handy app to save time.

The menu is split into 4 main sections – Small Bites, Salads & Noodles, Savoury Dumplings and Sweet Dumplings. The drinks menu has Dessert Cocktails, Cocktails, Beer (Tap – there is only one tap beer – Orion & Bottled) and Wines (Red & White). Small Bites include things like Edamame, two different types of Bao, Duck Leg, Grilled Skewers, Chicken Ribs, Sashimi – just to name a few. The menu also lets you know which of the dishes are Gluten Free and which are Vegetarian which avoids having to ask the wait staff to tell you which dishes are of these category.

Whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat – we ordered drinks. On this night however the beer on tap wasn’t available. I ordered myself a mocktail – I left the flavouring up to the bar tender and was pleasantly surprised when it came out to be lychee based – my favourite! The mocktail was refreshing and delicious – and quite large in size as well – double bonus!

There are 6 of us for dinner tonight, and we are seating by the window – so we get the best of both worlds – looking into the restaurant as well as out onto the street. The seating is a tad bit squishy I must admit, however this is a small negative. We decide to order a couple of dishes to share to start off with and decide later to order more if we need. We have a vegetarian on the table, as well as a Pescatarian so we had a selection of dumplings that cover these dietary requirements. Also something to note is that dumplings come in servings of 4 pieces per serving. There are sauces on the table which include Black Vinegar & Chilli, Soy, Shallot & Ginger and Red Nam Jin.

To start with we ordered the Charlies Fried Chicken Ribs, Five Spice Honey, Kewpie from the Small Bites section. The ribs came out piled on top of each other in a pyramid form looking glossy and exuding deliciousness. There was a resounding “mmm” and “yumm” around the table as each person took their first bite, followed by S saying she wanted another serving straight away. They were that good – a mix of sweet and savoury with chicken that was cooked to perfection.

We then got the succession of dumplings that we ordered. The Crispy Salmon, Tobbiko, Leek and Tumeric were the first dumplings I got to try. These dumplings were fried and had a crunchy coating of crumbs on the outside with the inside mixture providing a flavour hit for your taste-buds – the salmon flavour ringing true whilst staying fresh. The Leak and Tumeric puree together with the Tobbiko was what the dumplings were sitting on – this added a creamy aspect to the dish and worked well with the crumbed texture.

The Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean – these were steamed dumplings. These reminded me of a Thai Fishcake – juicy, full of flavour with a hint of spice – and finished with a spicy soy sauce and chilli combo. A really great tasting dumpling overall – I have never had a snapper dumpling before and wasn’t sure that this mixture would work – but it really does!

P ordered the Ricotta dumplings, Cauliflower, Anise, Gai Lan as she was vegetarian and I was lucky enough to sample some. My first thought when I looked at the dish was that it was reminiscent of a gnocchi or pasta dish. There were about 8-9 dumplings, as they were not your regular dumpling. This was quite a heavy dish but really tasty – the combination of ricotta and cauliflower worked well together, added with the crunch and texture of the slivered almonds as well as the freshness of the gai lan.

The Chicken, Ginger, Cabbage and Crispy Skin was a really interesting dumpling dish. They each came wearing a “hat” in the form of the crispy skin. The filling was once again juicy, light, flavoured with ginger and wrapped in the cabbage leaf – providing a mix of textures. This was a dish that everyone around the table enjoyed.

The last of the dumplings to arrive was the Steam Prawn and Bamboo Shoot, Har Gow, Sweet Corn, XO. These came out as glossy morsels complete with a tender filling which was simple and what you would expect from a steam prawn dumpling, but the twist of the sweet corn puree which it sat on was a brilliant addition . The sweetness combined with the chilli and prawn flavours was divine!

We also ordered the Spicy Dandan Noodles, Sesame, Szechuan, Peanuts and Pickled Chilli from the Salad & Noodle section to share with the table. The dish comes out un mixed – with the noodles forming the base of the dish, and each of the components placed separately on top – just like what you see at a ramen restaurant. There were peanuts, poppy seeds, chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, fried onions and coriander. I like this concept where you get to mix the ingredients into the dish yourself – kind of a do-it-yourself – makes you feel as if you made the dish yourself – almost! And another plus is that if you don’t like any one component you can avoid mixing it in.
The dish was spicier than I was expecting – and the addition of the poppy seeds left a tingling sensation on your lips. I quite enjoyed the dish and the different flavours that were mixed together – I wasn’t a huge fan of the addition of peanuts though. There was a resounding thumbs up for this dish from the entire table.

As I always do – I had looked at the dessert section before even looking at what was available for the main meals – I couldn’t wait to order dessert. I had heard great things about the Milk Chocolate dumplings. We ordered the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet AND the Hot Apple and Sesame Mochi, Gingernut Ice Cream.

The Milk Chocolate dumplings were delicious – warm balls that have been batter dipped then deep fried, filled with gooey milk chocolate, topped with sugar and finished with a raspberry chilli sorbet. The sorbet was refreshing and bursting with flavour and tang, with the chilli hint at the end. This combination of creamy sweet chocolate mixed with the refreshing tang was impeccable.

The Hot Apple dumplings were entirely different to the milk chocolate dumplings. The apple filling was encased with the chewy mochi skins which were also topped with sesame seeds. The apple filling was warm, subtle and sweet, but I found the mochi skin was a bit too chewy. I loved the gingernut ice cream – there were pieces of gingernut throughout the ice cream which added both texture and extra flavour. The dish needed both the ice cream and the hot apple dumpling together – I think one without the other wouldn’t work.

The service at Charlie Dumpling was fantastic – everyone we had was really friendly and helpful and always had a smile on their face. I liked the fact that the staff had their own favourites and when we selected a dish they would add a comment of what they really liked about the dish. To end the meal when you get your bill – you get a bowl of fortune cookies as well – the fortunes inside might not be so great – but it is a great novelty idea.

Overall Charlie Dumpling is modern, sophisticated restaurant with a unique twist on the regular Asian Dumpling venue – a combination of street food meets fine dining. The vibe is funky, fun and lively and you can really find yourself getting lost in the world of dumplings. Charlie Dumpling really does stay true to its values and seems to always have a fun with a great attitude!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://charliedumpling.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/05/Charlie-Dumpling-Dine-In-Menu_12MAY14.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for a dinner catchup with friends. You can also book a function in their private dining room too.
Standout Dish: Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean AND Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile. They are happy to provide recommendations as well!
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://charliedumpling.com.au/
184 High Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9510 4213

Opening Hours:
Monday: 6pm – Late
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm then 5:30pm – Late

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Rosa’s Kitchen – Sicilian Homely Treat

panda 3.5 rating

It was time for another one of our regular catch ups for A and I and this time our destination was Rosa’s Kitchen. As we were going to watch King Kong after dinner at the time of booking I told the restaurant that we needed to be out by a certain time which worked well with their sitting times.

Rosa’s Kitchen is located in Punch Lane – a wonderful side street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – and is a venture by Rosa Mitchell (ex-Journal Canteen), David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (Coda, Movida Group, Pei Modern). The venue itself is quite dark yet warm thanks to the soft glow of the lanterns, cosy and playful at the same time – this is evident with the mismatched and colourful chairs at the mix of timber and black plywood tables. There are polished concrete floors together with a whitewashed brick wall to match and there is a red glow through the whole venue.

What is strikingly different from any other place is that there is no menu given to you to decide what you want to eat – you have to look at the blackboard along the sides of the walls as well as above the bar/kitchen area and decide what you want there. Specials are spoken out to you by the friendly staff. The way the menu works is that it rotates fortnightly – all depending on the ingredients which come from Mitchell’s 140 acre farm near Yandoit – keeping with the fresh produce theme that Mitchell wants to achieve. The cuisine is Sicilian influenced in the form of homely and comforting dishes by Lucy David (ex-Coda, Pei Modern) and consists of four pastas and five mains generally, such as Orecchiette alla Trapanese which has a Sicilian-style pesto with almonds sauce or Meatballs with fresh tomato sugo. There is also a great drinks list which has been put together by sommelier Lazlo Evenhuis (ex-The Crimean), as well as snacks menu to go with the drinks.

We ordered the Calamari with potatoes and herbs for “entrée” but really this dish could have been a main on its own. There was a tangy taste combined with the soft and crunchy in parts potato which served as a wonderful combination. I ordered the Bugspasta which was cooked beautifully with the combination of oil, garlic and parsley and topped with toasted breadcrumbs which added texture, flavour and crunch. The Bugs were cooked perfectly and really complemented the other flavours of the dish. My friend A ordered the lamb special which she enjoyed but couldn’t finish due to the generous serving size. The lamb she said was soft, tender and full of flavour.

We were running out of time and were both quite full so decided to share the Canoli as I had heard that this was a must try. And I can see why. The Canoli had crispy pastry casing which was filled with whipped ricotta and combined with honey, sugar and lemon zest and finished with toasted and crushed pistachios on the outside.

The food at Rosa’s Kitchen is rustic and really does feel like you are in a Sicilian town eating food that has been created with a feeling of love and happiness. They don’t try to make the dishes overly complex – just simple home style cooking at its best. Try it out for yourselves.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The food menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Full%20Menu.pdf
The drinks menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Drinks%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Homely and Cosy
Standout Dish: Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Parsley and Garlic
Service: Friendly and Accomadating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/
22 Punch Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 2883

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 11:00pm

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Gorksi and Jones – Melbourne Style, Simple Tasty Food

panda-3-5-rating2

For my birthday dinner with my group of friends I picked Gorski & Jones. This great restaurant is located in Smith Street in Collingwood and is brought to you by Paul and Linda Jones – who also head up Brunswick Street’s popular Alimnetari together with Meaghan Gorski (ex-Jacques Reymond, St Peter’s) and voila you get the name Gorski & Jones. It was Gorski herself who drew up the initial sketches to overhaul what used to be The Last Record Store (which had been here for the last 18 years) and gave the ideas over to artist David Murray.

The result is a welcoming and warm room despite its high wooden ceilings – it is complete with bare brick walls, industrial lightshades which create mood lighting, plant boxes, an open kitchen with white tiles and the highlight of the kitchen – the wood-fire oven. The other main highlight of the room is the long marble bar with dark wooden pannelling. Atop of the bar is ever changing daily selection of antipasti which is displayed in a glass cabinet.You can walk through the main room through to the well constructed outside inside courtyard, so it’s a great place for all types of weather. The courtyard is long, homely and warm complete with its wooden floors and over-sized lights.

The wait staff are just as warm as the venue is and are super-friendly and happy to help in any way. They knew it was a birthday dinner and offered the table a free glass of wine for everyone which I thought was a nice touch. The menu is split into 5 different sections – antipasto, entree, main, sides and desserts. We are all quite hungry so it doesn’t take too long to decide on what we want. There were some specials that were available as well – with the highlight amongst the table being the crackling pork. The fish of the day was a Snapper cooked whole. I was deciding between the fish of the day, the risotto and the gnocchi pasta. I decided to go with the gnocchi in the end.

Whilst our food arrived we were given warm house made bread together with ricotta which was placed along with the olive oil. Something so simple yet tasted so good and everyone around the table enjoyed this addition of ricotta. Gorski and Jones was already off to a great start in terms of food.

For starters we got a serving of the Zucchini Flowers – Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Mozzarella and Peperonata. The Zucchini Flowers come in a tempura style covering and are stuffed with delicious creamy ricotta which comes atop of the peperonata. The dish is fresh and flavoursome and one of the better zucchini flowers I have tasted.

There was a variety of different dishes around the table for mains. This ranged from lamb to chicken livers! There was Chicken Cacciatore, Pancetta, Kiplers, Olives as well as Pappardelle, Guanciale, Chicken Livers, Caramelised Onions & Radicchio. N had the pasta with chicken livers and thought it was quite a tasty dish, however couldn’t finish the entire dish as it was quite filling. S had the Roasted Lamb Rump with White Beans, Rosemary and Olive Tapenade – which was quite a generous serving and the white beans complimented the perfectly cooked lamb. M had the Saffron Risotto with Scallops, Peas, Dill and Lemon – of which I got to taste a portion of. The risotto was cooked well and had all the seafoody flavours from the scallops – the only feedback that both M and I would have was that there could have been more scallops added. L had the Fish of the Day which was the Snapper on this night ( I got to try a bit of this dish as well) – the snapper came with the bones attached and was flavoured with a lemon sauce with capers. The dish that I got for my main was the Ricotta Gnocchi, Broccolini, Pangratata. The gnocchi was quite tasty and perfectly sized – some pieces were tougher than others. I enjoyed the combination of the Broccolini and Pangratata (which is breadcrumbs), together with the tangyness of the tomato. The portion sizing might look small – but it definitely fills you right up. L&P both ordered the special of the Crackling Pig Pie with Potatoes and both loved the dish! If you have a look at the pictures of these dishes – the serving sizes were massive! It was safe to say that everyone around the table were quite satisfyingly full after each of their mans. The food was homely and delicious thanks to the fresh produce and the interesting combination of flavours.

Some of us around the table decided to get dessert dishes and share them – we got the Squacquerone Panna cotta, Spiced Pear and the Hot Chocolate Pudding, Chestnut Ice Cream. We all wondered what squacquerone was – turns out it is a type of cheese – quite mild in taste and reminds me of a tangy version of mascarpone. I have never had a cheesy flavoured panna cotta before so was intrigued to see what it tasted like. This panna cotta was different to any other panna cotta I have tasted before – it had sour tang flavour to it that blended well with the vanilla bean taste of the panna cotta – put together with the spiced pear it worked effortlessly. This flavour combination is something that I am quite sure most people would never have tried – but definitely try this dish when you come to Gorski and Jones. The Hot Chocolate Pudding was another great dessert dish – warm and with a gooey chocolatey centre paired with the chestnut ice cream. A must for chocolate lovers.

Gorski and Jones is a great venue for any occasion – be it a casual or more formal affair. It presents affordable dining in typical Melbourne surrounds that is warm and refreshing. The menu has an Italian influence with modern touches and is all round delicious. Next time you are in the area – come into Gorski and Jones – you really wont regret it!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.gorskiandjones.com/ for Breakfast (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/breakfast.pdf), Lunch (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/lunch.pdf), Dinner (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dinner.pdf), Drinks (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/drinks.pdf), Wines (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/winelist.pdf) and Dessert (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dessert.pdf) menus
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Fun and Casual. Great place to just chill out and enjoy some great food amongst friends.
Standout Dish: Squacquerone Pannacota, Spiced Pear
Service: Friendly, Warm and Receptive.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gorskiandjones.com/wordpress/
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.gorskiandjones.com
304 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 7779

Opening Hours
Mondays Closed
Tuesday: 5pm to 11pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 8am to 11pm

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