"There's nothing to eat" Mr NQN said to me sulkily over the phone one evening. I felt the slight sting of accusation in this voice, his normally easy going manner turned sharp by the pangs of hunger.
Mr NQN had left Melbourne early that morning to head back to Sydney for work. I was left with another day and a half in this city in which I had eaten my body weight in chicken, pho, banh mi and dumplings. I decided then that I needed to get off the phone before he asked me where I was headed for dinner that night.
It was the Oriental Tea House on Chapel Street. Owned by David Zhou who also owns David's in Prahran there are four locations including this one. The Oriental Tea House as the name suggests carries teas and teapots and all of the accoutrements to make your favourite brew but it is also a busy dumpling and Chinese restaurant.
Upstairs is the Zhou Zhou bar decorated with pretty pictures of women wearing cheongsams. There are cane chairs and poufs to sit on as well as vintage chairs. The feature of the Zhou Zhou bar is the 50+ strong beer menu.
Iced strawberries and cream tea $4.50
The tea menu is extensive and I decide on the strawberries and cream iced tea. I had already tried a little cup of it at the tea sampler station out at the front of the store. It has a lovely natural sweetness to it and is very refreshing to boot.
Crackling roast pork luscious slices of pork belly topped with golden crackling on a bed of cucumber & pickled veggies - $13.80
The pork came wrapped up in foil sitting atop a bed of pickled cucumber and carrot underneath it. The pickles help to lighten up the luscious meat which has a sticky edge to it with the crackling.
*Chicken dumpling quinoa salad $10.80 *
I know it's sad news but dumplings are really quite calorific and when you sit down and count how many dumplings we eat in one sitting, it adds up. So this salad idea is pure genius. You get your dumpling fix with six chicken dumplings but with baby spinach leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, mixed quinoa, onion and broad beans you extend your serve of dumplings to a whole meal. The dressing brings it all together and it has an appealing hit of ginger to it.
Chilli wagyu dumplings (4) - $8.80
I loved the resolute kick of chilli and the hit of fragrant kaffir lime in these sturdy, fat dumplings encased in egg wrappers.
Ginger prawn dumplings with ginger & onion (3) $7.80
There are plenty of prawns in these ginger prawn dumplings that arrive as three plump morsels. I'd love a bit more ginger in these to complement the prawn however.
Cheese & bacon Spring Rolls (3) $6.80
It's so hard to choose a favourite between the two spring rolls that we ordered. The cheese and bacon is delicious and all gooey cheese. And what can ever go wrong with bacon and cheese together?
Duck fortune spring ‘roll’ (3) $7.80
The duck fortune spring rolls are also divinely rich and full of flavour. The only thing is that the amount of deep fried pastry makes these a bit difficult to eat and you inevitably end up breaking off large bits of pastry at the ends which go all over the place.
Oriental Teahouse signature bao burgers two pork belly ‘patties’, special sauce, coriander, cucumber, tomato on a steamed bao (2) - $10.80
The signature item here are the bao burgers and although we get plenty in Sydney these are enormous and about twice the size. The soft steamed pockets are filled with two slices of sticky edged pork belly, coriander, cucumber and tomato and a "special" sauce. It's good but I would have loved a bit more pork belly to the bun ratio. I'm also undecided about whether I like the tomato in it as it affects the texture of the bao to make it wet.
Chinese Wonka dumplings with vanilla ice cream (3) - $9.80
Despite our full stomachs, there is always room for dessert especially when an item combines East and West with milk chocolate filled sticky rice balls rolled in sesame seeds. This comes together when you mix it with the cold ice cream and suddenly a serve of three doesn't quite seem like enough.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever discuss what you eat each day with your other half or with friends? And what do you think of the dumpling salad idea?
NQN dined as a guest of the Oriental Tea House
Oriental Tea House
455 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC (three other locations)
Tel: +61 (03) 9826 0168
Mon to Thursday: 10.30am - 10pm
Friday: 10.30am - 11pm
Saturday: 10am - 11pm
Sunday: 10am - 10pm