I first visited the Dumpling Story space when it was in its Bistro Tartine incarnation, then as the paleo cafe and since opening as Dumpling Story, I’ve been a few times. I like dumplings. A lot.
On this particular visit – probably only a few months since the last time – we went on a Monday night. I didn’t bother to book, thinking ‘it’s a Monday night, there’s bound to be plenty of tables available’.
After a cold beverage at the Blind Monk to ease us out of the shock of it being a Monday, we toddled around the corner into Cleary Street. How wrong I was about the booking. Dumpling Story was packed, with no spare tables and none on the horizon. The choice was was takeaway or go and have another drink and come back much later.
We decided for the takeaway option and enjoyed watching the kitchen team making the delicate dumpling pillows by hand, filling each with uniform amounts of filling and using swift, dexterous fingers to pinch and role and mould them into shape.
All around us are tables full of family, friends and people chopsticking dumpling after dumpling into their mouths. It’s an open room, polished floorboards and a few tables undercover outside. Busy waitstaff and coming and going from the kitchen and food comes out quickly.
So, half an hour later we are sitting at home surrounded by takeaway containers. Having eaten at Dumpling Story a few times previously, a serving of prawns wontons with chilli oil, peanut and sesame sauce is a no-brainer. Ten pieces of big glutinous rice sheets are filled with a firm, but moist ball of chopped pork and prawn, neither flavour too strong for the other. The floppy wonton wrapper fills your mouth with that lovely al dente, almost chewy texture. The satay sauce is restrained and not drowning the pillows. Chopped cucumber adds a freshness and the sesame a heady, nutty hit.
The menu is large, so if in doubt, try the chef’s suggestions. One of these are the chicken and celery dumplings. A lighter, crunchier option than the beef, a portion of twelve is fresh and filling. So too the pork and chive dumplings: not too salty, with a punchy hit of chive.
Another chef’s recommendation are the stir-fried combination flat rice noodle. With chicken, prawns and beef, there is a great charred flavour to the biggest, thickest rice noodles I’ve had in Newcastle. It’s total comfort food, but it’s almost too sweet for my liking.
Kong poa chicken with loads of spice really has some serious pow, especially if you chew right through one of the dried chillies in the dish. Loaded with whole peanuts, spring onion and small bite-sized chunks of chicken, this really packs a punch.
Steering away from noodles and dumplings, there are poultry, pork, seafood, beef and lamb options in the menu. We try the sweet and sour pork. Served in a bowl of sauce, the dish consists of chunks of pork which are more sweet than sour and not super sticky. Feel free to use fingers so you can suck and chew at the meat around the bones.
Peking-style shredded pork and beef comes with shredded cucumber and steamed pancakes. Rather than flat pancakes to create your own rolls, these are more like steamed puffs made from the dough used for bao or pork bun casing. Rip them open and create a mini Peking pork burger instead.
Servings are large and you certainly won’t walk away feeling hungry. The menu translates well between eating in or taking food home so don’t feel like you are missing out if you turn up and all the tables are full. It seems this favourite has become a new chapter for the neighbourhood.
At a glance
- What: Dumpling Story
- Where: 52 Cleary Street, Hamilton
- Hours: Lunch and dinner, 7 days
- Contact: 4965 3804
- Drinks: BYO wine only, beer and wine available.
- Bottom line: Most plates are between $10-20
- Do try: Prawn wontons
- Tip: If you want a table, be sure to book.