I don’t see Helen and Casey as often as I used to, which is such a suckful thing because we used to live around the corner from each other in Balaclava. Regardless, it was time for another night of dinner and chats to catch up on the last few months.
After a few drinks at Transport Bar, we wandered over to the North East China Family Restaurant on Flinders Lane. It was a little hidden from the street, and not as busy as what I was expecting – the reviews online mentioned “best dumplings in Melbourne” and other various compliments regarding their food and prices.
The place was fairly clean, except for the baby flies hovering about, and it was oddly decorated with green paint and red streamers. The ceilings were really high which gave a sense of space regardless of how limited the space actually was. The tables were dark wood and the high backed chairs were quite comfortable.
The menu items were numbers and we ordered dishes to share. Despite the great reviews, I was expecting it to be rather average. I was deliciously wrong.
Fried Noodle with Vegetables
What a deceptive dish. I looked at it and thought it would be plain and tasteless, like plastic noodles. It certainly was not this.
The soy dressing was just enough to give it flavour, but didn’t turn it into a soup and the noodles were al dente. The vegetables were fresh and well cooked, with spears of baby corn and broccoli, and the hunks of tofu were juicy and soaked up any excess dressing.
It was really, really, really yummy!
We were going to get the Kung Pao Chicken but I noticed the squid and pounced. I’ve been having a hit and miss experience with calamari and squid lately so after tasting the Fried Noodles, I had my fingers crossed.
BEST SALT SQUID EVER!!!!!!!! No chewy rubber or stringy bits, but completely pure, melt-in-your-mouth, tender squid, seasoned just a tad on the salty side, and sprinkled with fresh chillies and spring onion. It was pure bliss. The batter that it was fried in was light and crumbly, and I think I’ll make any excuse to come back to North East China Family so I can eat this again.
Chicken and Prawn Dumplings, Steamed
Why would anyone go to a dumpling house without ordering dumplings? That’s just silly.
Casey and I shared a place of chicken and prawn dumplings, which just happened to be delicious and sans gristle. The casing was light and fresh and not claggy, and the filling was well seasoned. I would love to try some fried dumplings next time, maybe even the beef and onion dumplings.
Pancake with Chestnuts and Pine nuts
Under the snack menu was this item – a thick pancake like a giant, glutinous potato cake that has remnants of chestnuts and pine nuts and lightly dusted with a fine sugar. Once the sugary hit had dissipated, what was left was the glutinous pancake. This might sound like a bad thing, and I’m really trying to think of an example of something that you eat because it’s there or because of the texture but I can’t think. Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is this pancake is actually quite nice and a perfect dessert for those who don’t have a sweet tooth.
The girls waiting the tables were cheerful and enthusiastic, the lighting let me see what I was eating, it wasn’t over-crowded or dirty or smelly, and best of all, each dish we ordered was scrumptious. I would like to give a special mention to how AWESOME the SALT SQUID was… it was awesome, and probably still is. Yes, I will come back to this place, and remember: “Make Pieces of Happiness Together”.