Wintergarden Shopping Centre, 179-201 Queen Street, Brisbane CBD
If Jamie's Italian was a boy, I'd be the repeatedly rejected girl with a delusional amount of unrequited love. Ever since it opened its Brisbane store, I've been DYING, absolutely DYING, to get in and try it. Months on, it seems like every single person in Brisbane has been except for me. As I write this, I STILL haven't been because when Marc and I tried to pop in last week for lunch, there was a 30 minute wait to get in and we didn't have enough time.
In my depressed and forlorn state, I was ready to throw a "FINE I WILL JUST SKIP LUNCH" tantrum when we stumbled across Dumpling Republic in Wintergarden. It looked interesting enough that I no longer felt like I was missing out on something. Horray the day was saved!
I can't remember what used to be where Dumpling Republic is; possibly they opened up a new area on the first floor. The floor space is very large so we didn't have to wait for a table (double horray!).
At Dumpling Republic, you're encouraged to first peruse through their menu and then make your selection of which items and what quantity you would like to order on a paper form. Once you're ready, a waiter comes and grabs your form, confirms the order, and relays the information on to the kitchen.
The food started arriving quite quickly. We shared most items but I also ordered a soup for myself because I love soup.
House-brewed hot mojito tea
To drink, I ordered the house-brewed hot mojito tea. Marc thought I was ordering a cocktail at noon and chose a beer to match me. I then had to explain that whilst I might be borderline alcoholic, I'm actually just not rich enough to afford spontaneous lunch time cocktails. Relax, people. It was just a pot of tea. And quite a fruity and flavoursome one at that.
Gai lan in oyster sauce
The first of our dishes to arrive was one Marc tagged on in hindsight to increase the perceived healthiness of our lunch. It was the Chinese vegetables in oyster sauce. They cooked the gai lan perfectly so it was still vibrantly green with just the right amount of crunch. Veggies cooked well are simple but underrated.
Hot and sour soup
My hot and sour soup came in a little pot, ideal quantity for one. If anyone is wondering why I was ordering all this hot food when the weather has been so sticky and humid, the answer is that a) I was sick with a sore throat and b) if I go anywhere with aircon over summer, I need to bring a jumper because they make it so arctic inside the buildings. I'd forgotten a jumper that day so I was actually freezing sitting in Dumpling Republic. Hot and sour soup is one of my mum's specialties and I think the way we tend to judge homely comfort food is by how it compares to mum's. This version was actually really good and the taste and contents were familiar to me.
Steamed Chinese bread with pork belly
I really enjoy the steamed bun burger trend that The Bun Mobile popularized throughout Brisbane. We ordered the version at Dumpling Republic to try. It looked cute enough but didn't deliver on taste. I thought the bun itself was too thin, which would have been forgivable if the filling was good, but the pork was dry and the whole thing lacked sweetness and creaminess. This was a big disappointment for me.
Pork and shrimp crispy rolls
The fried pork and prawn rolls were quite tasty but by this point I was getting full and couldn't stomach something so fatty. Not only was it a meat roll that had been deep fried, the dipping sauce was creamy whole egg mayo. It was all a bit much for me.
Premium assorted basket
I was glad to see the assorted dumplings arrive because it gave me a lighter option to munch on. Even as I was ordering, I suspected that the assorted dumplings would be more novelty than taste (kind of like the multicoloured buns at Taste Gallery). It seems that I can't resist a bit of novelty so we did end up ordering this basket. The pork dumpling was very average. Where's the soup? The prawn dumpling has a strong prawn flavour (hopefully all natural but I have my doubts) and tender filling. I enjoyed it the most.
Close-up of the 4 colour pork and vegetable dumpling
The 4 colour pork and vegetables actually weren't as pointless as I thought they'd be. I've never had a dumpling like this before and I don't know if the extra effort taken to make them that pretty is worth it, taste wise, but they tasted alright. On the other hand, give me a well made simple xiao long bao over this any day.
If I was hoping for an equivalent of Din Tai Fung in Brisbane, I was sorely disappointed. I loved the premise of Dumpling Republic. The ordering system is like many yum cha restaurants I've tried in China. Some of the dishes were quite good but the dumplings themselves were nothing special. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing but one would think something labelled 'premium mixed basket of dumplings' would showcase the best the restaurant has to offer. The prices were quite reasonable and the service was very friendly.