9/220 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane
I was going for a stroll around West End before work when I spotted China Inn on Melbourne Street. How long has that been there for? Surely it's brand new. I couldn't remember what had been there previously or exactly how long it had been since my last proper look around that street but the whole China Inn shopfront looked unfamiliar to me.
I Googled the joint and discovered some reasonably promising reviews, particular with regards to their xiao long bao (steamed pork buns), a food item I not only love to eat but also holds sentimental value for me. I was intrigued enough to convince dad to take me to China Inn for lunch.
We ended up going there last Friday around noon. It was really quiet, with maybe one other patron. Discouragingly, the sushi cafe next door had an enormous queue. I was tempted to jump ship and go over there instead. I'm a firm believer that popularity reflects quality. Dad insisted that since we were there already, we might as well try it.
The menu contains mostly what I think of as yum cha items. There are plenty of buns and dumplings. We noticed some heartier dishes like fried rice and fried noodles. It's not the kind of place you could order a bunch of large wok-fried share dishes to have with rice like we normally do at Chinese restaurants. My dad classed the menu as very "snacky".
We ordered some milk tea to start with. They were out of pearls that day so I requested plain milk tea with half sugar. These were served in large glass mugs. The flavour was decent but they were really sweet. If that's what they consider to be "half sugar" I shudder to think what full sugar is.
We chose some yum cha dishes to share. Two of what we wanted contained wontons, which apparently wasn't yet available, so we had to select alternatives.
Xiao long bao
The xiao long bao came first but frustratingly, we asked for vinegar to dip them in and it took ages for the vinegar to be brought out. The buns had cooled down slightly by then. It's not like the place was busy either, we were by this point the only table of diners. The buns themselves were quite good. The skin was reasonably thin and there was a burst of soup inside each. Dad commented that the pork mince was too mushy though.
BBQ pork buns
The rest of the yum cha items were very average. Most dishes looked and tasted generic and I highly doubt they're made on site. The only exception is perhaps the pan fried dumplings because they looked rustic. The bbq pork buns were very normal.
Seafood and corn soup
Steamed shu mai
The seafood and corn soup was very normal. The pumpkin buns were too sticky for my liking. The shu mai were very normal. Dad commented that the majority of these tasted like they were bought from an Asian supermarket and steamed to serve.
We were very unimpressed with the food at China Inn. The xiao long bao were decent but it wasn't enough to make up for the mediocrity of the other dishes. I would love for there to be a great Chinese dumpling store near me but this one doesn't cut it.