Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Digital dining

China Red
Shop 6, 206 Bourke St
Open: 7 days lunch + dinner
China Red on Urbanspoon

It was only a matter of time before gimmicky digital dining landed in Melbourne, and this little number aka China Red has been open for a couple of years now. I've always been adverse to wait staff taking orders on electronic devices that look like some sort of embarrassing mobile/robot dildo from the 80's, but the concept of personalised computer screen ordering excited me in that neu-wave-avoid-all-human-contact kinda way. I'd caught wind that the dumplings at China Red were above average and the fact that I was having drinks over the road at Hasti Bala was enough of an impetus to drag my beer soaked stomach in for a feed.

I was accompanied by the lovely Weazelby, MW and a colourful street lout that goes by the name of TIME$$Y. The beer selection was nothing revolutionary, we drank Lucky for novelty value. I wouldn't say it's the nicest beer, it has that watery chemical Chang beer vibe that reminds me of being far too drunk in Thailand (footage not found).

Moving on. As you can see ordering was fun. Pretty simple: choose food, click the number of servings, click OK.......... and in a phenomenally short amount of time your meals will be delivered by a fairly brusque waiter.

First cab off the rank, the Xiao Long Bao, $9.80 for 8. Similarly to Hu Tong you can watch the chefs nimbly kneading away in the front of the restaurant making these dumplings along side a variety of noodles. They were good...... BUT a little fragile with a couple of these thin skinned suckers exploding before they had a chance to get in my mouth. Too much innuendo? Ok.. well my point is they weren't as delicately crafted as others I have had, but the juicy pork component was comparable to Hu Tong. We did also have the pan fried pork dumplings $10.80 for 8, which were delicious - I'm sure - but I ate them too quick to remember or get a greasy iphone snap. Your loss.. or gain. Yes I know the photos I use suck, but I don't carry a camera and I get embarrassed taking food snaps. I might one day make it onto THIS SITE, although I'm eurasian... so does that make it ok?? Am I being racist now (only hipster ironic racist, which is apparently worse).

Next up chilli wontons $8.80 for 8. I LOVE CHILLI WONTONS. I think they can be better than Xiao Long Bao especially if the chilli oil is good quality. Unfortunately these missed the mark a little, they were a touch overcooked with a soggy skin and there wasn't enough chive happening inside. Where's the chive man? Maybe chive doesn't sound similar enough to vibe for that pun to work.

How about some dolphin dumplings* $8.80 for 3. ?? Sure, why not? These alien looking creatures were filled with prawn although this was quite indistinguishable and more like a processed mass. There was a hint of crunchy prawn bounce, but not enough to make these worthy of their $8 price tag. *officially named prawn dumplings in dolphin shape

Dolfini, dolfini!

We also shared a few mains - classic beancurd with pork mince and chilli $13.80 (with extra gloop). Standard quality.

Stir fried shredded potato with green capsicum $13.80, a personal favourite. Who knew crunchy potato could be so satisfying? Not sure how I'd make this at home.

Pork spare ribs in dry chilli $18.80. OK by this stage we probably didn't need another dish and certainly not a deep fried pork dish, but how can you leave a dinner in Chinatown without a little dash of deep fry, ya know? These had all the right elements, but the SALT. Oh my god, the SALT ! I think I could have stripped my tongue with these. Of course I kept eating them, but later on I didn't feel too crash hot.

So what's the verdict? I like it, I mean sure the food isn't exceptional quality, but it's fun dining and there are a bunch of other dishes on menu that I'm dying to try. (Beancurd wrapped fried prawns, salted egg yolk fried prawns.. although maybe asking for trouble after the salty pork incident.. etc etc.. ). I've heard great reports on their hand made noodle dishes too. The prices tend to be a touch more expensive than other places nearby, but I'm happy to pay extra to avoid bad service (no service = good service sometimes)! And I get excited about sneaky ordering when dining with others when they go to the loo.. always have to think one dish ahead ("it must be some computer glitch - as if I would have ordered the spicy pork spare ribs!")

They do lose points for this poor little lobster, who had clearly had its last sea scrounge a while ago ! You aren't fooling anybody Red.

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