DUMPLINGS! That is quite often the ravaging cry to be heard emanating from the lips of myself and a good chunk of people I know on a fairly regular basis. Though I must admit I’m struggling a little to find a really great dumpling place within walking distance from my workplace (really wish Hu Tong at The Cullen wasn’t just that little bit too far away for my stumpy, lazy gams).
The best option within walking distance is Oriental Tea House. And yes, I’ll say straight off the bat that this isn’t explode-your-face off AMAZING yum cha, but it’s easy and fun, the space is great to sit in and the staff are unfailingly friendly, and there are some dishes that happily rock me whenever I go.
Last time Muffin and I visited after work we sampled the vegetarian banquet. With drinks, from what I recall it cost about $40, and some of the dishes were quite good. The san choi bao and vegie roll made for good starters; I was intrigued by the fact the vegie roll was a lot less like a spring roll, and instead had a wrapper made out of thin tofu.
The serve of dumplings came out in a steamer with just two dumplings, one regular with the thin, see-through glutinous wrapper, the other was a buckwheat-skinned dumpling. The buckwheat one seemed more mushroomy, and its skin did seem to impart a distinctly different flavour, but otherwise both were quite satisfactory, loaded up with a mix of vegies. Also included in the steamer was a vegetable bun, which had a slight paucity of filling, and is recalled as being a bit disappointing.
The main dish came out on a large plate, containing stir-fried vegetables, a spring onion pancake, steamed rice and the DIVINE salt and chilli tofu. I am wholeheartedly addicted to salt and chilli tofu, and Oriental Tea House plate up a damn good version. The spring onion cake wasn’t any great shakes (I’m enormously fond of spring onion cakes and ones I have a low opinion of can sometimes bring my whole meal down), but the vegies were good and the tofu, HOLY HANNAH, totally boss as always (though you do get a much smaller portion of tofu in the banquet compared to just ordering the standard dish, which aggrieved me quite a bit).
Dessert: an eggy combo of custard bun and custard tart, which were both beautifully well done. Such lovely flaky pastry on the tart, and the custard in both was strong on flavour (nice natural flavour, none of that slightly powery commercial custard taste here) and both were smooth and creamy.
Being a tea house, we really couldn’t order anything else to accompany our meal. I went with the raspberry lime ice tea, which is my favourite out of all their interestingly flavoured iced teas, it’s terribly sweet (just how I like, well, mostly everything!) and the lime gives it a refreshing kick. Muffin ordered a lemongrass and ginger tea, which when it arrived engulfed our table in such a gorgeously delicious smell it made us food-swoon quite enthusiastically.
Oriental Tea House is a good little place to grab yourself a quick, pleasant dinner. Must admit that I probably wouldn’t go the option of the banquet again, just because it seemed a little light on content considering the price and I did go away with a little bit of hunger still grousing away inside me. But there are some really great, satisfying dishes on the menu as a whole that means I’ll be back to construct my own banquet… probably entirely composed of that amazing salt and chilli tofu.
Oriental Tea House
455 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Ph: 9826 0168
Note: Oriental Tea House also has two other locations, one in the city at 378 Little Collins Street, and another at Chadstone Shopping Centre. I haven’t been to these other locations, but figured I’d put them up in case South Yarra is not pleasing for you geographically.