My friends and I regularly find ourselves hotly debating who serves up Canberra’s best dumplings and this week’s Taste Off revealed that the same is true for RiotACT readers.
Votes came in for a few restaurants I hadn’t heard of before, like Top Taste in Woden, Dumpling Inn at Jamison, Beijing House in Hawker and Jade Dumpling Noodle House in Gungahlin. There were also quite a few votes for Dickson Dumpling House and CBD Dumpling House, but the favourites were undoubtedly Shanghai Dumpling Cafe on Childers Street near ANU and the newly arrived Akiba on Bunda Street in the city.
First up was Shanghai Dumpling Cafe, which received the most votes but also caused the most controversy. It seems that everyone has an opinion on Shanghai Dumpling – there are lots that say it’s good, but those who don’t like it, really don’t like it. I’ve spent many an evening there, eating dumplings and drinking cheap wine from their ceramic tea cups. I, personally, am a pretty big fan. While their customer service isn’t crash hot, their dumplings are good and you can get a plate full of them for pretty cheap. My favourite is the steamed vegetarian dumplings with sauce and, as always, they didn’t disappoint. I don’t know what they put in that sauce, but it takes dumplings to a whole new level.
Next stop was new kid on the block, Akiba. Akiba only opened in December last year and their dumplings have already made a name for themselves. It was my first time at Akiba and the experience lived up to the hype. The place has a great vibe, the staff were fun, the music was good and they also make a killer cocktail. We were handed menus and the first thing I noticed was that they don’t have a big range of dumplings. However, I’m not one to turn down a recommendation and someone had suggested the shiitake and water chestnut dumplings were the best they had tasted outside of China Town. I was impressed, they were delicious and the red vinegar and chilli oil sauce was on point – can you tell I like my sauce?
Picking a winner this week was difficult. On the one hand, Shanghai Dumpling Cafe has an enormous range of dumplings and is much cheaper. You can get 15 dumplings for as cheap as $11.50, but their customer service and general vibe is considerably lacking. Akiba, on the other hand, is the outright winner when it comes to good vibes and friendly service, but their range of dumplings is small and you only get four, albeit large, dumplings for $10.
When it comes down to dumpling vs. dumpling however, I think Akiba has it. Akiba’s dumplings, with their shiitake goodness and slight water chestnut crunch, are wrapped in a light translucent dough that really hits the mark. While Shanghai Dumpling is the place for good, cheap and cheerful dumplings, Akiba is this week’s winner.