By Kenny Weir
Greater Asia is as vast as Yarraville’s village is tiny
In our 15+ Yarraville years, we have tried a goodly number of local eateries of one Asian persuasion or another.
Sometime it’s been great. More often it’s been just OK. And sometimes it’s been dreadful.
Nevertheless, heading to Chi Bao – the village’s spanking new dumpling emporium – we are cheerful, optimistic.
But nor are we weighted down with high expectations.
We figure we’ll be doing fine if we get something of similar standard to what we might be served at Highpoint or Pacific Werribee.
So we are consequently ecstatic, thrilled and quite happy about the quality and deliciousness of our lunch.
The menu does play it a little safe in places – after all this is not central Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans, where hardcore can be a viable business plan.
So the Chi Bao menu has, of course, fried rice, but also Shanghai fried noodles, spring rolls and even sweet and sour pork. But in the food we enjoy there is not slightest sense of gentrificated compromise, even if the pricing appears to be a tad higher than we’d pay for similar food in Footscray.
And we appreciate that our chosen dishes do not all arrive in a flurry – the wait times denote the care evident in our food.
Up first is the simplest of salads ($7.80) – cucumber with the lightest of applications of a vinegar sesame dressing. It’s cool and just right.
Salt and pepper tofu ($6.80) appears, at first blush, to be rather pale and unappealing.
But in the eating it is superb, the tofu pieces delicately rendered and imbued with a spot-on level of salt.
The chilli dumplings ($16.80) are 10 steamed pork-and-cabbage parcels luxuriating in house-made chilli oil.
The dumplings are every bit as good as we could wish for.
But what really excites us about this dish is the funky, rich, sticky and spicy chilli oil.
It’s not in the danger zone, but is very much an improvement on the weak, pallid, watery versions we have been served elsewhere.
Our beef and celery pan-fried dumplings ($15.80 for 12) arrive freshly turned out of the pan and sporting a lacy bottom.
These, too, are superb – though we detect little or no difference in flavour attributable to the presence of celery over cabbage.
The dumplings at Chi Bao are colour-coded to make identification by the staff easier when it comes to look-a-like dishes. So the chicken dumplings, for instance, have some turmeric included. In the case of our beef-and-celery dumplings, the grey-with-black-dots colour scheme is thanks to black sesame.
Chi Bao is a hit. It is happily occupying a niche in Yarraville that obviously needed filling.
Chi Bao, 46 Anderson St, Yarraville