Ever since I had my first soup dumpling at Din Tai Fung, I’ve always been on the look out for these delicious bite sized warm morsels back home in Adelaide. Unfortunately I was never able to find a place that created a decent version of these soup dumplings and always had to have my dumpling fix every time I made a trip to the east coast.
That is… until James from James Buns got in contact with me and invited myself and the stranger to try his mini creations as his guests for the evening. The menu is mainly dumplings (buns, wontons) along with rice, noodle and soup dishes with one in particular jumping out at me: the chefs special, a flamed chicken dish served to table in a clay pot with a mild hit of chilli, Chinese wine, brandy, udon noodles and bean sprouts (feeds 2-3 people) and priced only at $28.00 – so cheap! The brightly lit restaurant has taken over what used to be Sugar Bowl on Gouger Street, on the west side of Morphett Street, opposite Sushi Bar Genki.
With so many options and variety from the menu, we asked James to feed us what he thought would best complete our experience at his restaurant.
Marinated peanuts; $4.00
We were first served a small dish of cold marinated boiled peanuts, they were soft and mushy, almost like a nutty, slightly salty mini mash.
Tsing Tao Beer from China; $6.50
Curried beef brisket served with rice or noodles; $9.50
I’ve never had a Chinese curry before… in fact, I didn’t even know they made curry! (There’s a few curry dishes on the menu if you’re interested). The beef brisket was incredibly tender and soft. We had our curry served with rice which was sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds and some boiled leafy greens, the rice (I’m pretty sure they used sushi rice from the look of the grains) was fluffy and a welcomed accompaniment to balance out the strong punchy flavours from the intense dark curry.
On all the tables were a guide on how one should eat soup dumplings. You know, just in case someone popped the whole soup dumpling into their mouth and accidentally scalded themselves. It certainly isn’t unheard of!
James’ steamed juicy buns with pork and crab meat filling (6 pcs); $11.80
6 perfectly pinched steamed soup buns with a filling of pork and crab meat were presented in a bamboo basket.
I think James had nailed it! The xiao long baos were delicious. A soft delicate skin holding the soup and meat yet tough enough for us to still pick it up out of the bamboo steamer. We were both delighted to have something close to… (if not better) than the dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
Spicy wontons with pork and Chinese dried mushroom (12 pcs); $9.80
These were a hit! It was spicy… so spicy that our sinuses turned on like faucets once we had one wonton but having said that, the heat was tolerable… and the wontons were oh so tasty. These were the strangers favourite from the evening and one we’ll be ordering again on a future return visit.
Stir fried vegetables with garlic sauce; $6.50
Some crunchy cabbage to complete our meal – a shame the dish was only of cabbage, I would have expected a few more vegetables based on the dish title alone. Broccoli? Carrots? Maybe even eggplant?
I also noticed that there were pan fried pork buns on the menu (one of my favourites!), unfortunately our stomach space had ran out of room but that is definitely something that I will order next time. It’s a pork bun – the fluffy kind with the fluffy white dough on the outside, but this one is slightly smaller, a minified version… and it’s pan fried so the skin has a slight crisp to it. I wonder how James version will stack up against the ones I’ve had in the past. I’ll let you know… hopefully soon! 😉
Thank you for the meal and your kind hospitality James! We can’t wait to go back for a cheap, late night dumpling fix.
**Update 1st December 2014**
So we came back to give the other dumplings a whirl 2 nights ago. Sadly, we were pretty disappointed with the pan fried pork buns, they were bland and quite flavourless needing a pinch of salt here and there; the soy sauce/vinegar was definitely needed to add some flavour back to each bite. We also ordered the spicy wontons and stir fried cabbage again; the wontons weren’t as good as the ones we had the first time and weren’t hot in terms of temperature, it was almost luke warm (if even) with a dousing of heated spicy sauce to ‘warm’ it up. The stir fried cabbage got our tick of approval though. We were quite disappointed with our second visit but will give it one more shot to get a taste of those soup dumplings cause they were so good on our initial visit.
[dbites was invited as guests to James Buns]
158 Gouger Street
Adelaide SA 5000