date of visit: Friday 7 September 2012

Our last visit to Mandoo, still tucked away on Bank Street, was over a year ago and it’s been quite remiss of us to leave it such a long time between visits.

When we catch the train into work we see the chef at work first thing in the morning (and I mean about 8am) and on Friday night, come 9pm, he was still busy shaping dumplings. Clearly, the dumpling business means hard work and long hours. However, the people of Adelaide are grateful for his efforts because the teensy tiny restaurant was packed.

We had no reservation – this was a last minute dining decision (on my part, Andy claimed he wasn’t hungry). And so there we were, on a Friday night around 8pm, peering in the window and seeing just one table for two clear … but topped by a ‘reserved’ sign.

Fortunately, our mournful faces were spotted, we were beckoned inside and seated at the reserved table. Around us, there was table shuffling as more faces appeared at the window – even if you turn up without a reservation, it seems like the staff at Mandoo will bend over backwards to accommodate you. The restaurant is tiny so it’s a cosy, convivial and bustling dining experience.

No hanging around ordering – I was ready for steamed kim chi dumplings while Andy opted for fried pork dumplings. On our last visit, I noted that most dishes were priced at $9.99. Prices have gone up: our dinner came in at $25, and the dumpling dishes are now around the $12-13 mark. Hardly a lot of money – especially when the food is not only tasty but also beautifully presented.

Eight dumplings (a sane portion size that will fill hungry tummies without leaving you overwhelmed) are served with a spicy dipping sauce, a salad, cold mashed potato (this appears to be a Korean thing) and pickles. The dumplings are still well stuffed so you need not fear a burst of hot water and a burnt mouth. The kim chi dumplings have plenty of texture and flavour (OK – they have kim chi in them, it’d be very hard for them to NOT have flavour). That texture is a big part of what I really rate about these dumplings. So many dumplings are filled with a smooth, pappy mixture.

Service at Mandoo is efficient – and the dumplings come out very quickly (they are all sitting in large steamers, ready to go!), which makes it ideal if you need a quick feed on your way from A to B. I believe the restaurant is not licensed and while there are both drink fridges and tea, water is brought to the table as a matter of course, and this is good enough for me. The staff are helpful too – when I ordered the kim chi dumplings the waitress did check that I knew what I was getting myself into!

I was so pleased to return to Mandoo after a year and find it popular and busy. I was even more pleased to find the dumplings remain top notch.

If you like Korean food and would like a slower pace and a wider menu, I suggest you check out Ga Bin on Grote Street. Make sure you try the kim chi pancake there.

Mandoo Korean Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Dumplings R Us

date of visit: Tuesday 13 March 2012

We ducked into Dumplings R Us for a quick (and extremely cheap) takeaway lunch. It sits on Rundle Street, near Brunelli and Red Rock Noodle bar, on the site of several ‘former’ venues. Before dumplings, it was a Japanese restaurant/café.

The menu is very reminiscent of Dumpling King and for around $9 you can bag yourself 15 fried pork dumplings. That’s enough to split between 2 people, unless you’re a very greedy chappy. There are a quite a few other dishes available but, given the emphasis on dumplings in the name I expect dumplings to be the star dish.

We turned up around half past 12 and the restaurant was quite busy but definitely not full. Placing our order took a little while and then we sat at a table to wait. This gave me a good chance to observe both the kitchen and waiting staff in action.

Waiting wise, things seemed pretty busy and I think if they’d had on one or two more staff then they’d have all looked a lot less harried. In the kitchen, things seemed under control. The dumplings do all seem to be frozen in bags of 10 or 15 (the two portion sizes) – and as they’re ordered they’re just dumped into pans for cooking. The restaurant also features an ‘Express Bar’ which had a few dumplings under a heat lamp but didn’t seem to be being used.

Back at work the dumplings were unpacked and shared out. We’d ordered fried and they were quite nice and crispy. In our bag we also had some sauces (including the really tasty chilli and onion sauce) so you’re not missing out on too much by opting for takeaway.

Flavour wise, the dumplings are nothing exciting. There’s nothing offensive or wrong with them, but there’s also nothing to make you sit up and take notice. Personally, if I were closer to Bank Street I’d be heading to Mandoo over Dumplings R Us. But if you’re around Rundle Street and you want dumplings in a hurry then Dumplings R Us will sort you out.

Perfectly decent for a quick, cheap lunch on a work day.

Dumplings R Us on Urbanspoon

Dumpling King

date of visit:  Sat 24 October 2009

I have some friends who are really in to dumplings but for some reason I’ve never asked them where they eat them.  I’m prepared to put some money on this being at Dumpling King.  That’s because if you mention dumplings in Adelaide then you’ll get at least one person talking about Dumpling King.  You even get people saying it’s better than dumplings in Sydney

The restaurant is pretty hard to miss:  it’s on Grote Street, right on the corner of Chinatown AND it has a big red sign.  When we visited, about half past three on a Saturday afternoon, right after the market had closed, it wasn’t full but it was busy enough to suggest that at more conventional lunch or dinner times you might have to be a bit lucky to be seated immediately.

But service is swift so I can’t imagine you’d have to wait long.  The flip-side of that is that this is not a restaurant for a lengthy, relaxed meal.  This is a restaurant where you walk in, order dumplings, eat dumplings and leave.  You’ll be lucky if you push that out to an hour …

We walked in, poured ourselves some of the green tea which is on all the tables, and read over the menu.  Clearly, many customers are regulars as the waitress asked us if we knew what we wanted as she seated us!  It wasn’t long before we’d made a decision:  chilli oil dumplings for me, and chicken (check out for franchises)and prawn steamed dumplings for Andy.  My dumplings arrived first:  15 huge dumplings in a bowl of broth laced with chilli oil.  A little while later Andy’s plate of 10 equally huge steamed dumplings arrived:  just the dumplings, packed on a plate and no adornment.

While I struggled with the size of my dumplings and my chopsticks I was saved by my spoon – able to scoop up the dumplings, wrestle with them a little and then manage to eat them, laced with their chilli broth.  Mmmmm.

Andy was eating more elegantly and had discovered the excellent, tasty, but not super fiery, chilli sauce on the table.  It was packed with crispy onion!  So soon I was adding that to my dumplings too.

Of course there was far too much food, and of course I scoffed it all and then promptly complained that I felt too full.

All we had to pay for our late lunch was around $15.   And if you’re so minded you can buy frozen dumplings to take home and cook yourself.

Will we be back?  Oh yes!

Contact:  Dumpling King, 5/85 Grote St, Adelaide SA 5000, phone: (08) 8212 1886

Dumpling KingDumplings! Big, tasty, cheap dumplings! 

Rating:4.5 stars

Dumpling King on Urbanspoon