Having done Camy a couple of times, we were due to take Jen and Buttons' advice and visit Shanghai Noodle House next door. It's somewhat smaller and as a result the service does feel more personable. Lining the walls are coloured pieces of paper listing many of the dishes available, in English and Chinese. Promises of eel and pork liver might put a vego off, but there's actually a dedicated vegetarian section in the pink laminated menu with 36 items to choose from. I find it difficult to place my first order at a restaurant like this - the prices are low and it's difficult to imagine being satisfied with just a $5 plate per person. Besides, there's too many appetising names to choose between!
Michael left the decisions up to me and I tried not to dilly-dally. First cab off the rank were the spicy vegetable stir fried rice cakes ($8). I suppose we were expecting three or four fritter-like things consisting mostly of rice - instead we were surprised by this mountainous plate of glutinous things that looked like water chestnuts. (Once they did turn up I began to recall a post I'd once seen on Kitchen Wench...) I can imagine the rice cakes bulking up a well-dressed salad or stir-fry nicely, but we barely made a dent in this plateful. They're listed on the menu as standard, spicy or Sichuan (with a warning chilli next to it) and I hoped the intermediate version would suit our tastes. Alas, it was too hot for me (though OK for Michael). But that's the fun of trying something new - you win some, you lose some and you can always learn something along the way!
It was inevitable that I'd order a plate of the vegetable fried dumplings ($7). They arrived fresh out of the frypan, with the requisite texture of one side chewy, the other side crispy with oil. The filling was pretty good too.
My final order was for three vegetable buns ($4). Again they arrived super-fresh, all soft and sweet on the outside, with salty-bitter mushrooms and spinach within.
Needless to say, Michael and I were stuffed to the gills, with food (and money) to spare. It's probably more fun to eat here in a larger group, allowing you to order a larger range of dishes and taste them all. Even so, the Shanghai Noodle House still makes for a fast, cheap and tasty dinner for two and is a worthy alternative to Camy.
Address: 2/242 Little Bourke St, Melbourne CBD (enter via Tattersalls Lane)
Ph: 9662 9380
Price: veg plates $4-9