Every so often Melbourne goes crazy for a new dumpling place, with rave reviews turning up wherever you look. We usually tune the hype out - so much of it is about new ways to do pork dumplings or similarly meaty inventions. So when the internet went crazy with love for Shandong Mama and their mackerel dumplings, we filed it away as a place investigate one day, but without any real priority. And then Hayley sorted us out with this giddy review of the veggie dishes on offer and it went straight to the top of our list.
We've been there twice for late weekend lunches, having no problems getting a table on either occasion. I understand things get a bit more hectic during workday lunches and at dinner time, so you might need to a while if you're after a more conventional meal time.
The menu has a reasonable range of well-labelled vegetarian dishes, but we followed Hayley's advice and looked past the noodles and the garlic broccoli and just went with two dishes: the dumplings and the scallion pancakes.
There's only one vegan dumpling option - boiled dumplings with zucchini, tofu, black fungus, coriander, rice noodles, ginger and garlic ($10.80 for 12 dumplings). These are beautifully made little pockets of freshness, with the zucchini light and a bit sweet - probably the best veggie dumplings we've tried. Of course everything is more delicious when it's dunked in your own combination sauce of chilli, vinegar and soy. On both visits we've shared a plate of these and Cindy has seen the desperation in my eyes and given me an extra dumpling. I think next time I'll need a whole plate to myself.
As good as the dumplings were, they were outshone by the scallion pancakes ($6.8 for 2).
Look at them! They're swirls of doughy deliciousness with just the right combination of crispy fried bits and softer sauce-soaking-up bits. Incredible.
Shandong Mama is a fantastic addition to our CBD dining options - this light lunch set us back less than $20 for two brilliant dishes. The service is friendly and efficient (although we did wait a while for our scallion pancakes both times - they must take a bit of prep) and the vibe is low-key and relaxed (at least at 3 in the afternoon). We'll be back.
The vegetarian review at Ballroom Blintz was what got us in the door, but Shandong Mama has been gushed over by loads of other bloggers - see Let's Get Fat Together, Food, booze and shoes, Never Too Sweet, Fika & Kuidaore, new international students, littlelocalkitchen, PETIT MIAMx, noms & rambles, thehangrybitch, doublecooked, GAGWOOD BLOG, A Table for Two, Mel: Hot or Not, The World Loves Melbourne, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, Eat and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die(t), a Melbourne girl at heart, off the spork, ramblingrelish, Another Bloody Food Blog, Pigging Out Around the World, food temple, Sarah Cooks, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Life with Us, Barley Blog, Shh. Just Eat and Typical Food Blog.
There were a few dissenting voices, with Sweet and Sour Fork, Peach Water and Footscray Food Blog not really loving it.
200 Bourke Street (down the arcade)
veg dishes $3.80 - $14.80
Accessibility: Shandong Mama has a flat entryway and, although we thought it looked crowded, we witnessed a customer in a wheelchair enjoying a happy solo lunch here. You order at the table and pay at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.