Back in 2008 (dear god, has it been that long?), I discovered North East China Family – a double storey, modern dumpling restaurant on Flinders Lane between Liz and Queen. I went there on my own and had a fried rice and, by god, it was one of the best fried rice at a Chinese restaurant I had ever had. So I went back with Josh and others in tow for the dumplings numerous times since the initial visit.
(Seafood fried rice – $11?)
The dumplings themselves, vegetarian dumplings aside, were quite good. We have tried a few and settled the pork and pickled cabbage dumplings as our favourite. The skin wasn’t too thick or doughy and the fillings were well seasoned and balanced. The vegetarian ones, unfortunately, didn’t rate well. I found the filling of greens and a few other random bits of carrot were a bit one dimensional and, well, wasn’t any good.
(Boiled pork and pickled cabbage dumplings 15 for $8?)
The portions, on the other hand, used to be rather large and generous (15 for around $8? at the time) and if you consumed the whole plate of them, you would have to roll yourself back to your office. I noticed the reduction in size over the past few years, however. Since then the dumplings had become a bit smaller and North East China Family had been less generous with the filling. I can’t say I blame the restaurant since most people seemed incapable of finishing a whole plate of dumplings. Another point to note is that the restaurant charges extra ($1?) for the pan-fried version of the same dumplings. As we very much prefer boiled dumplings over fried, we have not tried the fried variety.
(Apologies I can’t remember what this one was called. Possibly the Shanghai noodles)
Other non-dumpling dishes also rate well in my book. The fried rice, although it was never as good as the very first fried rice I had there, was decent with excellent wok hei and no too greasy. A few other dishes that we had included fried noodles with pork, beef and scrambled egg sauce on rice and Beijing noodles with meat sauce. All quite well made and quite tasty.
(Beef and scrambled egg sauce on rice?)
Now here comes the sticking point: the service. North East China Family had been very popular since they opened a few years ago and the service had dramatically declined in our last few visits back in 2010. While we normally scored a table without a lot of hassle, the food wait had become ridiculous. Our last visit, we received our first dish in 10 minutes and had to wait a good half an hour for our dumplings.
This was absolutely unacceptable during the lunch rush. We even stopped going there on Fridays and eventually other days as well. I can’t comment on how their service has been recently but if you have, please share your experience. I would also like to mention that the waitstaff were pleasant, though ineffective. I think the kitchen was more of the problem.
We had also been back once during their dinner service. Their menu included ‘can only dinner’ section and we had sampled a couple of dishes from there and from memory, they were excellent compared to the lunch dishes which were good. The dinner service was nowhere near as terrible as lunch. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there for dinner again but would be rather weary about lunching there if I don’t have unlimited lunching hours.
(Sweet pancake with red bean paste or lotus paste filling)
North East China Family used to be a really good lunch option for dumplings in the CBD with its cheap, tasty and generously portioned dumplings and other rice and noodle dishes. However, as their popularity grew, their service had been very disappointingly slow. I would recommend you try their dinner service, where the food and service were better, and stay away from their crowded lunch service.
North East China Family
Address: 302 Flinders La, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: 03 9629 9968