25 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne 3000
(03) 9663 8555
I have something to admit: I couldn’t even remember the name of this hidden-away Chinese eatery and I’ve never been able to. Simply referred to as “Shanghai Dumplings” or “Shanghai Village” by my compadres, I had to trawl through many generic restaurants with pretty much the same name to find the contact details. There’s a reason for that – this restaurant is pretty forgettable. Tucked away in one of the many anonymous laneways in the CBD, I always have to wander around China Town for a while to find it again – the only give-away being the bar right next to it, made out of a shipping container, and the perpetual queue outside Camy Shanghai Dumpling.
So if it’s so forgettable, then why do I, and so many others, always seek out this humble Chinese restaurant? That’s a good question, and one I cannot fully answer. For all intents and purposes, this is a pretty low-quality establishment. The staff are quite disinterested, and communicating with them can be a challenge. Asking if something is vegetarian is usually impossible, so bringing along a couple of meat-eaters to test every dish out is a must. The interior is pretty tacky, with old, worn booths and windows that have been scribbled on with inanities by other patrons. The speakers are often playing some cheesy ballad from the 1980s, usually something by Michael Bolton, and it’s a pretty bizarre experience because of this. Hot tea is self-serve in coloured plastic mugs, and the food is far from healthy, heavily doused in oil and presumably MSG.
But, Camy has it’s upsides. For one thing, it’s pretty damn cheap. A measly $15 gets you all you can eat, their one stipulation being that you must eat all that you order and waste nothing. This rarely happens. For all you can eat, you get a range of dishes, including mushroom dumplings, vegetable dumplings, anonymous meat dumplings (both fried and steamed), fried rice, noodles, spring onion cake, Chinese broccoli drenched in vinegar and soy sauce, and my all-time favourite, sweet pumpkin dumplings. I recommend that you bring along a ratio of at least 3 to 1 meat eaters to vegos to ensure all the food gets eaten, but that’s not to say a vegetarian will go hungry here.
The vegetarian dumplings are pretty run of the mill, and it’s best to dip them in a mix of vinegar and soy sauce, or they can be quite plain. Fried rice and noodles are alright but nothing amazing (is it even possible to make amazing fried rice?). The broccoli is the only semblance of healthy eating, and even that is ridiculously salty given the soy sauce it swims in. Regardless, it’s one of my weaknesses and I end up eating all of it. The reason I come here, however, are the above mentioned sweet pumpkin dumplings. They are everything that is good about dumplings, sweet but soft in their doughy pockets of deliciousness, which is the perfect counterbalance to the endless saltiness of the other dishes. I love these dumplings so much, I’m literally considering just going to the restaurant, buying up their stock of frozen pumpkin dumplings and never returning.
However, despite all the short-comings of Camy Shanghai Dumpling, I keep coming back. Not just for the pumpkin dumplings but the experience of eating suss food with a big group of friends for cheap. If you can look past the service, the unhealthiness, the venue and a lot of the food, it’s okay.
- Taste: 5/10 (but 10/10 for the pumpkin dumplings!)
- Nutrition: 4/10
- Atmosphere: 2/10
- Cost: 8/10
- Convenience: 8/10
- Overall: 27/50