Cho Dumpling King is always surrounded by a queue of people. Often you'll find a staff member acting as bouncer to the crowds. She hands out menus with brusque efficiency, and it's only when you've placed your order that she'll put your table numbers down in her notepad queue.
The restaurant name is a bit of a misnomer. There are no dumplings to be found here. Instead it's a mix of Taiwanese dishes, all printed in large on the window, each accompanied by photos. The window offers a visual enticement of side dishes, all neatly plated and ready to be served.
You only need to decide on your main meals outside before you communicate them to the bouncer -- side dishes can be chosen ad hoc once you're inside the restaurant. The side dishes are cold but wide and varied, including pig ears, deep-fried white bait, pork hock slices, potato salad, golden fried prawns and plates of baby octopus. They're also super cheap at only $3.50 each.
Queues outside Cho Dumpling King
The restaurant itself is the size of a shoebox, squeezing in 22 people with minimal room to move. It's noisy and chaotic but the diners - mostly Asian uni students - don't seem to mind. We squeeze our way to the display cabinet to pick out our side dishes, having to dodge rushing waitstaff carrying tea pots or serving dishes in the small gaps between each table.
Taiwanese style stewed minced pork rice set $9 (includes one side dish)
The three of us share two mains and a collection of side dishes. Stewed mince pork is a Taiwanese classic, a saucy huddle of sweet pork mince served on fluffy white rice and garnished with pickled daikon slices.
Firm tofu and cucumber $3.50
There's not a lot of flavour to the firm tofu, but its texture has the chewy satisfaction of meat. It's quite a light dish, especially with the chunks of pickled cucumber garnished with coriander and chilli.
Pork chop with rice value meal $9
A bento box holds our pork chop value meal, a flattened pork chop crumbed and deep-fried. The pork is tender and there's plenty to keep us occupied here, from the stalks of crisp broccoli, to mouthfuls of fluffy omelette and wedges of sweet orange to finish.
Crumbed and deep-fried pork chop
Fried eggplant $3.50
Fried eggplant is a little oily but it's so deliciously caramlised, soft and sticky that it's worth it, and we have no choice but to savour every last bite.
Bamboo shoots $3.50
We also dig into stalks of young bamboo shoots, always a textural treat with its bumps, grooves and crevices.
Fried chicken pieces $3.50
I put in a call for the fried chicken and I'm glad I did. The bone-in chicken has been marinated, battered and deep-fried to finger lickin' deliciousness, and even though the chicken is cold, the batter still has plenty of crunch.
Bitter melon $3.50
A plate of bitter melon balances all the evils of deep fried I say, at least on the palate anyway. Bitter melon is a bit of an acquired taste, but we grew up on this at home, usually stir-fried with beef and salted black bean.
Here it's served very plain, boiled and sliced, then dressed with vinegar, garlic and chilli. It is bitter, but I find it cleansing, particularly against all the grease we've just consumed.
Dining at Cho Dumpling King isn't for the faint of heart, particularly during peak hour. It's a whirl of queues, utilitarian ordering, cramped and noisy dining and an efficiently dispensed bill as soon as you've finished your meal. On the other hand, there's much fun to be had with the self-serve $3.50 side dish buffet, and with free tea on offer, we eat ourselves into a stupor for lunch for only $10.50 each.
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3/16/2011 02:51:00 a.m.