China Red is located in the heart of Chinatown and accommodates a last minute decision to dine here very easily as they have 2 levels of seating. We are greeted at the entrance very perfunctorily by the waiter and then shown downstairs with a wave - mediocre service doesn't surprise me in Chinese restaurants so I don't mind. China Red has an extremely large menu ranging from entrées and plates of dumplings to larger main size dishes. As we are only here for a quick dinner before drinks, we settle on dishes that we would normally order at HuTong Dumpling Bar.
The Wonton in Spicy sauce was a replica of the delicious rendition from HuTong Dumpling Bar although not as tasty. The flavours were spot on with less chilli oil but the texture of the Wonton were slightly overcooked and soggy. I enjoyed it nonetheless except for when I bit into a peppercorn and one side of my tongue went numb for the rest of the meal, hah!
The Xiao Long Bao was plentiful with flavoursome soup inside and the skin was thin yet did not break easily when being picked up.
The XLBs are addictive especially with the ginger and vinegar provided, although this is usually the same amount of ginger I get served at HuTong Dumpling Bar for myself, not just for the table.
The Pan fried Pork Buns were actually made from steamed buns rather than the typical dumpling skins - I've looked it up and apparently the exterior can vary. The steamed buns were very thick and sweet and sadly, there was no soup inside which we were expecting. On the underside of the Pork buns were a layer of fried sesame seeds which was tasty and made it extra crunchy.
I absentmindedly forgot to take a picture of the Peking Noodles with Meat sauce but basically it was a bowl of think white noodles with julienned cucumbers, some meat sauce and a good dollop of peanut sauce. We found that the peanut sauce overwhelmed all the flavours and especially the meat sauce so it turned out to be just Noodles with peanut sauce and some extra textural elements (cucumbers and some bits of minced meat).
The good thing about China Red is that you don't need to deal with the waiters and just put your order through the touch screen, ensuring that your order won't be misheard. Beware though, that once you input your order in, you aren't able to retract it.
We were seated directly outside the kitchen window which was uncomfortable as the chefs had a tendency to lean on the table and stare. It was a strange experience.
The service, as limited as it was, lacked care of personal space with a waiter lean in so close to me when he came to pick up the dishes, that I had to move away. There was another instance in the middle of our meal when two waiters started separating the tables next to us for arriving customers and it was actually so loud we had to shout to each other to be heard. If they want to create a classy or at least tolerable atmosphere for diners, they should take care to lift up the steel stools and tables instead of dragging them across the ground. Oh my head - we were just glad to get out of there when we could. So all in all, the food was satisfactory but I still would rather head to HuTong Dumpling Bar or Shanghai Street Dumpling for my dumpling fix.
Will I return? No, although the food was decent, there are better options in the city.
Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9662 3688