Dumpling joints are scattered all across this city and for good reason. Those delicately wrapped morsels of pork dunked in pools of soy and ginger have helped more than a few of us soak up the post-work spirits and prevent the dreaded champagne headache. Not to mention when done well dumplings are ever so moreish and delicious. So when I heard about the opening of new dumpling spot Ruyi I felt a pang of excitement deep in the chest area. I always leave my Hu Tong bookings (my favourite – check them out here) too late and miss out on the elusive Friday or Saturday night seat. So I was super excited to hear of a new opening to help spread the load and thin out the Melbourne dumpling lines.
A step into Ruyi is like taking in air. Full of light, Ruyi’s fit-out is the polar opposite of the many kitschy, underground style Chinese joints. Clearly missing are the Happy Palace-esque waving cats, drapings of red and gold and twirling lazy Susans you will find at many city restaurants. In their place are beautiful light wooden tables, luxurious cushions and ceramic crockery in warm colours that almost had me breathing a relaxed sigh of relief. It is immediately clear that Ruyi is aiming to be something more than just another Chinese restaurant in a city enthralled by Asian cuisine.
With the up-market interior comes a more expensive menu. I was a little dumbfounded to see the pork and crab shao long bao were three for $12. Happily for us we were served four so we could enjoy two each.
The delicate flavour of the crab was a sparkling addition to the usual pork shao long bao but I thought the pinched skins were slightly too thick. The real shame for us though came with the eating utensils. Dining in Ruyi’s first week (second week of December) there was not a chop stick in sight. Stick a fork in shao long bao and you risk losing the sweet, fragrant broth and having it dribble down your arm. Hopefully by now Ruyi’s chop sticks have arrived. We were disappointed.
A plate of the homemade wontons in chill sauce comes out all drama with six plump wontons drowning in a deep red chilli sauce and a sprinkling of spring onions. Taking a mouthful I waited for an eruption of heat that never arrived. The sauce tasted overwhelmingly like vinegar rather than having that fantastic chilli sweetness and heat that I’ve had before. The wontons themselves were beautifully soft and juicy but I would have preferred them served bare with a glug of soy sauce instead.
A selection of ‘lettuce cups’ (like san choy boy) also make it onto the menu. The seafood lettuce cup is lined with teeny tiny morsels of prawn, rice and pine nuts. Although there was a nice chilli bite I found the flavours underwhelming and the portion itself incredibly small. More prawn please – that would have helped things along.
Ruyi’s bursts of creativity show themselves in the list of mains. Think prawns in a light berry sauce (which I couldn’t bring myself to order) or Chinese style fish and chips. The wasabi steak with summer zucchini and peppers was a colourful concoction of crunchy green and red veggies with slices of deliciously springy steak. For me, the smothering of wasabi over the meat was just too overpowering to be enjoyable but the steak itself was superb.
Perhaps it was our choices or maybe it was first week jitters but Ruyi underwhelmed us. For the price we paid I would have liked a bit more punch in my chilli sauce and prawn in my lettuce cup. Overall the dumplings were the highlight and I would like to try the simpler steamed prawn or pan-fried pork and chive dumplings if I return – as long as there are chop sticks to eat them with!