HOT: Golden Dragon Palace, 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe

I don’t shy away from being decisive on this blog so I’m going to make bold claim.

Golden Dragon Palace has the best yum cha in Melbourne.

So. I’ve put it out there now.

Of course, I haven’t eaten at every single yum cha restaurant in Melbourne. It’s possible that there are places that do even better dim sum than Golden Dragon Palace that I’ve not gotten to yet. Or you’ve been there and disliked it so much that you cannot believe that I would dream of saying such a thing.

But based on my knowledge of Cantonese food, including decades of eating yum cha (my mum has a diary entry saying that I was eating dim sum at 6 months old) and my journeys around Melbourne’s Chinese restaurants, Golden Dragon Palace is dim sum heaven.

It’s called Golden Dragon Palace but I wouldn’t really describe it as a palace – more a brick behemoth containing elaborate wood carvings, porcelain vases and glass etchings. It serves dim sum from trolleys starting from 11:30am on weekdays and 11am on weekends, when it’s so popular that there are three sittings and bookings are advised.

On a Friday it was reasonably full with a mostly Asian clientele. From my experience Chinese people are very discerning about their food and hold no loyalties to a particular restaurant as soon as the standards drop. In fact, I’ve known people to gossip about where a particular chef has defected to and the whole Chinese community will then troop along to the new restaurant to follow the master. So the fact that Golden Dragon Palace still attracts a large crowd on a weekday is testament to its solid reputation.

Food blogger Kat and I devoured steamer after plate after bowl of authentic Cantonese dim sum and were very shocked when our bill came to a hefty $78!  We ate a lot but be warned that it’s not the cheapest yum cha in town. However, the quality and freshness of the food is undeniable (even though not every single dish was successful) and I’m willing to pay more for that.

The dishes you should not miss include the har gao and cheong fun. They both used juicy fat prawns, with the har gao wrapping the prawns in a delicate, translucent wrapper and the made-to-order cheong fun consisting of a steaming mass of prawns within rows of silky and slippery rice noodles.

The tofu stuffed with prawn was also excellent. It’s not normally a dish that I get very excited about but this silken, almost eggy, tofu was amazing (and those big fat prawns making another appearance), far removed from the usual white cubes of brick-like tofu.

I loved the crumbly sweet pastry of these chicken pies, though I would have like more evidence of chicken and less cornflour in the filling.

The desserts were a highlight. The egg tart pastry is very flaky and light while the filling was barely set and not too sweet. The sponge cake (not pictured), warm straight from the steamer, was incredibly moreish and one of the best I’ve eaten.

The mango pudding had a subtle flavour of mango, unlike other varieties which are often a fluorescent orange mass of fake mango flavours.

Next time I’ll definitely give the xiao long bau a miss. Kat pointed out that she normally wouldn’t order a Shanghaiese speciality at a Cantonese restaurant and she’s made a good point, because the xiao long bao was more like a crude meatball wrapped in a thick skin. No delicacy in the flavours or textures, almost no soup in the parcel and slivers of ginger inside the dumpling instead of served on the side.

Kat and I disagreed on the pork buns. I thought that it wasn’t fluffy enough but quite liked the non-food-coloured pork filling. Kat liked the texture of the bun but didn’t think much of the filling. So it’s a dish that I’d return for again, in the hope that the solidity of the bun was a one-off.

And yes, there will definitely be a return visit. Just looking at the photos is making me drool!

What are your other recommendations for yum cha in Melbourne?

Golden Dragon Palace, 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe +61 3 9852 4086
Yum cha daily 11:30am-3pm, Sunday 11am – 3pm
Dinner 6pm till late
Golden Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon