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26 34 Church St. Brighton, VIC 318
My score: 3.5/5
I’m not so big on meal deals and “all you can eat” but with dumplings I will make an exception. And when the dumplings are as good as Gold Moon’s, I’ll even become a raving advocate.
My mind was turned by the prawn and ginger dumplings, plump, sweet and silky with the subtle kick of fresh ginger, the first in an hour-long parade that saw wide-eyed hunger turn slowly into I-can’t-even-look-at-food, one dainty morsel at a time.
Gold Moon opened a year ago in an old La Porchetta pizza parlour out the back of Brighton’s Dendy cinema complex. Enter from Wells Street and the two-storey standalone box is imposing, screened by bamboo beyond a deep forecourt. Creep up from the underground car park and it’s only impressive once you enter, a gleaming palace with plenty of room for groups, a benign attitude to children and private rooms for secluded dumpling munching.
Yum cha runs daily at lunchtime. It’s tray service and you can eat as much as you want for $25; jasmine tea is included but other drinks are extra. As always with yum cha, success is partly about saying “no”.
Yes, the sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf is delicious, studded with little slices of sausage, the fat making the rice grains glisten like jewels, but what if a second serve means you don’t have room for the fluffy barbecued pork buns or the spinach dumplings with their jaunty jade filling pressing against translucent dumpling skins? This is the kind of restaurant tragedy that can plague the soul.
The dumpling maestros are Mr and Mrs Lian, a couple from Guangdong, who have been in Australia for 30 years, working in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. They’re now in their 60s and they work 13 hours a day, six days a week making thousands of dumplings from scratch.
Each dumpling that I saw was a paragon: the filling fresh, distinct and true to type, the wrappers taut and supple, with each variety a different shape.
Try to save a corner of the stomach for sweets, especially the unusual muffin-like custard bun (can we call it a “muffling”?), special not least because Mr Lian says he uses “true heart to make each single item”.
Service is led by the dynamic Frankie Full (ex-Flower Drum) though not all the team are in step. I found service perfunctory rising to pleasant when pushed.
Owner Jiexi (Jessie) Zhao comes from a restaurant-owning family in Hubei in central China; she also exports Australian wine to her home country. She has big plans for Gold Moon: the a la carte menu plucks dishes from all over China and they’re particularly proud of the roasted lamb rib, slow-cooked pork breast and Peking duck all made in their MSG-free kitchen.
In the new year, the restaurant commences east-west afternoon teas with an eye on local school mums. Nice! I reckon it will be rewarding to watch Gold Moon rising, as it assiduously mixes tradition and innovation in a modern Melbourne manner.
See their website.
First published in Good Food, 21st December 2017.