Little Red Dumpling in Sunnybank Hills is an interesting little place. We stumbled upon it when the place we had initially planned to go turned out to be closed for renovations. As it turned out on doing some searching later, it has actually appeared on some lists for good dumplings, so it was a fortuitous find.
The outside of the restaurant is rather unassuming, and it looks like any of the other shops in the Pinelands Plaza complex. Once you’re through the door, however, the interestingly retro communist-themed decor will be what gets your attention.
A red, white, and black mural takes up the far wall of the restaurant space, with people at the front of an army holding up red flags with a dumpling on them, and a little red book with a dumpling on the front. “Dumplings for the people”, it says, as well as “Dumplings and beer”. Painted pictures hang on another wall, of girls in the fatigues of the Red Army, one kneeling down and holding a little red book in front of her like a prayer book. There is another mural on the wall near the kitchen, with similar military representation. On the service counter is a statuette of Mao Zedong. It is interesting that there was such an outcry raised about a restaurant that recently tried to open with the name Uncle Ho, as it was offensive to those whose families suffered under Ho Chi Minh’s regime, while there has been little (or no) noise about this place and what it seems to glorify, or at least what it has taken on as its triumphant theme.
Politics aside, the rest of the decor is a deft mix of kitsch and modern. It has black walls, one of which is chalkboard paint so they can write specials up. The black ceiling and the concrete floor mean that most attention is drawn to the contrastingly bright murals and paintings. The tables and seats are wooden, and resemble the kind you would see in a cartoon village. The seats take the form of short benches, but conveniently seat one at a time so that your ability to shift closer to or away from the table isn’t determined by your seating companion’s preference.
The interior was air conditioned to a comfortable temperature. The setup does make it echoey though, so even with only a couple of other tables of people there it verged on being noisy. A variety of pop music played a bit too loudly.
The menu was brought to the table soon after we arrived. A laminated single sheet clipped to a wooden board listed entrees and mains. We chose an assortment of dumplings (of course) and other things. We picked items which had stars next to them, presumably indicating that they were house specials.
We started with the Braised beef noodle soup, listed in the Mains section. There were also two chilli symbols next to it, warning that it might pack a punch. The noodles were springy, and the soup nicely salty. I was expecting it to be sour, as hot and sour soup is a common flavour combination, but it wasn’t. The beef pieces were tender, and thoughtfully cut into bite-sized pieces. The dish as a whole wasn’t as spicy as we feared, despite the chilli flakes floating in it. Perhaps they adjusted their heat scale for western palates.
The Xiao Long Bao were listed in the entree section, and are usually the measure of a truly good dumpling place. The xiao long bao were alright. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. The skin could have been thinner, and less soggy. There was soup present in the dumplings. One was already torn when they were brought out though, and another tore as it was lifted out. There are other places where the dumplings would have been replaced if torn (Din Tai Fung).. Not here.
The Pork and chive pancakes, also listed as an entree, were different from elsewhere. Instead of being a flat, layered pastry with chive bits in the pastry itself, it had thin doughy skin, crunchy at the edges like a curry puff. There was a good amount of the pork and chive filling, which was savoury, tasty, and, as it should have been, chivey.
We also had the Pan fried pork dumplings, listed as a main. They had a thicker skin, in the Shanghai style, which made them more durable and able to withstand the frying. The skin was in the right proportion to the meat, slightly chewy, and crisp at the base from the heat of the pan. The pork filling was juicy and well-seasoned. Definitely better dumplings than their xiao long bao.
Service was alright, not really a standout one way or another.
Little Red Dumpling is one of the better dumpling places around Brisbane, for at least some of their dumplings. Worth revisiting.
Price point: Entrees $4.50 to $8.80 (I’m not counting steamed vegetables). Mains $9.80 to $11.80.
Value: Pretty good.
Address: Shop 19, 663 Beenleigh Rd, Pinelands Plaza, Sunnybank Hills
Phone: 07 3162 2993
Website: Little Red Dumpling