Press your face to the glass on Grey Street in Southbank and you’ll see something as mesmerising as any aquarium’s sea life. A methodical chef in his stainless steel habitat hypnotically pulls noodles to the length of your leg. Another gingerly assembles shumai dumplings, and another flips dough into a membrane-thin disc with just a few flicks of the wrist to make an egg-and-chive flatbread.
Bamboo Basket serves G-rated Northern and Southern Chinese cuisine. There are no bustling yum cha carts, chicken feet, or gelatinous soups, but the dim sim (yum cha), served straight through dinner, is fresh from the steamer. Dumplings may be smaller than the Brisbane standard but they’re also better. Trimmed-down, fist-sized BBQ pork buns have proper chunks of sugary pork swaddled in snowcaps of fluff.
The dining space is completely different terrain than the bright kitchen: a severe red-and-black colour scheme suited to a tacky night club (VIP booths included), jazzed up with sparkles and red-tasseled lamps. Students dominate, splashing salty broth on their books as they slurp springy noodles. With the crunch of juicy fried chicken sprinkled with Sichuan pepper, and a firm bulb of bok choy and mushrooms, the noodles in broth are well worth the near-$20 a bowl.
As delicious as their noodles are though, xiao long bao – aka soup dumplings ($7.90) – are their pride and joy. The porky broth and pork mince encased in a beautifully pleated pastry pouch is both tasty and a challenge to be accepted. It might divide your party into two camps: those who can artfully eat a soup dumpling, and those who spill broth everywhere and can’t recover their pork after it has rolled under the table. So how do you eat them? Take a delicate bite from the top, allow the heat to emerge, carefully drink the soup, then eat the dumpling. Now you know.