I've said it once and I'll probably keep saying it until I'm proven wrong - if I want good Chinese food in Perth, I might as well just go over to my grandmother's house. Our local dimsum offerings are either average, overpriced or inconsistent, whilst authentic Chinese cuisine is a rarity...if not largely unheard of beyond a select few suburban haunts. Even if I'm not fond of all kinds of Chinese food, I am a sucker for dumplings - it's one of the few foods in life that I can eat a near infinite amount in one sitting. The equation currently reads dumplings, a central location and open till late (and I mean really late) - although "born out of necessity", the real question was...is Darling's Supper Club really what we were all waiting for?
As far as a spontaneous weeknight walk in's go - by 7:30PM, Darling's was bursting at the seams...with the exception of the outdoor alfresco area. If you're not the type whose happy to sit at the bar and snack, reservations during this early hype period are strongly recommended.
There are 6 dumplings on the menu and all 6 of them were a disappointment. There were however, a range of textures that extended from chewing gum to yogurt; what was severely lacking was the juicy burst that comes from a soft skin and flavoursome fillings.
The menu is so creative and even the idea of a kangaroo dumpling would excite most adventurous eaters, but the four of us really felt that the execution of each dumpling was a dismal disappointment.
Both the Schezwan and Salt Squid ($11.00) Deep Fried Baby Shrimp with Coriander Cream ($11.00) were the only saving grace upon our selections. Although the cream lacked the freshness and distinct punch of coriander, the shrimp were crisp and flavoursome enough to stand alone.
My only criticism with the squid was the serving size - $11.00 would have stretched far further elsewhere. Even the Honey Sesame Chicken Wings ($11.00) and Fried Japanese Tofu with Chilli Salt and Miso Glaze ($9.00) lacked the vibrancy of spice and a humble seasoning of salt.
With regards to main courses - we tried both the Hong Kong XO Pork Noodles ($25.00) and the Mushroom Stir-Fry with Shanghai Egg Noodles and Oyster Sauce ($25.00) as well as the Malabar Goat Curry with Sticky Coconut Rice ($28.00). There just seem to be an air of complacency surrounding all the dishes that we had tired throughout the night; the XO sauce boasted nothing but overpowering sweetness, whilst the Mushroom stir-fry was plain and forgettable. There was no complexity in the flavours of the Malabar Curry and the glue like coconut rice did not do the dish any favours.
Although Darling's Supper Club is riding the PR wave hard and whilst I want so badly to dismiss this as just a bad night in the kitchen or the normal downfalls of a restaurant's early days, the general consensus so far is that this is a new place worth dismissing. The service is amazing, the fit out is exactly what you'd want in a supper club-esque venue, but the hype will eventually grind to a halt and that's when a good menu has to be in place to keep customers coming back.
As I mentioned before, I find dumplings in Perth to be either mediocre at best or exceedingly overpriced. Amazingly enough, Darlings have managed to upstage the rest by being well below average, as well as beyond expensive. The food bill at the end of the night, split between a party of four stood at $50 a head; we left with an appetite for elsewhere, after enduring nearly the entire menu of flavourless food that lacked the character of well balanced Asian cuisine. Oh and calling something a "fusion take on traditional flavours" doesn't excuse the fact that despite it's potential, Darling's is just not quite there yet.