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Photographs: David Straight

We’re not quite sure why they called it Dumpling Ace. Don’t get us wrong, the dumplings here are very good indeed – we’ll get to them in a moment – but they’re not quite the star attraction. Dumpling Ace is a simple little restaurant in the Northcote Town Centre: bare timber-veneer tables, wooden chairs, slightly frazzled service – recently we waited 45 minutes for takeaways. You’ll find it next to the dodgy TAB bar and just along from Jiale Bun Shop (which isn’t as good as it used to be, but anyway).

There’s a – hurrah – short menu, which reflects the owners origins in Shaanxi just north of Sichuan in the west of China below Shanxi, which means there’s lamb and green peppercorns and chilli and barbecue. Be sure to try the chargrilled skewers dusted with chilli: they’re salty and spicy and tenderly smoky – the chicken “gizzards” ($12 for 10) and the lamb ($12 for 10) are particularly good. The stir-fried celery with black mushroom ($10) is pretty good too, and the dumplings are big and lumpy and juicy – we like the pork with cabbage ($10). But the handmade “shaved” or knife-cut noodles are the reason to come here – they’re a specialty of the region, long and thick and lumpy. They are very good simply wok-fried ($12) or served with sesame and chilli ($9), or in a salty mutton broth with seaweed and coriander ($8.50), and even better with pork, chilli and pepper ($12).

But our favourite dish? The fish fillet cooked with hot pepper and hot chilli in Sichuan style ($19.80), which is a beautiful broth with plenty of green pepper corns, salty and spicy and sour – it tickles the tastebuds and gets the shoulders going. Apparently, they told us last time – after we’d eaten, sadly – that it’s great with a side of those noodles. We’ll be back soon. SFG

HOURS 10am to 9pm, seven days

ADDRESS Northcote Town Centre, 39 Pearn Place, Northcote, ph 480 4898.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Noodles! Make sure you order noodles!

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