Friday, May 9, 2014

Hutong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

When people find out that you’re a food review blogger, they tend to assume that you’ve been to all the ‘it’ restaurants/cafes.  There’s a certain level of incredulity from people when I tell them that, no, I haven’t been to U, V or W; or that I haven’t even heard of X, Y and Z. When it comes to picking places to try, my philosophy is I go where I want.  I tend not to go to the ‘it’ places, as well, this bureaucrat has always liked doing things her way – and that means not following the ravenous crowd.  And I also subscribe to the view that just because a place is popular does not mean that it’s necessarily good (if a gaggle of foodies jumped off a cliff...).

So after our drinks at Toff in Town, Ms C took us to Hutong Dumpling Bar for dinner.  HDB has a bit of history and significance for the Crew.  It was our very first blog post (by Snooze back in February 2010) and Big Fil reviewed it again on our first year anniversary in February 2011 (I was in the UK during both visits).
My first impression of this place is that the decor and set up is much nicer than I was expecting but there’s a bit of wankyness to the place.  A staff member is at the door, with the bookings and a walkie talkie set.  We get directed to head upstairs to our table.  In the meantime, the staff member relayed to the waiters upstairs that we were en route.

As there was about six of us, we choose a range of dishes to share.  Two things struck me when I looked at the menu – it has a minimum spend per head (I loathe places that do that) and everything looks quite pricey for dumplings and the other main dishes. 

Of course, we had to get some xiao long baos ($11.80).  A light delicate pastry that stayed intact to hold the soupy interior.  However, I found the filling and the broth to be quite greasy and had a whiff of MSG.  These were okay but I struggle to understand why people are raving about them.

The spring onion pancakes ($6.50) were quite crunchy and came in a doughnut shape.  These were okay but my preference is for the pancakes to be more like a typical pancake – that is, flat, round and softer in texture.

The pan fried dumplings ($14.20) had a moderately thick pastry but I liked the pretty netting.  These tasted just like the XLB (with the same greasy pork filling) but without the broth. 

The boiled spinach dumplings ($14.20) were a bit ‘meh’.  The filling was less greasy than the pan fried dumplings and XLB but the spinach pastry wasn’t anything special.

We also got a few main dishes and serves of rice.  For me, the nicest dish was the sautéed snow pea shoots w garlic ($16.80).  Tender shoots, great wok hei and lots of garlic. 

The cuttlefish w preserved peppers ($24.80) was pretty good, although a tad spicy for me.  Lots of tender baby cuttlefish with lots of chilli, al dente capsicum and preserved peppers.

The laksa chicken fillet ($22.80) was also a bit too spicy for me so I didn’t really try it.

A thing to note was that before we ordered, we got some drinks.  There’s no BYO but as Mr C is a craft beer connoisseur he wanted to drink his own beer, which he had brought.  But the eagle-eyed waiter noticed the contraband and asked where this beer came from.  They let Mr C finish his bottle but charged him corkage for the infraction.

Food - 7
Service – 6.5
Ambience - 7
Prices – 6.5

The food is okay but I’m not raving about it.  It’s pricey for dumplings and I feel the place is geared towards a Westerner market rather than Asians. 

The good points about the place is that it is a nice set up, service is prompt and the food comes out quickly, and the main dishes do have quite a bit of wok hei.

The bad points are it can get quite noisy inside; although service is prompt and can be very brusque depending which waiter you have; there’s a minimum spend; it is pricey for dumplings and your session is timed (i.e., you have to be finished by a certain time).

If I had to recommend a premium dumpling restaurant, I would suggest you go to Mr Huang Jin on Collins Street instead.

Hutong Dumpling Bar
14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9650 8128

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon


Laur. said...

Yeah, I kind of know what you mean. Have been once and enjoyed myself, but didnt love it.

Eatandbemerrycrew said...

thanks for reading, Laur. i see your visit to Yong Green Food was really good :)

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