Sunday, February 6, 2011

HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Happy 1st Birthday to us!

Friday 4 February was one year to the day since our first group outing so to celebrate we returned to that popular favourite, Hutong Dumpling Bar. Of the ten of us most had been to Hutong a number of times, but it was also a chance to introduce a couple of newcomers to the delights of Shao Long Bao and Chilli Wantons in sumptuous surroundings.

Just about everyone must know the HuTong drill by now. Three levels with the tables getting larger and the surroundings grander the higher you go. Two separate menus, one with a series of mains but everyone focuses on the dumplings menu. Unless you are prepared to get there very early or at odd hours, book ahead. And order the Shao Long Bao!

It's probably shows it's a few months since I last visited but the list of dumplings appears to be longer. Where I only remembered five or six dumplings there now appear to be ten or more, including duck meat, fried Cantonese prawn and scallop dumplings.

The classic dish to order at HuTong is the Shao Long Bao. Dumplings filled with soup and pork meat, these are what everyone comes for. The Shao Long Bao at Hutong are as good as it gets in Melbourne, thin skinned, generous with the soup. Chew off a corner, suck out your soup after checking to make sure its not mouth burningly hot, then eat the dumpling with a touch of vinegar and little slivers of ginger.

Running a close second for me (and some people's favourites) are the wantons in chilli oil. Slightly spicy, slightly oily but very tasty. Can be slippery little suckers though, as I somehow managed to drop one into my lap which was both annoying and embarrassing.

The other dumplings I thought were good were the fried Cantonese Prawn Dumplings (I think this is how they were described on the menu) and the scallop dumplings. These prawn dumplings looked very similar to shark fin dumplings but with a generous prawn filling.

My major issue with scallop dumplings generally is that they are often short on flavour and lack filling. I didn't have either of those issues with these dumplings, which were generous with the scallop meat.

Dumplings which didn't work as well were the boiled pork dumplings and the duck dumplings. Both of these had been over-steamed with the result that they had started to fall apart and the dumpling skin stuck to both the paper at the bottom of the basket and the other dumplings. While the thicker skin of the pork dumplings meant this was annoying more than a major issue, half of the duck dumpling remained in the steamer when you tried to pick it up. A pity as duck dumplings were something new to me and I was interested in how well they would work.

We also ordered serves of the fried noodles and spicy fish from the main menu. While perfectly workmanlike dishes I'd treat the mains here as something to complement the dumplings rather than the prime reason for visiting the restaurant.

Spicy fish

One weird thing which I'd never experienced here before was the menu shortage. Or at least I assume that was why we had a tug-of-war with every staff member who passed the table after we tried to retain one menu for follow up orders. I suppose it was good because it meant they were paying attention to what was happening at our table but it felt weird having to hide our retained menu under the lazy Susan.

Undoubtedly the most upmarket and best dumpling house in Melbourne, HuTong continues to live up to its high reputation. While not perfect the dumplings are of a high standard and I like the neutral colours, photos on the walls and space between all the tables. Service is a weird mixture of the attentive and slow, with some dumplings taking a while to come out.

Food - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 8
Prices - 7.5

14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 8128

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

FoOooOoD said...

It's full house in my first visit. Went back for second time, crowded again, was asked to go back in 20 minutes.

But glad that we went back. Were offered a table on the top level. Good environment. Tried the pan-friend dumplings, prawn dumplings and spicy dumplings.


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