Of course, we also had the xiao long bao soup dumplings ($9.80 for eight pieces).The dumplings contain minced pork and mushrooms, very finely ground so that it's almost like a soft paste. The dumpling wrappers were a bit hard and 'plasticky', like they'd been sitting around for a while. They tasted alright; given that the weather was cold and I was hungry, they filled the spot. HuTong's dumplings are not as finely wrapped as Din Tai Fung's, although there is a good amount of soup in the dumplings that is heated to the requisite tongue-searing temperature. The dumplings are served with shredded ginger (unpeeled!) and black vinegar for dipping.
I would have liked to have tried more dishes, but the kitchen had closed by this time. You can see into the kitchen from the front dining area, and the chefs clothed in black had indeed downed tools. The waitstaff were relatively friendly though we felt a bit rushed when ordering and eating, but that was our fault for arriving so late.
The Vibe: For our first meal, HuTong was reasonable. The dumplings at Din Tai Fung are more delicate, in my opinion. Apparently, the noodles at HuTong are worth trying, so I'll have to order them next time. Just need to arrive before the kitchen closes.
HuTong Dumpling Bar is at 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne, Vic.
Ph: 03 9650 8128
There is also a branch at 162 Commercial Road, Prahran, Vic.
After leaving HuTong, we turned a corner and found ourselves in a laneway covered with 'street art'. This laneway was different, though, as it led to The Croft Institute, a trendy bar. But it was way too early for it to be open. And besides, I didn't want to dirty my boots by venturing into that manky laneway.