Sunday, October 17, 2010

Melbourne Eating: HuTong Dumpling Bar

So, how do HuTong Dumpling Bar's dumplings compare to those of the global dumpling champions, Din Tai Fung? Whose xiao long bao reigns supreme?

HuTong Dumpling Bar in Melbourne city was the first stop on our Melbourne eating tour.  Fresh off the plane, we checked into our hotel, then made our way down Bourke Street to Market Lane, whose other famous inhabitant is Flower Drum, Australia's most lauded Chinese restaurant.  HuTong is more of a contemporary casual place. 
I'd heard first-hand about how good the food is here, as well as reading about HuTong's popularity in food blogs.  So I was a bit surprised to see that it was almost empty when we arrived. After we were seated by the window and given menus, we were told the kitchen was closing in 5 minutes.  Because fog in Melbourne had delayed our flight a bit, it was now 2.25pm and I hadn't realised the restaurant closes before re-opening at 5.30pm.  So I didn't have much time to ponder which dishes to have.

I quickly pointed to Spice Roast Beef ($11.80) and Shredded Turnip Pastries ($6).  The waiter said that the beef was served cold, is that alright?  Yes, I said.  The beef was indeed refrigerator-cold, and a bit dry, but tasty - a bit like corned beef.  The turnip pastries were brilliant, piping-hot spring rolls filled with Chinese turnip ('lor bak') - greasy and good.

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.
HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

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.

But I had other things on my mind, like where to eat for dinner. I had been unsuccessful at booking for Movida, but the lady I spoke to on the phone had suggested Movida Next Door. With meal strategies swirling through my brain, I snapped a few photos (to show I'd been there) and made my way back to Bourke Street, plotting and planning my next dining move...


  1. Hutong as first time... interesting to see what is next :)

  2. A very nice Chinese restaurant...the dumplings look great!

  3. Hot soupy dumplings on a cold day sounds like just the thing, though plasticky wrappers doesn't quite.

    Onwards and upwards though! Looking forward to the next thrilling installment in your trip! Woo :)

  4. mmm i totally feel like eating dumplings now! shame about the not so great dumpling wrappers tho cant wait to hear bout movida next door!

  5. Mmm I love fried turnip cakes. You are making me crave Chinese food!

  6. The cold beef doesn't sound too appealing. The xiao long bao I had there were beautifully fresh so it's a real shame yours were on the 'stale' side

  7. I must say I prefer DTF for flavour and texture. lol - I'm clearing out my Melb posts too :)

  8. Shame about wrappers. Although you have totally put me in the mood for some dumplings.... Even though it is 9 am here in london and there is NOWHERE i can get this local right now. So i am off to make some....

  9. This is our favourite dim sim restaurant! We've been lots of times and always have a great time. So nice to see them featured!