During my recent travels to Melbourne, my friends and I stayed at Citadines on Bourke, which conveniently, is only 2 minutes from Chinatown. So after a morning of shopping on Saturday, we stopped by Hutong Dumpling Bar to get our dumpling fix for lunch before we checked into our rooms.
Being true to its name, this dumpling bar is hidden in a little alleyway and is decorated with a darling historic charm. The restaurant expands over three levels and incorporates exposed red brick walls, dim lighting in the form of lanterns and wooden furnishing that gives the place an elegant and sophisticated appeal. I’ve been told that booking is crucial during peak times, but because we went after the busy lunch period, we managed to get a lovely table on the third floor and ordered a few dishes to share.
The xiao long bao (XLB), a Chinese delicacy, is a style of bun/dumpling that I highly recommend. A good XLB is hard to come by as it is a combination of many different things. The wrapping cannot be too thick, nor can it be too thin because the broth might leak during cooking. The taste and seasoning of the filling is important and it must have a good amount of liquid inside. The ones at Hutong was just that; I dipped them in black vinegar and ginger before popping the whole thing in my mouth. Marvelous! This serving of XLB was slightly bordering on warm rather than hot, which has its benefits as this meant that we won’t burn the inside of our mouth while the soup spills out from the dumpling.
The Sizchuan wonton with hot chilli sauce was my favourite out of the three different dishes. With a satiny wrapping and a delicious pork filling, the wonton was amazing. But it was the chilli sauce that made this dish spectacular. Mild at first, it packs a spicy kick and the garlic and sesame component complimented and intensified the flavour of the meat. Sublime! It was so good, I saved some of this sauce for the pan-fried dumplings.
Their pan-fried dumplings, another signature dish, was just as good. The pork and prawn filling was moist and I enjoyed the nice crispy texture, a reason why I prefer fried dumplings over boiled/steamed. I dipped these in a combination of black vinegar and the hot chilli sauce from the wontons. The crispy edible ‘basket’ made from water and starch is interesting, but does not add any interest in terms of taste.
I went to Hutong Dumpling Bar with very high expectation and these were all met! The service we received was good, the restaurant is clean and elegant and the food was impressive. I’ve yet to try Din Tai Fung, so I can’t comment on any similarities or differences. But if you’re in Melbourne and loves dumplings, Hutong is the place to go!
Date: Saturday 2 February, 2014 | Location: 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne | Food: Chinese