14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne
Phone 03 9650 8128
I'm so glad that there is quite a small but enthusiastic food blogging community in Melbourne. I have been to so many great restaurants that have been recommended by fellow food bloggers, places that probably just won't get reviewed by the major publications.
I first read about HuTong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane over at Tummy Rumbles. Mellie from Tummy Rumbles claimed that HuTong had the best xiao long baos (XLBs for those in the know) in Melbourne. *Gasp*. I absolutely love XLBs and have been on a quest eating as many in dumpling bars throughout Melbourne as I can to find that elusive one that matched the ones I tasted in Hong Kong and China. Well, I think we have come the damn closest so far at HuTong. Their XLBs really are delicious. More on that later.
From the exterior, HuTong Dumpling Bar isn't much to look at. Even when you step inside, the huge glass window with the chefs making the dumplings right in front of your eyes is alluring, but the place looks so tiny that you wouldn't think you can get a table. But then you get led upstairs and it's so much more comfortable and beautiful.
My friend and I were only there for a quick meal before the concert we were going to. But the menu sounded so enticing that we ordered way too much food, but thoroughly enjoyed it all. We were there primarily for the XLBs, so that was a must order. They came out very quickly and were steaming still. We made sure not to burn ourselves when sucking the glorious soup out of them mixed with a bit of vinegar. The soup was full of so much flavour. The ultra thin skin of the XLBs were a welcome change from the usual elephant skinned XLBs. It was a fantastic dish and one I will go back many times for. And at $10 I think for the dish, an utter bargain.
Next up were the Pork Dumplings. Again these didn't look like the massive oily rocks that you get at other places. These were delicate, and laid on a beautiful pan sticker. I was intrigued what they were after Mellie said she wasn't sure and asked the waiter. They are just flour and water. My friend and I guessed that maybe they are used as an indication of when the dumplings are ready? Anyway, these dumplings were not excessively oily and tasted of wonderful pork flavours without that yucky after taste of smelly pork when you use bad cuts of pork. Again, at $8 I think, these are a must have.
We knew we were too greedy when we were nearly full from the dumplings alone. But out came the Pepper Steak. This pepper steak was not ridiculously peppery but instead the pepper enhanced the meat, a nice dish.
Although the XLBs were my primary reason for going to HuTong, I would definitely also go back for the Scallop and Eggplant Claypot. What an amazing dish at a fantastic value for $26 I think. There were so many plump fresh scallops in the dish intermingled with the soft flesh of the eggplant, all mixed with a spicy sauce. Mmmm, mmmm. What can I say, the fact that it's making me salivate just writing about it now speaks for itself. Do yourself a favour and order this dish.
After the concert, I took a snap of beautiful Southbank at night. Just wanted to throw in this photo even though it doesn't really related to the restaurant.
The ambience there was very good upstairs. I don't know how relaxed I would have felt sitting in the cramped downstairs area. The tables are a tad small and it was a balancing act to fit everything on it, but the staff were very eager to please and came and removed empty dishes immediately. They helped explained things and were very efficient with any request.
The value for money at this restaurant is amazing. Sitting opposite the ultra expensive Flower Drum, I guess they are aiming for another type of clientel. HuTong has now spoilt my expectations for xiao long baos and dumplings in general. All the other dumplings at the other restaurants througout Melbourne are just rubbish now. Their smelly pork dumplings filled with enough oil to cause a minor slick for a penguin is just not acceptable anymore. Now how am I to get my dumpling fix each week in the 'burbs knowing that I can pay the same price for 10 times better in the city? Who else lives in the 'burbs and works in the city? Can you get take away for me? A big shout out to Mellie and Dan for finding this gem!
Overall Rating: 16/20, Fantastic dumplings at excellent value and good service.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.