Friday, April 23, 2010

Hu Tong Dumplings

14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne, Phone 03 9650 8128

It seems that Melbourne is dumpling crazy at the moment. Who can blame us? Who isn't a fan of those steamed little balls of seafood and meat wrapped in those sticky little skins?
I'd only had dumplings a could of times before - once at the Shanghai Dumpling House
in Tattersall's Lane. I have nothing but bad memories of that place. Everything there seemed so dirty and all the Dumplings tasted the same. Not a good initiation into the world of Dumplings!

Other than that, my dumpling repertoire consisted only of Dumplings eaten whilst at Yum Cha. Some amazing dumplings are to be had at Yum Cha places around town. But I'd heard that Hu Tong was the best of them all. Only problem was that there were rumours that the service there was some of the worst that exists in Melbourne and that the staff are apparently rude and unfriendly. Considering some of the reviews that I've read
rate Hu Tong very highly, I'd decided that it was worth trying despite the poor service rumours.

So, during the week, I decided to tag along with Em' and 11 of her workmates for an evening of chilli and dumplings at Hu Tong.
The place is fairly new and very modern. It's very clean - nothing like the Shanghai Dumpling joint down the road. The ground floor is more of a casual dining area, where you can actually sit and watch the dumpling masters at work in the kitchen behind a big window. It's pretty cool to watch how they make the dumplings and how fast they are. We were seated upstairs on the third floor, which consists of huge tables with Lazy Susans in the middle.

Now I'm not going to even try to pretend that I remember or know any of the names of the dishes or dumplings that we were served. Although using i can tell you that my favourite of the dumplings were the Shao-Long Bao, which are the dumplings that are filled with meat and a little bit of stock on the bottom, which is what gives them that soggy appearance. I did learn the hard way though, that the soup in these things are HOT when they arrive and will mostly burst when you're eating them all over yourself.

One of Em's friend's knew what the menu was all about, so we let her do the ordering. She ordered SO much food, that we literally couldn't fit anymore on the table. I was actually cringing at the thought of how much all this food was going to cost.

Some of the highlights of the meal were obviously - all of the dumplings. I know now why Hu Tong is widely spoken about and why people from interstate come here to try their amazing dumplings. I was a massive fan of the Prawn and Chive dumplings, also.

We also tried a whole bunch of other dishes that I never actually did find out what they were called. Some of them were great - including the simple fried rice. The raspberry red pork belly was deliciously tender too.

If you're not into hot and spicy food, then be very weary of what you're ordering, because some of the dishes here are incredibly hot and spicy (it is a Sichuan inspired restaurant, after all).

Oh, and those rude staff that I've heard so much about were completely non-existent. From the time that we walked in the door and were welcomed by the doorman, we were completely looked after. Everyone was always smiling and happy to accommodate requests. There was always a waiter close by to call on if needed and they were all very pleasant. My only gripe is that because so much of the food is spicy, you would think that they would leave bottles of water on the table for you. But they don't, even when we asked. So, instead, we had to keep calling them over, asking them to fill up our tiny little tea cups for us.

At the end of a long night of eating, I had to practically roll down the stairs, because I couldn't walk from being so full! The meal ended up costing only $30p.h, which I thought was amazing, considering the amount of food that we'd consumed and the amount of food that was left over. They did let people take doggy bags home if they wanted.


Adrian @ Food Rehab said...

Finally made my way down here last Friday night. Loved their Shao-Long Bao. A tip is to eat it with the spoon, so no broth is wasted LOL

Katiealex said...

I really liked Hu Tong as well, and the decor and ambience of the restaurant is that of a much more expensive place than it is, with all the millions of waiters running around. Our waiter in particular was fairly surly, but it takes more than one grumpy face to put me off an entire restaurant!

On the topic of dumplings in Melbourne, you should check out David's in Prahran, in Cecil St just off Chapel. The dumplings are fabulous, the service friendly and quick, and the restaurant has a venerable history in Melbourne as a bonus. The Shanghai Dumpling House can't even be mentioned in the same breath as Davids/Oriental Tea House or Hu Tong! It is the definition of cheap and dirty - great if you are a student and have $12 so you can stuff yourself on their "Eat all you can Eat" menu. Otherwise - avoid unless you are actually starving.