04/09/2015

DINING OUT: HUTONG DUMPLING BAR {SOUTH YARRA}

Melbourne has recently topped the list for World's Most Liveable City again, and it's not hard to see why. Melbourne, and Australia as a whole is a mecca for different kinds of cuisine. Australians are a friendly lot and open to experiment with different types of cuisine. The influx of migrants in the past century contributed to a colourful dining scene, with cuisines from all over the world. As a result, regional delicacies like kebabs and dumplings are readily available.

Though there seem to be a dumpling shop at every street corner, not every restaurant does it well. The most challenging of them all has to be the Xiao Long Bao, the steamed, soup-filled dumpling that is characteristic of the Shanghai cuisine. If the wrappers are too thick, you'll get a mouthful of flour; too thin and the soup leaks out of the dumpling.

So, on a cold winter day, Steve and I took the hike up to South Yarra to sample some of Hutong Dumpling Bar's Xiao Long Bao. HuTong is a Melbourne institution for Shanghainese and Szechuan cuisine, with a restaurant in Melbourne CBD and one in South Yarra. The outlet in Melbourne CBD was impossible to get a reservation, so we thought we'd try our luck at the South Yarra store.

Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised at the interior. Behind a brass door with traditional Chinese door knob that features the "shi" (lion) was a modern interior with Oriental influence. While the CBD store was more cramped with short stools and tables, South Yarra was outfitted with high-backed chairs and even banquet tables here and there.


Alright I'll stop waxing lyrics about the decor. We're all about the food! The xiao long bao was served piping hot, and if handled precariously, was souper delicious. The clear broth contained in the almost translucent dumpling skin was from a proper stock, and there was a clear distinction of taste and flavours between the filling, the broth and the dumpling skin. Usually it's just a fstarchy mess that leaves your tongue furry.


We also got the wontons in chilli oil, which also did not disappoint. While nearly all Chinese restaurants make their own version of the wontons in chilli oil, I find HuTong's version not too oily, but the chilli still packs a punch.


Since there were only two of us, we couldn't justify ordering the peking duck. But from what we could see, that looked pretty good too. We were just happy that we found another Hutong Dumpling Bar that did not require a few weeks of reservation in advance. I have a hunch that the place will be busy during peak dinner hours, but if you're after a spontaneous late dinner, Hutong Dumpling Bar in Prahran may be your answer.

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