One night when it was raining, I craved something comforting and warm. And for me that’s usually soup noodles or dumplings.
So I made my way to Hutong Dumpling Bar, which is nestled in a little alley (technically Market Lane) in the Chinatown district of Melbourne. I got there soon after it opened its doors at 5:30 p.m., which turned out to be a smart move because a constant flow of people came after me, most of them brandishing reservations and heading up to the second-floor dining room.
I ate downstairs in the small front dining area, where I got a view of the dumpling makers in the kitchen busy wrapping the various dumplings offered on the menu.
Of course, I had to order the xiao lung bao (spelled Shao-long Bao on their menu), which is the Shanghai soup dumplings. The order of eight pieces (AUS$11.80 or $11.05) was quite filling, and while the skin was nice and thin and the soup inside was decent, I thought the pork filling was a bit off. Maybe because there was too much filling-to-soup ratio?
I also heard they had Peking duck dumplings, but all I saw on the menu were simply duck meat dumplings (4 pieces for AUS$8.80 or $8.25). I’d never had dumplings like these, which were more like Hong Kong-style dim sum with a thin, translucent shell wrapped around the filling of minced duck meat and vegetables.
The dinner menu includes several large dishes to share, but since I was dining alone, I just went with another comfort dish, the Szechuan Bean Curd with Minced Pork (AUS$15.80 or $14.80), or mapo tofu. The minced pork and diced tofu were fresh and nicely cooked, but it lacked punch and the cornstarch giving the dish its shine was almost too much (luckily it was just almost, and didn’t go over the line).
I barely finished the tofu because I was so full from the dumplings. The xiao lung baos are decent though not like Din Tai Fung (which actually has a new location in Sydney), but it hit the spot for a wet night.
The Last Bite
Hutong Dumpling Bar has a nice environment and friendly staff, but it does seem to do more of a non-Asian clientele. Still, the food is good (although not great) but there are probably comparable (and cheaper) dumplings elsewhere.
Hutong Dumpling Bar, 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne, Australia. PH: +61(03)9650-8128. Open for lunch, Monday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner daily from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.hutong.com.au
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