Tag Archives: Chinese food

when the epic dumplings call

Tristan’s work hoes, as he affectionately calls them were expressing some sort of spectator envy over his wine-and-dine escapades. He therefore directed them to hush, and pick a day when they were all available for some good nosh and we’d all go out for a meal. He chose HuTong Dumpling Bar. Of course, he left it too late and the CBD one was all booked out (though former EDSer Ryan reviewed that here). I saved our arses and we ended up with a booking at the Prahran one, though politely informed we’d need to vacate by 8pm. Somehow, I was given the task of choosing food for all of us. Gulp. I’d sent a quick text message to fellow foodie Alex to ask what the must-haves were en route to the restaurant.

Like duh Gem. No one but no one goes to HuTong without sampling their much fussed-over shao-long bao. Reminiscent of snow hats with the pom-poms at the top cut off, these unassuming morsels hold a gelatinous broth as well as meat. Be careful when you bite into these! You may get burnt. We made sure we ordered plenty for our table of six and they went down a treat.

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Appetites suitably whetted, grins on our faces and excellent conversation a-flowing, more delicacies in dumpling form followed. For variation, we got some vegetable dumplings. A common complaint with meatless food is that it’s tasteless to the more voracious carnivore. These subtly green-tinged parcels were aromatic and flavoursome, featuring a delicate combination of ginger and mushroom.

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D also suggested we get some Peking duck dumplings. As if anyone would veto that idea! I love that the slightly translucent skins hint at the tastiness encased within.

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For mains, we shared a trio of dishes and decided to cover our omnivore bases by ordering one seafood, one red meat and one poultry dish. I chose the tea-flavoured diced beef. Smoky, crunchy but perhaps could have done with a bit more beef and a little less salt. There were loooooooots of tea leaves left after we fished out the meat!

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Next up, deep fried salt and pepper squid, cooked perfectly and seasoned with sliced chilli. Lightly battered and fresh, but nothing supremely exciting.

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The best of the mains was probably the Shanghai braised chicken in tea flavour. There was some debate about choosing this given one of our mains was already ‘tea-flavoured’ – however, this was very different to the diced beef dish. The meat was supremely tender, the tea flavour very subtle and there was five-spice to season to your taste. I think L might have been responsible for making sure we ended up trying this, whee!

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HuTong Dumpling Bar in Prahran is right next to the gleaming boutique Cullen Hotel. The restaurant is spacious and you can even have drinks at the front bar as you wait for your table. It seems common to complain about the service, but none of us experienced anything untoward on the night we all dined – the staff were helpful and friendly despite it was pretty darn busy. Our meal came to a happy conclusion at quite some time before we were to be ‘booted out’ so to speak, but we did not feel pressured to leave in a rush (wish I could say the same for MoVida!).

Here’s hoping there’ll be more future dining antics with T’s work hoes and their beaux!

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

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the duck enabler gets the club together again

Among us food blogger wanksters, there is a lone figure. She does not blog but is one of the most cookie-foodie and eatie-foodie persons I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Her name is Anna. A while back she organised for thirty of us to go to Old Kingdom on Smith Street and have the duck ‘three ways’. There was duck, there was BYO and there was barhops after.

It got messy.

But when Anna asks if you’re interested in a second duckfest, how can you refuse? Okay, okay, I mean me. I jumped at the chance to see what duck offerings would be shovelled our way when we suggested a few of us go to Quanjude in the city. Quanjude has a clean, elegant fitout and is huge. The service is attentive, bordering on ingratiating.

A word of warning: I do think that the staff here will generally upsell. If you ask them “Is this enough food for us?” they will indeed say no and encourage you to order squillions of things. This is how we found ourselves with an array of entrĂ©es before duck smashing antics could occur. Dear Penny of Addictive and consuming was given the task of selecting for our group of fifteen or so. Below are her selections for us.

scallops

The scallops were probably my favourite – juicy and delicate in flavour. They also looked gorgeous in the shells.

pan-fried dumplings

Pan-fried dumplings are a sure crowd-pleaser. Not ground-breaking, but still, can’t go past a good dumpling.

sesame toast

Laugh if you must, but I really liked the sesame toast even though Billy of Half-Eaten had suggested it as a joke and looked momentarily mortified when it arrived. It was all in good fun!

Pinot-quaffing on this evening was a good deal more…staid than the previous duckfest Anna had organised. Again, I’d advise you to be careful because the staff did seem intent upon encouraging us to have more bottles than we seemed interested in.

Then the duck arrived. They wheel it over so you can watch as they carve it at your table. A little gruesome, yes, but very impressive.

peking duck being carved

The condiments served to make up your Peking duck pancakes are very attractive. I’ve never seen thinly sliced cucumber look quite so elegant.

cucumber

Or the chilli soy sauce – everything seems sliced with such care.

chilli in soy sauce

Even the duck meat is made to look good when it’s served to you though I fear the dish used hints at an existential crisis waiting to happen.

duck looking at its cooked innards

The Peking duck here definitely had more thought in regards to preparation, but a few of my fellow diners remarked that the hoisin was not as nice as at Old Kingdom, and they charged us extra for asking for additional pancakes! This would be okay except that they did not serve any of us the accompanying soup as promised with the ‘duck set’ the cost of which Anna wasn’t really sure of as it seemed to change depending upon with whom she spoke when trying to make a reservation.

To sum up, the food is great and it’s a little expensive and I probably wouldn’t return unless my folks asked me to recommend a flashy Peking duck joint (some oldies don’t appreciate the ‘rustic’ touch of places like, say, Old Kingdom). If you want to do Peking duck in style, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Quanjude Peking Duck on Urbanspoon

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cheap noodles and dumplings far from the city

I first heard about Noodle Kingdom and its awesomeness from Food Rehab and couldn’t believe I lived so near to such foodie goodness. My friend Suz organised a nearby outing to roller derby in Reservoir and so I suggested that we all go out to dine there beforehand. Who would have thought you could avoid the city and still have a night of good entertainment! Hurrah! Further research indicated that newspapery foodie types thought that Noodle Kingdom wasn’t too bad either. My excitement grew.

We dined at a ridiculously early hour (as in 5pm) knowing that we’d have to line up for good seats for roller derby and still the place was fast and furious. Tristan and I were there early and decided to share some steamed pork dumplings. Do not be fooled by how plain they look – they are seriously delicious. These dumplings have fairly thick skins and the meat is tasty and has lots of chives. Incidentally, Lindsey who arrived later, was not a fan of the thick skins. I personally love them, but thought you might like to know that not all foodies do. A little more research indicated that thick dumpling skins are apparently Northern Chinese in style (feel free to rap my knuckles with a ruler if I’ve got that wrong).

steamed pork dumplings

When all our party arrived, most of us went the massive, cheap noodle bowls and thus confusion reigned when they started to come out thus augmenting our dumb Westerner mentality. Yes, that includes me despite my ordering the authentic Lanzhou beef noodle soup. Hearty broth with thin noodles and a bloody generous serving of tender, sliced beef put me in a damn good mood. I mean, the noodles aren’t even $10 a bowl.

authentic Lanzhou beef noodle soup

This is a picture of Tristan’s order – before Lindsey errantly nicked his marinated egg – the beef brisket with hand pulled noodles. As you can see, the noodles are a lot thicker. This was an action shot stolen before we discovered that Lindsey was eating the wrong dish. Oops! Lindsey is not above telling people when they are being “bloody food bloggers” which is fair given he’s a consummate cookie-foodie.

beef brisket with hand pulled noodles

The Noodle Kingdom antics don’t end here. After a Melbourne Makers session way out of my hood, on the way home Tristan and I (as we both live out this way) slyly looked at each other and decided to revisit the noodle palace. And ordered way too much food, of course. None of which came out in the order expected. For instance, the cold seaweed which arrived last but I think of it as an appetiser. Not quite as tasty as Japanese seaweed salads, but still nice.

seaweed (cold side dish)

After both our noodle dishes arrived, dumplings with hot and spicy soup came. I dare say I could have done with more chilli oil which is unusual for me! Oh Noodle Kingdom, your dumplings have never disappointed me. Always tasty and fresh.

dumplings in hot and spicy soup

On this occasion, I ordered the combination beef noodles. I wasn’t quite sure what ‘combination’ meant in this instance, but it contained an assorted array of vegetables and also had coriander giving it a Vietnamese ‘feel’. There were these wrinkly seaweed leaves quite like nothing I’d ever had before that was just wonderful as they soaked up the broth really well. You can see them lurking in this photo – the dark things in the top left corner. They were also quite the textural treat.

combination noodles with beef

Tristan had the pork and preserved vegetable noodle bowl. I am in awe of the man’s eating prowess. He managed to help me with my dish, eat most of the dumplings and finish his own bowl of noodles. Then again, given how delicious the food is, it’s not hard.

pork and preserved vegetable noodles

Not much else to add really: I think the fact that it’s warranted repeat visits should convince you it’s great. Don’t expect fancy dining but be sure to linger outside before entering to watch the masters make the noodles and dumpling skins from scratch. If you can’t venture out as far as Preston (though seriously, get over the suburb hate and give it a go!), there’s another Noodle Kingdom located in the CBD on Russell St though my sources tell me it’s not as good as this one. I might like it more if they could be bothered replacing some of their severely chipped bowls ones, I don’t think that’s too much to ask…is it?

Noodle Kingdom on Urbanspoon

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