Tag Archives: Chinatown

no love affair with Ling Nam

I was famished after the Amanda Palmer gig, and having had an ace visit the night before at Danny’s Burgers, didn’t think I could justify going there again, two nights in a row. While walking to the car, myself and Bit O’ Meat decided to hit Chinatown as dumplings seemed to be an acceptable late-night fast food. Previously disappointed by a visit to the Supper Inn, which no longer seems to be as good as it once was, we tried a place called Ling Nam. Not Ling Nan as their own business card and menu state. I wasn’t bursting-at-the-seams eager, but not much else was available approaching midnight so this modest place had to do. How bad could Chinese food be, really.

Ling Nam seems pretty small and the service is curt, but that was okay – it seems to be the modus operandi of many a Chinatown eatery to serve and turf you. That’s cool – most of us know this. We decided upon the boneless duckling with yam, and the pork belly hotpot with pickled vegetables. Bit O’ Meat was asked if he was sure he wanted to proceed with his dish as it was generally considered very oily by Westerners. He looked a bit shocked, but insisted politely that he wouldn’t like to change his order. The waiter then proceeded to rob us of our chopsticks and we had to inform him quite forcefully that we were okay with the current eating implements.

The servings were absolutely huge, and wonderfully hearty. The pork belly was so tender and the slices barely held together. I would have liked more vegetables underneath though. Admittedly, yes, the duck with yam was an acquired taste – I wasn’t so fond of the actual batter itself (I am sorry to be frank, but much later after we were well away from the dining table, I felt it reeked of a particular male emission…). I do in fact love yam.

pork belly hotpot with pickled vegetables

boneless duckling with yam


Initially, Bit O’ Meat found a small hair in the duck and yam dish but seemed okay to keep eating. He then found a much larger hair in the pork belly, at which point I said I couldn’t continue eating the food. I have to admit, I was really unsure how to handle the situation and my dining partner seemed to have less initiative. I eventually summoned up the courage to tell a waitress what the problem was. Not once did she apologise for the situation and said that we could either get fresh dishes, or get fresh dishes to takeaway. I said to be honest, I’d just prefer to leave – and did not say this with malice. At this point, she became furious and insisted that we had to pay regardless because we’d eaten some of the food despite me pointing out that we’d eaten up to the point at which we’d found hair in the food. Not wanting to cause a further scene, we let ourselves be bullied into taking away fresh versions of our dishes.

We returned home feeling pretty downtrodden and a couple of days later, the takeaway is still sitting in my fridge. Although my recent experience with Supper Inn was rather lacklustre, I would easily recommend it over Ling Nam and it genuinely pains me to have to give such a negative review. Another food blogging colleague has enjoyed dining there so while the service is appalling and highly unprofessional, it cannot be ignored that the food is good, and it also shuts earlier in the morning than even Supper Inn (2am and 3.30am comparatively).

For future reference, if you want late-night nosh, I would instead recommend Supper Inn in Chinatown (open to 2am), Stalactites (open 24 hours) on the corners of Russell and Lonsdale Streets (don’t pretend you haven’t done the trashy nightclub drunken stagger for one of their kebabs – I won’t believe you!), or a little further north to Danny’s Burgers in North Fitzroy (open to 2am). No, it’s top-notch, but they will all do at a pinch and you’ll leave fortified.

Ling Nam on Urbanspoon

fawlty towers, chinese edition

Lovers of good Chinese cuisine would know that a trip to any respectable venue specialising on the Eastern fare is as much about the abrupt service as it is about the delicious food. In fact, anyone who’s ever dined in two of Melbourne Chinatown’s much-lauded establishments, Camy Shanghai Dumpling in Tattersalls Lane and Supper Inn in Celestial Avenue, would be familiar with their trademark infamous customer treatment. And yet, both do roaring trade each night. And why? Because the food is worth the less-than-polite service.

It’s an absolute saving grace then that the same can be said with one of Chinatown’s latest addition that’s creating quite the buzz amongst those in the know. In fact, HuTong Dumpling Bar is good–nay, amazing! And just as well. Since the service at this three-level eatery is simply worse than an episode of Fawlty Towers. In fact, it’s absolutely shambolic.

Rudeness from wait staff can be overlooked if the service was at least fast and efficient (Hello Camy!) but sadly, at HuTong, this isn’t the case. Slow, plodding as well as being terribly clumsy, a recent visit had us waiting for our food for well over an hour. And when the much-anticipated dishes finally arrived, all were then promptly dropped to the floor by the clearly frazzled waiter before he even got anywhere near the table. It was comically tragic!

But all this was soon forgotten at the very first taste of HuTong’s version of xiao long bao (XLB), their most famous and divine creation. Soft, delicious morsel filled with meat and soup, they were simply orgasmic! Eaten with some art, lest the diner ends up with a shirt full of dumpling-encased soup, HuTong’s XLBs are best nipped at the tip to sup the excess liquid before popping the whole parcel for a melt-in-the-mouth goodness. Be warned, these dumplings come out steaming!


grilled eggplant with chili


sultan dumplings with beef brisket.


Other dishes had that night, and which all come highly recommended, are the grilled eggplant with chili (top) and the sultan dumplings with beef brisket (bottom). It’s food like these that you would come back time and again for, Fawlty Towers-inspired service or not.

Now, anyone know the Chinese name for Manuel?

HuTong Dumpling Bar is located on 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne Chinatown. Ph (03) 9650 8128. Bookings recommended.


Hu Tong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

what’s (s)up(ping)?

After a movie night that a good friend of mine regularly organises, I managed to convince some folks to come and dine with me at the Supper Inn, in Chinatown. It’s cheap, and cheerful (read: no-frills, which suits me just fine), and also open till 2am or so.

It was a bit of a shame having headed out here because I confess that it was a little disappointing on this particular occasion. I remember it being a good deal cheaper and the food being fantastic. A friend from Sydney was with us, and I felt I’d let him down a bit by not taking him to somewhere better.

E got crispy chicken, and D got beef with vegetables. Both serves were large and big enough to share (though on this occasion we chose not to). T and I got hotpots – I chose one with chicken, Chinese sausage and mushrooms, T with salted fish and tofu. I had to wait a good deal longer for mine and everyone else was tucking in to their dishes while I still waited.

salted fish, chicken & tofu claypot

I did very much enjoy my steaming hotpot. The shittake mushrooms soaked up the sauce nicely but the chicken was very bony and had a lot of skin. The sauce was lovely to eat with plain steamed rice. T remarked that my hotpot was better than his, though his was less of an ordeal to eat.


chicken, Chinese sausage & mushroom claypot


Even though it was late at night and not at all crowded, the service was erratic and the staff seemed very distracted. Getting the attention of anyone to take our order or give us the bill was arduous. Amusingly enough, thanks to a wait staff error, we were given extra change. I won’t be going back in a hurry, sadly. Shame to see a cheap Melbourne staple take a bit of a dive – I’m hoping it was just the time we went. 



Supper Inn on Urbanspoon