14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph : (03) 9650 8128
Situated opposite the much lauded Flower Drum, the three-level Hu Tong has become one of Melbourne’s most popular CBD restaurants and Xiao Long Bao destinations. In the mood for some food of the dumpling kind, I made my way there for an early lunch at about noon. Apparently, noon isn’t early by Hu Tong standards, as they were already almost-full, and within about 15 minutes or so after my arrival, they had to turn people away.
Comfortably ensconced at a window table and fairly hungry despite the early hour, I decided to go with old favourites instead of ordering dumplings (no, XLB are not dumplings, 'bao' means 'bun'), both as a point of comparison and because sometimes, all you need is comfort food. Preferably involving a chilli kick.
Xiao Long Bao ($11.80)
Nicely pleated and looking as though they had little skirts, the XLB were borderline scorchingly hot, just as I like them. The skin nicely translucent, the filling juicy, well seasoned, and the burst of a good clear flavoursome broth (with added vinegar) just what I needed. Some of the better XLBs I’ve had in Australia.
Hot and Sour soup ($6.00)
A good sized serving (enough for two bowls), this is what I’d been hanging out for. The balance between the ‘hot’ and the ‘sour’ seems to be a somewhat subjective thing. I suspect I like mine a fraction more sour than most. In any event, this example wasn’t bad at all, with a reasonable amount of chilli, an absence of the too-much-added-cornflour syndrome, and some nice depth to it. Not amongst my top hot and sour soup experiences, but then again I have found it difficult to find a good one in Sydney, and I’d consider ordering the Hu Tong one again if I was there.
Spring onion pancake ($6.50)
More attractively presented than that in many places (though smaller in quantity) and touted as a ‘house special’, the pancake’s layers were light and crisp but not too oily. The amount of spring onions fairly decent; too few and the pancake becomes a tad on the bland side. Not inexpensive, but as it was a lot better than some I've had in the past year, worth it.
All in all, the location of Melbourne’s most popular XLB was a pleasant experience both food and service wise, and I’d be happy to revisit Hu Tong on any future trip to Melbourne.