Monday, April 13, 2009
Hu Tong. I have been craving dumplings like crazy lately, and after reading glowing reviews on Tummy Rumbles and I Eat Therefore I Am, I was really keen to go. We were meeting up with some uni friends in Chinatown on Thursday night, so I suggested we try it. It ended up being pretty bad. To my uni friends - I'm really, really sorry.
14-16 Market Lane
Ph: (03) 9650 8128
We rocked up at about 7:50pm, and without a reservation, we were told by the captain we'd have to wait until about 8:30. As we weren't super-starving, and were still waiting for more of our friends, I didn't think this would be a problem. We put our names and my mobile phone number down and started waiting. Of course, we already had waited 10 minutes just to get the captain's attention. He seemed to spend lots of time running up and down the stairs with a clipboard, and generally avoiding eye contact with the growing crowds in the little foyer.
By 8:30, our whole group of 6 had arrived, and when we managed to get the captain's attention to ask how much longer it would be, he said "4 minutes - I've got to push 2 tables together for you", and ran off. 4 minutes later and still nothing. He was still running up and down and not even looking at us. (Obviously it's not his fault if the previous table is taking their time, but an update, or some small acknowledgement that he was aware of our presence would have been nice).
At this point we decided to give up and go across the street to reliable ol' Shanghai Village. As we were walking down Market Lane, I got a rather peeved-sounding call on my mobile from the captain - "Hey! Where are you? Your table is ready!" So we came straight back, only to find that our table still wasn't ready!! We headed upstairs and saw 2 people still sitting at our table, finishing up their meals. We just stood awkwardly in the corner and waited some more. To their credit, as soon as the previous customers left, it took the waiters 3 nanoseconds to clear the table and set it for us.
Anyhoo, by about 8:45 we were seated, and then ordered. For 6 of us, we ordered 2 serves of dumplings, some veggo spring rolls (for the 2 vegetarians), a few dishes, a plate of vegetarian fried rice, and some steamed rice.
The first thing that came out was that massive bowl of red soupy meaty goodness that you see at the top of the post. I can't remember exactly what it was called, but it was full of different types of offal, including tripe and (I think) liver, and coagulated pigs blood. There were also peanuts and many other herbs and spices. Not exactly the type of thing I would order myself, but I was happy to try some!
Boiled pork dumplings. Tasty. Not earth-shattering, but still very good. The filling had a nice flavour, and the skin wasn't too thick or doughy.
Spring Rolls - we asked for vegetarian, but meat ones were brought out. I don't blame the waiters though; it was incredibly loud in there. Big crowds and wooden floors = headache-inducing cacophony. We just took them and asked for vego ones as well, which came out in a reasonable amount of time.
Then the noodles topped with lobster. I think it was $18.80, which was decent value. The noodles had a pleasant sauce, but again, the dish wasn't anything to write home about.
String beans with minced pork. This one was very garlicky (which I liked!) and had great flavour, but they came out at room temperature. You could tell they'd been sitting around for a while before being brought out to us.
Seafood hotpot. Or as we referred to it, "MSG hot pot". It was ridiculously salty. Our friend Sam said it was as if someone tried to shake a bit of MSG in there, but the lid fell off and flooded the dish with MSG. Very unpleasant.
Finally out came the Xiao Long Bao. I really enjoyed them. The skin was great, the meat had a good texture, and the soup inside was gingery and delicious.
We also got a plate of stir-fried vegetables (for the vegetarians), but I didn't manage to get a picture of it. Our poor vego friends were so starving by this time that they descended on the veggies with gay abandon. And they never got their fried rice.
All the dishes came out at random times, some weren't hot, and the waiters seemed to forget totally about our rice. We'd ordered 3 bowls of steamed rice, and a serve of vegetarian fried rice, neither of which ever came out. Eventually, we asked for the steamed rices, and they brought 2 bowls of dry, lukewarm, obviously microwaved rice. When we asked about the fried rice, our waiter said he'd go check.... and never came back. However, by this stage, the rest of the food had been eaten, so we just asked for the bill, and our vegos decided to go to a fastfood joint for chips. When we got the bill, we noticed they'd actually charged us for the vego fried rice and the 3 steamed rices! Cheeky. We got them to remove the fried rice and 1 x steamed rice from our bill.
Whilst the dumplings were pretty good, the rest of the food was average at best, and there really is no excuse for such shoddy service and feral rice. (No seriously, how can a Chinese restaurant mess up steamed rice????) The atmosphere was really noisy and unpleasant. Definitely won't be coming back here.
***EDIT: Forgot to mention that on the night we went there, the pan-fried pork dumplings were also unavailable. From blog comments and other friends I've spoken too, the unavailability of certain dumpling types seems to be a common problem. Pah!***