My absolute worst would have to be a delayed flight. Not only is it a complete chore to sit on an aircraft for hours to get from here to there (especially when you're six-foot-four & squeezed into a no leg-room sardine tin), but when something like a late departure prevents me from following through with my plans, I'm not a happy chappy. Okay, so Melbourne is a quick up and down hour-and-a-bit from Sydney-town and can't really be considered a chore but when I worked out I had only 24 hours there before I had to get back onto a return flight, I wanted to fit in a least a little bit of me eating time.
Why such a quick visit? Work. The plan was to arrive mid afternoon, check into the hotel, get on up to Chinatown and snack on dumplings before going back to the hotel, take my complimenary three-course dinner at Nuevo37 and then work the following day before flying back home. I guess you can say that in the end all of this happened, just not in the order I had planned.
Thanks to my late arrival I checked into the Hilton and was chuffed to discover I had been upgraded to a King Yarra Suite, high above the river with views over the skyline. Nice. After a quick sniff about the gorgeous sprawling suite I dropped my bag and headed straight for the restaurant. I was famished. Sadly, Nuevo37 won't be making it to the blog pages as it happens to be the darkest restaurant I've ever been to. Seriously. I was annoyed I couldn't get any decent photo's of my food, surrendered to the fact and just enjoyed my wonderful meal before retreating to my city-view room and big bed strewn with down pillows. Ahhhh this is the life.
After a full day of work on Saturday I still had a couple of hours before getting back to the airport, so I took this time to get to the place I wanted to have dumplings at the day before. HuTong Dumpling Bar. Not knowing what their opening times were, I turned up at 5pm to find a closed restaurant ... I was half an hour early. Even with a 30 minute wait I had enough time to quickly devour a steamer of dumplings and make my flight and it was lucky I sat on the doorstep and waited as I counted 28 people had slowly gathered behind me in this Melbourne HuTong. While I waited I learned from Google that HuTong in Chinese means laneway or alley. Learn something new, hey?
Once opened, I considered myself lucky to have even scored a table without a booking. Most of the people behind me were turned away and I briefly felt sorry for the lady that protested "We're down from Sydney and came here especially!"
You snooze ... you lose, girlfriend.
The table I was given has a front row seat to the dumpling making peep-show. My face was virtually stuck to the glass like a child at a pet shop. The only difference here was that this almost-forty year old couldn't stick his fingers through and scratch the cute dough balls as if they were a puppy. I was spellbound nonetheless by all the monotonous rolling and dusting and cutting. Exciting stuff for a dumpling fiend.
The half hour I unfortunately had gave me just enough time to order the specialty - xiaolong bao (10.8). There was so much more I wanted but couldn't have. These delicious soup dumplings even came with their own eating instructions.
- Gently pick up a Xiaolong Bao with the chopsticks and make sure that you don't break the skin, You can do so by holding the Xiaolong Bao in the middle.
- Gently dip the Xiaolong Bao into the shredded ginger and vinegar sauce.
- Lift up and place it on the spoon.
- Nibble the side of the Xiaolong Bao ... and suck the soup/broth inside.
- Add some ginger and vinegar (as you like) ... and eat the rest.
This little dumpling didn't really need directions but I couldn't help but smile when I picked one up and squirted the glass from accidentally tearing the skin. The dumpling lady on the other side chuckled at my little premature mishap and I just shrugged and carried on slurping. The collagen-rich broth is rich and divine and virtually glues your lips together. I'm in love. I savoured every moment. All I wanted was to pick up the menu again and choose more food but sadly this little Sydney-ite had a plane to catch. I'll definitely be back.HuTong Dumpling Bar14-16 Market LaneMelbourne 3000Sun-Thurs 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-10.30pmFri-Sat 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-11pmhutong.com.au