This article congratulates and celebrates the masters of Chinese cooking - the revered Hutong Group, the geniuses behind the Hutong Dumpling Bars, have created all three. Each has its own specialties and style but share deserved acclaim by serving outstanding authentic food and service.
Man Tong Kitchen at Crown
Level 1 West End, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank
Crown Casino's premium authentic Chinese restaurant Man Tong Kitchen features the very best selection of secret tastes from diverse provinces across China. It also includes the highly acclaimed Hulong dumpling bar. You can watch the masters create their dumplings from outside the shop.
The Man Tong Kitchen is a vibrant restaurant with large red lanterns hung overhead signifying good fortune.
Here are some of their unique delicacies. Their wafer thin Peking duck pancake and the signature dumplings are not to be missed. You bite the top off the dumplings and pour the rice vinegar into the hole. The taste is indescribable - they just melted in the mouth. My suggestion is to take small mouthfuls to savour the taste. The other soft dumpling was served with sweet chili sauce and gone too quickly.
We were told the Dongpo pork was named after a poet from Ancient history. It was so tender it was almost impossible to pick up with chopsticks as it just broke away like tofu. I have never had such a sweet moist pork that there is no need to chew. This had been braised with Chinese spices and then steamed.
If you like seafood, you should try the coral trout fillets in sweet-and-sour sauce. I really liked the balance between the sweet crispy batter, soft flakey subtle fish and the tasty sauce. The combination made this serving irresistible.
So sweet… and sour
I think they serve the best fried rice that I had ever tasted. It was a very large rice dish with subtle flavours including black truffle and scallops and most unlike heavier fried rices.
As is true of high quality restaurants the staff was attentive but discreet and never let the glasses run near empty. They quietly and efficiently attended to our needs without intruding. They were able to answer our questions about the dishes and did all this with great timing and cheerfulness. Overall, without overstating the quality - the Man Tong Kitchen is just awesome.
East - New Contemporary Wine Bar and Chinese Tapas Restaurant 25 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Renowned for their impeccable food and service, the East presents their innovative interpretation of traditional Chinese flavours. In contrast to the traditional red and gold colours of the Man Tong Kitchen, the East has modern grey and green tones with floor and wall tiles. This color scheme is contrasted with large modern rice paper lookalike shades.
The service was efficient and all staff professional, attentive, and friendly. On arrival we were offered Chinese tea. They serve premium teas such as Chrysanthemum, Rose flower, Jasmine Pearl and Tai Hu Green Bamboo.
There were many unknown dishes on the menu so I was relieved when the waiter made some suggestions, all of which we would probably not have chosen but were very impressed by. First we started with sumptuous roti rolls with steamed chicken and a Szechuan sauce. This was hot and spicy and similar to satay with fresh crisp, very thinly sliced raw vegetables and multigrain roti. At $8 it was quite a bargain.
A tasting plate was switched for our empty plate. This included 'drunken clams' that had been soaked for two days in wine. The Signature pork spare ribs were crispy and delicious. I'm not a big seafood fan so to my surprise I also enjoyed the smoked barramundi, which have an earthy sweet taste. It was crisp on the outside but flaky on the inside. These were served with an abalone, mint and cucumber salad with mild wasabi dressing. You can order your own East Signature tasting menu for $59 pp. It's well worth it.
One of my new favourites, which I tasted for the first time that night, was small potato balls with melted cheese centres. It was served with an addictive creamy chili sauce. These were presented to the table in a small black deep frying basket.
One of the most attractive dishes of the night was the rockling fish fillets cooked in chili oil. This is for those who like it really hot.
The other piece of food art was the slow cooked pork spare ribs served in a spicy bbq sauce with butterfly shaped buns!
The East is a wine bar so I need to make mention of the Asian inspired cocktails. How do you like the sound of the Lychee Martinis, Strawberry Dream, Lemongrass Illusion or The Great East?
Make sure you save room for dessert because they serve the most delicious creamy mousse with fresh mango at the base.
Level 2, 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne
This is absolutely the only place to go for those who like their food hot! Lost Heaven offers authentic oriental flavours inspired by the spicy Sichuan Province in China. This decadent dining experience offers a hot unique dining option that is a modern twist on traditional Sichuan dining. Garlic and chilli, as well as the unique flavour of the Sichuan peppercorn feature throughout the menu. If you are unsure, the level of spice can be modified for individual taste.
Cold dishes to start with
Fish with chili oil is a popular dish. There's none of the run of the mill items like my kid's favorite lemon chicken or sweet and sour pork on the menu but for those who like the familiar they are happy to cater to your tastes. The staff are happy to help their customers select the perfect dishes for them.
Some of my recommendations include the Steamed Live Barramundi with Diced Hot Chili, the Lost Heaven Signature Spicy Hock or Scallop with Eggplant Clay Pot in Szechuan Chili Sauce to get the taste buds tingling. Other crowd favourites are the Hot and Spicy yabby (1kg) and the other live seafood.
The food is surprisingly inexpensive. We had two cold appetizers. Spicy chili chicken with peppers and lemongrass ($10.80) and Sichuan styled cold noodles ($10.80). The crispy lamb shank was enormous and only $13.80. My companion was very impressed with this. I enjoyed the deep fried chicken with chili, bok choy and mushrooms. Although it's fried in chili it's not that hot. This large serve was $25.80.
For a bit of fun, diners can create their own Hot Pot right at their table. Diners select their preferred soup base, sauce, meat and vegetables and then cook it themselves, providing an authentic experience.
There's a lot to be impressed about Lost Heaven. The restaurant has massive windows right across the front looking out into the centre of the city. The venue's interior exudes sophistication with a soft color palette of red, which is contrasted against natural timber and complemented with many modern hanging lights. The effect is a classy modern Chinese feel.
Spicy chicken… okay to pick up and eat the meat off the bones
The spacious venue has several 'zones' that caters for 250 diners, however it is perfect for any occasion from intimate dining to bigger groups with booths and separate sections. We were most impressed by the private booths, large tables and …something I have never seen before…. the hot plates built into the middle of the table to keep the temperature of the food just right.
True to Hutong style, the service is quick, and the staff courteous and ready to meet your needs. If you are up for a spicy Chinese challenge, find your way to Lost Heaven.
If you have never tried Hutong food then you must. Once you have tried these you might like to sample some of the other Hutong restaurant's cuisine. Enjoy!
Hu Tong City - 14-16 Market Ln., Melbourne
Man Tong Kitchen - Level 1 West End, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank
East - 25 Little Collins St, Melbourne
China Red- 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Spicy Fish - 209 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Da Hu Peking Duck- 171 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Ten Miles - Crown Casino food court, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank
Hu Tong Prahran - 162 Commercial Road, Prahran
The 'cook your own hotpot' sounds like a fun idea. It reminds me of a restaurant that I used to go to a long time ago, where you put all the ingredients together yourself. You didn't cook it though. You took up to the chefs and they'd cook it on the wok in front of you.