Hutong at The Cullen

It’s one of those sad facts of life that dear friends will sometimes feel the need to move to the other side of the globe. It is a highly tragic circumstance, which can only ever be relieved when those friends returnĀ  to the homely nest for a weekend of highly inebriated shenanigans. That is what occurred a few weekends ago when our dear friend Rola, who has been living in Dubai, returned to remind Melbourne how to goddamn party properly.

In amongst the never-ending drinking that marked Rola’s four days in Melbourne town (my liver still isn’t quite right), we all of course wanted to fit in some fancy eating. Dumplings was decided upon, then by extension Hutong, followed by the Prahran location. And once we learned that it was BYO, well, the alcoholics within us were very happy with this dining direction.

But then! DISASTER. Just before we were about to leave for the restaurant we received a message from Sophie. “We’ve fucked up, it’s the Hutong in the city that’s BYO, not the Cullen one. We’re going to have to buy booze there.”

A collective wail of “OH NOOOOO!” was uttered. “How are we supposed to get crunked on ten dollar bottles of rose NOW?” Amelia lamented (we were totally planning on a classy night, clearly). We ended up sharing a couple of $30 bottles of various vintages between us during dinner to minimal grousing, but let us remain a cautionary tale to you: Hutong city, bring wine to cheer you, Hutong Prahran, you pay for it, fool.

But what about food? ask those whose innards aren’t lined with fermented grape juice. For entree I went with the spring onion pancake, which is one of my most favourite dishes of all time and I can’t pass it up if I encounter it on a menu. This was a very interesting version, as it wasn’t a flat, thin pancake like I’ve encountered before, but instead was a fat, puffy ring of crispy dough. A spring onion doughnut! It was very well done, with a pleasing ratio of outside crispness to soft fluffy innards, and just oily enough for there to be a bit of juice and avoid dryness.

I also ordered a set of twelve steamed vegetarian dumplings, because this is Hutong, you can’t not do dumplings. Highly impressive! I tend to judge vegie dumplings by the number of different components I can identify in the filling once I’ve cracked one open. If it’s just a sea of green cabbage-looking mess inside, no points for you. I want variety and nuance in my dumpling, dammit! Hutong totally brought exciting dumpling fillings in spades. There were the standard array of greenery, but it was exciting greenery, like little slivers of onion chives. They also contained fat juicy chunks of a variety of mushrooms, pieces of carrot, tiny lengths of translucent vermicelli noodles, it was so varied and most importantly super tasty. I’d be very happy to go back and just eat a ton of them.

Not being able to sampled the famed xiao long bao myself, I of course attempted to bully others into ordering them so that I could enjoy them by proxy. Luckily Amelia was all over it and convinced Lucy to share some with her. “So these have SOUP in them?” said Lucy. “Yes,” I said. “Stuff them in your mouth all at once otherwise the soup will escape!” “Oh my god, do not listen to her,” said Amelia, and instead instructed Lucy on how to eat them in a manner which wouldn’t kill you, which consisted of nibbling a little hole in the top and slurping out enough soup so you don’t burn yourself. The consensus on these xiao long bao was that they they were OH SO GREAT. I am jealous, where can I find vegie versions of these things?

Being that there was about fifteen of us, I’m pretty sure judging by the numbers of dishes that ended up swamping the table we probably ended up ordering everything on the menu. The staff were quite amazing at managing us, especially considering we were probably one of those huge groups hated by hospitality staff (everyone arrives at different times, no one is ready to order at the same time, no one remembers what is was they ordered: “Did I order the chicken? Did anyone else order the chicken?”), and apart for some errant glasses of water that had to be chased up, they did an admirable job in getting the obscene amount of things we ordered out to us in a timely manner.

All in all, it was probably far too classy a dinner considering that it ended up as stomach lining for those hideously blue drinks that you can get at Revellers at 5am. Only for you, Rola, only for you. (love you)

Hutong at The Cullen

162 Commercial Road, Prahran

Ph: 9098 1188