Dragon Boat

203 Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 2733
Hu Tong Dumpling Bar
14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 8128

An old friend from uni, Poasa, was in Melbourne for Easter so Adam and I decided to take him out for a good old fashioned yum cha lunch. The poor thing, having been back in Fiji for the last few years, has not had a ‘proper’ yum cha meal in ages (apparently in Fiji, yum cha restaurants are VERY different) so he was just as excited as I was about the lunch. Oh, and the whole seeing-each-other-for-the-first-time-in-three-years bit too! It was up to me to choose the lunch venue and after much deliberation I decided on the newly-refurbished Dragon Boat restaurant in Chinatown. Now I used to go there all the time with my parents and with friends in my earlier uni student days. That was before their food quality started slipping and then I stopped going. With all the hoo-haa surrounding the refurbishments though, I decided that a return visit would not hurt and hey, it might even be better this time around. Not so, warned Jan who went there only two weeks prior to our visit. Not only did she say that it was pricey, the food that arrived on her table was COLD. She left after only five dishes. In hindsight I should have listened to Jan but I brushed aside her warning and figured that she just came on a bad day or something.

We arrived on time for our 1:30pm booking to a much more spacious and modern-looking establishment that extended to an extra floor above the main restaurant. Gone were the deary carpeting and the old school 80s furnishings. Instead, the space was much more simple with sleek wooden tables and chairs snaked all over the floor, allowing only enough room for the trolleys to make their way to each table. We were told that there was to be a 10 minute wait which was fair enough as it WAS a Sunday.

The next half an hour was kinda like sitting in a Wong Kar Wai film – nothing made sense. Once we were seated at our table, the following things happened:

  • We were initially served by a stoned waiter; he literally threw down our chopsticks, bowls and napkins right in front of us in quick succession without blinking. Bangbangbangbangbangbangbang! WHOA!
  • It took us four tries to actually get chilli sauce and chilli oil. This was frustrating, not only because I cannot have my dumplings without chilli oil but one should also expect to see chilli sauce to be poured into a dipping dish when you are seated.
  • We asked the stoned waiter for zhaliang. He ignored us. We asked two different waitresses, both nodding their acknowledgements … but they did not bother writing the order down on our bill nor did we see them go into the kitchen to get the dish ready. Finally, we asked the roaming manager if we could order zhaliang. The first time, he PRETENDED NOT TO HEAR US. The second time, he did this irritated sigh and said something about having to “see if they’re ready yet.” And when Adam went, “huh?” the dude just snapped at him, “Wait for the kitchen to bring it out!” WTF? Wait for them to bring it out? Zhaliang is a dish that’s made to ORDER. In the end, we just gave up. I was really disappointed though because to me, yum cha isn’t yum cha without zhaliang.
  • The trolleys took way too long to circulate. We did not receive our fried dishes and we only saw one dumpling cart come around while the same cart containing fried fish cakes (!) circled our table three times.

In the end, we simply grabbed our stuff after only seven dishes and paid the bill (where a line of fellow disgruntled patrons were queuing). Okay, so the service was beyond crap. What was the food like? Well, here are some shots to start off with:

Ginger prawn dumplings
Har gow

Xiao Long Bao with no soup. Grr.

The food may have looked alright and probably would have tasted just so… had they been HOT rather than lukewarm. Sigh. The total bill was $48.10 (4 x $5.50 for the medium dishes + 3 x $6.50 for the large dishes + 3 x $2.20 for the tea). For the food quality and the appalling service – and not to mention the fact we were still hungry – it was a lot to pay for yum cha. I also had to laugh at Poasa when he said that although yum cha in Fiji is crap, it was miles ahead of what we had to experience at Dragon Boat. Dragon Boat may have changed its facade, but it was still skanky and ugly inside. Not recommended at all.

Because we were still hungry and because Poasa was still buzzing over the awesome xiaolongbaos he had at Hu Tong with his pals the other night, we decided to duck in there to continue our lunch. It was just after the lunch rush so we were able to score a table downstairs. And although Hu Tong is notorious for being inconsistent with their food quality and their service, they were brilliant this time around. Service with smiles (though the food did take a while to arrive) and the xiaolongbaos were AMAZING (we ordered two baskets).
Perfection in a bamboo steamer ($10.80 for a steamer of eight).

Eggplant with minced pork ($15.80), a random dish that we ordered. It was lovely though, the pork being not overly spicy but giving off a sizable amount of bite.

Yes, we ended up having two lunches. Sad, I know. At the end of the day, at least we all learnt never to go to Dragon Boat for yum cha again.

Okay, so that was a pretty crappy ending. But shush, contract assignment. Supercoach trades. The latest episode of (the new) 90210. Can’t blog no more for the night. Busy.

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  1. I have to agree, Dragon Boat yumcha is certainly not worth the money.. I must have been feeling pretty generous when I gave them a 5/10 in my humble opinion when I posted it.. hahah…

    I love Hutong!

  2. Yep, right there with you. We had yum cha at Dragon Boat recently – also for relatives who were in town, but it was their first experience of yum cha – and I was embarrassed! The gai lan was literally inedible. How can you screw up steamed veg with oyster sauce? Well, they did. We were up on a silly little podium in the corner which meant the trolleys couldn’t come to us, we had to get up and look at them as they paused at the stairs leading up to our table. Dumplings were all over-steamed. Bad! Don’t waste your money!

    1. Yeah, I was pretty embarrassed too.

      The podium was pretty stupid. Tsk. I thought there would have been a little ramp for the trolleys to go up or something like that. Design FAIL!

  3. That sounds like a shocker! I’m make sure we never go there!

    But HOW GOOD is Hu Tong – I’m so happy you ate the xiaolongbaos (I didn’t know they were called that, I’ve always called them Shanghi Dumplings – learn a new thing everyday). YUM!

    How do you do those “snapshot” doobies? 🙂

  4. Sorry, using my “lingo” there – which is completly made up and so doesn’t make sense to most people. 🙂

    “Snapshot doobies” meaning the WordPress snapshots that pop up when you hold the mouse of your links. Is that a strictly WordPress feature? If I’m not making sense I can send you a screen dump. 🙂

    1. Ohhhh, I see what you mean…

      I’m not 100% sure, but I think it may be just a wordpress function. I’ve seen it appear on many blogs that are wordpress-based but not on blogger, livejournal etc. You can probably configure your site to make the ‘snapshot doobies’ appear but I wouldn’t have any idea how to do it 🙁

  5. I completely agree with you on the terrible customer service at Dragon Boat. Takes forever to get their attention. It’s like they don’t want your business at all. And the cheongfun is awful.

  6. I went there only once about 8 years ago during my uni time, and the only impression I have of them is their stuck up attitude. Food was not memorable, hhaha, so no comment. Rude waiters are enough a reason to keep me away from a restaurant.

  7. I have been in this place numerous times but everytime you go back, you will notice the differece and the deteriorating services this place is giving. The manger is not friendly and the people serving the yumcha are so slow. You will
    noticed that you are being treated as a number and not a valued customer.

    sad to say very very poor service.

  8. I have only been to the Lonsdale Street store and we go for the All You Can Yum Cha lunch which is around $18 on weekdays and $22 on Saturday – since I am not a dumpling expert, we just make sure we get our money’s worth and eat plenty. My daughter (17) also has a massive shoulder bag and if we remember we carry a few takeaway containers to supplement our supper that night – hey, it’s all one price hehe

    Yes, we are evil gwailo

    1. Ooh I’ve yet to visit the Lonsdale Street restaurant but yes, I’ve heard about their All You Can Eat yum cha lunches. I don’t know what the quality is like but hey $18 for as many dim sums as you want sounds fantastic – I’d be happy to pay that even if they do serve mediocre dumplings! I’m surprised that this restaurant will let you get away with taking home several containers of dumplings though…?

      1. I didn’t say they could see us! We’re quite stealthy.

        So far I am randomly reading your reviews at work, because your page isn’t blocked… but if I had to put you on the spot … What is the best Yum Cha in Melbourne from a non-White Ghost pov?

        1. Hmm, good question. I like Tai Pan in Doncaster, and Golden Dragon Palace in Lower Templestowe (though the latter is somewhat pricey). I have yet been to Crystal Jade but apparently that’s the best from what I’ve heard?

  9. My girlfriend and I went there a while back on a Saturday for “all you can eat” yum cha.

    The food was not terrible but not great either, the service was slower than molasses in winter.

    To elaborate on that last comment, my girlfriend doesn’t eat pork (not Jewish, not Muslim, just picky :D) So it was a long wait between carts, only to be disappointed by the selection (Crown Palace in Vermont South has a good variety of different dishes even if the main meat in Yum Cha is pork). When dessert eventually rocked up, my girlfriend wanted her moneys worth of all you can eat in dessert, only to be told “no” when she requested a few plates of egg custard. Pretty slack service there.

    Needless to say, we won’t be returning there any time soon, if at all.

    1. They said ‘no’ to a few servings of egg custard tarts? Ridiculous!

      And is Crown Palace the one on Burwood Hwy, the place that used to be Han Palace? Or is Han Palace still Han Palace and Crown Palace is somewhere else? Am I confusing myself? lol.

      1. I thought it was a pretty reasonable request, but the rather grumpy waitressyum cha cart lady must’ve thought otherwise. I also forgot to mention that I’d also had the same issue with trying to get chilli. Its not too much to ask to have some of those little metal pots of chilli oil or as you said, have it poured upon arrival into dipping dishes.

        And yep, Crown Palace is the old Han Palace – never had a bad yum cha experience there, or at Treasure in Forest Hill (down the road from Chinabar Signature) for that matter. Seems to be that all the decent Yum Cha in Melbourne is found out in the suburbs.

        1. I agree with you re: better yum cha places in the suburbs. That said, my friend has been on my back to give Red Emperor in Southgate a go… hrm.

          I will give Crown Palace a go one of these days. Thanks for the rec 🙂

  10. I was hungry yesterday so I went to go after shopping and than stopped in this fine dine chinese place I saw online. Thinking ok it should be nice and as soon as I was waiting for someone to show me to my table . People start lining up and when someone did come up to get people seated. The FIRST Thing the guy did was came up to ask the couple next to me first. That was first dissatisfied things to do with customers EVER.

    So they pointed to me thank goodness. I said table for one and the look was like (oh really). Showed me up stairs I walked up and than the girl showed me to a corner table.. (Second thing to piss me off). The food was great just one person didn’t pay attention and gave the two tables next to me with couples and walked off. Really? Am i invisible!

    So I went to pay thinking it was down stairs (since i thought they only had one till.) Walked up to the first step and this Chinese man was yelling st me pointing to the small sign” PLEASE PAY HERE” on the till (size of half a A5 paper.) That was the last straw. NEVER ever going here again. Everyone just steered at me .
    If it was Perth I wouldn’t be as polite as i was here after that rudely outburst!

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