Ground Floor, Rialto Building
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9077 7937
Would you pay almost $100 for dumplings? Dave and I did a month or two ago – and I dare say that they were worth it.
Melbourne’s Rialto houses some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants, including Vue De Monde and Guy Grossi’s Merchant. So when I heard that a dumpling restaurant, Mr Huang Jin, had opened up there, I was sceptical – but delighted at the same time. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know how much I love dumplings more than Essendon FC haters are loving the drama surrounding the club I follow at the moment (heh).
Dave and I arrived at 6pm, expecting to find the restaurant full given the attention it’s been receiving lately. To our surprise, there were only two or three tables occupied. Not that we complained anyway. I sat down with my tea (which they charge $3.50 a head for).
We decided to share as many dishes as we could. Starting from the ‘Taiwanese tapas’ menu (snigger), we selected the Taiwanese Fried Chicken. Better than a soggy piece of water and hormone-injected KFC breast fillet, these bite-sized beauties were coated in a deliciously spicy crispy batter and served with sweet chilli mayonnaise.
Next, we had the prawn and pork wontons which were swimming in chilli sauce-slash-oil. I enjoy Hu Tong’s version of this dish (which doesn’t come with prawns) and Mr Huang Jin’s version was just as good. That said, I thought $13 for five pieces was a tad ridiculous.
Dave and I didn’t really rate the pan-fried pork dumplings. While they weren’t horrible, we just couldn’t help thinking that $11 would have got us at least 12 pieces in most dumpling restaurants. Plus, we preferred the thicker and crispier skins of the cheaper dumplings anyway.
That said, we thought the xiaolongbao dumplings were amazing. Punters are already starting to declare them the best XLBs in Melbourne and I have to agree.
In my opinion, a good XLB broth is one that’s simultaneously delicate and flavoursome, and this one was right on the money. Meanwhile, the skins were beautifully thin, yet strong enough to hold the fragrant pork and ginger filling. And yes, they may have been pricey but they were amazing.
Mr Huang Jin also offers random XLB flavours such as wasabi and pumpkin. I don’t like pumpkin very much and the thought of eating a dumpling filled with wasabi was just too weird so I stayed away from them. Still, we wanted to try one of the strange flavours just for funsies so we ordered a serving of laksa XLB.
Although I prefer the original pork filling, I have to say that the laksa XLBs actually tasted alright! The broth wasn’t as flavoursome as say, the broth they use at Laksa King but it still held its own.
Our last savoury dish was the pork belly bun (gua bao), which the kitchen happily chopped in half for us. A fluffy white bun held together a sticky pork belly, preserved vegetables, peanut dust and coriander filling and while it was nice enough, I did find the pork belly more dry than sticky. I preferred Wonderbao’s version which represented better value for money.
Dumpling restaurants aren’t well-known for their desserts but I have to say that Mr Huang Jin excels in this space with its creative spin on suburban Asian favourites such as banana fritters. Furthermore, all desserts come with suggested wine or tea pairings, which I thought was a lovely touch.
Dave ordered the red bean pancake. Although the menu promised a ‘crispy flaked pastry’, I stupidly thought the pancake would be crêpe-like (comprehension fail). Naturally I was surprised when Dave was presented with a decently-thick and crunchy pancake filled with a smooth red bean paste. It was beautiful.
I ordered what the menu claimed was ‘the most classic of all Asian desserts.’ I’m not sure whether they were referring to the banana fritter or the green tea ice cream, or both. In any case, I received one green tea ice cream and one black sesame ice cream even though there was no mention of black sesame ice cream. While I thought the black sesame ice cream was beautiful and while it was possible that they had run out of green tea ice cream, I thought that it would have been great if they had let me know beforehand. Oh well.
Regardless, my dessert was just as beautiful as Dave’s dessert. The banana fritters were awesomely crunchy and lovingly drizzled in honey, and both ice cream flavours were, to my delight, not terribly sweet.
The bill came to $92.50 which, on paper, is pretty dear for only two people. That said, we were full and I can say that Mr Huang Jin serves Melbourne’s best XLB. Whether you’re willing to pay $11 for five dumplings, though, is another story. I’m not made of money so unfortunately, I won’t be making Mr Huang Jin my regular stalking ground. But when I’m not feeling like a tight arse or when I can’t be bothered walking to Shanghai Street or Hu Tong, you’ll more than likely find me at the bottom of the Rialto, enjoying these babies.
Question: Would you pay close to $100 for really, really good dumplings?