I think we’ve been to Dainty Sichuan Hotpot three times in the past month.
No, what, we’re not obsessed.
Okay, maybe a bit.
So the latest hot opening in Melbourne is Din Tai Fung, which has opened on Level 4 of Emporium. I’m sure we’re all aware of Din Tai Fung – the mega dumpling chain that started in Taiwan over 40 years ago and now has restaurants in 12 different countries. Sydney itself has 7 branches, and the Melbourne one opened only last month.
Alastair and I have been to one of the Sydney branches before, so I was interested to see how the Melbourne one stacked up. We made plans with friends for lunch, and since we knew there would be huge lines we decided to show up 10-15 minutes before opening time to be sure of a table. We arranged to meet on Sunday, and when the day came Alastair and I headed into the city early to have a coffee before lunch.
Somehow, despite being Sunday morning, Alastair and I were running ahead of schedule, and after our coffee we went straight to DTF – arriving just before 10.30am, 30 minutes before they opened for the day.
We were first in line.
As we waited, the line steadily grew, and by the time 11am rolled around the line had already snaked around the corner, doubled up, and reached the escalators.
The doors opened, and unfortunately our friends hadn’t arrived by that time, so Alastair and I got a table for two and had lunch by ourselves (we did ask if we could be seated while we waited, but were firmly but politely told no). While this branch in Melbourne is rather large, seating 235 people, I feel like there was close to that number waiting by opening time.
Alastair let me order – as always – and our first item was the Drunken chicken ($10.80). This chicken was served cold, and had a strongish aroma from its Chinese rice wine marinade. It was very good, the meat was tender and flavoursome, though people who don’t like the rice wine flavour probably won’t like this.
Of course we had to order pork xiao long bao (6 pieces for $10.80). As expected from Din Tai Fung, the XLB were excellent. Even after being cooked, you can see how beautifully constructed they were with their perfect pleats.
The skin was thin and elastic, with a good amount of soup inside, and a juicy filling.
We also had some spicy prawn pork dumpling wantan ($10.80), which possibly just squeezed out the XLB to be my favourite item of the meal. Unfortunately the waitress gave the dish a stir when she placed it down – not so good for photos – but I suppose that was helpful of her?! The sauce that covered the wontons was delicious, not very spicy but really tasty, and the dumpling skins themselves were great.
We splashed out and ordered two of the truffle dumplings ($4.40 each). It was recommended that these be eaten without vinegar and ginger, so you can fully appreciate the truffle. There was definitely recognisable bits of real truffle in with the filling, and they were quite nice, but for me they were one of those “try once” things.
These were crab & pork XLB (6 pieces for $17.80), which were good but for the price I definitely preferred the plain pork ones. (Interestingly, going back and reading my Sydney post, I realise that I said the exact same thing 4 years ago. It’s nice that I’m consistent.)
We also had an order of the Cha Jiang noodle ($13.80).
These noodles have a topping made of minced pork, soy bean and tofu. The topping by itself was on the salty side, but perfect when eaten with the noodles.
And finally, for dessert we had golden taro bread and taro ice cream ($7.80).
This is not something that I would normally order, but Thanh highly recommended it. And wow he was right in his praises – it was so so good.
The taro bread was basically deep fried white bread with a taro filling. It doesn’t sound that great but they’d managed to fry the bread so it was thin and really crispy.
Even Alastair, who doesn’t like taro, tried some and loved it.
I wouldn’t bother with the ice cream again though – it was way too sweet for me. (The bread can be ordered without it.)
So the verdict – I have to say, the food at the Melbourne DTF is very good. I had to wait in line and I still think it was worth it. I would line up again too – and I don’t say that about many places.
Note that they close in between lunch and dinner, so if you do want to go for lunch I suggest trying to get there early or you run the risk of not being able to get a table. If you’re keen to get in the first round, I’d recommend trying to arrive 10-15 minutes before opening.
Din Tai Fung
Level 4 (via the escalator next to Jimmy Grants in the food court on Level 3 – or there are external lifts from the corner of Caledonian Lane and Little Bourke Street)
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone: 03 9654 1876
Disclosure: I attended and dined courtesy of Cecconi and AMPR.
I suppose we’re officially in winter now, aren’t we? Well, let’s pretend that we’re still in autumn (I’d like to pretend that we’re not in winter anyway) as the other month I was invited to Cecconi’s for an autumn menu tasting.
Cecconi’s has been in the city for quite a long time now: apparently almost a decade, so it’s terrible that this was my first visit to the Flinders Lane location. I actually remember the Cecconi’s that was at Crown, quite a long time ago now – Alastair and I ate there with Annette and Terry not long after we moved to Melbourne.
They must be doing something right to have been around the Melbourne dining scene for so long and I was excited to finally pay them a visit.
I met Alastair for a quick dinner in the city after work one evening. It was a cold night and what better on a cold night than ramen? Not much, I tell you. So we took the opportunity to try Hakata Gensuke.
Fortunately it was early (ie just about 6pm) as I have heard stories about the queues at Hakata Gensuke. Even so, we did wait outside – fortunately while it was cold it wasn’t raining – for about 5 minutes while we waited for seats to become available.
Disclosure: We attended the soft opening courtesy of Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen.
Ramen in Melbourne has been gradually getting better as more ramen focussed restaurants have been opening up.
The latest is Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen (IKR) and a couple of weeks ago I attended the soft opening with Alastair. As you probably know, there are numerous styles of ramen with different regions having different variations. IKR’s style is tonkotsu which originates from the Hakata district of Fukuoka city in Kyushu. Tonkotsu is made from a pork bone base, cooked at high heat for a long period of time until the soup is opaque, milky and creamy.
Disclosure: I attended courtesy of The Fisher & Paykel Social Kitchen & Q Strategies
The other week I headed down to Queen Victoria Market – and not to shop, as most people do.
Instead, I was there for a cooking class at The Fisher & Paykel Social Kitchen, a new venture that’s a dedicated, hands on cooking school located in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Queen Victoria Market.
Disclosure: My meal was courtesy of DuNord.
You have to love Melbourne.
Pretty much whatever cuisine tickles your fancy – you can find it.
Feel like – oh, I don’t know – Nordic cuisine? Because if that’s what you’d like, trot on down to DuNord on Little Bourke Street, where they serve Nordic-inspired cuisine and cocktails.
Disclosure: I attended courtesy of The Westin & Q Strategies.
I have been to rather a lot of afternoon teas in the past couple of years, so it’s always nice when I go to one that’s a little bit different.
The Westin is serving An Eclair Affair in the Lobby Lounge every afternoon until 30 June – and the point of difference? Instead of the usual little cakes and sandwiches, the afternoon tea comes with savoury and sweet eclairs. There are still scones (it wouldn’t be afternoon tea without them, right?) with accompanying jam and cream, but the stars on the stand are the eclairs.
I keep wanting to call this cafe Bowery to Williamstown instead of Bowery to Willamsburg.
The real name is a homage to New York’s Bowery subway station, but I personally feel that the owners missed an opportunity to work in a reference to Melbourne. I’m sure that Willamsburg, New York is 100000% cooler than Williamstown, Melbourne, but so what?