Anyone who’s lined up for Xiao Long Bao knows the world needs more HuTong. Luckily, that’s exactly what sister venue East provides, albeit in a slightly schmicker setting.
With a name-brand fit-out by architectural firm Hecker Guthrie, handmade tiles in turquoise, high tables and a smattering of Chinese kitsch, East is right at home in a CBD laneway. But the food is pure Chinese.
The menu by head chef Gian Qian is in keeping with HuTong’s signature Shanghai/Szechuan style. There’s stir-fried string beans glistening with chilli; braised duck with smoked tea; and an enormous slow-cooked pork-rib dish of which the venue is rightfully proud.
When it comes to dumplings, it’s a matter of not fixing what isn’t broke. Handmade soup dumplings, or those fragrant and almost translucent steamed garlic chive and prawn dumplings, need no improvement. Many of the chefs were brought out from China and sponsored by the restaurant to stay here.
Atypically, there’s a real focus on the booze. Cocktail drinkers can choose from a range of fruity concoctions; wine drinkers from bottles from Heathcote, Marlborough, France, Italy, Austria and China. The beer selection is less impressive, as it's limited to big-name lagers.