Anyone who’s lined up for Xiao Long Bao knows the world needs more HuTong. Luckily, that’s exactly what we’re being given – in a slightly schmicker setting. Known simply as East, the new restaurant’s name refers both to its Paris End location and the inspiration for its cuisine.
With a name-brand fit-out by architect 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. “Looking at the space, it feels a little different. But it’s HuTong still,” says food and beverage director, Eric Chew. “In terms of the environment, the restaurant is fusion. But not the food – it’s still a traditional taste.”
The menu has been designed by head chef Yi Bo Wang (formerly of Man Ton Kitchen), and it 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. “We’re bringing new dishes that we haven’t had in any of our restaurants before,” says Chew.
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. “We’ve brought in a lot of Chinese chefs, who bring in their expertise making the dumplings,” says Chew. “We’re still sponsoring a lot of chefs from mainland China.”
And, perhaps most atypically, there’s a real focus on the booze, including an interesting selection of premium Chinese wine.
Possibly best of all is that, for the moment at least, there isn’t an hour-long wait for dumplings. We’ll see how long that lasts for.