815 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn, VIC 312203 9818 0968
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri noon-3pm,Sat-Sun 11am-3pm,Thurs-Sun 5.15pm-late|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
WHERE AND WHAT
It really couldn't be anything but a Chinese restaurant. It's all there in the 1980s rusty-red brick decorated with faux ''old kingdom'' roof tiles, the gold leaf decorating the wooden window frames, the bamboo plantation and the stone lions out front. No, the identity of this Glenferrie Road business is impossible to misconstrue. A succession of Chinese dynasties has ruled this spot over the past decade; almost two years ago it was taken over yet again and turned into Tao Tao House (it translates roughly as ''house of happiness''), a worthy recipient of your yum cha dollar.
WHERE TO SIT
No need to sit close to the kitchen as the waiters take a democratic approach to serving the room. No yum cha barn, it's dark and elegant with the requisite oversize Chinese vases, varnished wood and ornate ceiling scrolls.
WHEN TO GO
Monday to Friday, noon-3pm. At weekends yum cha has two sittings, 11am-12.45pm, and 1-3pm. Bookings are necessary. Dinner is seven nights a week from 5.15pm.
The wine list is a mostly Australian affair, well priced with a number of choices in the sub-$40 bracket. BYO wine only - corkage is $7.50 a bottle.
By day, Tao Tao House is a yum cha restaurant free from the clang and haste of many of its competitors - a blessing, given yum cha can often be over in 15 minutes thanks to greedy gobbling from rushing trolleys (and it's order from the menu on weekdays). Chef Jason Au (who owns the joint with son Eric, the maitre d') is a dim sum specialist whose har gau - the ubiquitous little pleated prawn dumplings - are a mark of his skill. Ditto the scallop sui mai, the fragrant ginger and chive prawn dumplings in opalescent wrappers, and chilli-fired chicken dumplings. Fried stuff is definitely worth a guilty look - salt and pepper calamari and the house specialty, chilli quail. The evening a la carte menu, a trip down Canto memory lane, packs a few surprises, such as the baked scallop with minced chicken and cheese.
By day children are made to feel welcome by staff, who expertly deal with spillages without recriminations. At night the early shift is dominated by families from the private-school belt; the later shift moves the axis of power to couples.
Refined yum cha minus the feeding frenzy.