815 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn, VIC 3122
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri noon-3pm,Sat-Sun 11am-3pm,Thurs-Sun 5.15pm-late|
|Features||BYO, Yum cha|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9818 0968|
LAST January, I wrote a story for Epicure on Melbourne's best yum cha while simultaneously researching Melbourne's best fish and chips. The two-month eat-a-thon broke me and it's only recently that I can claim almost full recovery from the effects of RYCI (Repetitive Yum-Cha Injury) and PTCD (Post-Traumatic Chip Disorder). But I knew I was back on track when the mention of ''a new yum cha place'' caused a familiar frisson of dumpling yearning.
Tao Tao House - which loosely translates to ''house of happiness'' - opened three months ago, run by Hong Kong-born father-and-son team Jason and Eric Au.
Jason was the head dim sum chef at Flower Drum for nearly 20 years before being headhunted by Doncaster's Golden Dragon Palace, where he worked for five years before Tao Tao. Son Eric, at 17, started as a busboy at Shark Fin Inn, before managing Choi's (in Hawthorn), then Golden Dragon Palace, starting one week after his dad.
Now they have their own digs, at 815 Glenferrie Road, a site that's seems to house only Chinese restaurants - the long-running Panda, the short-lived Sichuan Dining Room and, most recently, The Eight.
Decor-wise, little has changed from the ornate fitout of the previous owners. The carved, high-backed chairs remain, along with the glossy timber floor, Chinese murals and images of chandeliers linked by the lucky number ''8''. The Aus have installed new tables, draped neatly in white linen, and, at the entrance, added oversized floor vases and a small, on-display wine cellar.
Kids are made welcome and on my visit four high chairs were in use, the occupants treated to smiles and ''oohs'' by waiting staff.
At dinner there's a classic Cantonese carte proffering sang choy bao, salt-and-pepper calamari and dishes such as chun chiu chicken with Sichuan peppercorns and chilli, or jade prawns with spinach and garlic.
Yum cha runs daily, lunch and dinner, with the most variety at lunch. It's a la carte during the week and trolley service at weekends, but ask to see the menu so you don't miss out on signatures such as scallop siu mai and the shiitake, enoki mushroom and duck roll.
It's good yum cha, each dish with great texture. The dumplings are hand-made, the soft, pink pieces of tender prawn and bright spinach on show through pliant opaque wrappers of prawn and spinach dumplings. Delicious char siu pork, not too sweet, comes in a doughy bun or encased in light and flaky pastry dotted with sesame seeds. Pleated har gau are neat as a pin, with quality chopped prawn inside starchy dumpling skin. Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf is full-flavoured, soft and delicious, the rice mostly far from stodgy.
I must confess, I couldn't eat more than one bite of the vivid-yellow custard tart - so sweet, so rich, its pastry fantastically buttery and flaky. But, gosh, it was great to yum cha again.
Seems I'll no longer be attending those meetings at Yum Cha Anonymous.