Tao Tao House came recommended via my (Chinese) parents’ (Chinese) friends – the Chinese expat grapevine is a great source for food tips in Melbourne! I’d never heard of it but the chef Jason Au was the head dim sum chef at Flower Drum for nearly 20 years and prior to establishing his own place worked at Golden Dragon Palace.
The restaurant isn’t particularly big and isn’t like one of those Eastern Suburb behemoths that occupy a huge block with heaps of off-street parking. Therefore, it’s best to make a booking before you arrive – on weekdays yum cha is from 12-3pm and on busier weekends they have two sessions at 11am and 1pm.
The decor is standard-issue Chinese – gold leaf, large murals, stone lions and bamboo sheltering patrons from dull views and the noise of Glenferrie Road traffic. It is, however, quite refined for a yum cha restaurant, with plush grape-purple chairs and a sedate atmosphere as opposed to the usual frenetic pushiness you’ll find during the yum cha feeding frenzy. Having said that, the food comes quickly and steadily, pushed around on trolleys (you have to order from the menu on weekdays).
What I found most impressive about the dim sum at Tao Tao House was their consistently high quality. From deep-fried morsels to shortcrust pastry to crystal dumpling wrapping, it was all made well with excellent textures and a fine balance of flavours.
Highlights included the dainty chicken pies with their lids of sweet crumbly shortcrust and the warm-out-of-the-oven egg custard tarts.
The prawn and corn dumplings and tortellini-shaped scallop dumplings were juicy morsels with pliant wrappers that were not gluey or sticky – a bellwether for a high quality yum cha restaurant.
Finally my favourite, the perfect spheres of fluffy white buns with an egg custard filling speckled with shredded coconut.
Such excellent quality yum cha may be expensive, especially if you order a lot of their seafood specialities. Our table of 2 adults and 2 toddlers ate just over $100 in dim sum! While we probably ordered a little more than usual in order to try a wide variety of dishes, don’t necessarily expect the Tao Tao House experience to come cheap (though it will be cheerful). Nevertheless, I will definitely be returning.
Tao Tao House, 815 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn (03) 9818 0968
Mon – Thu: 12:00 am – 10:00 pm
Fri: 12:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sat: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm