815, Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, VIC 3122
After reading the hype on Urbanspoon, I was quite excited to try this place. So, when friends suggested it, I was in very quickly. This is what I call 'posh yum cha'. They have actually made an effort with the whole set up of the place and it was not the usual frenetic pace that some might expect - in fact, it was down right slow. I don't dislike this place but neither is it on the top of my list.
Well appointed, nice dark wood, great contemporary Chinese deco and good ventilation. It's a relatively small space to work with though they can accommodate prams and high chairs. It is genuinely one of the nicest set ups for a suburban yumcha restaurant, comparable with some of the most recently renovated in the heart of the city where they have really made an effort.
Things to do nearby: The shopping area of Glenferrie Road.
The food here is not bad. The dim sums are fresh and of relatively high quality. However, the posh dim sums are also of the range that would tend to appeal to more western sensibilities. My suspicion is that instead of MSG, they use sugar. It is a good thing not to use MSG, but too much sugar means that the balance of flavours will be skewed.
There is not a wide range here at Tao Tao House. The highlights for me here were the BBQ Pork Pastry (Char Siew Shou) and the various other fried dishes. The steamed dishes are somewhat bland for me. They don't seem to offer congee either.
In terms of desserts, they have a range that's enviable amongst yumcha places. However, they are really more fusion desserts, such as mango crepe pancakes. Check out the review at Coco and Momo - the dessert bloggers linked to my blog.
Don't get me wrong, the quality is there - the delicate transparent skins of some of the dumplings and the freshness of the meats and seafood is admirable. However, for me, it's not as tasty as many of the other places around Melbourne.
This is a real let down for such a well set up place. They waiter staff are not well trained and neither are they very attentive. In fact, when they actually spilled sauce on my jacket, there was not even an apology and they just got on with wiping the floor instead. Not the best service...
Let's face it, this place is helmed by Hong Kong chefs but they seem to attract a primarily non-Chinese clientale. The dishes, while nice and of more than acceptable standard, just doesn't appeal completely to my tastes. I might try it out once in a while to see if it's changed but it's certainly not my go to place for yumcha (which by the way, I do a lot).
Some people like a less crazy paced yumcha experienced, such as the one at Tao Tao House. To me, it's just not the same. It just doesn't seem right or authentic as an experience. I need it to be a bit crazy, loud, jostling but friendly, smiles and just a general buzz around the place. That's a true yumcha atmosphere.
This is not to say that the service should be rude. Many places in Melbourne have shown themselves to be able to create the same atmosphere while still providing a friendly service. The trick is in how well trained the wait staff are and how interested they are in genuinely helping punters have a good time (whether you speak the language or not).