A high end, upscale Chinese restaurant called Hutong, opened their doors in November 2019 at 600 Brickell Avenue. A space that has long been cursed, with a revolving door of restaurants, in the Brickell area of Miami. The hospitality group, a restaurant chain, with locations in Hong Kong, Beijing, London, New York, and now Miami has deep pockets. The money they have poured into their latest project is enormous. This place is probably one of Miami’s most beautiful establishments. I can’t decide if it is prettier by night or by day. The decor is luxurious, chic, sexy, posh and spacious. The ceiling is soaring, and goes up about three stories. In the day you can enjoy the vivid pop colours of fuchsia, turquoise, and lime green. But at night they use a skillful lighting to accentuate the light show they provide on their version of The Great Wall, an artistic 3D entertaining light and music show. It looks like drawers and cupboards are opening and closing, but are in fact an illusion created by an artist, using lights and shadows. Or the 35,000 antique bricks from a 1930’s Chinese building that were imported here, and used throughout Hutong, even in the restrooms. At night they are lit so beautifully, as is the bar, with back lighting. The restaurant is large with indoor and outdoor spaces that seat up to 180 well heeled guests. There is a private dining room for VIP’s in the back that seats 8 people.
All this could make a perfect restaurant, but let me tell you about my experience. It is impossible to have someone answer the phone here, and each time it went to voicemail the mailbox was full. Someone needs to address this problem, if you can’t even make a reservation. When I FINALLY got through the receptionist on the phone was cold, and told me a table wasn’t available until 10pm, unless I wanted a table outside. I had to mention that a terrible storm was going on and that didn’t interest me. After a little persuasion I was able to snag an early 6pm reservation, the place was more than half empty. Although it started filling up around 7:30pm. They offered us the absolute worst table in the house. It was basically outside the restaurant and bar area, by the entrance. We had to ask if they could do better than that, and reluctantly sat us in the actual restaurant. Our server then proceeded to tell us, it would be difficult to give us proper service because he was in charge of the VIP room and was told to take extra care of the “Trump” people. They looked like regular folk to me.
The menu is divided into starters, dim sum, barbecue, meat, seafood, fish, tofu and vegetables, and rice and noodles. The signature dishes were marked by a little red box, and most tables seemed to be ordering all the same dishes. We started with some nice cocktails, an advertised “lip numbing” lychee and vodka cocktail, and a fruity gin drink. Both were actually quite good. Then we began with the dim sum platter, a selection of 8 pieces, two Sichuan peppercorn prawns, two marlin fish, two prawn and black truffles, and two wild mushrooms and spinach. They were attractive but not very flavourful or distinguishable from one another. A better bet was the wagyu beef millefeuille, a delicate and flaky dim sum pastry, filled with slow cooked beef and black pepper. From the barbecue section we went with a half a Peking duck, which was perfect for the two of us. The pancakes were delicate and hot. The duck could have been served hotter. The meat was moist, but having just returned from Hong Kong, where I had some unbelievable Peking Duck, it is definitely hard to make a comparison. In Hong Kong, the skin was crispier, and the meat was flavourful. But for Miami, this was a very good version. However they forgot to serve us our second course of the duck and we had to remind them. Then it came to us over salted and cold. the lettuce should have been rounded cups that are easy to roll instead of messy torn pieces of lettuce. A glass of champagne was sent over as an apology, which was a nice touch. I think they should over a wet towel after being served messy finger food.
From the seafood side we tried their signature red lantern dish, of crispy spicy soft shell crabs on a bed of dried whole chilies. It was another beautiful presentation, but all I could taste was chili and fishiness of the crabs. I partially blame myself for ordering soft shell crab out of season. The Hutong Dan Dan noodles is a soup. I enjoyed this classic Sichuan dish, served in a spicy minced pork and peanut broth.
For dessert a version of a bao bun a white sesame mousse, with salted caramel, white sesame praline and soya milk ice cream. FYI, this would tastes so much better with a real creamy ice cream.
I’m a bit of a Chinese food snob, so I was hoping for more exciting fare, although Hutong still may be one of Miami’s top spots for Chinese food. Miami was never strong in Asian restaurants. This one could all be so much easier to digest, no pun intended, if they teach the waitstaff and receptionists to be more engaged, and professional and if the food had more complex flavours.
At Hutong for me, it was more of a “come for the food, but stay for the show”, not the other way around. But this is still not your average Chinese restaurant, it is a one-stop shop for all your senses. If they make some improvements maybe they can break the curse of this address.