Little Hutong has the feeling of a grand folly. Ostensibly named for a back alley in Beijing, it’s actually a sly nod to the gentrification of these traditional houses in the back streets into something befitting Chinese hipsters, attracting countless tourists in search of the ‘authentic Beijing’.
This motif cleverly reflects the evolving history of the surrounding suburb – once a sanitation camp for those exposed to smallpox; later, best known for having a polluted beach; to the present-day as a highly sought-after locale where modern architecture elegantly intertwines with heritage listing and the median house-price soars over a million bucks.
“When we set up this place, we were adamant it would not be to make the largest profit,” explains personable owner, Robert Fong, who has lived in the local area for many years. Together with his architect wife, Aliza Teo, who is responsible for the restaurant’s interior design including the lovely Nonya-style tile wall – they control every aspect of this space.
Even what’s billed as a South East Asian hawker menu, is heavily influenced by Fong’s globetrotting travels, using recipes and ideas he has gathered from a range of restaurants, including Nobu.
Fong, who is also a wine buff, emptied his private cellar after first being introduced to natural wines in Switzerland. You’ll see his preference for minimal intervention, low sulfite wines in gems like the 2013 ‘Mosselini Vineyard’ Taturry Chardonnay ($65) from the Mornington Peninsula. It’s made using Burgundian winemaking techniques, and an elegant drinker that suits the eclectic mix of cuisines.
There’s plenty to explore from the menu’s small bites section, starting with sashimi-grade Yellowfin tuna, dusted green with parsley and sesame seeds, then presented on crisp rice crackers with wasabi mayo. in a dish called Surfing Wasabi Tuna ($17.80).
Salted duck egg yolk and pickles help to elevate Crispy Soft Shell Crab ($17.80) presented san choy bao-style on lettuce leaf cups.
While you might find the Smoked Eggplant Furikake ($8) errs a little on the too heavily-smoked side, you’d be hard-pressed to dislike anything about well-priced Mantou Sliders ($4/each).
They’re customisable with your choice of panko-crumbed fish, or Korean fried chicken, with the chook winning my seal of approval.
Also working the fried food turf are compelling Kyushu Chicken Namban Nuggets ($9), dusted in Korean pepper and served with a crazy sauce duo pitting soy-mirin against creamy house-made tartare. Smother your crunchy nugget in both, before adorning it with a house-made pickle, and you'll find it works surprisingly well.
Fong demonstrates he also knows when not to meddle, in both the beautifully rendered Crispy Pork Belly ($9) slices, and the standout beef rendang.
We take our curry in a Roti Canai Set ($13.50) that includes a better-than-most roti. Gently tear the flaky bread apart with your fingers and drag sections through the dry beef curry. My only complaint is that I ran out of this dish too soon - meaning their larger Beef Rendang ($22) is the dish most likely to lure me back to Little Bay's grand folly some time soon.
Shop 4, 2-8 Pine Avenue, Little Bay
Ph: (02) 8020 0779