I have been waiting for Dessert Story for a long time.
As regular readers will know, I was born in Hong Kong and spent my early childhood there. So a lot of my food preferences have been shaped by my cultural background and my family and one thing I have craved but never been able to find in the cities I’ve lived in Australia was a place that served decent Chinese desserts. I even remember spending a fruitless evening wandering Box Hill station asking likely-looking Asian people whether they knew of a good Asian dessert place nearby, to no avail.
And now Dessert Story has landed (almost) on my doorstep.
The Swanston Street store (they have rapidly expanded to other locations in Melbourne and Adelaide) is a cheerful split-level space serving Taiwanese and Hong Kong style desserts. The menu lists 140+ cold and hot items with photographs of desserts featuring ingredients such as lotus seeds, taro, sago, red beans and tofu. Not a deep-fried ice cream in sight.
My all-time favourite Asian dessert is a traditional Cantonese dish, black sesame soup. I haven’t taken a photo because it’s a thick black sludge and no amount of skill in food styling or photography can make it look otherwise.
Unlike many places that use a powdered base mixed with hot water and cornflour thickener, the manager at Dessert Story told me that they grind their own sesame. The difference is a pleasing grittiness in the not-too-sweet soup, hot and filling on a cold winter’s day but not gluey on the palate. It is also good value for money at $6 a bowl.
I have also tried the black sesame soup with three tong yuan, glutinous balls filled with black sesame (add $2). Unless you’re feeling particularly hungry, I do not recommend ordering both the soup and the tong yuan together – you’ll be much too full. The dumplings are definitely worth trying on another occasion through – a good proportion of chewy glutinous shell surrounding a nugget of black sesame paste or peanut paste, only $5 for a serve of six.
If Asian desserts are unfamiliar territory for you I recommend starting off with something like snow ice – a very delicate ice concoction that’s akin to a very fluffy icecream or sorbet. You can choose various toppings depending on your level of adventurousness, though I highly recommend the ‘popping pearls’ which are sort of like the bubble tea pearls filled with mango juice. Judging by the size of the plates being handed out to customers I recommend sharing a snow ice between two or three.
On weekdays between 12-3pm it’s happy hour, with 15% off the menu. Which means I’ve visited a couple of times in my lunch hour for a black sesame soup fix and rolled on back to the office happily sated.
Dessert Story, 305 Swanston St, Melbourne +61 3 9650 7776
Daily 12:00 pm – 12:00 am