Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar – Hottest Pan-Asian Restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD
My first meal in Melbourne was at Lucy Liu, recommended by SG Food on Foot. I arrived on a Thursday night around 7pm. The restaurant was packed and the wait was just about 20 minutes. The wait at Chin Chin was over an hour. The entrance brings you into an Instagram-worthy neon red tunnel.
There were only bar seats available, which I totally didn’t mind. I enjoyed watching the staff cooking in the open kitchen, and taking in all the wonderful sights and smells. We were advised by our server to get several dishes which seemed too much, even though we were both hungry. But after the meal, I wish I had ordered more.
Sorry to disappoint, but Lucy Liu is not opened by the famous American actress who acted in Charlie’s Angels. Instead, it is the work of Chef Michael Lambie (The Smith, Taxi, Circa), Scott Borg and Zac Cribbes. Time spent sampling street foods in Bangkok, Taipei and Shanghai got Lambie fired up to create a menu that offers the best of pan-Asian cuisine.
I asked the waitress who came up with the restaurant’s name and she shared that it was the name of the owner’s wife. However, I read from the website that it was Lambie who told the old Chinese stone carver in Shanghai to carve ‘Lucy Liu’ into the stamp. *shrugs*
At Lucy Liu, it’s all about sharing. You’ve got your small bites, dumplings & buns, as well as big plates. If you can’t choose from the myriad of options, place your faith in the chefs and let them choose pick five or seven plates for you. Their tasting menu, which features off-menu dishes, is great for the indecisive and generally delivers the safest options. The restaurant also has a bar that sends out wine and cocktails.
We started with the Kingfish Sashimi which is a dish that many restaurants in Melbourne has recreated. The raw kingfish is doused with lime juice, green chilli, coconut foam and topped with shreds of toasted coconut. The strength of the lime caught me off guard initially but the tartness grew on me. I love how the sour, spicy, and sweet flavours were combined beautifully. It was obvious that this was going to be a good-good night. Other appetisers which you should try are the tempura soft shelled crab in a betel leaf salad, and freshly shucked oysters in ponzu sauce.
The Korean Fried Chicken Bun with spicy gochujang is probably your best bet. The soft bun, the tender chicken, and the hot gochujang sauce worked really well together. This was small in size but magnificent in flavour, I would say.
A fluffy steamed bun holding crispy pork, spicy kimchi, and kewpie mayo should be a party in my mouth too. Unfortunately, the pork was too dry and I wished that it was a tad fattier.
Sitting at the bar and watching everything happening in the kitchen was an honour. I got to see the ladies wrapping dumplings a la minute. We ordered the Pan Fried Spinach & Water Chestnut Dumpling served in Sichuan chilli oil. Even though the skin of the dumplings was a little too thick, I like that the dumplings were heavily seasoned. It’s great that the kitchen is more daring with the seasonings as many restaurants in Melbourne aren’t. The dumplings came with a slight mala kick, and the black vinegar helped to kill the oiliness. The dumplings could have used more sauce though.
I was either too full from the appetisers, or the big plates didn’t wow me. We had the Roasted Short Rib with Rendang Curry which comes with rice, achar and chilli sauce. The ribs were huge and cooked till fork tender. The curry was a little too creamy for me but my dining partner loved it. I wish the flavours of the rempah were stronger.
Lucy Liu didn’t disappoint. The food was great, and the service was too. There were a lot of flavours packed in the food — everything was salty, sour, and sweet and spicy. Basically, anything drenched in sauce stole the show, especially the sashimi and dumplings.
We had a handsome gentleman looking after us. He checked in to see how things were going periodically. The intimate space is very sleek and hip. I could have done without the loud techno music though, as it was difficult to converse without raising our voices.
MissTamChiak.com made an anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.