It's Chinese, but not as you know it. Expect to be surprised at Lee Ho Fook in Collingwood where head chef Victor Liong (ex-Marque and Mr Wong) is putting his own modern spin on Chinese classics.
I visited Lee Ho Fook with Dana from Tourism Victoria during my recent visit down south for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. The dining room is industrial chic with two tone charcoal grey and white walls, roped lights hanging overhead and bentwood chairs on a polished concrete floor. You won't find a folded pink swan napkin here.
Pimento de padron, miso and Sichuan peppers $6
The menu is broken up into "small", "entrees" and "mains" dishes although sharing of all dishes is recommended. The ubiquitous pork belly bun ($6 each) takes pole position on the menu but there are other intriguing dishes you wouldn't expect to see too, like pimento de padron that's been Asian-ised with the addition of miso and Sichuan peppers.
But the pork belly bun isn't one to be trifled with either. They use a milk bun here, glazed so the top is a honey-coloured hue and sandwiched around a fat slab of braised pork belly, cooked so the flesh falls apart between the luscious layers of fat and tile of pork cracklings.
Tea egg, Avruga and dill $4
Tea eggs are perked up with pearls of Avruga caviar and dill, a salty hit that makes so much sense against the traditional soy-infused egg.
Prawn cracker, honey and soy $5
The prawn cracker is not what you expect. It's more like tempura, a whole prawn enveloped in a light and crispy panko crumb batter with a honey soy dip on the side that adds a touch of sweetness.
Saltwater duck and red salad $19
Saltwater duck arrives hidden beneath a cluster of radicchio leaves and pickled red radishes. The duck is cold but tender, and the tang of vinegar gives a welcome hit of acidity.
Grilled ox tongue with yuzu and pickled shitakes $15
Hiding your proteins beneath your salad seems to be all the rage these days. There's a distinct prettiness about the presentation of the ox tongue though, nestled beneath paper-thin slices of daikon.
Grilled ox tongue with pickled shiitake mushrooms
The ox tongue has been grilled briefly so each slice still has a juicy chewiness, its richness countered by the pickled daikon and pickled shiitake mushrooms.
Crispy eggplant with spiced red vinegar $15
Whatever you do, make sure you order the crispy eggplant. It's a wicked combination of crisp toffee-d edges, creamy soft eggplant flesh and a generous dousing of sweet and spicy red vinegar. Your eyes will want to finish the whole plate but the richness and sweetness of this dish means you're probably better off sharing this one. In any case, that just means more room for other dishes.
Char siu glazed smoked jowl with Peking pancakes $16
We bypass all the mains (steamed barramundi $29; sweet and sour pork $26; crispy skin shandong chicken $26; house made tofu with hot and sour sauce $24; and stir fried squid with prawn butter $28) so we can order more of the smaller dishes.
Char siu glazed smoke jowl is the finale for our savouries, a wonderment of tender pork cheek with a sweet glaze and a lingering smokiness. The chargrilled shallots add another level of smoky complexity, the entire lot wrapped in warm rounds of Peking pancakes.
Violet and lychee sorbet with sparkling rosé $6 each
We kick off desserts with a bubbling spectacle. Quenelles of violet and lychee sorbet are poured over with a splash of sparkling rosé, adding an alcoholic fizzy hic to the light and fruity sorbets.
Pinot sauvage sparkling rosé
Jasmine tea custard with burnt caramel $5
The jasmine tea custard may look modest, but it's my favourite of the night. Soft, delicate, warm and wobbly, the custard is a Chinese take on the classic creme caramel.
Coconut, white and dark chocolate $7
The coconut, white and dark chocolate is a winner too. Where $7 will usually get you a lump of deep-fried ice cream at your local Chinese, here you can score a sophisticated ensemble of smooth coconut sorbet, dark chocolate mousse and freeze-dried marvels of white chocolate.
Contemporary, interesting and quality Chinese? More please.
Grab Your Fork dined at Lee Ho Fook as a guest of, and with Tourism Victoria as part of her visit for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014.
Lee Ho Fook
92 Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9077 6261
Wednesday to Saturday 6pm-10.30pm
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5/14/2014 02:18:00 pm