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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lee Ho Fook, Collingwood, Melbourne

Milk bun with braised pork belly and cucumber at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne

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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 with avruga and dill at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 with honey and soy at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 shiitake mushrooms at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
Pinot sauvage sparkling rosé

Jasmine tea custard with burnt caramel dessert at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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 dessert at Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne
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.

Lee Ho Fook in Collingwood Melbourne

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 on Urbanspoon

Lee Ho Fook
92 Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9077 6261

Opening hours
Monday 6pm-10.30pm
Wednesday to Saturday 6pm-10.30pm
Sunday 12pm-10pm
Closed Tuesdays

Related Grab Your Fork posts
MFWF 2014: Filipino Barbie and a Danish Food Trail
MFWF 2014: Johnny Iuzzini Afternoon Tea and Langham Masterclass
23 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/14/2014 02:18:00 pm


  • At 5/14/2014 3:00 pm, Blogger Jarhead said…

    WOW! I keep seeing food from here on the Instagram feeds of various Sydney chefs who were visiting Melbourne. Looks so delicious. Collingwood's really become a food destination.

  • At 5/14/2014 4:03 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    I'm incredibly jealous of how the delicious the pork belly buns and pork jowl wraps look! I shall note this place down to go next time I'm in Melbourne :D

  • At 5/14/2014 4:18 pm, Blogger irene said…

    What a meal! The pork belly buns look innocently amazing and how pretty is the red salad? Everything looks super good though!

  • At 5/14/2014 6:49 pm, Anonymous Padaek said…

    Food looks amazing, esp. the saltwater duck and red salad, and the crispy eggplant with spiced red vinegar. Wow!! :)

  • At 5/14/2014 8:22 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    that prawn cracker looks incredible!

  • At 5/15/2014 1:20 pm, Blogger Roo Food said…

    Those padron chillis look amazingly good and anything toffeed would be the bomb....yum!

  • At 5/15/2014 5:30 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    wow. I love the look of that prawn cracker and pork belly buns!!!!

  • At 5/15/2014 11:21 pm, Anonymous My Kitchen Stories said…

    There are some particularly gorgeous photos here and spectacularly interesting food. I am going to Melbourne

  • At 5/16/2014 12:04 am, Blogger Annie said…

    definitely a lot different to the usual classics at Chinese restaurants. all of those dishes looked incredibly tasty!

  • At 5/16/2014 11:31 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    omg that pork jowl! looks like some really interesting food - definitely not your standard Chinese fare

  • At 5/16/2014 4:34 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Interesting food with excellent plating technique. Love it!!!

    Gourmet Getaways

  • At 5/16/2014 9:24 pm, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Such prettiness! There are so many amazing restaurants along this one street - I wish I could have gone to them all last time I was in Melb...

  • At 5/17/2014 7:38 am, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    I like that the dishes have a modern interpretation. That char siu glazed smoked jowl looks good!

  • At 5/17/2014 9:12 am, Blogger CQUEK said…

    What an awesome meal especially they way they presented.

  • At 5/17/2014 11:57 am, Anonymous Sher said…

    omg everything in this post looks amazing, from the pork buns to that fun lychee sorbet fizz!

    i wish i was in melbourne and could try it out too..


  • At 5/17/2014 9:21 pm, Anonymous Alice said…

    Hi Helen. I'm always in awe of these beautiful dishes you find. It goes without saying I'd certainly leave lots of room for the crispy eggplant. I need to get down to Melbourne to visit my rello's...soon!

  • At 5/17/2014 11:10 pm, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    A little bit of an infusion menu, I like it. Really do like how ingredients are pulled in from others, like Japan. Has been added to my ever increasing list, sigh, everrrrrrr incrrreaaasing

  • At 5/20/2014 3:54 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    I have been hearing people call this a Chinese version of Movida. Am definitely keen to try this place out when I go to Melbourne next. The food looks amazing!

  • At 5/20/2014 9:48 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Yay! Love Lee Ho Fook!! Great choice, Tourism Victoria! ;)

    The crispy eggplant is my FAVOURITE.

    xox Sarah

  • At 5/28/2014 11:28 pm, Anonymous Alice said…

    ps, Had to revisit this post after I learnt a fun fact the other day. The head chef in my class was talking about Victor when he was a first year student at Tafe and said he was always pushing the boundaries. Apparently he made a legendary cheese custard to accompany his modern version of a Caesar salad, back in his student days :)

  • At 6/10/2014 12:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love the name. A tribute to Warren Zevon.

  • At 6/11/2014 3:45 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I've heard so much about Lee Ho Fook, but haven't had the chance to try it yet! I'm always a bit sceptical about "modern Chinese", but this looks great.

    I also love the design of their logo in your last photo - how unique!

  • At 6/11/2014 3:45 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I've heard so much about Lee Ho Fook, but haven't had the chance to try it yet! I'm always a bit sceptical about "modern Chinese", but this looks great.

    I also love the design of their logo in your last photo - how unique!


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