There seems to be an influx of new Modern Asian / Asian Fusion restaurants sprouting out in Melbourne today – a common theme being the ability to surprise & delight. With all these options, the Melbourne foodie is spoilt for choice but I’ve sieved out my top picks – some household names already while others hidden gems. Enjoy!
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 03 9650 8688
There’s nothing normal about the food in this Asian-inspired restaurant which seems an irony given its name. The menu is simple but the tastes are anything but. Featuring a smorgasboard of Asian tapas for sharing, sizeable fresh meat and fish mains and delectable desserts, it is easy to get carried away and order too much (which we did) and suffer from the ‘ol food coma after. Our starter, the fresh cobia sashimi, served with pickled fennel, piquant yuzu and a touch of chilli fanned our appetite for more as we were served the juicy pan-fried pot sticker dumplings accompanied by a light dipping sauce. My absolute fave – the new England lobster roll with its soft buttery brioche wrapping slithers of lobster in an Asian-infused mayo was packed with flavor. The slow-cooked Szechuan lamb to share with spring onion pancake and coriander paste felt like a “man vs food” challenge but in this instance man won. Whilst there, make sure you order an Asian-inspired cocktail too with the likes of umeshu spritz or tequila lychee bird, there will normally be one that tickles your fancy.
19 Liverpool Street, Melbourne 03 9663 9890
Coming a close second is the quaint Rice Paper Scissors tucked away on Liverpool St in the city. Tiny but hot, not unlike a chilli padi, this venue packs up a punch with their eclectic range of Asian flavours. Again, make sure you come on an empty stomach as the urge to over-order is a common boo-boo here. (Thank God for our waiter who warned us) We ordered a variety of dishes to share – the fresh betel leaf, crying tiger tender chargrilled beef with spicy citrus dipping sauce, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ lamb ribs, tart thai cerviche, crispy tempura prawn and crispy soft shell crab banh mi. My only grouse is the uncomfortable high chairs but you can always stand to burn off the calories you’ve consumed.
190 Smith Street, Collingwood (03) 9419 6141
Pabu meaning pub in Japanese – offers a “modern take on a traditional Japanese Pub or Izakaya”. A wide spectrum of tasting dishes means you get a taste of BBQ skewers, freshly-cut sashimi, deep-fried crunchy soft shell crab, freshly-made salmon sushi rolls and the oh so perfectly light deep-fried oysters served on a cloud of cos lettuce drizzled with spicy mayo. What I liked about Pabu was the casual atmosphere and attentive service from the friendly staff. Oh and the close proximity to Gelato Messina across the road for dessert after (only if you saved room for it).
758 Heidelberg Rd Alphington 03 9499 3743
It’s certainly worth a trip to this new Modern Asian restaurant located in Alphington. Already a local favourite, some of the crowd pleasers include the soft shell crab bun, twice cooked tender pork belly, sticky lamb ribs and my all-time fave – breakfast squid in a unique crispy spiced cereal coating packed with crunch and punch in every bite. And the best thing is you won’t have to burn a hole in your pocket – prices range from $9 to $19.
599 Church Street, Cremorne (03) 9427 1307
This sister restaurant to Chin Chin, Kong, dishes out exciting Korean classics with a twist – the likes of the chicken roti roll with BBQ chicken, lemon, gochujang & spicy kimchi, soft shell crab with salted duck egg relish and coriander, hot wings in gochujang & chipotle, BBQ corn in chilli salt and miso butter & kalbi short beef ribs with pinenuts and kimchi. One word. Yum. Only grouse (just like chin chin)– no bookings allowed - so here's a word of advice – rock up early to score a table.