I'm the first to admit that I am as obsessed with names as I am forgetful about them. Names of people and restaurants tend to slip right past me unless they're distinctive or odd. But when I was deciding where to go for lunch with Carly a few people suggested Lucy Liu. Not the actress or a restaurant related to the actress, it's a an Asian eatery in Oliver Lane in Melbourne's CBD. It was highly unlikely I'd forget where I was eating.
The story about the name goes that the owner, architect and executive chef were in China talking about the concept of the restaurant. By the end of the alcohol fuelled night the only two words that they could utter were "Lucy Liu". They then went to visit a stamp maker who made them a stamp with Lucy Liu on it. The font from the stamp became the logo that glows red above the brick walls.
I follow a tiny little red drenched alleyway into the restaurant that is all sleek pale wood walls and booths. The menu lies on the other side of the 3D placemats. Mine is of a fox that transforms into a tiger while Carly finds her moving landscape a touch discombobulating.
I apologise to Carly for being late. For some reason I get lost easily in the Melbourne CBD("How? It's a grid!" - Melbourne). Carly orders a sweet plum wine that is served with ice and after tasting some of hers, I follow suit. The menu has a "Let Lucy choose" chef's tasting menu option with 5 or 7 options but we decide to go a la carte because there are some things that I want to try. "I like it when people order for me," says Carly which is just music to my ears so I happily take upon the task of ordering.
Kingfish sashimi, hot mint and toasted coconut $18
I cannot resist sashimi especially when it is paired with chilli and this dish is a beauty. With slices of sashimi kingfish, a toasted coconut and hot mint crumble and dabs of aerated piped coconut cream it has a pronounced chilli hit balanced with creamy coconut and fresh fish. I could order a big plate of this and eat it all quite happily.
Chicken ribs $14
I have a soft spot for chicken ribs (actually probably several soft spots on my body due to them!) and these are done Korean fried style which is really lightly battered and deep fried with a side of kewpie mayonnaise. They're a bit darkly fried and I prefer them a bit more golden.
Lup Cheong hot dog $8 each
This was the item that I was most intrigued by. I have a deep love for lup cheong pork sausage and here it looks like it is deep fried and served in a sweet toasted milk hot dog shaped bun. They are as cute as they are delicious and Carly and I both particularly like these. The wombok coleslaw on top is actually more like a remoulade than coleslaw.
Soft shell crab jianbing pancake roll with spicy hoi sin $12
The soft shell crab roll is an eggy crepe filled with bite sized pieces of deep fried soft shell crab, coriander and a spicy hoi sin sauce. The soft crepe provides a nice contrast to the crunchy filling and the hoi sin sauce brings it all together.
Barramundi and scampi dumplings $14
The barramundi dumplings have a delicate skin and a plump juicy barramundi and scampi filling along with chilli, ginger and spring onion.
Crispy fried Szechuan duck, watercress salad, tamarind and sesame dressing $35
Our duck main arrives and there is a leg piece on the bone as well as some boneless pieces of duck for easy eating. The skin is crispy while the meat below is luscious. The best thing to do it take a piece with your chopsticks and dunk it back into the tangy, sticky, aromatic sauce that sits at the bottom of the bowl.
Alas there is no time for dessert which is a shame as there are some tempting sounding ones on the menu but of course it is my fault as I was late and well...In a very helpful and much appreciated gesture Carly even walks me back to the hotel. Who knows where I could have ended up!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you prefer it when others order for you or do you like to select dishes yourself?
This meal was independently paid for.
23 Oliver Lane Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 03 9639 5777
Monday - Sunday 11:00am-11:00pm