Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
Dining alone kinda sucks. More so if you have to do it week after week. Such is the not-so glamorous side of a travelling consultant’s lifestyle. So it was a real treat when my waiter mentioned that they do half portions – the holy grail of a solo diner. To top it off, the chef at Melbourne’s Lee Ho Fook noticed that I was a solo diner and comped me a treat with a portion of the scampi cracker. The waitress said he dines solo himself sometimes, and wants to encourage people to do it more – I’m not complaining! The scampi was deliciously crunchy, although I couldn’t really taste the yuzu salt after I’d squeezed the lemon over it. But the highlight was how amazingly tender the scampi itself was, not cooked to death like your average fish and chips. Bravo to the chef.
The star of the show was undoubtedly the house specialty crispy eggplant with spiced red vinegar. Biting into it, the crispy shards of the outer layer gave way to the pillowy soft eggplant inside. Meanwhile, there was a taste sensation going off in my mouth – sweet, tangy, and savoury all at the same time. When paired with the texture, I can easily say this is the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
My final dish was the Xinjiang spiced lamb. The lamb, my waiter explains to me, has been slow cooking for hours on the rib, then sliced off and stir fried with spices. He directs me to eat it sang choi bao style. Nothing for it but to get stuck in with my hands and it was gloriously messy. The juice went everywhere and my napkin at the end of the meal would be enough to make the laundromat cry. My main complaint was that the lamb slices were too big – much too large to stuff in my mouth, especially with the baby cos to contend with as well. I ended up just stuffing the lamb in my mouth and chewing for five minutes straight – for a slow cooked lamb, it really wasn’t any where near as tender as it should be. Good thing I was dining alone, because there wouldn’t have been much conversation going on around that mouth full of lamb!
Would I go back? Lee Ho Fook is not your typical greasy Chinese takeaway restaurant. This is Chinese fine dining. This is a delicious play on tastes and textures. So yes, absolutely. If only for that crispy eggplant!
11-13 Duckboard Place
03 9077 6261
Open for lunch Mon – Fri from noon to 2.30pm, and for dinner Monday to Sunday from 6 – 11pm. Closed on public holidays.
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