Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lau's Family Kitchen

Lau's Family Kitchen
[completely redundant website if you can read address below]
4 Acland St, St Kilda 3182
Telephone: 03 8598 9880

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, Sun 12pm - 3pm; 6pm-10pm; Sat 6pm-10pm
(Two dinner sessions, 6pm or 8pm - Maximum group booking of 8)

Confucius says: Man who eats photo of father, soon spitting-image of father.

I'll give you a moment to digest that. Or spit.

The irony is that I do have a dad who begins cautionary conversations with the words 'Confucius says.' And the painful prose that follows usually expresses his eternal regret that we are not spitting-images of him (a message conveyed lightly, but with absolute seriousness).

So when dear old dad called me up in October to instruct me to book a 'good Chinese restaurant' for our Chinese New Year eve dinner, I knew I'd better cough up the goods, or suffer forever-consequences.

And I love Lau's Family Kitchen. I was warned when I booked that they don't do 'special Chinese New Year set', so everyone was to order off the regular menu. Happy to!

Q: When is a bowl of wonton soup worth $11.50?
A: When it's pretty damn good.

O wonderful wonton of silky skin and tender 'neath

We shared four bowls between eight people, so what you see is my half. There's a specific way of describing broth which is incredibly flavourful, sans MSG, and served steaming hot. 'Ch'ng!'

I must interject here to give kudos to the service. As I was ordering, I expressed fears that the dishes would be a bit stretched going round a table of eight, forcing me to order double of everything. Our waitress charmingly suggested that she get the kitchen to size up some of our dishes 1.5 times, then divide them between two plates so we could try a greater variety. Ingenious!

And despite the restaurant being full to capacity, water glasses were refilled rapidly all night (almost with an urgent fervour), and dishes arrived quickly and in perfect succession. Novel experience indeed!

Queensland Wild Barramundi in Light Soy Sauce - 250gm ($30.00)

This was one of the specials, and it was both delicate and delightful. I'm glad we had this but I'm not sure I'd order it again, because it was a little pricey and not particularly unique. If you 'need' to have fish though, this is a more-than-worthy option.

Saute King Prawns - 'Fresh large Queensland Banana Prawns from the Gulf of Carpentaria with a touch of Ginger and Garlic' ($34.00)

This is a half-serve of a sized-up (1.5x) dish. The prawns were definitely not as large as I'd imagined from that description, but they were cooked perfectly (still springy within!). And the mushrooms imparted an excellent smoky flavour to the dish, which I think would have been just a bit boring otherwise.

Personally, I preferred the next dish - which was so similar that it was like a 'veggo' option:

Deep Fried Bean Curd with Mushroom ($17.50)

Once again, this is a half-serve of a sized up dish - and more than generous! I'm fanatical about bean curd and mushrooms, so this was like manna from heaven. Silky cushions of bean curd languorously draped with slivered scarves of mushrooms. I'd take this to bed, but it wouldn't survive the journey. Definitely a repeat order.

Sweet Vinegar Pork Loin ($24.00)

This is half of just one serve so it's a pretty giving dish. I'd describe it as sweet and sour for the self-respecting Chinese, and very rich. I could only manage one piece, but it's fabulous in a spoonful of untainted rice.

Chicken with Chestnut - Braised chicken with chestnuts and shitake mushrooms ($26.00)

Also a generous half of a single serve. This blended in a little with the other stir-fries, but it was faultless on its own. I have a phobia of dry chicken chunks in stir-fries, but these were as moist as can be. I gather chestnut is not something most people have often in savoury dishes (correct me if I'm wrong), so I think this is a fantastic dish to try if so! My chest-nutty sister adored it anyway.

And finally (I've purposely left this for last), this is the star of the night and every night I've ever been here, so you must, MUST order this dish if you come (except if you don't eat beef of course):

Saute Eye Fillet - Stir fried pieces of tender eye fillet with spring onions, ginger and a touch of garlic ($30.00) [Half a sized-up serve]

If you were going to have just one dish here, this would be it. Tantalizing texture, fabulous flavour, and better than many, many an expensive steak I've ever had. There was a momentary silence at the table as everyone bit into the beef, eyes shining and wide. When I was a kid, this phenomenon was described as 'an angel passing by'. Personally, I think said angel was carved up and served.

Pardon my blasphemy while I burp.

We rounded up the night with a ubiquitous banana fritter, prettily adorned with strawberries ($9.50).

Honestly, the best Chinese dinner I've ever had in Melbourne. And I'd challenge Confucius to say otherwise!

Lau's Family Kitchen on Urbanspoon


  1. Great post! I've been meaning to go to this restaurant; will follow your recommendation and try the beef.

  2. Oh great - I can't believe I've never been before, and if it's the best Chinese dinner you've had in Melbourne, I must go!

    Also think it's funny you Dad called you to make sure you got a booking 4 months in advance. Just like my parents :)

    Jetsetting Joyce

  3. Food lover: Please do, and report back! Or you know, take some away for me, whichever!

    Joyce: It REALLY is the best I've ever had, I would never go all the way to St Kilda to have it if it wasn't - which is why it took me forever to get there in the first place! And yes, my parents are apt to do things like that, Dad didn't just call four months in advance, he called four months in advance FROM MALAYSIA to make sure we got a Feb 13th booking in Melbourne..

  4. DAMNIT!!!!!! I DON'T EAT BEEF!!!!!!! Booooooo.... hence why, I shouldn't visit this place?

  5. msihua: There are loads of other options there! My non-cow-eating sister loves it too! Beancurd, won ton, PORK?! Actually seriously, it's just really fantastic Chinese food. You sometimes forget what that tastes like.

  6. I am glad you like this place. It has a special place in my heart :)

  7. oh I've wanted to go here for so long. I'm so glad to see that you had a really good experience. I should finally give it a go.

  8. Penny: Yes I think I remember reading that. And for the record, I don't like it - I LOVE it! ;)

    Maria: I highly recommend it. I've been to Flowerdrum and my experience there wasn't half as good - I was put off by all the priciness, neo-colonialist bowing and service on steroids....

  9. Yum! Yes the food there is and looks so superior. Lots of stuff I haven't tried but the crispy skin fish with a name I can't recall was REALLY good too. Probably better than the barramundi. The thought of it makes me want to go there right now...mmm

  10. I had such serious food envy after reading this post yesterday that I specifically went to the market today to get the ingredients to make braised bean curd and mushroom for my dinner!! Great post, can't wait to try this place one day.

  11. Yunny: Well take me with you then, you selfish b.

    Ms Baklover: Great, now I'VE got serious food envy. =op Glad you enjoyed the post - hope you enjoyed your dinner!

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