Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne
Lee Ho Fook is one of those restaurants that I heard about, but never really got around to making a booking. Having burst onto the Melbourne restaurant scene in 2013, it moved from Smith St in Collingwood, to a laneway in the foodie quarter of Melbourne’s CBD.
If you’re interested in unraveling what is “Lee Ho Fook”, watch this Youtube video. It’s the late, great Rock’n’Roll cult legend Warren Zevon, playing Werewolves of London, the 1978 song which he is best known for. Listen out for the reference to Lee Ho Fook, which inspired the name of this Melbourne restaurant.
Lee Ho Fook serves new-age Chinese food, spearheaded by Chef Victor Liong, his first venture after working under the talented Dan Hong (Mr Wong) and the legendary Mark Best (Marque). He has gone into partnership with Peter Bartholomew, a well known restaurateur who co-owns successful eateries such as the MoVida restaurants and Pei Modern.
The choices on the menu were abundant and sounded drool worthy, although the pricing was starting to creep into high-end territory. Chongqing Style Chicken Crackling ($8), Spicy Wagyu Beef Tartare ($20), and Char Siu Glazed Pork Jowl ($65). We gravitated towards the seemingly more economical 10 Course Banquet ($68pp, min 4). For me, I just love banquets and being able to taste as many dishes as possible, so I was as happy as a pig in mud.
As we only had the table for an allocated 2 hours, the food came out relatively quickly and regularly.
1. Tea Egg Avruga and Dill
I’m a sucker for a nicely cooked egg, and this was a well thought out start to the night. The boiled eggs are cured in a soy and smoky black tea, then served with faux caviar (Avruga), dill and herb oil. Yum!
2. Black Fungi and Aged Black Vinegar
This dish can sound and look disgusting to the non-Asian palate, so if you’ve never tried Black Fungi, Lee Ho Fook is the place to pop your fungi cherry! I can attest to how delicious this dish is and will even say that if you don’t like it here, you probably won’t like it at all. I was impressed at how much flavour was packed into the fungi. The black vinegar creates a well rounded, balanced dish. This was my top 3 favourite dish of the night.
3. Sichuan Style Bang Bang Chicken, Black Vinegar Rice Sheets and Peanuts
Bang Bang Chicken is a well known Sichuanese dish sold by street vendors, aptly named after the sound from pounding the chicken into shreds. The cooked chicken is usually served cold and drizzled with a spicy sauce.
4. “Chinizza” Fried Pizza – Shallot Pancake Style and Buffalo Mozzarella
This is a play on a “Chinese Pizza” or “Chinizza”.
5. Crispy Eggplant Spiced Red Vinegar
This dish was stunning. Easily the best dish of the night, and one that I would classify as a “Must Eat Dish in Melbourne”. The eggplant was super crunchy, incredibly flavourful while being quite soft and creamy in the middle. Dan Hong has published a Gourmet Traveller recipe that Victor created while at Mr Wong here. I’m definitely going to try make this at home!
6. Steamed Cone Bay Barramundi Ginger and Shallot Sauce
The fish was nicely cooked, but it was the sauce that made this dish shine! I basically drowned my rice with this sauce. I need to buy a bottle of this…
7. Steamed Gailan, House Oyster Sauce and Crispy Garlic Oil
8. Lee Ho Fook Sweet and Sour Pork
9. Xinjiang Style Lamb Shoulder Stir-Fry Fragrant Chillis and Baby Cos Lettuce
10. Jasmine Tea Infused Custard Burnt Caramel
A light and simple finish to the meal. The texture was silky, the caramel wasn’t overpowering, and the dish wasn’t overly sweet.
Overall, it was a solid, flavourful meal at Lee Ho Fook. Chef Victor and the team have a great menu, which is backed up by good execution. I appreciated that the dishes weren’t too oily, which I can sometimes feel after eating cheap Chinese food. The bill comes out on the steeper side of things, but for those wanting to eat delicious, quality Chinese food, Lee Ho Fook is certainly a good choice to stop for lunch or dinner.