19 June, 2008

Laksa Me

16 Liverpool St; 03 9639 9885

Laksa Me opened to great acclaim just over a year ago. It's an excellent city lunchtime option. While you can spend more, a lot of their lunch options, including the laksas, are $10 or under. One menu item definitely worth digging around to find some extra change for is their Thai chilli calamari ($14) - strips are 'flame tossed' and served with chillies, roasted peanut, red capsicum, Thai chilli paste and soybean oil, accompanied by rice. It reads as well as it looks and tastes.

The lunch menu offers three laksas - a lemak with fish cake and dumplings, prawns and tofu; the 'skinny' laksa with mushroom, spinach, tofu and eggplant; and the signature My Mum's Laksa, with pho noodles, pork, chicken and prawns. I had the latter on my last visit and I think managed to score their one off-day in the kitchen! That presented a dilemma: ordering the same meal again seemed too narrow, but I was still keen to finally sample such a well-rated dish.

Compromise won the day, by going for a different type of broth dish. The duck broth wonton noodles comes as a steaming bowl of pork and prawn wontons in duck broth with choi sum (chinese cabbage), egg noodles and a side bowl of pickled green chillies.Although broth is water-based, when it's been well done - that is, started with quality ingredients and given time to cook properly - it gives the impression of being more of a soup, thick and rich with flavour. This duck broth had that quality and was not overly salty. The wontons looked like little comets, with 'ruffled' edges and long 'tails'. They were quite hefty and hard to miss (it's always nice to find an extra wonton at the bottom of the bowl!). As the chillies were served on the side the dish itself wasn't too hot, unlike other plates at the table, which came with sweat-inducing chilli levels. That reaction was probably exacerbated by our proximity to a powerful bar heater - concrete floors and plate glass windows do not a warm restaurant make, but no one wants to eat in a sauna.

One of the big talking points about Laksa Me when it opened was that it didn't have a wine list - owner Allen Woo insisted that beer was a better match for the type of food being served. And fair enough too, but from the presence of a wine list on our table it looks like enough diners didn't agree!

If a craving for any combination of chilli, soup or dumplings hits you while you're in the city, Laksa Me is handily placed, slightly south and east of centre, and offers high quality, well-priced 'modern Asian cuisine', filled with fresh ingredients rather than MSG.


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