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Happy eating,

Thursday, November 8, 2007
Laksa Me (City)
Last night I had a wonderful pre-theatre dinner at the groovy, new, Laksa Me, a Malaysian restaurant located on Liverpool Street, one of Melbourne's little laneways in the Bourke Hill precinct. This restaurant was recommended to me by a work colleague, who recently dined here, and found the quality of food and value for money hard to beat. It was a good recommendation. Laksa Me serves excellent quality, authentic style Malaysian food at ridiculously modest prices. I honestly don't know how they stay afloat, unless the place is packed to the rafters every night.

Upon entering the appearance of Laksa Me is one of a partially renovated warehouse space with concrete floors, an open ceiling and a fresh, funky feel to the place. It does appear to be unfinished though - money may well have been an issue. But at the prices they are charging one need not worry too much about such things. Luxury is not what the restaurant is trying to achieve here. Rather their ambitions seem to be to provide good quality, authentic cuisine at prices that will keep the punters regularly coming back for more.

The whole place has an informal feel to it. Waiters do not wear uniforms, but are attired in jeans and casual tops. Tables are not dressed. You don't get napkins and the menu is a laminated A3 sheet, with a small drinks list including a number of beers on the back. It should be noted that I am not offered a wine list, and do not ask as I have previously read that they do not sell wine and that BYO ($10 corkage) is the only wine option. This is not true. Toward the conclusion of my meal some gentleman at a nearby table request and are offered a wine list, containing a small number of selections available by the glass or the bottle. If only I had known this earlier. Never mind - The excellent Jasmine tea and mineral water were sufficient.

So that’s my introduction, but it is the food that you come here for and taking value for money into consideration it would be difficult to be disappointed with the offerings. I opt to order a starter (available by the piece), entree, main and dessert. This by the way is far too much food. I left behind half my main and dessert. I loved the dishes but portion size was over the top, and that says a lot coming from a big eater like myself.

To start with I order the Grilled Thai Sausage ($3.50), described as "a Northern Thai origin with a hint of Spanish twists". What you receive is a beautiful little parcel containing minced pork and jasmine rice, accentuated by the addition of garlic and a tiny hint of chilli, wrapped up in a cornhusk, grilled, and presented like a sausage. The little parcel is finished with finely diced cucumber pieces, crushed peanuts and a tangy plum sauce. The dish has all of the elements of South East Asian cuisine, all perfectly balanced to provide a sensation that truly appeases the palette. An excellent way to start the meal.

Next up comes the entree of Grilled Calamari, Jellyfish and Cucumber noodles ($8): This is an excellent and very generous starter. I cannot believe they can serve a dish like this for just $8. For this princely sum you are presented with a large bowl full of thin cucumber strips (the noodles), strips of fresh calamari, and some small slivers of raw jellyfish all finished with coriander, shallots, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, a hint of chilli and a light dressing which combined all of the Thai elements: sweet, sour, salty and hot in one. On their own each ingredient in this dish tastes very good, but eaten together the ingredients and flavours meld to create an exceptional dish and a true taste sensation. WOW!

For the main course it was a tough decision whether to order a noodle/ laksa dish or a main meal. I ultimately decide to go for the laksa. It is, after all, what the establishment is named after, and is their signature dish. It should also be noted that mainstream reviewers tend to neglect the laksa offerings so I decided that I should definitely try one. There are three different laksa dishes on offer as well as a number of other noodle courses. I go for the Laksa Lemak ($10), a seafood based laksa with fine rice vermicelli noodles and an assortment of items including: fish dumplings, a prawn, half a hard boiled egg, fried tofu puffs, shredded cucumber, and coriander in a fragrant, creamy laksa stock. It is really quite good and the balance of flavours is just right. This is not sweet or adjusted to suit Western tastes but is the real deal laksa. A huge bowl full of delicious broth, noodles and seafood. It has just the right balance of chilli as well. Hot enough to give the dish a great level of power and flavour (not for the chilli shy), but not so hot as to leave your mouth burning for an hour afterwards. I really liked this, though I would probably recommend trying the "My Mum's laksa" which has thicker noodles and a greater combination of ingredients.

The other mains also look great with offerings such as: Pork Ribs, Red Duck Curry and Three Flavour Fish (average main: $22) as well as classical offerings such as Phad Thai or Curry Noodles.

For dessert I ask the waiter to choose me a great dessert. He says he will bring me something the chef really likes. Dessert time comes and a bowl is placed in front of me along with, "here you go". Asking for a description of the dish I am told its black sticky rice pudding with a coconut cream sauce. The orange pieces on top - "I dont know what that is today, pumpkin maybe". Interesting, I think it was, definitely was not papaya tonight as Mr Lethlean and others' reviews proclaim. The dessert is fairly good: sweet, creamy and moorish. One bowl of this is probably enough for two to share. Desserts are $8.

Laksa Me received a score of 13.5 out of 20 in the 2008 Age good Food Guide.

My Score: 13/20 - Definitely worth a visit for the great food & excellent value for money.
Really good, creative food with some standout dishes 7/10
Service is friendly enough, but needs refinement 3/5
Ambience- informal but nice with soft background music and comfortable seating 3/5

After dinner it was off to the Regent Theatre to see Priscilla - a great show - Amazing costumes and music, and a lot of good humour. I definitely recommend seeing it if you get the chance.

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  posted at 7:39 AM  


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