Dining in Melbourne reflects the city’s wonderfully diverse cultural mix, meaning that pretty much any cuisine you can think of is covered across its countless places to eat.
One part of the world which has proven especially popular in recent years has been the rich variety of food from southeast Asia: bold flavours and exciting dishes at very fair price points have seen diners flock to spots serving food coming from Laos or The Philippines, Thailand or Indonesia – as well as everywhere in between.
This being Australia, all come based on impeccable produce, while great service and drinks lists add to the experience. Here are five fancy Asian restaurants in Melbourne which demonstrate the vibrant culinary landscape of southeast Asia.
Let's find out our selection of the best places to taste the best southeast Asian flavours in Melbourne!
The glamorous feel of Gingerboy’s interior surprises many first-timers who go for cuisine essentially rooted in the traditions of Thai and Malaysian street food. Gingerboy, under chef Teage Ezard, have been doing their thing since back in 2006. The menu today features a number of South Asian and Chinese dishes, but Thai favourites like chicken larb with cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, cashews, and a hot and sour dressing keep diners coming back for more. A strong dessert game includes a clever take on an old favourite featuring fresh mango, jasmine rice ice-cream, palm sugar, and lime syrup.
Another comparative old timer sits in a former warehouse in Melbourne’s Central Business District. Open since 2006, Thai specialist Longrainis equally popular with visitors and locals alike who come for their perfect balance of Thai flavours, namely spicy, sour, salty and sweet. Caramelized pork hock, five spice & chili vinegar or chargrilled Bannockburn chicken with coconut, cashew nuts & chili jam are two great examples of dishes that deliver them on all fronts. Two sister restaurants in Sydney and Tokyo show that they’re clearly still doing things right.
40-44 Little Bourke St (Corner Punch Lane), MelbourneWebsite
One of a number of exciting young chefs making their mark is 27-year-old Khanh Nguyen, an Australian of Vietnamese heritage. In a cool space down a laneway, he and the team at Sunda plate brilliant dishes which combine the flavours of southeast Asia in tandem with native Australian ingredients. The beef rendang was lifted into something extra-special by using wagyu and sealing it in a cross between a pie and a doughnut, while the Indonesian classic of otak otak became a beautiful and elegant presentation of crab with coconut milk, curry and a popular native Australian ingredient, finger lime. Lamb rump then came with a "native curry" of more than 30 ingredients. Great service – as almost everywhere in Australia – ensured an exceptionally creative meal lived long in the memory.
Rice Paper Sister continues to pack in the diners just like its sister restaurant, Rice Paper Scissors. That’s because these two relaxed spots from up-and-coming young chef Ross Magnaye go big on flavour while retaining careful and balanced plating. Although Magnaye was born in The Philippines, his dishes also strongly feature Indonesia and Thailand influences. Favourites include lobster roll with mustard pickle and burnt nori or grilled John Dory with spiced butter and sambal matah, a spicy Balinese type of salsa. The standout on my visit was a brilliant Filipino-inspired pork jowl and belly dish, slow cooked in multiple stages with ingredients including garlic, soy sauce, coconut vinegar, black pepper, Vietnamese mint, coriander, Thai basil, and chili.
Rice Paper Sister
15 Hardware Lane, MelbourneWebsite
Noodle House by Lao-Luangprabang
Finally to a spot celebrating the little-known but fascinating cuisine of Laos where simple tables, stools, and a chalkboard make for a relaxed and homely feel. Sitting opposite Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne’s famed centre of produce, means that ingredients can hardly get fresher for the noodle soups and wok-fried noodles that have introduced many in the city to the food of this small southeast Asian nation. Their homemade rice noodles in chicken broth – called ‘Khao Plak Sen' – was a revelation, while their signature dish of Khao Piak Moo Krob comes in pork broth with crispy pork that could rival fine-dining restaurants for its quality and execution.
Noodle House by Lao-Luangprabang
500 Elizabeth St, MelbourneWebsite
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