14/06/2015

LUCY LIU KITCHEN AND BAR [REVISITED]

No, our favourite pint-sized Charlie's Angel (and kick-ass detective from Elementary) did not open the trendy joint in downtown Melbourne. But if she did, I imagine it would be pretty similar to the lively restaurant that I went two weekends ago. Nestled in a laneway off Flinders Lane (lane-ception?), Lucy Liu's presence is nondescript from the main street. But if you trot down the cobblestone laneway along with the steady hum of air-conditioning/heater units, you will see Lucy Liu - its red neon-lit sign, mounted on exposed brick wall painted white, complete with exposed pipe.


Walk along the entryway and you cannot help but feel excited about what this place has in store. Well, for Steven and myself, it was our second time around at this hip food joint. If you have been following this blog for a while, you may know that back in October, Steven and I celebrated our five-year anniversary here. I was painfully ill and it took all my effort to avoid passing out mid-dinner. This time around, everyone was healthy and fine, and we really looked forward to a night of enjoyable dinner in the city. 

The decor in here is trendy with Asian fusion, with a clever use wood to highlight the space and create a warm ambience. As most trendy restaurants these days, the lighting is a dim, warm amber. There were high seats along the bar and most tables were placed close to one another. I've requested for the dining setting for a more comfortable dining experience. 


After settling in our seats it was time to get our food and drinks on! Lucy Liu serves "eclectic Asian cuisine," which to me pretty much means Asian fusion. What type of Asian cuisine, you ask. Well, every type. On their menu there is everything from Japanese-influenced tataki to kingfish sashimi with coconut cream and mint (Thai/Japanese-influenced), not to mention a range of gua bao (Taiwanese pork/beef buns). It is worthy to note that the dishes, though small, are meant to be shared around the table - the Asian way of eating. 

So we ordered a few dishes to share amongst ourselves. But not before we have a drink (or two) to celebrate :) Lucy Liu has an impressive drink list, with a wide range of wines from all around the world. Being the lightweight that I am, I went for a glass of Choya Umeshu (with ice, of course!) while Steven had a shot of whiskey on the rocks. 

The last time around, Steven and I visited on Derby Day. The place was jam-packed and service was slower...so we didn't expect our first dish to be on the table within 15 minutes. But I do appreciate that the waitress so kindly explained what was in each dish. Here's what we ordered:

1. Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki, wasabi ginger dressing and sesame crackers


This dish was a great way to kick off what was a night of great food. Yellow fin tuna is my favourite fish (as sashimi). As a tataki, it was absolutely beautiful - tender, sweet and just melted in my mouth. The dressing was complementary of the fish. I have never been a fan of sesame, so the crackers were pretty average for me, though it was highly recommended by Steven.

2. Tempura Soft Shell Crab with hot green nam jim


You can't see it in the picture, but the soft shell crab was everything you'd imagined it to be: crispy, hot and juicy. The tempura coating is light and resulted in a golden brown sheen over the crab. Topped with some nam jim sauce, it was a delight.

3. Crispy Pork Bun with spicy kimchi and kewpie mayo


Now, Steven and I may not seem to have much in common, but our biggest passion is pork bun. Sounds ridiculous, but we have to order the BBQ pork buns every time we go for yum cha. Every. Time. While this is no traditional BBQ pork bun, it was still a pork bun and we had to have it. Though it was certainly a good dish, I wasn't overly crazy over it. Steve, on the other hand, he was all over it: This guy lives for pork crackling and kewpie mayo. 

But I must admit, second time around the pork bun still tasted pretty good. You have crackling, you have spicy kimchi, you have velvety kewpie mayo, all wrapped in a soft, pillowy sweet steamed bun - can't go wrong with that.

4. Steamed Sticky Beef Bun with cucumber, hot chilli and black vinegar


This was our last minute order when we realised that we were still a bit hungry and only had one dish to go. It definitely was my top-three dish of the night. While Steve lives for his kewpie mayo and crackling, I love anything sticky, sweet, sour and pickled. This dish has all of the above! Clearly the pulled beef has been cooked for many hours in sweet black vinegar. It was heavenly when paired with the soft sweet bun. The meat juices from so many hours of cooking, plus the sweet and acidity from the vinegar soaked through the bun, with the crunch of pickled cucumber and just the right amount of heat from the red chilli slices on top....it was a party in my mouth. No, I believe the correct word is: foodgasm. 

This dish embodies what I love about Lucy Liu: they take great Asian flavours and give them a modern twist. The flavours from this dish was from a classic caramelised pork belly braised in sweet black vinegar and ginger...and I loved it!

5. Lucy Liu Wagyu Beef 7+ with yakiniku dipping sauce and hot mustard horseradish


No trip to Lucy Liu is complete until you have their signature wagyu beef. It was everything you'd expect from a steak of this grade. It required so little but it was oh-so flavoursome. It had that unique taste that only a grilled steak can provide x100, that was how robust the flavour was. How I wished I had a glass of red with it, but I was rather tipsy from my umeshu at that point I had some trouble cutting up my beef into bite-sized. 

6. Lucy's Knickerblocker Glory with lychee sorbet and red fruit compote


I was after a fruity dessert and honestly, I was so tipsy at that point that the name of the dessert humoured my endlessly. I was trying so hard not to embarrass myself because the tables were so close to each other that I didn't want the diners beside me to feel offended by what was on my mind. So I just ended up giggling. 

When the dessert arrived on the table, it was apparent that it was named "knickerblocker" deliberately and not a typo (please tell me you can figure it out and prove that I'm not a weirdo!) All jokes aside, it was a decadent dessert with a good balance of sweet and acidity. The addition of dark chocolate chips balanced up the sweetness, while the honeycomb was just splendid. The red fruit compote at the bottom was delicious and if you're a berry lover, you will definitely enjoy the medley of berries. 

The good food, dessert and drinks left us in a food coma. Although it was absolutely freezing, we had such a great night out and about the CBD. Melbourne has such great energy and buzz on the weekend that it was impossible not to fall in love here... and Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar is a great backdrop to celebrate all things love :)


Read about my last experience at Lucy Liu here and see what other great dishes I enjoyed.


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