Eugene Lee wants to change the way Brisbane diners think about Malaysian cuisine – and he hopes to achieve that with La De Lah, the 100-seat South Bank restaurant he opened in late July.
“[La De Lah is] about changing perceptions,” the Penang-born chef tells Broadsheet. “When you talk about Malaysian cuisine in Brisbane, a lot of people associate it with a bowl of curry or something very traditional.”
At La De Lah, Lee is bringing a modern approach to Malaysian food, drawing upon his time working in restaurants across Asia and Australia. Recently, you would have found Lee at spots such as sophisticated cafe Fika and Restaurant Indriya in Spring Hill, where his multi-sensory chef’s table experience came to be known as “gangster cuisine” because of its rule-breaking creative flair. He’s aiming to bring a similar level of innovation to La De Lah.
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Take the eatery’s mushroom chilli dish. Lee sources whole shimeji mushrooms from local supplier Urban Valley and treats them as if they were crab in a classic chilli crab. The result looks like chilli crab and has the same bold, traditional flavours, but it’s something quite distinct. Elsewhere, there are bao buns filled with sweet bug tail, fennel and house-made green sriracha; fried quail with smoked kecap manis; slow-cooked short rib with wood-ear mushrooms and potato; and a nasi goreng kerabu, stained blue from the accompanying butterfly-pea flowers.
“What I’m trying to do is take the [food] and culture of the Malaysian streets, and elevate it,” Lee says. “With the experiences I’ve picked up along the way, I can show [Malaysian cuisine] through my own perspective.”
The drinks menu includes a couple of beers on tap, while a concise wine list leans towards organic and minimal-intervention drops. There are also seven cocktails on offer, including a chilli Margarita (made with the team’s own green sriracha), a lychee Martini and a Jungle Bird.
As for the fit-out, there’s lots of dark timber, red booth seating, and brick features. Lee says the dimly lit, contemporary interior was inspired by his own personality. “I always tell people I’m dark and mysterious,” he laughs.
La De Lah
Shop 6A, Little Stanley Street, South Brisbane
(07) 3519 9133