Chef Eugene Lee is a non-conformist, and with his South Bank restaurant La De Lah he’s aiming to change Brisbane’s perception of Malaysian cuisine.
After growing up in Malaysia and working in restaurants across Asia, he spent time behind the pass at Restaurant Indriya in Spring Hill and sophisticated fusion cafe Fika before opening his own place serving a “gangster” version of Malay cuisine.
Running a busy venue is a full-time affair, but where does he eat when he’s not on the pans at La De Lah? Broadsheet caught up with Lee to chat everything from fancy fare and long lunches that drag into dinnertime to what he likes to eat and drink at home.
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What’s your go-to for a quick takeaway?
District 1 in Fortitude Valley. I love their crispy chicken noodle soup.
And for a drink and snacks?
Essa on James Street. The quail skewers are amazing. [If you’re keen to see what Essa’s head chef Phil Marchant eats on a night off, head here.]
If it’s a special occasion, where are you headed?
It’s got to be Restaurant Dan Arnold at Alex Perry Hotel in Fortitude Valley. Their menu changes all the time, but I always find myself ordering the full tasting menu.
Where’s your favourite for great baking or pastries?
Bake It in Underwood for donuts. I also love Mountain River Patisserie in Runcorn [one of Broadsheet’s cafe’s to watch for 2022] has a fab a variety of petite gateaux. And Milki Desserts in Sunnybank has great bingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert.
And where do you think does the best coffee in town?
The Maillard Project on Charlotte Street. I use their single-origin beans for home too! (I promise I’m not a snob! I just love good coffee.)
Do you have a go-to for a long lunch?
Izakaya Publico, inside Hotel Indigo, which just opened on Turbot Street. To me, long lunch means eating and drinking for so long that you start to lose track of time, and that’s exactly what happens at this hidden izakaya.
And, what about the best food close to where you live?
Chuan Chinese in Sunnybank. My favourite dishes? I can’t decide between the boiled fish served with pickled cabbage or the roast lamb chops in cumin sauce.
What’s your favourite late-night spot to head after work?
Wara Wara whenever I’m craving jjampong (a spicy Korean noodle soup). I also love Creole Soul Kitchen in Spring Hill – they put so much soul into their food. It’s open until 1am and the gumbo yaya and fried chicken are must-trys.
What’s your personal favourite dish on the menu at your La De Lah? Tough one I’m sure.
I love our kingfish kerabu. It defies what ingredients should go into a nasi kerabu but still keeps its principles with freshness and a punchy profile. There’s a lot of love and attention to detail in that dish.
And is there a hidden gem that you think is underrated?
Can I say my house? I like cooking at home, churning out nice lazy meals that are packed with flavour and not defined by any specific cuisine. Plus, I can wear whatever I want!