“Standard beef patties are about 150 grams,” says Truman Ng, who owns Kung Fu Burger with business partners Natalie Sam and Alvar Leung. The grass-fed beef patties at their new South Yarra burger joint weigh about 220 grams.
Apart from patty size, the flavours at this colourful new Chapel Street diner set it apart from other Melbourne burger spots: these are made with Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine in mind.
That means proteins including beef, chicken thigh, pork and tempura soft-shell crab seasoned with a Chinese five-spice blend placed inside dense, soft, white bread or black squid-ink buns. A vegetarian option uses a tofu patty with portobello mushroom.
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“Our sauces are so important – we don’t use tomato or mustard,” says Ng. “Instead we have really flavoursome house-made relishes inspired by Chinese sweet-and-sour sauces, as well as Korean chilli, Thai herbs with lemongrass and ginger, and a yuzu-and-lime mayo for the crispy chicken burger.”
The menu also features Japanese takoyaki octopus balls; popcorn chicken seasoned with five-spice and Thai basil; and tacos.
“We’ve introduced the flavours of a Peking duck dish into our Peking pulled-pork taco and it’s really taken off with customers,” says Ng.
Ng had the idea for an Asian-style burger store while working at Sung’s Kitchen, a Mandarin restaurant near Queen Victoria Market.
“After a shift I’d get a late-night feed and the options at that hour were mostly greasy, cheesy American-style burgers,” says Ng. “One day I thought, ‘Why don’t I bring my expertise in Asian flavours to the burger and see what I can create?
“We’ve come up with all the flavour combinations and concepts ourselves with great help from Paul Zhao – the head chef at Crown’s fine-dining Japanese restaurant, Koko.”
Ng grew up and went to school in the area, so he’s familiar with Chapel Street’s late-night food offering.
“We love many of the local burger places, but believe our product is different,” he says. On Saturdays, Kung Fu Burger is open until 3.30am.
Elvin Tan designed the playful red and yellow 18-seat interior, which features a neon burger sign, banquette seating and a large graphic mural by local artist and illustrator Ning Xue. The restaurant’s logo pays homage to martial-arts film star Bruce Lee.
“Our heritage is from Hong Kong, so naturally we think Bruce Lee is the biggest legend,” says Sam.
“He was also the first man to merge different streams of martial arts together to create his own art in America,” adds Ng. “In a way, we’re imitating him by bringing Asian burgers to [Melbourne].”
Kung Fu Burger
355 Chapel Street, South Yarra
(03) 9043 3361
Mon to Thu 11.30am–10pm