It’s easy to miss Muli. There isn’t much else on the block. It doesn’t have a big shopfront to draw your gaze. Just one small sign, some light jazz music humming from the speakers and colourful rosebushes out the front.
Inside, there’s a marble-clad shucking bar where guests are surrounded by oysters, glowing crustacean-filled tanks and a handful of tables with enough seating for 12 guests at a time. Having opened in late winter, the seafood and oyster-centric Carlton restaurant has already made a big splash.
Muli is run by a family with some serious expertise. Owners Van Tran, her husband David Tran and son David Jr previously ran Footscray Market’s renowned D&K Live Seafood. “D&K is a beautiful place,” says Van. “You know, Chanel sells shoes, and D&K is the Chanel of seafood.” But the trio were ready to embark on a new challenge as a family.
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“People would say ‘Van, you’re so comfortable here [at D&K]’, and I just wanted to write the next chapter with my kids, with my family.”
While Van’s niece and brother-in-law are busy running D&K, she and the Davids have brought their seafood expertise to Carlton. “We want to educate this side of town about where the seafood is from,” she says.
The family is proud of its relationships with suppliers. “We’re so close with our fishermen, says Van. “We’ve been with the fishermen for twenty-something years.” At Muli Van will come to the table and talk to customers about where their seafood comes from whenever a dish is brought out to diners.
These dishes include smaller plates such as buttery lobster rolls with salmon roe and a kingfish sashimi. Larger plates include grilled seafood fresh from the tanks like the rare blue marron from Western Australia. There’s also blue swimmer crab that is marinated in gochujang and soy sauce for four days.
And while the dinner menu is intentionally simple, experimental seafood flavours inspire a creative dessert menu. There’s oyster ice-cream and salty-sweet sea urchin ice-cream that Van says is “beautiful, sweet and salty”.