After three years on Smith Street, Asian diner Rice Queen has quietly relocated to the space that used to be St Jude’s on Brunswick Street. In some ways the new Rice Queen is very different to her former Collingwood incarnation, but fundamentally similar in others. The room is a significant shift, being smaller than the Smith Street outlet, but this Rice Queen is still essentially a diner serving a wide selection of varying cuisines from different countries across Asia.
The space, designed by owner Laki Pappadopoulos, has a kitsch bent with plastic cherry blossom installations and bright lanterns highlighted against black and dark blue walls. The bar area, which used to be a feature of St Jude’s, has been reduced in size and a small smoking area has been built at the front of the premises overlooking Brunswick Street.
Head chef Almay Jordaan (who has stayed on from St Jude’s) and her sous chef Jabili Mchawala, have created a series of set menus at varying prices and a full a la carte menu. The fare varies greatly with dishes ranging from deep-fried soft-shell crab and som tam salad with kohlrabi to chilli pork ribs from the char grill.
The wine list includes stock from St Jude’s days; a smart selection that features find some interesting one-offs and bin ends as well as a rounded choice to go with the varying levels of spice on the menu.
What’s getting everyone in Fitzroy excited is the Karaoke Room at the back of the space, which can accommodate four to 16 crooners with a choice of set menu packages, from the ‘Lucy Liu’ to the ‘Bruce Lee'.
Brunswick Street is aching for some savvy operators and relevant, affordable food produced for its locals. Let’s see if Rice Queen amps up the street.