“I hate the term ‘Modern Chinese,’” says Victor Liong, head chef at Melbourne’s most hotly anticipated modern Chinese restaurant. “Everything you’re doing is modern.”
Lee Ho Fook (a reference to Warren Zevon’s 'Werewolves of London' - really) is a first for the former Marque and Mr Wong chef, who jumped at the chance to call the shots in his own kitchen: “It’s my first restaurant, so I was like fuck it, let’s go!”
Bankrolled by Movida and Pei Modern restaurateurs Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh, Lee Ho Fook is designed to be a neighbourhood eatery. The Smith Street site, previously French wine room Boire, suffered only a minimal makeover, with a brighter coat of paint and some new lighting design. “Some of the really gaudy tiles are still in the bathroom, just so it’s not too formal, not too uptight,” explains Liong.
The 50-seat restaurant will serve up dishes like a festival-style ocean trout salad, served raw; steamed milk bun with candied pork, salted cucumber and fresh butter; a lamb shoulder for two; and new season tomatoes and tofu. “A lot of the food doesn’t resemble Chinese food,” admits Liong. “It tastes like Chinese food though.”
The wine list, designed by Patrick Walsh of Cellarhand, mirrors the menu by concentrating on old-world wines done in a new way. “There are a lot of wines on the menu that have been around for hundreds of years, but the current winemakers are 30-somethings who want to bring the brand forward,” says Liong. “It’s old world vines and new world thinking. ”
Liong is also excited to break away from his European training to try out something new on old-style cuisine. “I grew up eating Chinese food, both my parents are Chinese,” he says. “It’s kind of like me trying to get back in touch with the heritage.”