Monday, 11 June 2007

Dinner at Lau's Family Kitchen

Lau's Family Kitchen
4 Acland Street, St Kilda (map)
8598 9880

Every foodie worth her or his organically certified sea salt was thrilled last year to hear that the Lau family (of Flower Drum fame) was opening a more casual, more affordable restaurant in St Kilda. We don't venture thataway very often, but K and I decided recently that it was high time to head down to the seaside and sample the food at Lau's Family Kitchen.

Our repeated attempts over three successive weeks to get a Saturday night booking were a comedy of errors - finally the staff said it was JUST possible to squeeze us in at a table for two, provided we promised to vacate the premises by 8pm. As we sipped glasses of wine next door at Il Fornaio waiting for the clock to strike six, K muttered that the food had better be damn good to be worth all this bother...

Lau's Family Kitchen

Lau's is located at the Prince of Wales end of Acland St, sitting snugly between Il Fornaio and my old favourite, Chinta Blues (hooray for their Mee Goreng and Ayam Ria!). The vibe was pretty relaxed and the service was generally excellent. We were dismayed however to see the (endangered) Patagonian toothfish on the menu, and avoided ordering it.

Instead, we started with the eggplant stuffed with taro paste, and some siew mai dumplings.

Eggplant stuffed with taro paste at Lau's

The stuffed eggplant, battered and deep fried and drizzled with a garlicky, thickened reduction, was delicious - the taro paste had a starchy but not too gritty texture. The siew mai dumplings were also very good:

Siew mai dumplings at Lau's

I really wish I'd taken a shot of one of these half-eaten dumplings in cross-section, because they were so beautifully constructed: a juicy nugget of fresh prawn embedded within the pork and Chinese mushroom mixture, with the dumpling casing wrapped around the edges. Both cut fresh chillies and chilli paste were brought as a matter of course with the soy sauce.

For main course we chose to share the steamed wild barramundi and the Ma Po tofu.

Steamed wild barramundi at Lau's

The barra was also great: the simple, light soy sauce and fresh herbs accompanying it let the fresh delicate flavour of the moist fish speak for itself. The 2005 Darling Park Pinot Noir we were drinking was a nice match.

The final dish to arrive was the Schezwan Ma Po tofu with minced pork and steamed rice.

Schezwan tofu and minced pork at Lau's

I think this one was my favourite: the bean curd was wonderfully silky and the sauce was fiery. After all our grumbling about how hard it had been to get in, K and I were happily seduced by the Lau's experience and (apart from the Patagonian toothfish's presence on the menu) had no cause for complaint. Lau's may be the Drum's little sister, but seems to be doing just fine in her own right.


Truffle said...

Fantastic review and brilliant photos. Looks absolutely delicious!

jfox said...

good to hear your persistence paid off! my family is notoriously fickle when it comes to cantonese food (heritage proud i guess, or maybe food snobs, haha) but we all found the dishes tasty, simple and fresh, with great service too.

mutemonkey said...

Thanks truffle! Glad you like the photos - we were lucky to be seated at a table with good lighting! :)

Hey jfox - always good to hear when a place gets the thumbs up from the 'natives'! I'm fickle in the same way when it comes to italian food...

cin said...

i look forward to visiting Lau's soon. is it dearer than most asin joints still despite being a a more casual eatery than F.D.?

mutemonkey said...

Hey Cin - yeah it's probably a bit pricier than what you'd find in Chinatown, but waaay cheaper than FD. Plus the servings are very generous!

Anh said...

I am thinking to head down Lau's family kitchen soon, so this review is excellent!