1/16 Liverpool St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9639 9885
For some reason, I felt like laksa last night. I usually don’t feel like soups when the weather is warm but I’ve been craving laksa all week and so we decided to try Laksa Me, on Liverpool St. When I walked into the concrete bunker known as Laksa Me, I had no idea what to expect. I mean, this doesn’t LOOK like a place where you’d find rustic Penang food – in fact, it seemed more fit for a Friday night drinks location. Think Workshop bar (cnr A’Beckett and Elizabeth St), y’know with the concrete fittings, pipes and overall edgy feel. But hey, at least the concrete provided some insulation against the rather balmy evening. To cut to the chase, Adam and I ordered an entree to share and a main each. Simple. (Warning: Apologies for the not-so-nice-looking photos. The lights in the place just happened to be dim (probably so that the owners could maintain its hip and cool vibe or something), thus it wasn’t very photo-friendly. I usually avoid using flash when it comes to taking food photos but in this case, I had no choice but to turn the flash on)
I can’t remember exactly how much they are, but they would’ve been around the $6-7 mark (for three). Decently-sized pieces of home-made fish cakes were topped with a cucumber and peanut relish, which tasted a bit like nuoc mam (that Vietnamese dipping sauce). The fish cakes were nice enough, but I didn’t think the peanuts added anything to the dish.
I was keen to try Allen Woo’s signature dish, lovingly called “My Mum’s Laksa” which uses pho noodles rather than vermicelli. At $10 a bowl, it sounded like a pretty good deal. The bowl itself might not have been as huge as some of the pho bowls presented to me at various Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray and Richmond, but it had enough flavour to coat a huge vat of potato chips at the Kettles factory. I found this laksa to be spicier and more fragrant than many of the laksas I’ve had in Melbourne. In fact, I could taste about 10 billion different ingredients in the broth, including lemongrass, coconut, galangal, chilli and Mahatir’s semen (only kidding about the last one). Sounds good on paper (if you happen to adore Mahatir, yes) but I wasn’t sure if I liked it. Firstly, I reckoned they were being a bit tight arsey on the ingredients – I counted two measly prawns, maybe three barbequed pork bits and one chicken piece (there may have been two, one of which Adam ate). Secondly, it was just too spicy for me – I had to demand the waiter to bring me out a bottle of soy bean milk quickly as my tongue was on fire. Having said that though, a lot of people (including Adam) seem to like this dish (and are probably not as wussy when it comes to spicy foods) so perhaps it’s better if you sussed it out for yourself rather than listen to a philistine like me.
Adam had a milder dish, a Thai Massaman beef curry ($22). According to the Laksa Me menu, this dish is a “replica curry dish from the famous Malaysian and Indonesian curry dish – Rendang.” Firstly, the person who wrote the menu needs a lesson or two on grammar. Secondly, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the massaman is an exact “replica” of rendang as the ingredients are a bit different but there are some similarities. Beef, check. Potatoes, check. Lots of spices, check. For some reason, I prefer this dish to the laksa even though it’s probably not a popular dish on the menu. Although the rump used was perhaps tougher than it should’ve been, I liked the tanginess of the curry which was produced by the sour notes of tamarind, yet mellowed by the sweetness of coconut milk and cinnamon. Adam, on the other hand, got sick of it pretty quickly and kept asking if I wanted to swap dishes with him. Heh.
The total came to just under $40 and we were both pretty full so I guess you could say that this place earnt its spot in The Age Cheap Eats Guide 2008. The spice levels, however, were perhaps a bit too demanding for my piss-weak gweilo tastes and I really did believe that they were stingy with the meats in the laksa. I was hoping that this place might serve as a substitute for my fave laksa joint (Laksa King in Flemington). Alas, my visist proved that it would not be the case. I guess I won’t be returning here in such a hurry but given that many people DO like this place, I suggest that you don’t take my word for it and go suss it out yourself.