"Oh that's the expensive Chinese place that all the caucasians like."
Or that's what my mum says about Lee Ho Fook (not that she has been). However, I'm comforted when I arrive, to see a family of Asians, with adult children, sitting around a round table near the front with a lazy susan filled with plates. Asians seem to like it too!
Sitting on Smith Street, surrounded by some fantastic company (Easy Tiger, Wood Spoon Kitchen, Monsieur Truffe, etc. etc. etc.), Lee Ho Fook serves up a distinctly Chinese menu with family favourites dressed up (just a little bit) and a handful of more experimental dishes.
I visit with Jo, and I'm quite impressed with the dark and broody space, with it's gradient coloured walls, dark finishes and almost sculptural light fixtures.
Being a fan of a Lillet Blanc, I'm tickled by the idea of an Osmanthus-infused Lillet Blanc, which we both order. It's a delightful surprise that the infusion turns the usually very light and refreshing Lillet Blanc, into something a bit heavier and stickier, with a subtle sweet aroma creeping out.
We get two quite contrasting dishes from the medium category of the menu, the white pepper spanner crab with taro mille feuille, and the crispy eggplant in spiced red vinegar.
The spanner crab dish is a work of art, with the spanner crab combined with a bit of coconut (I believe), and topped with a sliver of crisp apple and the ever so thin taro crisps. It's surprisingly sweet and cool, but also refreshing, a real medley of textures.
The eggplant on the other hand, is serious comfort food. Crisp on the outside, soft, just oily enough and absolutely packed with flavour. Sweet, spicy, a bit of zest and tang. The delectably moreish dish is small enough that you might consider ordering a second serving, but also big enough that you have to think twice about it…at least between two people anyway.
For our main, on a cold Sunday night, we turn to none other than the liquorice braised beef short rib, with turnips, enoki mushrooms and purple basil. Simply perfection. Gorgeously meaty but fatty pieces of beef, in a dark, sticky and sweet sauce, which reminded me quite a lot of a similar dish I had had in Shanghai a few years back. The radish is tender, but not mushy and not over salted either. We were both somewhat surprised how relatively clean the dish felt, not greasy or overly heavy, but instead very well balanced.
To wrap up, because I'm a little greedy gut, we had to try two desserts (because we really wanted all four but that might have been a few too many…)
My choice was the jasmine tea infused custard burnt caramel, a modest serve, but exactly as you would expect it. A velvety and slightly dense caramel, with a layer of caramel over the top. The tea flavour was delicate, floral but definitely very present. Would most certainly return for this!
Jo's pick was the coconut pandan sorbet, with malt and ale-cream. What a combination! Refreshing, and surprisingly textural, the sorbet was more like a cloud than a sorbet in my opinion! There was a bit of crunch from the (what I think are) malt 'rocks' at the base, which was quite interesting.
On a whole, I really enjoyed the food at Lee Ho Fook and don't really have anything I can fault. It's very hard to compare it to somewhere more traditional, such as Red Emperor, the only thing maybe being perhaps the portions at Red Emperor are a little more substantial (in my opinion), however, the quality at Lee Ho Fook really does stand out.
92 Smith Street
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