Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant
There are a couple of things that don’t happen frequently in Melbourne. Restaurants that are celebrating their 16th birthday and slightly fancy Malaysian food.
Blue Chillies have both of these ticked off.
Being Malaysian myself, I love authentic and traditional Malaysian food, but can be very sceptical about it being interpreted into modern adaptations; twisted into the fusion cuisine and taking it further away from it’s Malaysian roots.
However, when I visited Blue Chillies, I found they struck a very nice balance between traditional flavours, and elevating the cuisine.
The space is modest, familiar and comfortable, the staff smiley and immensely approachable, with the owners working the floor as well. One thing that’s not so traditional is the abundance of booze available, with bottles of wine filling up the shelves and a very deceptive gin cocktail sitting in a jug on the table. Could drink all of that and not realise there was booze in it…until it was too late!
We got a delicious sample of a variety of items on the menu, which definitely all kept the essence, the strong spices, the coconut, the richness of flavour, but executed a little more delicately, with a little more care, and an extra ingredient or two to complement the flavours in an unexpected way.
First was black pepper soft shell crab with ground peppercorn sauce and aromatic curry leaves and delicious little whitebait and sweet potato fritters with a chilli lime dipping sauce. I loved how crunchy the soft shell crab was, the curry leaves definitely aromatic with a nice little bit of heat. The whitebait fritters were gorgeously sweet and also crunchy. Found it hard not to reach out for a third one…
I was absolutely thrilled to see a yee sang salad, a traditional Malaysian salad with sashimi salmon and a variety of shredded crunchy vegetables in apricot plum sauce topped with roasted peanuts. Yes sang is generally served only during Chinese New Year, families and groups gather and mix up the salad together to usher in good luck in the new year. The only thing is, this salad is absolutely delicious, and really should be eaten more! I absolutely adored how sweet and refreshing the salad was, the plum sauce is just too good!
Rockling fillets dusted with potato flour and wok swirled in curry leaves, chilli, spices and buttered egg floss are cleanly fried (am I allowed to say that?). Golden, light and so crisp. I adore the crisp curry leaves in the mix as well.
Wok roasted marinated ribs, caramelised in chilli jam remind me of home, a pure comfort food. They’re a little on the lean side for me as far as pork ribs go, but how can you not loved a sweet and sticky caramelised chilli jam? Yum.
King prawns wrapped in fine strands of rice noodles, snap fried on a bed of tomato puree with pineapple and coconut milk are slightly unexpected for me in flavours. Perhaps it’s the tomato and pineapple puree? It doesn’t read so Malaysian, perhaps more generally South East Asian, and the acidity of the puree is a little overwhelming for me, but the prawns are executed perfectly. Crispy, plump and lovingly sweet.
Between the two duck’s, a duck rending, slow cooked with roasted coconut and malaysian spices, fresh ginger-root garlic and chillies and a thrice cooked duck, with a blend of wild ginger flower, lemongrass, chillies and lime juice, the duck rendang just has my heart. I thought that the rending would be a bit dry with duck, but was I proven wrong! Lovely wobbly bits of fat which just soaks up the flavour of the rendang, which has me going back for way too many spoonfuls!
I didn’t think dessert would excite me so much, but the black sticky rice pudding is absolutely perfection. Perfection. The black rice is slightly al dente, sitting in a small pool of coconut milk, with toasted coconut over the top, giving a bit of crunch. It’s really beautifully balanced and one was definitely not enough…!
I was really very pleasantly surprised by Blue Chillies. It’s all the hearty Malaysian flavours I like, but also a nice meal out…this ain’t no hawker centre. I would definitely return for many of the items I tried tonight…and perhaps some other things on the menu as well!
Who needs to run around town chasing hype, when the oldies but goodies can still rock out the goods?
182 Brunswick Street