the laksa chronicles: chef lagenda

it may come as a surprise to many that i had my first bowl of curry laksa in melbourne. thanks to a weak stomach when i was younger, my parents decide to do away with most foods containing coconut milk. and unfortunately for me, laksa was one of them. i guess you can’t miss what you never had, so i never really missed laksa. when my friends raved about laksa king and how it tastes so similar to home, i would only respond with a half-hearted smile.

my friend j though, loves laksa. i think it ranks as high up as bak chor mee in her must-eat list before leaving singapore. and when she tried chef lagenda, she couldn’t wait to go back and introduce me to the world of laksa. proper laksa.

those in melbourne will probably have heard the stories – the chef of laksa king leaving, and setting up his own store next door called chef lagenda. while these stories have yet to be verified, the throngs of people awaiting their bowl of laksa outside both joints speak for itself.

curry laksa, AUD9.20

for AUD9.20, you get a massive bowl of laksa chock-full of ingredients. the coconut-based curry sauce is so aromatic, you know it has spent a while in the pot, simmering happily. even the eggplant is worth mentioning: it’s been fried before spending some time in the curry sauce. so while it is tender (not overly mushy), it retains that slightly charred flavour that is oh-so-addictive. i wish they gave one more slice.

in the photo (which isn’t very good, pardon my photo-taking skills), you see pieces of deep-fried beancurd and a few prawns. but beneath the curry leaves is sliced poached chicken, and huge chunks of fish cakes too. the chicken here isn’t dry, stringy, sad pieces of chicken breast but chicken poached to perfection. and when it all comes together, it makes for the most perfect dinner on a cold, windy melbourne night.

fried koay teow, AUD10.20

we also ordered a plate of fried koay teow to share. to me, this was the highlight of the evening. the hallmark of a great plate of fried koay teow is something us chinese call wok hei, that slightly smoky flavour from the high heat of the wok used to toss the mass of ingredients around. many eateries in melbourne fail to achieve that. but the version here delivers, and more. the dish is flavourful without being overly salty, and little cubes of crispy pork lard are hidden surprises that add that depth of flavour, something vegetable oil seems to lack.

needless to say, we cleaned the whole plate up by the end of the evening.

service at chef lagenda was memorable too. as we didn’t make a booking, we were told that it would be a half-hour wait. the moment a table became available, we were ushered to it, but in no way did we feel rushed to order or leave. amidst the buzz of everyone’s chatter, we still felt looked after, which is pretty impressive for an asian joint.

my conclusion? chef lagenda is definitely worth trying. but whether or not it’s legendary – that’s up to you. (:

chef lagenda
16 pin oak crescent
flemington vic 3031
03 9376 2668
www.cheflagenda.com.au

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