9 September 2014
Things that look or sound Asian, but are not 100% authentic. I noticed the theme at Low Key Chow House during my night out with a group of friends. The restaurant has a clever name that sounds about as Chinesey as “ching chong chang” but also makes complete sense in English.
You can probably predict the grungy exterior, intentionally mismatched plates and cutlery, exposed brick through the paintwork, low hanging lights, and exposed beams. This is Leederville, after all, and Low Key Chow House enjoys the company of other fav hipster hang-outs like Greens & Co, Kitsch Bar and Jus Burgers.
We started with a Japanese flair, but these pork dumplings were too dry for the ginger, sesame, soy sauce to save them. I am defs going to upload my gyoza recipe soon so that nobody else feels compelled to pay $2+ for a substandard dumpling. At least the Asian-fusion gyozas at Kuza in Vic Park had a juicy filling and unusual flavours!
Mantou buns ($15)
A high point for the evening was my candied caramel pork belly bun. This one kicked ass compared to the one from Kuza! Soft, sweet, steamed buns were stuffed with a thick slice of delicious pork belly. The meat was tender, the fat was rendered (which means it had melted and become delicious), and the crackling was crunchy. We loved the hit of red chilli and cooling fresh coriander and cucumber.
Cocograss tipple ($16)
I requested extra chilli oil in my cocktail because it arrived about a 1 or 2 on the spiciness scale. No joke, my drink returned with a proper kick which made for a unique and delicious mix of coconut lemongrass liqueur, pineapple juice, and Orgeat (a sweet syrup).
Fried rice ($24)
Flickers of doubt and juuuudgment passed across my face when I realised we had ordered fried rice. While the rice had a lovely smoky flavour from the cooked salmon, I could really have gone without the standard combo of corn + carrot + peas from the freezer. However, the serving should be 3x bigger or there should be some very fat prawns on top, otherwise this dish is heaps expensive.
I remember a childhood trip to Busselton when we accidentally caught a squid. The squid splurted ink on the jetty and I panicked hard-core, but later I happily tucked into fresh BBQ squid pieces! While this charred whole squid brought back fond memories, I actually found this dish very weird and icky. The squid was slimy inside and had a strong seafoody taste, plus it was cut into rings that were basically impossible to dunk in the house-made dips. I enjoyed the vinegary sauce, but not the sweet yellow one, and mostly used the salty brown sauce to drown out the fishiness.
Sogalbi skju-namul ($32)
Our tastebuds moved to Korea with pear and apple marinated beef short ribs. I missed the insane number of sides that we chomped through at Palsaik Namoo, but there were some sesame bean sprouts and a spicy salty sauce. Nobody was impressed by their watered-down version of kim chi (fermented spicy cabbage). Thankfully, we did enjoy the super tender and juicy strips of beef, which had been conveniently carved off the bone for us.
In China, my tour group ate steamed fish almost every lunch and dinner for 10 whole days. The food in Beijing is quite bland and so the quality of the fish relied on freshness and a bit of soy sauce. We paid the horrendous market price for this tiny fish at Low Key Chow House. It was well-cooked and easy to peel from the bones, but it was too pricey even for a whole fish grilled on coals and banana leaf.
Our meal came to $45pp, which included the cost of a roughly one drink each. Service was attentive and the restaurant was comfortable enough, so we didn’t mind chatting while we waited for food. I know there are some stellar Asian-fusion restaurants out there in the same price range (yes, I’m looking at you Bonsai) so it is difficult to say that I would return. The food was too hit and miss to justify the steeper price tags, but I’ll keep an eye out in case things change because this restaurant has only been around a few months.
Likes: mantou pork buns, beef short ribs, friendly service
Dislikes: icky squid, dry gyoza, small serving of fried rice
Value for money: not great
Overall: interesting Asian fusion dishes, but the prices are too high for “hit and miss” food
140 Oxford St
(08) 9443 9305