Laksa Bar

Posted on November 22, 2011

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It was one of the few laneway areas that hadn’t yet been jazzed up with funky cafes and cool bars, but that was always bound to change. And the tide had finally came. Little Lonsdale Street up towards the Exhibition/Spring Street end is finally getting its fair share of foodie activity. Thanks to the arrival of places like Trunk, and more recently Sally’s Kitchen and Miss Chu’s, this patch of Exhibition Street was ripe for development.  Then along came The League of Honest Coffee in the first quarter of 2011, and now Laksa Bar (108 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC) has followed suit, opening up for business right next door.

It’s only in its first couple of weeks of business, so they only had a limited ‘opening’ menu with a couple of laksa soups and a handful of stir fry’s. More exciting dishes are promised to be introduced on their menu soon. But to make up for this smaller range, they were (and perhaps still are) running a special on Asahi beers for $5 a bottle if you’re after a cool beverage to neautralise the spicy offerings.

The space is very reminiscent of Laksa Me. Large windows, concrete flooring and an overall minimalist warehouse feel. Service was soso. Perhaps this could be forgiven as an early teething problem, but despite ordering together, our table of 5 had food coming out up to 10 minutes apart. Also, there was no table service, it’s order and pay at the counter. Not sure if this arrangement will change over time though.

Pricing is in the teens, which is higher than your typical noodle offering. The chicken curry laksa I sampled was $11.90, a whole $2.10 more than Laksa King’s version. The seafood laksa is even more expensive, pushing above $15. It’s not so much the absolute price being the issue here, it’s whether the the higher than average price can be justified through exceptional quality or taste.

And on that note, I’m not convinced. The curry is quite gritty and not as coconutty as I like. The ratio of hokkien (yellow/egg) noodles to vermicelli in my serve wasn’t to my liking; too much vermicelli and not enough of the other. Also, while they were generous with the eggplant, tofu and fish cake/balls, this was not the case with the chicken. I requested extra spiciness and was warned by the counter staff the default spice level was quite high already, but was disappointed to find even with the extra heat, it wasn’t particularly spicy. I admit to having quite a high spice tolerance though, so you can potentially let them go on that one. Overall it was quite an underwhelming laksa. Even if I was to eliminate Laksa King from the comparison, there are nicer versions on the market for a lesser price.

My companions opted for their stir fry noodles instead and seemed to have fared better. While I didn’t taste it, I’m told the mee goreng had a nice tartness thanks to the generous lashing of tomato.

It might be a bit too early in the game to make a final call on this newcomer, and I am willing to give it another go (for the fried noodles), but for now I can’t count myself as a fan. Not that it matters, Laksa Bar is already quite busy and generating a large enough following. It remains to be seen if they can improve on their service, menu choices and food quality, and whether its popularity will grow or fade with time. One to keep my eye on I suppose.

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