A range of Laksa and other popular Asian dishes – including a great Beef Rendang – in a busy, but welcoming, predominantly Malaysian restaurant on thriving Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn.
Location: 724 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, VIC 3122 Ph: (03) 9819 2888
It seems that even Glenferrie Road restaurants assume that no one wants to eat out on a Monday evening.
A sudden to decision to see a movie and grab dinner left my partner and I wandering up one of Hawthorn’s busiest streets to find that virtually everywhere – bar franchises like Maccas and Guzman y Gomez – was closed.
Now I wasn’t expecting Glenferrie Road to be pumping. But I did think a few more eateries would be serving food.
Fortunately, a beacon of light and extremely enticing aromas beckoned from the cosy-looking Laksa Garden. Thank goodness.
Now let me admit, straight up, that laksa is a bowl of comfort that holds a very special place in my heart.
When I was pregnant with my first child, we were living in Sydney’s Inner West. At that time, one of my cravings was for the truly superb Chicken Laksa from the ultimate cheap, cheerful and very, very good, Happy Chef Chinese Restaurant in Newtown. Their laksas had the creamiest, turmeric-scented broth, spiked with a slick of chilli oil. However, the true stroke of genius was airy clouds of tofu which, when soaked in this brilliant soup, transformed into sponge-like flavour-bombs of spicy yumminess.
It was a sad day when I heard that the Happy Chef had closed.
So yes. Relief at finding a restaurant open. Delight at realising it served a good selection of Malaysian cuisine. And a huge weight of expectation resting on their laksa making skills.
Laksa Garden – The Food
Firstly, Laksa Garden describe itself on its website as offering ‘a blend of Asian cuisine’. A quick scan of the menu showed that in its current form that includes mainly Malaysian dishes, with a few Chinese and Indonesian favourites thrown in.
Seeing Hainanese Chicken Rice ($14.8) sitting next to Nasi Goreng ($14.8) and Curry Chicken on Rice ($15.8) reminded me of the hawker stalls of Singapore where the cultural melting pot of the island country is displayed proudly in its culinary heritage.
Anyway, we kicked things off with Satay Chicken Skewers (3 for $9.8). The chicken was tender, not dry and suffice to say, we fought over the extra skewer. It was an encouraging start.
For Mains, we ordered the Beef Rendang ($21.8) with a Side of steamed Rice ($3.0). It smelt wonderfully fragrant from the moment it hit our table.
The Beef Rendang at Laksa Garden is a saucy curry, not the dry version that you sometimes find. Decent-sized hunks of buttery soft beef sat in a shallow bath of coconut milk-based spicy gravy. Perfect for mixing with rice and mopping up with a Plain Roti (($6.8). And yep, roti is a non-negotiable for me. If it’s on the menu, I order it.
However, it was the promise of laksa that got us excited when we saw this Malaysian restaurant. So our other dish had to be laksa, in one form or another.
Given that the name of this eatery is Laksa Garden, you’d be disappointed if they had only the one soupy bowl of noodles on offer. Happily, the menu carries 7, including a very authentic sounding Fish Head Vermicelli Laksa ($18.8), which I wasn’t quite brave enough to try.
Instead, we opted for the Chicken Laksa ($15.8).
It arrived, sunshine bright with turmeric, and packed full of noodles and a pleasingly generous amount of gently poached chicken. Interestingly, it featured both delicate vermicelli and thick, chewy Hokkien noodles, which made for a nice texture contrast. The menu also says that they are happy to change the noodles or add more, for a small price.
So how was it?
Really very tasty.
All the right spice notes were there and the coconut flavour came through with a subtle tang of fish sauce.
Despite that, I would have liked a little speckling of red chilli oil shimmering across the top. Or perhaps a caddy offering chilli oil or flakes on the table, so allowing customers to add their own. But it’s a minor quibble.
Laksa Garden – The Drinks
I enjoyed a suitably strong gin and tonic. Always a good thing.
Meanwhile, my companion relived old times with a cold Tsingtao Beer, swigged straight from the bottle.
This accommodating Asian restaurant has a reasonably well-stocked spirits selection and a handful of beers available.
So, would I visit Laksa Garden again? Definitely.
I’ll be back for a stab at the Combination Laksa (Shrimps, Fishcake & Chicken) and maybe even work my way up to the Fish Head variation. Or maybe not. And I’ll certainly be giving the Malaysian Chicken Curry and the pungent (I hope) Belachan Kangkong a go.