Modern Asian Restaurants: Longrain
Well it seems this series will never end, the most popular restaurants in Melbourne just seem to exhibit this modern cuisine. Most restaurants take the best parts of Thai food and put their own twist on it, thus it seems that Thai food has become the easiest to modernise and market. Longrain’s website indicates it takes influences from Thai food and also Southern Chinese food.
I’ll make a brief mention of trying it at the Night Noodle Markets, as I won’t be doing a full post on that event. To be honest, I was not impressed by the markets. Their portions weren’t great and they were overpriced even for what they would serve in the actual restaurants.
I tried their hot and sour pork with glass noodle salad and it was roughly $12/$13. Although it’s a salad, I didn’t expect it to be so, so cold. Their pork was more like tiny bits of minced pork hidden in the pile of noodles, almost like finding a needle in a haystack. And I could hardly taste any hint of hot and sour…After lining up for so long I felt like we’d make the wrong decision and wondered if their other dishes were better. Thus I wasn’t put off by the whole outfit, merely the night market idea, and was not afraid to drop by their actual restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant is located further down Little Bourke St, an area that I realised I have not explored, with Christmas signs and tiny Asian restaurants on a little laneway leading me towards Longrain.
A tad late, my friend had already ordered an appetiser (below) so it would come out soon. I’m not sure what it was called but it came with prawn crackers, lettuce and a bowl of salad-type dish with mint, chilli, prawns and more. It had that zing that comes from the strong aromas of chilli and mint and went well when scooped into the crackers. However, they only give you three crackers and lots of filling. You can also use the lettuce but it still didn’t seem enough, and we found it too strong and saucy to finish on its own.
At this time we were sitting in the waiting area near the bar and not properly seated yet. Despite us telling them that our last friend was about to arrive, they said they couldn’t seat us until she got there. We found this a bit silly but a common trend in the upper restaurants in Melbourne these days, as well as the no bookings for less than 6 people policy.
Finally, we were seated and served by a young waiter who sped through all we needed to know and the specials. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice and attentive.
Like many restaurants, the dishes are intended for sharing. The menu doesn’t state it, but they can do smaller portions for some of their dishes. The first dish that came out was the char grilled ocean trout with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (below, $19.50). We were quite hungry, thus when we saw this small portion (this is the normal sized portion), we were quite worried about what the rest of the dishes would bring.
We almost forgot about this when we tasted the trout, so soft and covered in Thai-inspired flavours. Despite this refreshing taste, I’m starting to find it difficult to differentiate the flavours from all these modern Asian restaurants as there is a high usage of lemongrass, mint and lime.
Fortunately the char grilled chicken, tumeric, lemongrass, chilli, lime (below) did not look as small. It was similarly flavoured to the previous dish, however I could taste a subtle, smoky BBQ flavour and the sauce added some spice. In fact a tad too much spice for one friend, and our waiter was nice enough to bring some cucumbers out for us to cool our palettes down.
It’s hard to go by these restaurants without trying their respective caramelised pork dishes, thus we tried their caramelised pork hock, five spice, chilli vinegar (below, $33.50). Our verdict remains as it was, that nothing will beat Red Spice Road‘s pork belly, but this dish still gained a favourite for the night. The caramelised flavour was just strong enough and the pork was perfectly cooked, but there wasn’t really much spice (not complaining).
Lastly, we ordered a small portion of Mussaman curry (spelt that way) grass-fed beef, kipfler potato and roasted peanuts as one of my friends didn’t want curry. This was quite different from the Massaman curries that I’ve tried, looking a lot redder, thus my friend who prefers Chin Chin did not like it at all. On the other hand, I found it reminded me of some Indian curries, and enjoyed the taste. But besides the beef, I didn’t enjoy the other ingredients in the dish as much.
Although out waiter was quite nice, we weren’t too impressed by not being able to be seated without our last friend present. The service was initially slow, with the trout coming out by itself and the following dishes taking their time. We pushed them by asking for the remaining dishes to come out together, which happened but after some time.
If I were to compare to the other restaurants in this series, we found it quite similar to Red Spice Road but not as good. Red Spice Road is just as, or not even as, expensive in some areas. They take bookings, they seem to provide more generous servings and I’ve also always been impressed by their swift and faultless service. An upside at Longrain was that they do have the option of brown rice, which we ordered (at $4 per person).
Longrain only takes bookings for lunch and only for groups of 6+ for dinner.
Lunch: Friday 12pm – 3pm, but also Mon-Fri between Dec 2 and Dec 23
Dinner: Mon – Thurs 6pm – late and Friday, Saturday, Sunday 5.30pm – late
They are located 44 Little Bourke St. Visit their website here.
Stay tuned for yet another modern Asian blog soon! Any guesses where it might be?