My recent visit to that particularly quiet laneway off Broadway had me chowing on home-cooked delights at Lestari. If Indonesian isn’t your thing then pop next door and try this one on for size – Best Handmade Noodle Restaurant. The name clearly sings its own praises so I suggest you go in and make your own judgment on yet another place in Haymarket that does Northern Chinese food. It’s been a little while since I had this type of Chinese so a top-up on some meaty dumplings and noodles was well overdue.
The restaurant is decked out with an eclectic bunch of paraphernalia from a “Cheers” bar sign to a gold pig sitting on plastic fruit plus small statues of a bull and crocodile. Aside from the flower mural on the wall it all reminds me of my family’s rumpus room back in 1985, except here they have wooden chairs and tables rather than a classy velvet (floral) corner lounge suite complete with mirrored mini bar & pop-up ash tray.
The fairly lengthy menu features the usual suspects so I go forth and choose my usual desirables. Shall we start with dumplings? Fried dumplings with meat (8.8). Not the most glamorous of names but at least it encompasses what you ought to expect. Nicely seasoned minced lamb in thick-ish pastry with the crunchiest bases I’ve come across. It’s juicy, it’s fatty and that external crunch was a welcomed surprise.
Carrying on with the theme I went for the fried handmade noodles (10.8) with, you guessed it, lamb. The noodles are thick and pliable and just what you’d expect but for some reason somebody in the kitchen took the liberty of cutting the noodles into short lengths. Personally I prefer to slurp on my noodles and have the odd one slap me in the face as it’s vacuumed away but the short stumpies I had here just weren’t going to give me any such satisfaction. The serving is as massive as any other Northern Chinese place within a ten minute walk, it’s well-tasty and packed with capsicum, cabbage, onion and just enough broth to help it go down faster. Add some chilli and your laughing. Or coughing.
A cucumber salad (9.8) is sure to cool things down a tad. Another generous construction of cucumber, tomato, onion, coriander, chilli, a heap of garlic and a good splodge of black vinegar. There’s a lot of crunching and chewing required for this one and that garlic will make you smell oh-so fresh. Mmm, pungent.
Coming to a Northern Chinese place and not having skewers of lamb or mutton is a completely wasted exercise so when I order the ones on the menu I’m told they don’t do them anymore because of the smoke. Huh? I’m sure it wasn’t the first time the girl saw a questioned look on a customers face. Here’s the thing: due to the smoke the char-grilled skewers produce when they’re cooking and the close proximity of residential apartments upstairs, skewered meat is no longer available. It hasn’t been scratched off the menu so if you ask for it you’ll hear the same story. Thanks to a bunch of disgruntled residents, or perhaps just one of them complaining about the smoke, it’s taken the high road.
Instead, in my silent protest, I try the fried roast lamb (11.8). It’s simple in appearance and lightly spiced with chilli, pepper and cumin. It’s a bit on the oily side, delicious and yet again they don’t mess around with the servings as the mound of steaming spiced meat was more than enough for me.
Damn those precious neighbours.