Modern cuisine is a difficult beast to master. Get it wrong and you can have an entire culture at your throat clearly offended that you've unwittingly massacred its cuisine. On the other hand, if you do it well something original and mind-blowing can be created. Being such a multicultural city, it is not at all surprising that many of Melbourne's top restaurants are of a fusion or 'modernised' theme – most of which are a westernised take on Asian food.
1. Chin Chin
Deemed the new cool kid on the block- Chin Chin is a much hyped-up modernised Thai restaurant/bar that is sure to endure for years to come. This place is always busy so unless you're prepared to wait at least an hour for a seat, I recommend coming for lunch when it is quieter. They do serve some mean cocktails though, so an alternative would be to have a drink by the bar before you get a seat. For something different try the coconut ice drink with vodka- it's refreshingly delicious.
The menu highlights are definitely the Son-in-law eggs ($8), caramelised sticky pork ($21) and Green curry with rockling ($16), but frankly everything I've tried here has thus far failed to disappoint. Make sure you leave some space for dessert though- they are absolutely divine with an exotic twist. My personal favourite is the Layered jellies with pineapple and toasted coconut ($11). Chin Chin is like a trip to a mystical Thai wonderland that is sure to put your tastebuds through a whirlwind of flavours.
Another famous Thai fusion restaurant, Longrain is perched at the eastern end of Chinatown, open for dinner only with the exception of Friday lunch. Unlike Chin Chin this place has been around for a while and knows it's worth. The atmosphere is intimate with oval tables designed to accommodate large groups and communal dining. The prices here are anything but cheap but the food is definitely worth paying for.
The Eggnet filled with pork, prawns, peanuts & caramelised coconut with a cucumber relish ($31) is a visual masterpiece and a fine example of how Thai food can be very refined. The Crispy fried river trout tossed with shredded banana blossom is also a winner with the entire fish on the plate in the traditional Asian style. Desserts are innovative and beautifully executed. Try the vanilla tapioca with tropical fruits and young coconut ($14). Cocktails are also a specialty here - don't overlook them!
3. Red Spice Road This eatery is a quirky South-Eastern Asian restaurant with an emphasis on communal dining. Long tables are designed to accommodate couples or large groups and be prepared for the possibility of rubbing elbows with strangers or new friends while perusing the strange modern artwork dominating the walls. The value-for-money lunch banquet is a must: 3 mains and an appetiser for $25 per person or 5 mains and an appetiser for $30 per Person. The must-have dish is the Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel, Black Vinegar and Apple Slaw, which is deep-fried to a crunch and covered with a honey-sweet sauce---the ultimate guilty indulgence.
4. Omah's Less ostentatious than most eateries its calibre is the unassuming Omah's situated in the heart of Port Melbourne, serving delicious fancy Malaysian fare. The atmosphere is quiet and perfect for a low-key dinner with family and friends. The highlights include the creamy coconut prawns ($27.90), Nyonya Lamb Vindaloo ($19.50) and the delightful Mud Crab ($45.90) in a choice of different sauces- chilli is the top of the pick! Be sure to order a generous serving of roti to wipe clean the fragrant and flavourful sauces. If Port Melbourne is on the wrong side of town for you, do not despair as there is a sister-restaurant in Hawthorn. The service is excellent and be sure to compliment the magnificent meal with a nice bottle of wine to fuel the intimate conversations.
Melbourne has always been bustling with good Asian restaurants but few have the 'It' factor to top off the high-quality food. Combined with a quirky menu, innovate and broad beverage options, excellent service and quirky decor the above restaurants are sure to be a fail-safe choice for a fun night out.