Thai and Malaysian cuisines are renowned for their exquisite flavours and have grown increasingly popular over the years in Melbourne. But what if a restaurant combined both of these cuisines? This is exactly what Kerabu has accomplished.
As an extension of my gastronomic journey I visited Kerabu Southeast Asian Restaurant after seeing an impressive 4.2 rating on Zomato/Urbanspoon. It had certainly lived upto the hype in many respect.
I had been to Kerabu last year and my 2nd visit to Kerabu was last weekend. We didn't have a booking. As we tentatively stepped into the small restaurant with huge glass windows we were greeted by a polite waitress. Upon learning that we had no reservation she checked their guest list and advised that they had one empty table. Thoroughly relieved we made our way upstairs where a smiling waiter ushered us to an empty table.
Our table was laid with small plates and cutlery wrapped in napkin. A pair of black chopsticks rested on a white ceramic chopstick holder which was a nice touch. We were handed a menu which was well-organised and seemed to cater for all palates and included meat, vegetarian and gluten free options. Food was predominantly Thai with Malaysian influence. I was tempted by the likes of seafood stir-fried with greens, braised soy duck, Thai duck salad, tom yum soup and more. Decision-making proved to be even more difficult as the delicious smell of food wafted to our nostrils and enticed our senses. We finally placed our order with some assistance from our friendly waiter.
My wine arrived first. Light and potent, the Riesling ($9) was delightful. As we eagerly waited for our food I took in the ambiance of the restaurant. Simple décor adorned the small seating area which was dotted with humble black seats and tables. The spick and span state of the dining area was duly noted. The wait staff were rushing around attending to customers.
Tables had started filling up and within quarter of an hour the small restaurant had become full to the brim. Animated conversation and peals of laughter added to the lively vibe. We had a sneak peak of someone celebrating their 30th birthday with their family and friends. Our neighbours appeared to be regulars as they shared a cheerful conversation with their waitress who clearly knew them.
For entrée we had sang chow bow, hoy jor and prawn wonton. It didn't take long for our food to arrive. As 2 hungry souls attacked the food the noble thought of taking photos of the first 2 entrees was completely forgotten.
The sang chow bow ($6.50) was a huge lettuce case filled with diced prawn, chicken, water chestnut, mushroom and peanut served with a sweet and sour sauce. I drizzled the filling with the sauce and held the lettuce case like a taco and dug my teeth into it. It was a quite refreshing dish with the combination of the tasty filling. Having to share one lettuce case between 2 people was tad difficult but we managed. While this dish was quite lovely, I have had better sang chow bows. The next item I turned my mind to was the hor joy ($12.50) which was crab, chicken and fish with water chestnut rolled in crispy tofu pastry. This dish was nothing special to write home about. The crispy skin gave way to bland stuffing which failed to impress.
The last entrée was the prawn wonton. With a twist to the normal wontons, crunchy wonton skin was layered with chunky prawns and salad. The first bite led to a flavour explosion in my mouth as my tongue discovered the juicy prawn meat, tantalising salad mix including smashed avocado and crispy wonton skin. I was glad that we had taken up the waiter's recommendation and ordered 4 instead of the standard 3 wontons. It would have quite challenging to divide 3 delectable wontons between 2 ardent fans. The 4 wontons were $20 and were worth every penny.
After we finished the entrees, the plates were replaced with new bowls as we awaited our main.
Our main was red curry duck ($25) which was a treat to my tastebuds. Thin slices of juicy duck meat was cooked in beautiful thick red curry with smooth texture. I pried out couple of tasty okras. Fresh, succulent lychees were used as topping. We soaked up the savoury curry with the thin, crusty roti bread. Traditionally, roti canai is presented with dhal (lentil curry) or any kind of curry. It was interesting to note that roti canai in Kerabu means roti bread minus the curry. But we weren't fussed. We took our time as we relished every moment of dipping small pieces of roti bread in the duck curry and chewing them slowly until we licked the plate clean. It was divine!
The red curry duck could easily rival the sesame crusted duck – another item on the menu. We had tried the sesame crusted duck on our first visit and found the deboned duck sweet and sticky. Personally, I prefer savoury dish which is why if I had to pick my favourite from any of these dishes I would happily order the red curry duck again. I also remember the tom yum soup being exceptional from my first visit.
No trip to a restaurant can be complete without dessert. But we had to politely decline our water's offer of dessert menu. We had loosened our belt and had been lulled into a gratified state and were ready to depart. Our feast was billed as $85.
We found the food a bit hit and miss. Some dishes were top-notch, while others lacked flavour. Wine was tasty. It was not cheap but it was quite reasonable for a good night out. Staffs were attentive, helpful and efficient. Our glasses were never empty and our empty plates were cleared with a flourish.
Vibrant atmosphere was an attribute of Kerabu, while the nice location was another drawcard. Conveniently located at 151 Burke Rd, Glen Iris, guests can easily access abundant parking behind the restaurant. If you opt for public transport then there is a tram route around the corner. Tram route 6 and stop number 51. Kerabu allows BYO which is definitely a plus. Kerabu is open for lunch and dinner on Friday and open for dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Kerabu is closed on Sunday and Monday.
I will score Kerabu's food a wholesome 3.5 out of 5. While everyone's palate is different, you may find their food more or less flavoursome. I know I will be returning for the wonton, red curry duck and to sample some of the other dishes on the menu.