L'il Buddha Asian Cuisine is located opposite Salamander Bay Square, in the beautiful Port Stephens region. It can be found in a tucked away location - so much so, that our family had driven past it a number of times and never noticed it. It wasn't until a local told us about this affordable and family-friendly restaurant, that we began to seek it out.
Our family visited L'il Buddha on a Saturday lunchtime and when we walked in, the place was full of diners - happily sharing steaming hot plates of food and chatting away. We were warmly welcomed in and given a lunch menu, which had specials for every day of the week ranging between $10 - $16. As we had our young daughter with us, the staff member also brought over a container of coloured pencils and told her that she could draw all over the paper tablecloth. She looked at her incredulously. This put a smile on our daughter's face - and ours!
Welcoming décor, with a L'il Buddha at the back...
Although everything on the lunch menu looked and sounded delicious (as well as the smells coming out of the kitchen!), we chose the Combination Laksa and King Prawn Laksa off the lunch menu. After living in Canberra, where we enjoyed exceptional laksas, we were happy to find a local restaurant who had a variety of laksas on the menu. According to the friendly staff member, it was a laksa recipe that had been handed through generations of the one family, which made us anticipate it even more.
When they arrived, we couldn't wait to dig in and see if they tasted as good as they looked.
Lunch Special - Combination Laksa with beef, chicken, pork & fishcake ($14)
The broth was a smooth, tasty coconut curry flavour - spicy but not too "hot". The abundance of bean sprout toppings added a level of crunch and coolness and went perfectly with the mild heat that lingered on the tongue. Although I personally wasn't too enamoured with the flavour of the prawns in my King Prawn Laksa, the tofu was beautifully crispy on the outside and was so soft inside, that it fell off the fork. Simply delicious.
The Combination Laksa was the stand-out of the two, with slow-cooked meats, tender tofu and a flavoursome fish slice that we hadn't seen before in a laksa - but thoroughly enjoyed. Both bowls of steaming hot goodness left us just as happy and content, as the Buddha at the back of the restaurant.
See their Facebook for photos of their other lunch specials and dinner menu selections.
Our young daughter loves a stir-fry and she was happy to hear the staff member say that she could pick what she wanted in her stir fry, as each one is made fresh. She chose chicken and carrots with oyster sauce and hokkein noodles, which was cooked quickly and came out in a large, steaming bowl. We were also given a takeaway container to take what she wouldn't eat home, so she could enjoy the rest for dinner that night.
Design your own dish for the kids - chicken, carrots, hokkein noodles and oyster sauce ($14)
Our family enjoyed our visit to L'il Buddha - it was surprisingly family friendly, had exceptional food and friendly staff. Just like all the other locals sitting inside the restaurant, we will also be return customers and be back again for their laksas and stir-frys - and to also try other items off their extensive lunch and dinner menus. From looking at the meals that were delivered to other tables next to us, it appears to be the kind of restaurant that it doesn't matter what you order, it will be a memorable meal every time.
It is also BYO, so you can match your favourite white or red, with your favourite spicy meal.
Cheers! Honey Pepper Chicken, a popular dish on the menu. Image: Lil Buddha Facebook