MELBOURNE | Opening recently next door to one of my favourite Melbourne bars, Union Electric, is Niubi. The restaurant, which I was invited to, is named after the Chinese slang term for “fucking awesome” (and an altogether different literal translation that I’ll leave you to look up).
It’s housed in a beautifully restored four storey brick warehouse, and features a menu by chef Iven Foo, focusing on South East Asian flavours (mostly Cantonese, Malaysian and Thai) with slight tweaks for local palates. I’ll admit that when I saw “subtle tweaks to suit Australian palates” on the press release I was wary, but there was enough that looked interesting on the menu that made me keen to check it out.
The restaurant is housed in a historic four-storey warehouse which was the Wing Ching cafe from 1892, Chung Wah in the 1920s, and Wing Loon until the building was gutted by fire in 2010. It’s been beautifully restored, the subtle modern touches playing well with the building’s brick and wood bones.
What did I order? Well the House Signature Garlic Black Roast Pork (pic one) is a sweet, spicy, and sticky delight. Another highlight is the silken tofu with white egg “gravy”. It has a wonderful mix of soft and gelatinous textures and bright umami laden flavour. The “Famous” Curry Fish Head, served properly with fins and the rest still on, is also quite tasty, with a mild and fragrant curry and tender fried fish atop puffed tofu, okra, soft eggplant, and noodles.
The sweet and sour sesame jellyfish make for an interesting snack, with a strong sweet and almost tomato like flavour, and that unique squishy jellyfish texture.
A note to those with a nut allergy – the kitchen uses peanut oil for almost everything, which means that this isn’t the place for those with a nut allergy (poor Lauren had to watch me eat all of the things while nibbling on her Hainanese chicken rice without the sauces).
All in all, Niubi is a restaurant that you’ll enjoy if you know what you’re in for. South East Asian dishes, many (but not all) tweaked to appeal to a wider audience. Not necessarily a bad thing, given what I enjoyed, but something to keep in mind, managing expectations and all.
11 Heffernan Lane
Sun – Sat: 11:30am to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 11:00pm