Laksa King @ 12 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
9 January 2011
Laksa King has, for sometime now, been renowned for its “famous” curry laksa. Laksa King’s relocation last year from its former unassuming, hole-in-the-wall location to its current flashier and more spacious premises has left diners divided over whether the standard of food, especially that of its curry laska, has declined as a result of the transition. Having never visited Laksa King in its former guise, I have no basis for comparison and can only evaluate its offerings as they stand today.
To our great disappointment, the famed chicken curry laksa was prosaic and ironically, the most substandard dish that we sampled. While the vermicelli and Hokkien noodle dish contained some tasty fish cake slices, the tender but chalky pieces of chicken, bean curd, bean shoots and eggplant were, altogether, very mediocre. Such mediocrity was further exacerbated by the all important soup base which was relentlessly dominated by coconut milk and which contained only trace amounts of curry spices. Given the existence of many superior variants around Melbourne, the popularity of the curry laksa at Laksa King is confounding. Indeed, I suggest that the curry laksa from the less publicised Straits Café in Doncaster will not disappoint.
Our meal followed with the beef curry roti chanai - a very banal version of the popular Malaysian dish. Accompanying the unspectacular flatbread was an underseasoned and one-dimensional curry, ridden with unyielding chunks of tough beef – the quality of which was not dissimilar to the swill often found in food court bain maries.
The “fried kuay teow” was not exceptional, but it was a vast improvement on the preceding two dishes. The unctuous flat rice noodles were cooked with an assorted of ingredients - shrimps, fish cake, Chinese sausage, egg and cubes of fried pork fat – all of which possessed a beautiful wok caramelisation. The dish had the perfect amount of heat, but ultimately lacked a depth of flavour.
To finish, we ordered the ice kachang – a popular Malaysian dessert that, in part, resembles an exceedingly glamourous snow cone. The palm sugar syrup and evaporated milk – flavouring for the shaved ice - lacked the punchy sweetness of superior ice kachangs, but to compensate, it contained a generous serve of tasty tidbits including red beans, lychees, grass jelly, green worm-like jelly and palm seeds.
Laksa King is certainly not deserving of the “King of Laksa” badge with which its proprietors have credited it (as seen on the menu under the heading “Laksa”). The offerings at Laksa King, and in particular their curry laksa, may have been commendable at one stage, but at present, they only go to show that semi-decent food is not always an essential ingredient to running a prosperous restaurant. Sometimes, all you need is prodigious, albeit unwarranted, hype. To be clear, the cuisine at Laksa King is underwhelming, overrated and just plain ordinary.
Rating: 2.5/5 (Poor)