Spiced lamb spring rolls. Chicken with chestnuts. Eye fillet of beef in blackbean sauce. Fried rice that knows few peers and Singapore noodles that are a masterclass in how to rock a wok. If this sounds to you like the kind of Chinese food that twangs your antenna, you’re in for a treat. And if it sounds a bit like the food you loved at one of Melbourne’s landmark homestyle Cantonese restaurants, you’re really in for a treat. Lau’s Family Kitchen might have closed its doors in 2021 after 15 years in St Kilda, but some of the talented people from that kitchen are back, with a brand-new restaurant of their own.
Leaving behind the salty air of Acland Street for the northwestern, Essendon-adjacent micro suburb of Aberfeldie, head chef Yip Wu and chefs Qiang Wu and Tang Au-Yueng have set up shop in a brown-bricked strip mall address that has neighbourhood classic written all over it.
“We were driving around and realised there weren’t many good Chinese restaurants here,” says Oscar We, Benyue Kitchen supervisor of the decision to go north. “But there are so many customers coming from Lau’s.”
Not to mention many new fans, drawn by the promise of fragrant, deeply juicy soy-poached poussin, or huge prawns stir-fried with Benyue’s deliciously chunky XO sauce.
“The menu is quite similar, but a little bit different,” says Wu. “The siu mai, the salt and pepper calamari, the lamb spring rolls – they’re all popular. People like to order things they’ve tried at Lau’s, but they also like to try something new.”
In a Chinese food landscape that continues to embrace the diverse provincial treasures of regional China, Benyue Kitchen proves there is always room for quality Cantonese – just as there is always room for another lamb spring roll.
Benyue Kitchen, 365 Buckley St, Aberfeldie, 03 9337 1991, open Wed-Mon midday-10.30pm, benyuekitchen.com.au
By Pat Nourse and Frank Sweet