Behold the crab omelette. A cloud-like union of sweet crab meat and an egg scramble hovering somewhere between liquid and solid, it’s a dish of such disarming simplicity it will make you forget how hard it is to get so right.
Served just with black pepper and sea salt, it’s not only exhibit A for the pitch-perfect Cantonese cooking at Benyue Kitchen; it’s a talisman of the baton-passing from Lau’s Family Kitchen.
Opened by a group of chefs central to the much-missed St Kilda favourite that closed earlier this year, this is the kind of restaurant phoenix operation we can all get behind. Planting their flag in suburban Aberfeldie has meant a boon for the locals and a study in geography for others who have never had cause to head to this northwestern `hood before.
You’ll want to order the Lau’s favourites. Those lamb spring rolls are here, all shattery shell and grunty, cumin-fragrant filling. The volcanic-looking siu mai is a faithful rendition of dumpling excellence made with Queensland prawns and pork. The salt and pepper squid, a lesson in the beauty of a clean fry.
The word is out that some of Melbourne’s best suburban Canto can be found behind this unassuming brown brick façade. The split-level room and its high-gloss wooden chairs and tables fill quickly. There are multi-generational groups and date nights; it’s a place that ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
Word is also out about the soy poussin, which is served in limited numbers (plus it takes a half hour to prepare, clock-watchers). Order ahead to secure for yourself the luxe poultry delights of the glossy caramel-skinned bird poached in herby soy liquor that’s so aromatic and tender it could have flounced off a table at the hallowed Flower Drum. But it’s no crime to opt for the Peking duck – order it in servings of two pieces or six – which is made from dry-aged birds and boasts the requisite skin shatter to temper the pancake softness.
It’s worth venturing deeper into the predictably long menu, where proteins come with so many sauce options it could send the indecisive into a choice coma. Meaty Hervey Bay king prawns arrive pouting and ready for their close-up in a chilli-dotted sea of the pungent house XO and the impossibly glossy-green, just-cooked sugar snap peas. The ma po tofu-adjacent Szechuan eggplant is a bowl of Cantonese penicillin with the comfort factor of an Oodie.
Over-ordered? Don’t worry. The service smarts of Lau’s have also been cloned, and the words “doggy bag” are no source of shame. Our advice? Double down to embrace double happiness for lunch the next day. It’s another way this newcomer is letting the good old times keep rolling.