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Clever pan-Asian cooking can be found in the thick of Lygon Street’s Little Italy
Lagoon Dining takes foods from across the world and transforms them into contemporary, Chinese-inspired dishes, all the while drawing upon Japanese and Korean influences too.
The venue is clad in black and white tones, with whitewashed brick walls, a black wrap-around bar and a grid pattern that dominates the sides of the walls and greaseproof paper sheets. The food, however, is far from the angular, monochrome interior.
Sydney Rock oysters sourced from Merimbula are adorned with a crimson red pool of the venue’s fermented, house-made hot sauce that gives the creamy molluscs a palatable kick.
Chefs Keat Lee and Ned Trumble are both ex-Ezard and Longsong, and have added a few new dishes to the menu’s usual repertoire. One of the newer dishes is their take on kingfish ceviche. The raw fish is saturated in a yuzu kosho vinaigrette and topped with layers of pickled celery, puffed buckwheat and sesame oil. It’s a delicate, textural delight that fans out on the plate.
While Lagoon’s welcomed take on the steak tartare sees Sichuan influences owing to the peppercorns. In this version, strands of fresh coriander, pickled shallots and the residual spice from the numbing peppercorns dance on your tongue. Load it up on a charred half of a Chinese doughnut and appreciate the lingering oil from the doughnut cutting through the fresh tartare. The numbing properties of the Sichuan chilli will creep up on you and get your tongue buzzing after a sip of anything carbonated.
A pai huang gua, or Chinese smashed cucumber salad, envelopes chunks of smashed cucumber and black fungus in a silky layer of sesame oil and garlic, its irregular surfaces working to absorb the seasoning but maintain its fresh, watery flesh.
Also new on the menu is the curried spanner crab fried rice that imitates a smoky Cantonese fried rice. Fresh pieces of spanner crab litter the dish, which is topped with crisp shreds of conpoy that have been steamed, shredded and then fried by the chefs. This conpoy also makes up the base of Lagoon’s XO sauce.
The drinks list has been simplified since the venue reopened and presents a varied array of both local and international wines. It’s also the only place in Melbourne to serve Corta Y Raspa La Atalaya from Andalucia - a briny, savoury drop with notes of green apple that, like all wines on the list, does an exceptional job at pairing well with Southeast Asian food. The cocktail list is short and sweet but the house spritz is refreshing and shows off Lagoon’s house-made citrus liqueur and sparkling wine with a splash of soda.
Canary yellow lucky cats sit perched across the wall and oversee patrons as they dine, nestled on bench seating or propped up on black chairs that match the tables. Recessed ceiling lights are dotted throughout the venue that give it a sultry ambience, making it the perfect spot for dates or an intimate catch up with friends, while bar seating gives solo diners the chance to hide out and enjoy dinner and a show as they face the kitchen and watch as woks go up in flames.
The service appears smooth and works like clockwork. The wait staff will have walked the entire venue effortlessly in the time it takes for you to read “yuzu koshu vinaigrette” on the menu. Overall Lagoon Dining is a welcome change on Carlton’s Lygon Street that challenges the concept of authenticity in a simplistic yet bold way.
263 Lygon Street
|Opening hours:||Tues-Sat 5:30pm-late; Sun noon-2:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm|