Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Chef Lagenda Malaysian Kitchen (Flemington)

16, Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington, VIC 3031
Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon
Translating into "The Legendary Chef", this place has a lot to live up to, and it does in some ways with key signature dishes but fails in service and the over-intensity of other dishes. I would still go though for a few dishes that I do like here.

The Place
Pokey place that's well spaced inside and well ventilated. Tastefully decorated and comfortable chairs, I do like coming here ocassionally. The toilet being accessed through the main dining space is not ideal though. Parking is generally ok around the area along Pin Oak Crescent and the back streets.

Things to do nearby: This is set in the main shopping area of Flemington.

The Food
It's hard to compete witht the size, reputation and variety of Laksa King next door. However, there are some dishes they do particularly well, including;

Hainanese Chicken Rice (above) which is probably the best one west of Melbourne. The Lagenda Meal deal is a good deal and their chicken rice is fragrant, with perfectly cooked white cut chicken or roast chicken. The chilli sauce is a bit too sweet with not enough vinehar for my liking. Not the best in Melbourne but easily the best in the west.

Lobak is like a very meaty spring roll with beancurd skin wrap. In East Malaysia - we call it ngo hiang. Coming from East Malaysia - I tend to prefer more savoury than sweet dishes. The lobak here appeals to me because it's not overly sweet and the skin is lightly crisp. Good way to start a dinner.

Some of their other dishes can be very intense. Their laksa and tom yum soups for example are really really rich, which is not for everyone.

Spicy Seafood Laksa

The basic Roti with curry (pictured below_ - came with a strange sauce which was a cross between a curry and a satay sauce - very weird and sweet. I didn't like it at all.

The Service
The service is pretty average and informal. They don't always pay a lot of attention and friendliness is at a premium. This is a challenge to many diners and is often the thing that lets them down. However, the food does come relatively quickly and together, for the whole table.

Because I love chicken rice, I will visit Lagenda more than Laksa King. This is more a place for a quick meal and no fuss dining. Not for family gatherings really because it's not well set up for that.

Cultural Moment

Beef Rendang and Coconut Rice

Actually, the service here is better than most of the eating houses in Malaysia. Here in Australia, we expect a certain level of service, which we rarely get but continue to expect. In many parts of Asia (exceptions are Japan,Thailand and Vietnam) - service is a fine art form of leaving the customer alone except when serving good and collecting money. There is no desire to get to know the diners and repeat business is not necessarily seen as a function of good service but good food. It's only in the finer dining places that you get a higher level of service - just.

Yet, in Australia, there's a sense that we do expect more from the places we go to eat. Why aren't they more friendly? Why aren't they more communicative? And often, it's a bit of a let down - though I have to say, I am let down a lot less in Melbourne than in places like Perth and Brisbane. For me - I'd at least like an acknowledgement and a smile... I don't ask for too much - I think :).


  1. Prefer The Grand Tofu, around the corner, to both Chef Lagenda and Laksa King these days. The chicken rice and laksa I have enjoyed at Grand Tofu in the past month have been super!

  2. Ah ha! Grad Tofu review coming up in the next month :) Plus Grand Tofu has the Yong Tofu varieties.