Laksa King or Chef Lagenda? The opinions on which restaurant does the best Malaysian hawker food is as divided as the opinion on where you can get the best pho in Melbourne. We personally loved Laksa King when we first tried it, but we thought that it’d only be fair to give its next-door rival a go as well.
Unlike the canteen-styled Laksa King next door, the decor inside Chef Lagenda is a lot more subdued, with exposed brick and dark wood lining the walls. The only thing that seemed out of place were the chairs – as opposed to ones that matched the table, the patrons were either perched on colourful plastic stools, or heavy stainless-steel chairs. Luckily we got the latter. Hooray back support!
|Curry Laksa ($9.2)|
First up was of course, the Curry Laksa ($9.2). The broth here is quite heavy on the coconut milk, which muted the punch of the spices. The toppings were excellent, with generous amounts of fresh prawn and chicken, fish cakes and tofu puffs, and a lovely wedge of eggplant that soaked up the lemak-ness of the broth. The surprisingly addition of mint was cleansing, and very welcome. This bowl of noodles is only subtly different from the one served next door, but it’s more than enough to divide diners into two camps. As for myself, I prefer the laksa served at The King. The one here is good if you want a creamier noodle soup, but the richness got to be a bit too much by the end.
|Fried Koay Teow ($10.2)|
My all-time favourite dish to order at a Malaysian restaurant has to be the Fried Koay Teow ($10.2), rice noodles stir-fried with Chinese sausage, prawns, egg, and a good dose of chilli. The most important thing about this dish is the wok-hei, otherwise known as the breath of wok, referring to the charred taste from being cooked at very high temperatures. This dish certainly had the wok-hei going; in fact, it’s so caramelised that it’s verging on bitter. I never thought I’d say this but, maybe the wok hyperventilated a little. That aside, it was a good plate of noodles, with the barely-cooked and still-crunchy bean shoots being a highlight, though it could have been improved by a heavier hand with the chilli. It’s not the best fried koah teow I’ve had, and it’s certainly not a meal for the calorie-conscious, but there’s something to be said about mouthful after addictive mouthful of luscious, slippery ribbons of noodle.
Service is efficient and a bit perfunctory, but not unfriendly. I’d rather go to Laksa King for the laksa, but if I’m not in the mood for that, then it’s really a coin toss as to which restaurant I’d prefer. Maybe I’ll just do what most people do, and pick the one that has a shorter line out the door.
Rating: 13.5/20 – hyperventilating wok.