The trend for new year’s eve 2018 was not what new year’s resolutions you’d made for the coming year, but a highlights reel of your archived Instagram stories of the last year.
I’d plumb forgot to make plans for new year’s eve; I was working for most of it. Thank god the influencers of New Zealand had my back and reminded me of it. The 30th of December found me scrabbling for other strange but similarly free creatures who (were probably working new year’s eve and/or day and) would make me feel not so (hopeless and) alone on new year’s eve. With friends Steph and Sigourney in tow, we descended on the Viaduct Harbour for a late dinner at the new Hello Beasty.
If you’re familiar with the Melbourne food scene at all, you’ll have encountered the likes of Chin Chin and Supernormal. Both are fantastic Asian fusion restaurants, the former impossibly hard to get a table at even after several years of business. Hello Beasty has a similar feel, particularly to Supernormal; a bit quirky, with a clever as it is cute design concept, and food drawing inspiration from all corners of Asia. Despite the Korean and Japanese writing that accompanies Hello Beasty’s logo, the menu is as much influenced by Chinese cuisine.
New year’s resolution #1: be more assertive.
But our dinner was nearly not to be. When we arrived at Hello Beasty and asked whether they could take our group of three, the front of house stared blankly, like a dear in the headlights (pun intended). There were a few tables free and evidently some more soon to be vacated, but the dear paused awkwardly and announced they had a few booking and couldn’t take us. Spying the free bar I asked is there any space at all, and said that we would happily be seated at the bar if they would be prepared to serve us there, to which the dear replied after another long pause ‘oh, yeah’. The service thereafter was friendly, efficient, and more laterally thinking.
New year’s resolution #2: treat yo’ self.
I usually save my cocktails for after dinner but it was NYE after all. Steph and Sigourney plumped for Suntory Sours, a Japanese twist on this classic with Suntory Kakubin whisky, yuzu and egg white. A great cocktail as is, but for round two, Sigourney wanted something a little stronger, and the barman happily concocted another Sour with a darker twist (more yuzu, more bitters!), which pleased her greatly. I ordered the K-Pop cocktail, a whimsical mix of soju, pomegranate and ginger. The tangy and lightly spicy drink went down very easily.
New year’s resolution #3: be unconventional.
The menu at Hello Beasty is refreshing and inventive, bringing together fantastic New Zealand produce and then spinning them in never before seen ways. Sharing is a must here, and dinner would be no fun if you limit yourself to one or two items. We selected widely off the menu but avoided the potstickers and gua bao (we’re not on Dominion Road, after all). We started with the line caught trevally, a positive sign of things to come. Accompanied by avocado puree, pickled radish, sesame laver, chives and a white soy ginger dressing, the dish was reminiscent of salt and vinegar, albeit with a subtle Oriental twist. This dish was so good in fact, we hung onto the plate and left over dressing to dredge our next dish, the Korean Fried Cauliflower, through. Whilst Korean Fried Cauliflower, or similar renditions of it, is not a new concept, Hello Beasty’s version was the best I had tried. Small, popcorn-chickenesque florets of cauliflower dredged and fried in a crispy batter (not the least bit greasy) were dressed with sesame seeds and a sweet and spicy soy glaze. Crispy, moreish, delicious.
The crispy soft shell crab was another knock out dish. The foodie in me gets excited when I see an ingredient I need to Google to find out what it is; in this case it is the yuzu kosho, which for the record is a fermented Japanese paste made from yuzu zest and juice, chilli, and salt. You’re salivating now, aren’t you? The crab was also teamed with a miso caramel, a treacly umami bomb that had us nearly licking the plate, and a refreshing coriander chimichurri.
From the larger plate section came our slow cooked Kaipara lamb shoulder with Sichuan spiced sauce, whipped avocado and spring onion flatbread. The lamb shoulder was fall apart tender and adorned with mint, spring onion and coriander, lifting the heaviness of the dish. The Sichuan spiced sauce was warm and soothing, although I’ll admit I was expecting a bit more pizazz; when I see the name Sichuan I expect flavour that shake my tastebuds awake rather than gently coaxing them around. The spring onion flatbreads were a novel way to accompany our slow-cooked meat, and the avocado puree on the side providing another refreshing and herbaceous foil. To counter the fried dishes we’d eaten earlier, we ordered a dish of charred broccolini with shaved kombu, garlic crumbs, egg and mustard dressing. The wok hei, or wok-charred flavour of the broccolini was excellent and contrasted well with the tangy mustard dressing and savoury kombu flavours.
After this there was no room for dessert. But I intend to return not just for dessert, but to try the other dishes on the menu, which I suspect will be just as fantastic.
95-97 Customs Street West
Ph. +64 21 554 496