Lee Ho Fook was founded by Victor Liong, Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh in 2013.
Trading Plates recently spoke to Liong to find out more about the inception of one of Melbourne’s favourite Chinese restaurants and how they create their signature taste.
Trading Plates: How did you come up with the idea for Lee Ho Fook?
Victor Liong: We wanted to create a cool, new style Chinese restaurant and we had a great little space on Smith Street in Collingwood. The concept of the restaurant was to cook a new brand style of Chinese food, in a vibrant and exciting dining room, with food that drew inspiration from all over China.
In 2015 we moved the restaurant into the current location in Duckboard Place in the CBD. We are housed in a 1920’s woolstore and while the concept remains relatively the same, we have a more diverse wine offering and a more polished space.
TP: What is your food background?
VL: I’m originally from Sydney, training at three hatted Marque restaurant with Mark Best (also of Pei Modern in Sydney and Melbourne), and then working with Dan Hong at the exciting, casual, Pan Asian eatery MsG’s, before eventually helping to open the giant Canto-Chinese restaurant Mr Wong.
I moved to Melbourne in 2013, worked briefly at the Town Mouse, Rosa’s Kitchen and Movida Aqui before opening Lee Ho Fook.
TP: How are the dishes devised?
VL: It’s usually quite a long process. We get inspired by travel, food, seasons, and produce and then we research the traditional methods of cookery in Chinese and other cultures to understand the best qualities of the dish and ingredients.
We then test the recipe and see if it works in the aesthetic of the restaurant, and also to see if any innovative ideas or processes come up while we run the dish. Then we tweak and refine it and then it goes on the specials menu, to test the market demand. If it’s a viable dish it then makes it onto the menu.
TP: Where do you source your produce from? What things are important to you when choosing ingredients?
VL: We work closely with growers and suppliers to maintain a consistency of supply and quality of product. We tend not to use produce that isn’t consistent or of small supply, this avoids customer dissatisfaction and offers a more stable offering for us.
It’s important to use a quality ingredient, the cooking we do is quite precise and is also very pared back to there isn’t much to hide behind, and if the cooking is good and the produce is good, we can’t help but make great dish.
TP: How often does the menu change?
VL: The menu at Lee Ho Fook changes depending on the availability of the produce, but there are a few menu items that will always remain. I like the idea of going to a restaurant and knowing they have your favourite dishes on the menu.
The peripheral menu items change depending on the sensitivity of the season, and if they’re good, we bring them back and the dish becomes a new classic.
TP: What are the most popular meals and drinks on your menu?
VL: When at Lee Ho Fook you must have the eggplant! I’d be lynched if I ever took it off the menu, it’s a great dish and I’m very proud of it. It’s a perfect showcase of what the restaurant stands for – innovative and refined Chinese classic flavours presented simply and stylishly.
The beverage offering is diverse at Lee Ho Fook, we sell a great variety of wines from both new and old world, and from both classically made and minimally intervened.
TP: What is your favourite dish and drink?
VL: I love Chinese food! On my days off I eat some kind of seafood with ginger and spring onion and drink Vin Juane from the Jura region in France – the perfect match!
TP: What do you feel is your point of difference from other restaurants?