In Short: Stroll down Willoughby Road in Crows Nest an you are presented with an array of dining options, one of which is Luho Restaurant. What makes Luho Restaurant stand out from the competition is its focus on pan Asian food with a Malaysian and Vietnamese influence. Where else you can get authentic Vietnamese Beef Stew with a side of equally sedap(delicious) chicken satay?
Looking for dining options in Crows Nest is generally pretty easy. There are an array of quality restaurants along Willoughby Road, including a couple of Chinese restaurants. Tucked away at the intersection between Willoughby Road and Holtermann Street with a contemporary vibe is Luho Restaurant. If you thinking what happened to Mamas Buoi, don’t fret too much as the chef from that restaurant has taken over and recalibrated with an emphasis on Malaysian food with a sprinkling of Mamas Buoi favourites. The name Luho is an indicator of the fantastic service you will receive as well, as Luho refers to a friendly common greeting in Hokkien Chinese dialect which means “How are you”.
The restaurant has an eye catching wooden feature above a brick wall count, with the name of the restaurant lit up in neon lights. An open kitchen behind the counter adds to the fun as you get to see the chefs at work. You can dine by the counter or along the wall facing outside so you can see the world go by as you blissfully enjoy your meal. Who knows, you might even spy a few of your friends who live around the area walk by, like we did.
Luho has an impressive drinks menu. From alcoholic house cocktails, wines and beers to non-alcoholic house mocktails, kombucha and even Vietnamese drip coffee. On our visit we stayed non-alcoholic, and opted to try a PS Soda Smoked Lemonade, which is lemonade with a subtle smoky flavour made with bush tonic, blackstrap molasses and ginger. If it sounds intriguing to you, thats because this is no ordinary lemonade, much like all other drinks made by PS Soda. This soda was first made at cocktail bar PS40. Now they have bottled their soda and are available in cafes and restaurants, like Luho. The smoky lemonade has the sweetness and tartness you have come to expect from most lemonade, but thats probably where the resemblance ends. PS Soda adds rosemary to lemon and lime juice, giving it a light smoky fragrance, adding a pinch of Murray river salt to bring out the flavours of the Lemon and lime. Little Coco and Viner Sammi loves her lemonade, so we thought that it would be a good test to have her try the PS Soda Smoky Lemonade. Not surprisingly she gave it a thumbs up and almost refused to return the drink back to Sacha!
When Chicken Satay is on the entrée section of a menu of any Asian restaurant, there is a good chance we will audition it. A good indicator of how good an south east Asian restaurant is by the authenticity of their satay. Luho did a great job with their chicken satay, as can be seen from the charred bits on the outside of the meat. Cooked expertly it still remained tender and juicy on the inside. It is fragrant from the marinade with a hint of creamy sweetness from the use of coconut milk. The sauce to accompany their satay is a thick, rich, fragrant peanut sauce that is full of umami flavours. We thought one stick per person was enough but if you are like us, fighting over who get the final skewers in the end, you might be better off ordering additional serves as three will disappear instantly.
Besides chicken satay, dumplings is another appealing entrée. Luho’s Prawn and Pork dumpling is plump and juicy, arranged like delicate jewels in the middle of the bowl. The skin of the dumpling is thin while the pork filling gives the dumpling a rich meaty flavour with the prawn adding a feel of luxury to the simple dumpling. But it’s the chilli garlic oil that elevates this dumpling dish to the next level. Chopped garlic is deep fried till its brown, crispy and fragrant, lends its fragrance to the oil that it has been fried in. It is then lightly drizzled around the dumpling and adorned with chopped green onions to add a contrast in colour and texture.
Mee Goreng is a common Asian wok fried noodle street food. Mee refers to noodle and goreng means fried in Malay. So this dish literally means fried noodles. What makes Mee Goreng different from other fried noodle dish is the use of thick yellow hokkien noodles, Kecap Manis (thick sweet soya sauce) and tomato ketchup to give it a characteristically slightly orange, sticky sweet flavour. In some versions, sambal chilli is also added to give it an extra kick. Luho’s Mee Goreng is quite authentic and taste similar to the ones you would get back in Singapore or Malaysia, except that you get the luxury of generous large prawns added in Luho’s version. And my eyes absolutely lit up with I spied the addition of deep fried pork lard, probably not the best for my arteries but I reckon you only live once and a little lard once in a while is indeed a special treat. There is no denying that the pork lard elevated this dish to the next level with its crispy, butter-like texture that fills your mouth with a unique fragrance with you bite into it. It is definitely one of the special ingredient that makes this a must-try dish at Luho.
Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho) is a delicious comforting dish made by slow cooking beef brisket with tomatoes, vegetable, lemon grass and galangal. Like many Vietnamese dishes, its origin can be linked to a French beef stew, but with an added twist by adding Vietnamese herbs, aromatics and a hint of chilli. Luho also adds a sprinkle of roasted almonds on top to give the dish some additional crunch factor. The end result is a supremely tender beef stew dish that is rich and complex in flavours, with creamy potatoes and some heat from the chilli. It is so addictive that it keeps you coming back for more. At Luho, you can order a bowl of steaming hot white rice to go with the stew, or I can imagine dunking pieces of crusty baguette bread, comforting! The highlight of this dish is the sauce, so make sure that it is generously mixed in with the rice and not leave even a drop in the bowl. That would be sacrilege!
If you are around Crows Nest and have a craving for Asian food, Luho is a great place for casual dining where you will leave feeling well taken care of, satisfied and happy.