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Scorcher reviews: Lagoon Dining — ‘Lygon Street has spun back into play’

Lygon Street just keeps going BANG!

In decades past, Melburnians fell out of love with Lygon. But the once-tired historic street is in the midst of a metamorphosis, transforming from a drab, sloppy-pizza strip to one of Melbourne’s premier dining hubs. While the place will never shed its Italian soul, Lygon and its surrounds now offer food fans an array of top-flight eateries and cuisines from all over the globe.

These days, Carlton’s famous thoroughfare could almost be described as an incubator for Melbourne’s next generation of on-trend restaurants, like the way Hawthorn footy club has become a great breeding ground for AFL coaches.

New kid on the block, Lagoon Dining, is one of those restaurants at the coalface of Lygon Street’s changing fortunes. I reckon this place is a cracker, the kind of place I enjoy having a feed in. Lagoon Dining’s food offering is broadly Chinese, but it’s a Chinese restaurant viewed through a Melbourne lens.

It’s smart yet casual, where diners are free to nip in for a drink over a few snacks or have a full, belt-busting meal.

Two former Ezard chefs spin the spatulas here and they have devised a boredom-banishing menu that may result in dilated pupils and spontaneous eruptions of elation.

The most surprising (and pleasantly so) dish for me came from the snack list: the hot and sour shredded potato with Chinese rice-based black vinegar and pickled mushrooms was so tangy and gorgeous I immediately wanted another plate. Gnarly nuggets of popcorn chicken (banish all thoughts of greasy KFC from your mind) were tripwire triggering flavour detonations. With flavours dialled up to Rambo-type levels, the kitchen’s motto here appears to be “go big or go home”.

Other dishes that may cause gob explosions on the starter list include Xinjiang spiced lamb ribs; taut and tasty pork and cabbage dumplings with a sambal black vinegar dressing; hot and numbing beef tartare and smashed cucumber with sesame oil and garlic. A list of wok-based dishes leans heavily in the vegetable direction.

The oral slug-out continues over mains. I don’t think you can, or should, go past ordering the charcoal grilled char sui with spring onion relish. Australians don’t tend to eat a lot of pork but this dish may cause you question the sense in that.

Also on the bigger list of proteins are beef short ribs with a black pepper sauce and sweet and sour daikon; and steamed market fish with pork scratchings and spring onions.

So, a modern, trendy Asian diner on Lygon Street? Nowadays that doesn’t look out of place.

As Rex would say, Lygon Street has spun back into play and gone BANG!

Lagoon Dining, 263 Lygon St, Carlton; open Weds-Mon; starters $4-$16, wok dishes $14-$16, sharable mains, $35-$49; Feed me menu $70pp; lagoondining.com

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