It's not every day a Michelin-starred name makes its way to Melbourne. So it's little surprise that the queues for Hawker Chan, the new Melbourne outpost from celebrated Singaporean chef Chan Hong Meng, have been a firm fixture since its doors opened in December.
The restaurant is a spin-off of Meng's original Singapore food stall, which is one of just a few hawker eateries to ever win a Michelin star. That's right — you can now get your mitts on one of the world's cheapest Michelin-quality feeds right here in Melbourne.
For his Lonsdale Street venue, Meng has recreated the feel of a classic Singaporean hawker centre. You order your meal at the front counter and collect it on a tray once your number flashes up on the big screen. The lights are bright, the tables are bare and there's a buzzy atmosphere that goes hand in hand with a cheap and cheerful feed.
And cheap is kind of an understatement here. The menu is a celebration of simplicity and value for money, with just a handful of favourites headlined by the chef's famed signature dish of soya sauce chicken with rice ($6.80). It's mighty hard not to love the kitchen's trademark Cantonese-style chicken — tender, juicy meat that's been braised, skin and all, in fragrant stock and spices, then chopped to order. As with the menu's other protein dishes, you can pay a couple of extra bucks to switch the accompanying rice for a pile of springy thin noodles ($8.80) or house-made hor fun ($8.80) — flat rice noodles.
Meng's also kicking goals with his finger-licking pork rib recipe, which'll have you shamelessly nibbling every last bit off the bones. If you're feeling extra carnivorous, try it teamed with chopped roast pork belly and char siew as part of the three-combination platter ($18).
The lineup of sides is equally minimalist, including a fragrant wonton soup ($7.80) and a flavour-packed Thai-style tofu — fried and drizzled with sweet chilli sauce and crushed peanuts ($6). Throw in a serve of house-made chrysanthemum tea ($3) or sweet plum juice ($3) and you'll find it pretty easy to imagine you're actually worlds away, living it up in Southeast Asia.