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When I think about my previous dining experiences in St Kilda, only a handful of eateries and dishes come to mind. There’s the gourmet pizzas and paper pastas at The Banff, peri peri chicken from Nandos, and of course fish and chips by the beach. I clearly haven’t done enough eating in the St Kilda area, but a recent addition was introduced to that list with a visit to U-Village Restaurant. I would like to thank owner Zhao Kai Yee, U-Village and Chique Events for the opportunity to visit and dine at U-Village as a guest.
U-Village is a family-run restaurant chain that has experienced much success in Malaysia, and the St Kilda restaurant is not only the first of the chain to open in Australia, but also overseas.
The abundance of woody tones and green pot plants injected an atmosphere of natural liveliness into the venue. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had been served food in biodegradable and good-for-the-environment dining ware! The bright red gerbera daisies added a splash of colour to the sea of yellows and greens.
Guava, Lychee and Lime - guava nectar, fresh lime and lychee.
I was expecting a sugar-laden drink but was instead pleasantly surprised by the Boost Juice-like smoothie that we were served. The drink was refreshing and not overly sweet. The flavours melded together well, to such an extent that it was difficult for me to distinguish between the individual components.
Five-spiced prawn - with sambal, lime, caramel sugar, on perilla leaves.
U-Village’s take on battered prawns was tasty, and the first of the food set the bar high for the remaining dishes. The only qualm I had was that one per person was simply not enough! The batter was extremely light and delicate, and its presence highlighted, rather than overpowered, the firm prawn underneath. The dusting of caramel sugar had me raising my eyebrow (figuratively, since I can’t physically do it), but it worked! Both the sugar and sambal added a sweetness that balanced perfectly with the lingering five spice in the batter.
Duck san choi bao - with pomegranate, pine nuts & sweet soy dressing.
I’ve never been taken with san choi baos since it’s just lettuce and mince, but the lettuce parcels served at U-Village were quite enjoyable. Be warned though: the sticky broth/sauce was super runny and I found it impossible to eat without making a mess on both the plate and my hands… The flavour of the duck combined with the richness from the broth-like sauce and the earthiness of the mushroom+carrots took my taste buds straight to one of mum’s slow-cooked broths. The bursts of juiciness from the pomegranate brought a unique and fresh touch to the dish.
Thick red rendang curry - with soft shell crab, kaffir lime leaves, eggplant and mint.
We knew we were in for a treat even before taking a bite of the rendang curry; the flavoursome coconut aroma wafting from the curry had me and J salivating from afar. As anticipated, the coconutty sweetness along with the pungent lime leaves were immediately picked up by our taste buds. The sweetness soon faded to spiciness, and boy, did that curry pack a punch! J isn’t usually a fan of coconut-based curries, but he enjoyed U-Village’s rendang immensely thanks to the perfect ratio of sweetness to spiciness. The mint added some freshness that provided a welcome relief to the spice. The soft shell crab itself brought great crunch and a fried crispiness to the curry. Being one of their signature dishes and featuring great flavours with a super generous serving of soft shell crab, you can’t go wrong with the rendang curry.
24 hour sweet vinegar braised pork belly - with cinnamon, chilli and black peppercorns, served with mango salad.
Similar to most Asian preparations of pork belly, the braised meat was tender but not to the extent where the meat starts to fall apart. The use of sweet vinegar and cinnamon brought a touch of ‘east’ to the fusion dish, and paired nicely with the coriander. The heaviness from the fatty portions of the pork belly was offset by the crisp and mildly spicy mango salad. The pork was a pleasant dish overall, but it was the rendang curry that stole the show for both me and J.
Steam Thai Jasmine rice.
Black sesame and peanut butter parfait - with peanut crumble and tangy lemon.
Peanut, sesame… and lemon?! Just like the sugar on the battered prawns dish, I had my doubts about the flavour combination. But to my surprise and delight, the sweetness of the peanut sesame ice cream, the savouriness of the nutty crumble and the sweet+sour tang of the lemon drizzle worked perfectly with one another. Furthermore, the sharp citrus flavour from the lemon sauce helped cut through the richness from the peanut sesame ice cream. Peanut-enthusiasts will enjoy this dish - I harbor a dislike for most things nutty, but would happily order this dessert again.
Pandan creme brulee - with salted honeycomb.
Our night finished on the highest of notes with U-Village’s interpretation of creme brulee. I LOVE my pandan desserts (especially sponge cakes), and was swept off my feet by the fragrant pandan flavour in the brulee. Good thing I was already sitting, hey? The caramelised sugar layer was spot on, and resulted in that crunchhhhhh you want to hear when you first crack into a creme brulee. While the creme itself was perfectly light and creamy, it was a little too runny and probably needed just a short while longer to set. I was so blown away by the flavour of the pandan brulee that I ended up forgetting about the honeycomb until J reminded me half way through consumption. The contrasting saltiness of the honeycomb accentuated the flavours from the creme brulee, but its presence seemed negligible.
From the friendly and prompt service to their delicious twists and takes on Asian cuisine, U-Village easily matches up to the other top players in Melbourne’s Asian fusion restaurant industry. With other dishes like FIVE SPICED CHOCOLATE CAKE, crispy taro soft boiled eggs and deep fried silken tofu catching my eye, a future visit is most definitely in the books. Of course, I also wouldn’t say no to another serving of that rendang curry or pandan creme brulee…
Disclosure: the opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.
1/29 Fitzroy St,
St Kilda, Victoria, 3182.
(03) 9537 1129