When we heard that the team behind HuTong were opening a new foodie venue, our heartbeat stepped it up a gear. Listers, it’s no secret that we love Asian food—the more authentic the better—so Lost Heaven, the new Melbourne Chinese restaurant from HuTong Group that’s specialising in Sichuan style dishes has been on our hit list since it opened. We’re happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint!
Lost Heaven is on the second floor of one of Bourke Street’s Asian influenced arcades. Somewhat hidden, the restaurant was packed out and buzzing when we arrived, with customers waiting patiently in its entrance, which, by the way, takes Sichuan styling to the max—the ornate woodwork, traditional ceramics and red drapes make it glaringly apparent you’re in a Chinese restaurant! However, no one was waiting for long and staff wielding iPads and earpieces seated us without hassle. First impressions: We love efficiency, so full marks there.
It’s important to note the difference between Sichuan cooking and generic Chinese fare. The southwestern province is famed for its love of strong flavours, and if there’s one flavour that dominates the style, it’s chilli. Spice fiends, Lost Heaven is your new best friend. We’re talking chilli, garlic, Sichuan pepper, and more chilli. Mountains of chilli. See those bowlfuls of chilli that greet you at the entrance? They ain’t decorative, people.
We took the ‘when in Rome’ approach to Lost Heaven, jumping in at the deep end of the spice scale and ordering the deep fried chicken with dried chilli. These little pieces of fried chicken deliciousness are juicy but not oily—the perfect plate for sharing with friends over a Tsingtao. The lamb skewers, dressed in spices, parsley and white sesame seeds really packed a punch too—again, another awesome dish if you’re planning on group dining and want to sample heaps of different dishes (…guilty as charged).
The showpiece of the evening was the Zhuge grilled fish, which comes piping hot with mushrooms, capsicums, celery, tofu and, you guessed it, chilli oil. This is the real deal—the fish comes whole (yes, head, eyes and all) and is served on a hot plate, as it would be in a traditional Sichuan restaurant. Again, if you love to turn up the heat, the spice-rubbed crispy skin of this particular dish will be a real treat.
As is so often the case with the best Chinese restaurants in Melbourne, we wished our stomachs were bigger! Lost Heaven’s hot and spicy duck tongue, five spice smoked fish and, of course, the wonton in hot chilli sauce all looked epic, and the menu’s massive list of hotpots marks it out as a great CBD spot for warming winter dining. If it’s uncompromising Sichuan food you’re looking for and you love dipping into traditional Chinese culture, add Lost Heaven to your own list—you won’t regret it.
Lost Heaven | Melbourne CBD
Image credits: Nick West for The Urban List