Queensland Asian-fusion sensation Junk Boat has officially tip-toed out of the Sunshine State and set up shop in Melbourne’s CBD…and they couldn’t have picked a tougher spot. The restaurant is tucked down Punch Lane, a stone’s throw from Rice Papr Scrs and Ho Chi Mama, two of the city’s fusion kingpins. If Junk is going to succeed here, it’s going to have to bring its A-Game. Hawker-style fusion and overpriced parking are the two things the CBD does better than anyone.
Fortunately, the early signs are looking good. The space is exactly what you want from a post-work boozer and dumpling bar: pop art and graffiti cover the walls, the décor has a neon, playful edge, and the Tiger beer comes out frosty, in huge stein-like glasses. We flirted with the entrees, ordering Crispy Peking Duck Spring Rolls and the Soft Shell Crab Bao. Both were delicious, but the bao in particular disappeared scary-quick: pillowy pockets stuffed with crispy crab legs, chipotle and burnt-lime kewpie mayo, and a tangy pickled slaw.
The menu lends itself to sharing, but there’s nothing stopping you hogging a whole Massaman Curry or Satay Rice Bowl if you’re feeling selfish. We opted for the crispy pork belly with kaffir lime and dark plum sugar caramel, a drizzle of laksa and green papaya salad, and the Ramen—a western-style take on the Japanese classic, with a light broth, thin-sliced pork and gooey soft-boiled egg.
There’s a lot to like about the Junk model. The prices are reasonable. The food is tasty. And you can get a 2.5L Tiger Beer Tower for $55. All ingredients for a solid Friday night.