Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn is no slouch when it comes to good eats, but it’s been a while that anything opened on the strip that wasn’t franchised or plastered with giant neon signage.
Naxi Folk is the opposite—it’s small, discreet, made of timer and bamboo, tucked onto the main drag about 20m up from Readings. We liked it immediately.
For one thing, there’s a solid theme running through the restaurant. These guys specialise in Yunnan cuisine. Yunnan, if you need a geography brush-up, is a huge province in south-western China, and the Naxi are one of Yunnan’s 25 ethnic groups. Yunnan spans a big region, and the cuisine pulls flavours from all over the place: spicy Sichuan chilli, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Makes for a pretty interesting menu.
Want to see what a Yunnan breakfast looks like? Think son-in-law eggs, soft boiled, with fresh-made corn bread, sesame crackers, pickled mushrooms and Kaffir lime chilli jam. Or maybe a pan-fried roti wrap with garlic-chilli sauce (the chef’s puff up the roti in the pan, cut a slit in the side, then pour in whisked eggs).
For lunch, the signature Yunnan “Hand Grab Plate” is the way to go. It’s a big bamboo server, layered with banana leaves, and on top you’ve got a mix of pickles, beef jerky, BBQ fish, chicken, pineapple fried rice and seasonal vegetables. You plonk it in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves—that’s the Naxi way.
Tea is also a big part of Yunnan culture, and the crew have sourced some really interesting Pu’er fermented tea (it’s hard to find this stuff anywhere else). If you swing by on Friday or Saturday nights, you can even enjoy a traditional tea cupping ceremony.
What’s interesting about Naxi Folk is how many hats it wears. There’s an all-day restaurant (decked out in a stunningly low-fi mix of bamboo, treated timber and woven plastic bench seating), but you can also grab morning coffees straight out of the street-front window
A lot of the team have been adopted from the (now defunct) Archie Green in the CBD. Very happy to see Stuart Quinn on-board—he’s the ex-Somm from The Atlantic, and he’s put together a smart little by-the-glass vino menu.
Hawthorn locals (or anyone who loves good, authentic Chinese) give Naxi Folk a crack. We reckon you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White