The new kid in Melbourne’s Chinatown
When you think of affordable Asian food, what often comes to mind is a no-frills venue with quick, indifferent service from no-nonsense waiters. Not so at Melbourne Chinatown’s newest pan-Asian restaurant, Niübi. Instead, sitting high in the middle of the CBD, you’ll find an ultra-modern, inviting space offering a refreshing reincarnation of the Asian dining experience that gives the term “fusion” a whole new meaning.
The brainchild of up-and-coming hospitality group, Team Rassassy, Niübi is a slang Mandarin expression frequently used among Chinese youth that means “f***ing awesome” – which is a sentiment the team hopes every visitor will agree with.
The four-storey brick warehouse at 11 Heffernan Lane where Niübi stands has strong historical links with Australian Asian cuisine, not only as the location of one of the first Chinese restaurants in Melbourne in the 1800s, but also the first Chinese eating establishment in the city frequented by Westerners.
Placed at a site with such a pioneering history, Niübi aims to live up to its heritage of cross-cultural ideals with its offering and service. The venue describes itself as fusion, but not in a way you’d expect. In fact, Niübi’s menu – developed by chef Iven Foo – stays true to authentic South-East Asian flavours, with only subtle tweaks to suit Aussie palates. Foo achieves these traditional tastes with an array of spices that are imported directly from Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. The result is a selection of homey, heart-warming dishes, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in Melbourne
Niübi offers a set meal format with a curated selection of an entree, meat side, vegie side and signature dish. On the more affordable end of the scale, customers can choose Niübi’s aromatic curry fish head. Or you can go for a more premium option with the best-selling live mud crab soup with vermicelli, cooked fresh from the tank and set in a perfectly-balanced creamy soup. For those seeking a truly unique piece of luxury, you should try the succulent Asian buttermilk live lobster, slow-cooked in a sauce of buttermilk, curry leaves, chilli flakes, condensed milk and curry powder, and served with deep-fried buns.
Matching the fusion-style cuisine is the fusion of experience. The venue’s chic, ultra-contemporary interior is certainly worthy of the ’gram – despite the building being heritage listed. Positioned in a playful and carefree arrangement that marks a stark move away from cramped, unorganised layout typical of many Asian restaurants, spacious, pastel pink booths, wicker dividers and a bold red feature ceiling create an aura of warmth that invites visitors to settle in and get comfortable.
With many residents returning to their home countries and international travel on hold, Melbourne’s iconic Chinatown has been one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. However, as Melbournians rediscover the joys of dining out, Niübi has every confidence that the venue will act as a driving force to return the cultural precinct to its former glory. While international borders may be closed, Niübi aspires to allow its customers to travel through their taste buds with a truly eye-opening, gastronomic experience.
A sleek, photogenic venue with delicious food offerings no doubt already attracts attention. However, it’s the youthful enthusiasm and genuine desire for connection with their customers that has Niübi capturing hearts. Whether as a warm-up to a big night out, or for a long recovery lunch the morning after, Niübi is the place to go for a new experience moulded by the golden trio of tantalising Asian flavours, of Melbournians’ love of dining out and of genuine Australian hospitality. In short, it truly is f***ing awesome.
To find out more or to make a booking, head to niubi.com.au