Liking Luk’s take on Luxe
Because I had never tasted any of the food of Chui Lee Luk, one of Sydney’s famous chefs, I was delighted to venture forth as Noodlies’ representative at the launch of her menu for the Luxe chain (whose motto goes “we create artisan breads, brew flavourful coffee and make great food”).
Luxe branches can be found in Singapore, Miranda, Bondi Junction, Newtown and Woollahra.
Malaysia-born Chui Lee Luk’s career has encompassed being Claude’s chef and fourth owner, and a recent guest gig at Berta restaurant. In signing her as creative director to the Luxe chain, Jonathan Harvey, owner and founder of Luxe, referred to Lee Luk’s love of French and Asian cuisines.
To save my appetite, I tried not to eat too many of the canapés guests were served in the courtyard of Luxe’s Woollahra outpost. These came more from the European end of the mixed cuisine we were to enjoy – stubby ‘doughnuts’ of a parmesan filling, crumbed and deep-fried, and dipped in a parmesan cream sauce; and a crisp crostini (from one of the Luxe artisanal breads), topped with a winning combination of buffalo mozzarella and shiitake mushrooms.
Once we were inside, seated, and served the entrée of grilled octopus with Chui’s XO sauce, but before we tucked into it, Chui explained how she was blending her signature cooking along with Luxe’s brand, which she described as being “all about comfort food”.
… all about comfort food
Her Asian upbringing was “reflected, in a way”, she said, in the XO sauce she’d concocted, with its ingredients including extra virgin olive oil, ginger, garlic, dried chillies, shrimp and scallions, and “this time, with Luxe ingredients of bacon, chilli oil and smoked ham”. Ah, that would be the comfort food factor.
The octopus was softness itself; the sauce was not European in style, definitely Asian, more like a tasty paste enveloping the octopus.
Elaborating on her cooking style, Chui said she was “going through a stage where I want to eat healthily”, and that only one of the dishes featured her renowned style of buttery sauce – the Roasted barramundi, plum pickled eggplant and ginger butter sauce. “The ginger cuts the muddiness of the barramundi,” she explained.
To my taste, the ginger was hardly discernible; the sauce was delicious, and I regretted even more that I had never eaten at the now-defunct Claude’s. The healthy element came into play with sides of broccoli with hazelnuts, and a well-balanced coleslaw.
The other standout dish for me was a Chinese-style roast duck – glazed, however with that stalwart of Italian cuisine, balsamic vinegar. It is easy to do this blended Asian-European cooking when you truly know what you’re doing.
As I was saying goodbye to one of Luxe’s charming part-owner staff members, I could see Chui Lee Luk in the open kitchen, scrubbing out a baking sheet. I remarked how that was so not the action of a prima donna chef.
“Yes,” he agreed, “she’s a star; she’s amazing”. I can only concur.
Her influence on the Luxe menu can be tasted at Luxe Woollahra and Singapore right now, and will be rolled out through the other venues from August onwards.
118 Queen Street, Woollahra
Keren dined as a guest of Luxe. Photos supplied.