Awarded head chef Leigh Power brings a melting pot of cuisines and retro references, as well as his signature ability to balance incredible Asian flavours, to Subiaco with new venue Shui.
With nuanced share plates taking inspiration from the unlikeliest of places – sesame toast, perhaps, given an update with a sourdough-esque crumpet, or the savoury ice-creams of the 80s reinvented in a beef tartare – creative cocktails from partner Benny Tua, and a seriously fit-out rich with neon lighting and origami references, Shui guarantees bold food served with a side of harmonious energy. We asked Power for the run-down.
Take me through the menu, what’s your pick to start off a meal?
The whole concept of the restaurant is shared dining, it’s the sort of dining that I’ve become accustomed to. Currently, the kingfish spring rolls are probably the stand out dish that everyone raves about, cured kingfish, avocado purée, and a red-vinegar caramel drizzled over crisp spring roll pastry. Or the Abrolhos Island scallops with a yuzu-miso dashi and peanut crunch. The beautiful sweetness of the scallops counterbalances the chilli and citrus in the yuzu. For a vegetarian option, the woodfired king oyster mushroom with a tofu curd whip. The king oysters are meaty and textural and take on that smoky flavour, and we serve them with a Sichuan crunch with crisp fried garlic, crisp fried shallot, toasted black and white sesame and prickly ash.
You’ve built a reputation for bringing modern Asian flavours to your cooking during stints at Gingerboy in Melbourne and Sweetwater in Fremantle. How do you approach creating a new menu that heroes those same flavours but offers diners a new experience?
There’s so many ideas and so many dishes that I’ve got and haven’t been able to put in place yet. I read cookbooks from different cuisines and time periods and try to come up with my spin on dishes. I try to pay respect to the cuisines and the dishes and the flavours and bring a modern twist and my own interpretation to them.
And what’s the overarching vision behind Shui?
I’m just having more fun, and trying to be more in touch with traditional style and techniques, but making it as modern as possible and fun. We’ll change the menu seasonally or when I feel that the team in the kitchen needs more inspiration. It’s always good to keep the team learning and passionate about what they’re doing. I like having a signature, and that’ll always stay, but I like to keep things moving.
What do you recommend for a larger dish?
The ayam masak merah, a sticky, viscous Malaysian-style red coconut chicken curry made with turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, coriander root, shallot, garlic and fresh and dried red chillies. Or the wood-roasted crisp pork belly with a mein “crack” sauce, which is a super punchy and aromatic lime- and fish-sauce-driven dressing similar to a sweet-salty Vietnamese nuoc cham. Aromatics like garlic, ginger, shallot, chilli and coriander bring it to life, the citrus cuts through, and it all works really well with the fattiness of the pork and the crunch of the crackling. And for a vegetarian option we have the pad krapow tofu.
What should I be ordering to finish?
My favourite dessert at the minute is a bubble-tea brûlée, which comes with a gula ice-cream. I’m working on some new flavours: one is a play on a classic Italian dessert of strawberries, balsamic and mascarpone but with a black vinegar ice-cream rather than balsamic. We’ll have a play with that, maybe with a black vinegar caramel drizzled over with the strawberries and some fried basil.
And to drink? Tua has form at places like El Grotto and L’Chaim, so we’re expecting big things.
We’re doing a spin on some classic cocktails, but adding new flavours. The Only Fam Martini is a spin on a Pornstar Martini, swapping out the traditional passionfruit for mango. Our Jasmine Negroni is super tasty and super smooth, and our Yuzu Sour is probably one of the most popular drinks, just nice and clean with a nice yuzu punch.
What’s can we expect to pop up on the menu next at Shui?
Cauliflower has been a signature at my last two venues, and I don’t have cauliflower on the menu at Shui as yet but there will be one coming at some stage, I’m testing a few ideas. Try the shichimi-spiced tempura okra instead, it’s super fresh and crunchy and has a little bit of bite to it. We dust it with the shichimi spice when it comes out and serve with house-braised sambal.