338 Bridge Road
Richmond, VIC 3121
Jeow is pretty great. It straddles the line between fine dining and bold street flavours effortlessly, providing an elevated take on traditional Laotian flavours without muting any of its bright funk. The dining room does feel a bit stark when compared to the vivacity of the cuisine, but on the flip side, the way the sounds bounce off the walls in the small space provides plenty of energy so as to not leave the experience feeling sterile. Service is efficient and friendly, with plenty of knowledge under every belt, along with a willingness to share it. Don’t let the pretty and polite face of Jeow fool you – the uncompromising flavours do not hold back.
Rating: 14.5/20 – pocket rocket.
Good to know: look for the restaurant called Anchovy – this was the restaurant’s previous incarnation, but the old signage still remains 2 years onward.
The Steamed Tapioca Pearls ($6ea) are a big ol’ must-order, the tender gumminess of the dumplings filled with the contrasting savoury crunch of salted turnip and cashews. Popping half a dozen of these in one go does not seem unreasonable.
For more textural goodness, try the Pak Nang Lieur ($16, 2pcs) – a calamari-forward piece of house-made fish cake, sandwiched with betel leaf and fried in wisps of batter.
Round the snacks out with Steamed Rice Cake ($8ea), with a texture similar to firm tofu, flavoured with a spicy, umami-heavy cod fat relish.
Nam Khao ($25) – or its equivalent – is one of my favourite things to eat. The combination of fatty fermented pork sausage, crispy rice shards, and handfuls of herbs is an absolute sensory overload, and I love every second of it. This is among the best I’ve eaten, the flavours and textures perfectly balanced (not a soggy bit of rice in sight!), and the clever addition of shaved baby coconut gently overlaying, smoothing out all the sharp edges.
If you love the feeling of other diners’ heads swivelling around to check out your food, then the Miang Moo ($MP) is the dish to get. The cut of pork varies day-to-day, with the aim of the kitchen using up every last bit of the animal. On the day we visited, it was the coveted Pork Neck ($58) on offer, the fatty meat glazed with a sticky, aromatic lemongrass sauce and grilled over charcoal, ready to be wrapped up in fresh leaves along with a banquet of garnishes. It’s delicious, fun, indulgent, and refreshing – everything you could wish for in a meal.
The Caramelised ‘Honeycomb’ Cake ($12) refers not to the ingredients, but the texture and appearance of this steamed cake. Flavoured with palm sugar, there’s a distinct nuttiness to this slice. With a drizzle of rich coconut cream, this is a good choice for those who want something indulgent, but not too sweet.
My preference however, is for the Warm Tofu Pudding ($10). The ginger broth is zested up with a touch of marmalade, bringing a slightly more modern flavour to the classic dessert. However, I never understood the use of green ants in a dish; it doesn’t ever feel like it adds much, other than some token Australian-ism.
Most of the drinks here are of a grape variety, but don’t miss the Fig Leaf Soda ($8) – a unique offering that is a must for the fig fan. The fidelity here is remarkable, each sip accurately conjuring up the greenness of the leaf, the milkiness of the sap, and of course, just a hint of the sweet, pulpy fruit.