Madam Lu Malaysian Restaurant in Canberra review

We finally found a Malaysian restaurant in Canberra which we think serves authentic Malaysian food that would make any Malaysian proud. There was a buzz about this new restaurant in town sometime in December last year and that’s when we first heard of it. Then, one of our friends Tony, went there and had a feast—he raved about the mud crab dishes and we thought we should give it a try. But it was only in mid of February this year when Rosemarie suddenly developed an intent craving for chicken rice, did we decide to try this simple fare at Madam Lu Malaysian restaurant.

To the uninitiated, chicken rice sounds like some boring dish. But to most of South East Asians particularly Malaysians and Singaporeans, Chicken Rice also known as Hainanese Chicken Rice is a national dish. The authenticity of an entire restaurant can be judged on this one dish. But we did not go to judge this restaurant, we merely went to satisfy a craving and by the time we finished our dinner, we were awed by the food and hospitality of the place.

It’s an unpretentious restaurant that reminds you of modest restaurants back in South East Asia, where the décor is simple, but the food served is a delectable experience. We took our seats and quickly ordered. The young friendly waitress soon brought out some sambal and laid it in the middle of the table. Sambal is a paste made out of a variety of chilli peppers and aromatics—it’s one of those things I can’t describe in words. I simply eat it which is what I preceded to do, and it was so darn good that I ate it all at one go in probably like 37 seconds. And suddenly out of nowhere someone came and stood next to me with a big smile across her face.

Auntie Ming aka Madam Lu, the owner, is one of the friendliest restaurant owners I have come across in a long time. She is genuinely hospitable, and her banter is cheerful. She bought me more sambal and filled that serving bowl two more times during the evening. Despite a busy evening she came by to check if we were doing fine with our food and orders.

The chicken rice arrived, the chicken was moist, the rice full of flavour and the condiments accompanying the chicken rice was perfect—salty dark soya sauce, finely chopped ginger and spring onion sauce offering that lovely umami flavour and tangy chilli sauce providing that perfect balance to this homely meal. Chilli is a given, and if the chilli sauce accompanying the chicken rice is not prepared well, it can make or break the whole experience, but at Madam Lu, it did not disappoint. Rosemarie was practically drinking it!

With an open plan kitchen in an apartment, it’s hard to fry belacan (shrimp paste) at home without stinking up the place, so when we saw kangkong (water spinach) belacan on the menu, it was something we just had to order. This is a dish that goes well with plain rice, but we were happy to scoff it down own its on. The spicy vegetarian fried rice and omelette filled with red chillies and onions (on special request) was satisfying. And then there was dessert… bringing back childhood memories for Rosemarie… deep fried banana with ice cream and sago gula Melaka (for coconut milk infused with palm sugar fans).

This is the first time I am not going to end this post. But this will be a continuous piece because there are so many other dishes we want to try at this restaurant. So as and when we keep going back, we will update this article with more pictures and perhaps more experiences at Madam Lu.

Here are some pictures from the evening…

If you find us gorging away and one of the tables during your visit, please do not hesitate to come and say hi. See you there! Madam Lu is located right in the heart of the city: 20/42 W Row, Canberra ACT 2601. Visit their Facebook page for more details.

Joseph Ellis