18 Punch Lane, Melbourne CBD

We arrived…

on a busy Friday night and were welcomed warmly by the maître D. As the biggest group in the restaurant, he sat us at a long wooden refectory table near the open kitchen.

We chose here because… As first-timers in Melbourne, we were told Sunda is the hottest place to eat right now. The much-hyped Punch Lane eatery has exploded on to the dining scene, serving Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes – with a contemporary twist.

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Sunda's
Sunda's "otak otak," made from crab stock, coconut cream, their own curry paste and set into a silky smooth parfait. Photo / Instagram

Our first impression was…

That we definitely weren't cool enough to eat in such a hip spot. Sunda is so "cool" and "industrial" that it doesn't even look like a proper resteraunt – more like a half-finished building site, framed in scaffolding.

In case you think I'm exaggerating, I was so confused and uncool I even asked a waiter if they were undergoing renovations. They're not.

We started with… The most Aussie entrée you've ever heard of – buttery vegemite roti. Yup, just like toast for plebs, but better and bougie.

Egg noodles coated in crunchy chicken crackling. Photo / Instagram
Egg noodles coated in crunchy chicken crackling. Photo / Instagram

Working our way through a degustation, we quickly moved on. Rendang buns with pickled fennel and sambal, coconut curried crab parfait and lamb rump followed - we found ourselves on the brink of needing to be forklifted out of that building site.

The highlight of the night was… Egg noodles coated in crunchy chicken crackling. Like the mi goreng you lived off at university, but delicious, and minus the immediate regret.

Dessert was… Look, I'm not much of a sweet tooth, but I didn't even know myself by the end of the night. A jasmine-infused rice cream with dehydrated lime and mandarin is something I would never order in a million years. Even though I was supposed to be "sharing" one with my group – they didn't get a look in.

Vegemite curry roti, loaded with umami and gentle spice. Photo / Instagram
Vegemite curry roti, loaded with umami and gentle spice. Photo / Instagram

Come here if…

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You want to try Asian fusion as it's actually meant to be, not just boring bao buns with sriracha mayo. Plus, you'll feel like you've become at least 45 per cent cooler just be turning up at this place.

The bill… Pricier than Auckland, but relatively standard for a set menu in Melbourne: $85 per person for a selection of dishes from each section of the menu, plus $50 for matched beverages.

- Sinead Corcoran