Blue Chillies

182 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, VIC 3065

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Opening hours Daily 12pm-2.30pm,Mon-Thurs 6pm-10.30pm,Fri-Sat 6pm-11pm,Sun 6pm-10pm
Features Outdoor seating, Private dining
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Soo Lam Tan
Seats 110
Payments AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9417 0071

Blue Chillies is a veteran of the seen-it-all Brunswick Street strip. It has stoically outstayed neighbouring shops, which continue to come and go with the fickleness of fashion. And despite changing little in its 11 years, this is still a handsome space. The wooden pigeonhole wall sparsely arranged with produce, the bare, tightly spaced tables crowded with chairs and the polished concrete floor and low-level lighting were all cutting-edge back in their day.

The large Malaysian menu is clearly categorised and offers great variety. Entrées span the familiar satay chicken dressed with peanut sauce ($6.50) and bean-curd-skin spring rolls filled with julienne fungus, carrot, cabbage and bamboo shoots ($6.80).

Composed of Indian, Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and a hint of Thai, Malaysian cuisine has elements that are familiar, but it's the combination that's refreshingly unique. Calamari pieces come on cucumber sticks that temper the aromatic tang and kick of chilli, garlic, ginger, lime and tamarind sauce ($28). Unfortunately, the calamari can be inconsistently cooked, with rubbery pieces in the mix on our visit. Faultless, though, is blachan spinach ($16.80), the deep-green leaves wilted from the wok and coated in chilli shrimp paste. They're bold, undiluted flavours.

A few contemporary twists on the menu show the same confident approach, such as wok-fried rockling fillets topped with egg floss - a bit like savoury fairy floss ($29). Blue Chillies effortlessly pulls off flashes of inspiration like this, along with the traditional fare that's now part of the Western way of life: Chinese-style fried rice ($13), curries and noodle dishes. And that's what sets it apart from the whims of what's-in, and makes it a rewarding place for a wintry dinner.

In a few words: A small well-designed modern Malaysian restaurant that serves hawker- and restaurant-style food.
Come here for: A bowl of curry laksa, $14.