Chef David Kew review

Cook your own dinner: the spicy hotpot.
Cook your own dinner: the spicy hotpot. Photo: Scott McNaughton

140 Cotham Rd Kew, VIC 3101

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Opening hours Tue-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed, Groups
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 8548 7881

As you enter Chef David Kew, there is no way of knowing the wonders that await. You step into a sparse gallery with inscrutable neon, past a child-sized manga-ish cat mascot and through a swing door.

Things escalate. A dynamic LED wall looks like a fiery galaxy. A sushi train with not-actually-sushi trundles by. Cauldrons steam on gleaming black tables. It's arresting and fun and created by people who clearly love restaurants.

Those people are the David Group, which launched in Melbourne in 2017 with a gleefully over-the-top hotpot palace on La Trobe Street and quickly expanded to 10 restaurants.

Kew's new Chef David restaurant features a sushi train (right).
Kew's new Chef David restaurant features a sushi train (right). Photo: Scott McNaughton

The linking characteristics are glitzy decor and fusion Chinese cuisine with Sichuan underpinnings. Chef David Kew is the latest: it's theatrical but backed by high-quality food.

There are two distinct eating experiences: a la carte hotpot and all-you-can-eat sushi bar.

If you're a la carte, you might start with excellent Sichuan-peppery noodles, juicy Peking duck and a swanky sushi platter bathed in wafting liquid nitrogen.

Kingfish sashimi with wafting liquid nitrogen.
Kingfish sashimi with wafting liquid nitrogen. Photo: Scott McNaughton

You then move onto hotpot: choose a broth, order dipping ingredients (scrolled beef slices, fish balls, tofu, noodles, everything) and cook your own dinner in a steamy, social spice haze.

At the sushi bar, there's hotpot for one, heated on an electric plate right in front of you, and 50 ingredients to pluck straight from the train for DIY poaching. Ready-to-eat dishes (including sushi) can be lifted from the tracks too.

Your experience depends on the number in your group. Singles and duos should reserve the sushi train. Groups of three or four are ideal for shared hotpot. Large groups better book one of two private (and joinable) rooms for 10. They come with a lounge area and a balcony for puffing on cigars, should that be your pleasure.

The Heaven cocktail.
The Heaven cocktail. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Chef David Kew is new, the menu in tweak mode and staff still schooling up, but the enthusiasm infusing the restaurant smooths out any rough edges.

It's energetic, interesting, the food is super tasty and I have a feeling the joyful surprises will keep coming.

Rating: Four stars (out of five)