We've become quite slack about Northcote, only really exploring all the cafes and restaurants if we're in the neighbourhood for other reasons. This Sunday evening we'd hit up Women of Letters and were on the prowl for an early dinner. We'd had word that the veggie menu at The Wesley Anne had hit new heights, but the miserable weather made its only spare tables (in the courtyard) unfeasible. We needed something close by with indoor tables and good veg options. Cindy poked around on her phone for a bit and came across Vegematarian's endorsement of conveniently located Lâm Lâm. Problem solved.
It's a pretty basic looking place - not somewhere you'd go for a relaxed or romantic dinner. Lâm Lâm is about serving you cheap fresh food quickly and then getting you on your way. There's no shortage of demand - it was basically full when we turned up at 5:45pm and stayed that way for the next hour or so. Throw in a steady stream of takeaway customers and its clear that Lâm Lâm has found itself a market in Northcote.
The menu is massive, with a small section of well-marked veggie options. We thought about the char kway teow ($11.50) or the mi goreng ($11.50), but couldn't resist Vegematarian's suggestion of the crispy bean curd with spicy salt ($11). This was served with a tangy and spicy clear sauce and was excellent - it's hard to go wrong when you deep-fry tofu with loads of spices and salt.
To counteract the fried-ness, we also ordered the rice-paper wraps, stuffed with tofu, veggies and noodles ($8).
These were a pretty reasonable rendition, although some of the fun gets taken away when you're not building your own. The filling was probably a bit heavy on the noodles and light on the tofu and veggies for my tastes, but the thick and spicy dipping sauce made sure every bite was delicious.
Our final dish (which was pretty unnecessary - we were both pretty full after the first two) was the rice vermicelli with veggie spring rolls ($9).
We almost always order this dish when it's an option - there's something very satisfying about stirring little deep-fried spring-roll chunks through a noodle dish and pretending that it's okay. This was another decent effort - the spring rolls were delicious, there were a reasonable amount of veggie pieces and the noodles were good. It won't change your life, but it will do an excellent job of filling you up for $9.
Lâm Lâm is a cheap and speedy dinner option in Northcote - as Vegematarian notes, it really has the feel of Victoria Street rather than High Street. I wouldn't suggest heading to Northcote specifically for a visit, but if you're in the neighbourhood and feel like a quick and satisfying meal you could do far worse than stop in.
A few bloggers have enjoyed Lâm Lâm - Vegematarian's post was our prompt to visit, while Happy Nation and The Tasty Dozen were also impressed. Asian Restaurants in Melbourne and Juganaut's Foodie Thoughts had less enjoyable experiences.
209 High Street, Northcote
veggie dishes: $4-$11.50
Accessibility: Lâm Lâm has a flat entryway but is pretty crowded inside. You order at the table and pay at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.