Meet Mick Huang of Infuse in Camberwell
Article posted: June 20, 2017
To enter a brave new world of flavours, visit Infuse in Camberwell.
Following renovations and a complete overhaul, the restaurant reopened in October 2016 to offer food lovers a culinary experience that pushes the boundaries of traditional cooking.
With more than 15 years’ experience cooking a range of Asian cuisines, Infuse’s co-owner and chef Mick Huang saw an opportunity to blend authentic Asian flavours with a western touch. He runs the business with Greg Lee, who has also played a key role in designing the dishes and creating the concept of the restaurant.
Although Huang trained to prepare and cook Asian cuisine in traditional ways, he was always keen to experiment in the kitchen.
“I was looking for a different concept. I noticed that some incredible Asian food was not being embraced in western cultures, especially when it came to dining out,” he said.
“So, I decided to fuse the traditional flavours of Asian cuisine with modern, westernised cooking techniques and presentation.”
One example is Infuse’s pork belly dish. Huang said pork belly would traditionally be marinated and roasted in an oven when cooked in Asia, but he has adopted the popular westernised method of slow-cooking the meat. He then brings in Asian elements like Chinese five-spice and Vietnamese-inspired rice crisps and adds another western touch – apple puree. The result is a delightful fusion of flavour.
Huang said he had to experiment a lot in the kitchen when developing recipes to ensure the combination of different flavours, cooking techniques and presentation worked.
“We can’t follow a traditional recipe because we’re trying to do something different,” he said.
“It’s about finding the balance in the flavour. I’m always asking: do we have to balance sweet with sour flavours? Do I need to add some crunchy texture? We’re always thinking about ways to balance a dish while keeping it interesting.”
A one-stop eatery
Infuse not only blends the flavours on their menu, it also combines a café environment with restaurant-quality food and a bar menu to match.
The eatery is almost round-the-clock and is an ideal choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Guests can pop in for a quick breakfast of coffee and a toastie, call in for a light lunchtime salad, or take their time to enjoy a long and slow dinner with multiple courses. The restaurant is an option for evening drinks too, with an extensive beer, wine and cocktail list on offer.
The breakfast menu leans more towards a westernised meal – expect smashed avocado on toast, buttermilk pancakes and eggs your way – while flavours become more interesting for lunch and dinner.
One of the restaurant’s most popular lunch and dinner dishes is the Atlantic salmon with grain salad and miso caramel, as well as the seared tuna salad (pictured, above) which incorporates fresh ingredients like cos lettuce and mango.
“The tuna salad has got that sashimi taste but then it’s seared on the outside. And the peanut sauce, which is slightly sour, has a distinct Asian flavour,” Huang said.
A place to feel at home
Venue manager Amy Zhang said Infuse was focused on giving customers a friendly and local experience.
Some of the restaurant’s staff members have been around for years, serving at the site when it was run under previous businesses, and have cultivated a loyal relationship with regular visitors.
“We want to offer that local quality and give people a reason to keep coming back. We want to make people feel like they’re at home when they visit Infuse,” Zhang said.
Offering quality customer service is also a strong focus for Infuse.
With front-of-house staff working closely with those in the kitchen, “there’s no tip-toeing around what customers want”, Zhang said.
This close communication among the team means that dishes can be easily altered to a customer’s preference, and the menu is a direct reflection of what the people want.
“A lot of our specials are a result of customer feedback,” Zhang said.
“We’ve had a lot of people ask for dishes like porridge for breakfast and soups for lunch, so we pass that on to the chefs who then develop specials around what the customers want.”
But it’s about more than the food at Infuse.
The small dishes and sharing plates for dinner, in particular, encourages people to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and gradually order food while they sip on a glass of wine. It’s all about appreciating the dining experience in your own time, Zhang said.
“For us, coming from an Asian background, eating is all about a sharing experience. We really encourage that sharing element and bringing people together over food,” she said.
“The infusion element is going beyond the food, it’s part of the experience as well.”
Visit the restaurant
2 Burke Avenue, Camberwell (next to Coles entrance at The Well)
Phone: (03) 9813 1333.