One of Melbourne’s most exciting openings recently has been Mr Big Stuff, opened by the duo behind Golden Monkey, Mike Chen and Adam Ong, along with partners Lazaros Papasavas, Andrew Montell, and Hasan Sharif.
“It’s our take on a soul food restaurant,” said Ong. “So it’s soul food-inspired. There are classic soul food dishes like chicken and waffles, corn bread and so forth, but in addition there’s a lot of unique dishes based on soul food ingredients and principles — there’s a nose-to-tail treatment of the food. So we’ve got the tongue in cheek dish, pigs’ ear chips and we’re using a lot of spices you’d associate with soul food as well.”
They’re drawing on a rich love for “everything African-American,” said Ong. “Coming to America, blaxploitation, hip hop and R&B and all that kind of stuff.”
These references have helped to inspire the drinks menu, too, with a focus on what they’re calling cold pressed kool-aid and cold brew iced teas (which come in handy alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties). The cold pressed kool-aid uses cold pressed juice, which is a method by which more nutrients are retained, and leaves a brighter, fresher taste of whatever is being juiced.
For the drinks, Chen and Ong engaged the help of UK based bar consultant Lee Linford, who has previously helped them out on the drinks at Golden Monkey.
And there’s a hint that other projects may be on the horizon.
“We’re always looking,” Ong said. “For us, [people ask] why are we moving from bars to restaurants? But we’re not really. It depends on the opportunity — if we like it, and it involves people having fun, then we’re there.”
And Mr Big Stuff certainly delivers the fun.