PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
It's hard to describe one's first impression of Li Zai; words like "quirky" or "unique" seem too bland for a space like this. "Purple" is a good starting point, and "idiosyncratic" is definitely in the running. The restaurant interior reflects the colourful personality of proprietress, Gemma Lin – a small but dynamic Taiwanese woman who spent part of her life in Tokyo. She describes the concept of this small, casual eatery as being typically Taiwanese (Li Zai – pronounced "lie-zay" – is Taiwanese for "come and sit", something that hosts typically greet their guests with). However this particular eatery has a more international influence, with some Tokyo-style edginess in the decor, a panoramic view of Bondi Beach from the balcony, and a pan-Asian menu of small, hawker-style dishes.
Li Zai bills itself as an Asian tapas bar, meaning the food is designed for drinking and dishes are small and share-able. Yum Cha is available during the day, but at night you'll be selecting from Japanese-style barbecue dishes, Chinese noodles, Thai curries and a whole range of pan-Asian small foods. These might include Taiwanese mapo tofu, Honk Kong-style king prawns, Japanese teppanyaki steak, Mongolian lamb chops, Peking duck, Indonesian chicken satay and Thai chilli seafood. There are even a few contemporary fusion dishes, such as smoked salmon on witlof leaves; or oysters with fish roe, grapefruit and kaffir lime. The drinks menu is extensive, with a range of sakes and cocktails on top of the usual beer, wine and spirits. Try the Sau Wau – a twist on a vodka, lime and soda that uses sake and fresh mint. The rooftop balcony (shared by the main dining room and private function room) provides cushioned booths from which you can enjoy the fresh air and surprisingly great view.