Mr Gao's Love Shack owners Sam Willis and Gai Fei happy to open their new establishment in Ballina on Cherry Street.
Mr Gao's Love Shack owners Sam Willis and Gai Fei happy to open their new establishment in Ballina on Cherry Street. Marc Stapelberg

Burgers meet bao buns at new Ballina eatery

GOOD vibes and delicious food.

That's the basic idea behind Ballina's newest eatery, Mr Gao's Love Shack, which opened on Cherry St yesterday.

Brought to fruition by Gao Fei - who was behind the space's previous yum cha restaurant - and Sam Willis, it's a Chinese-Aussie fusion of burgers, bao buns, sushi, gyoza and more.

Mr Willis recalled constantly being drawn to Mr Gao's dumplings at the local markets, before they banded together about a month ago.

The duo has since renovated what was Mr Gao's Dumpling Yum Cha business.

"We sort of started talking about it maybe a month or so ago, then started the renos about two and a half weeks ago," Mr Willis said.

"The (bamboo) shack was already here, it was the inspiration, and everything else came in around it."

He's been in hospitality for 16 years, while Mr Gao has been a chef for 22 years.

Mr Willis said it wasn't his first foray into running a food outlet, but this was a different take on things.

"I was doing pies and sausage rolls," he said.

"But I've been head chef at a few places before so I know the ins and outs of running a kitchen."

Mr Willis said food had taken him up and down the east coast, and even to Canada.

But he hopes Ballina will embrace their new venture.

"(We have) good vibes and delicious food people can eat every day and will want to come back and eat everyday," he said.

"It's a bit of an east meets west mashup.

"It's pretty much foods we like to eat all in the one spot."

Mr Gao said they would use local produce where they could, including Bangalow pork.

"The Northern Rivers has got lots of good farmers," he said.

"It has good produce, lots of good food here.

"And people love good food."

In his original home of China, he said traditional dishes were steeped in the idea of food as medicine.

It's also vital for him that their food is full of love.

"We have lots of love in the food, that's why we call it Love Shack," Mr Gao said.

The menu includes crispy Szechuan squid, steamed dumplings, Peking duck bao buns and sushi bowls.

Mr Gao's Love Shack is open from 11am Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and Thursday to Saturday for dinner.



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