110 Hopkins St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 0421
It’s a happily busy Saturday lunchtime in Footscray central and the many Vietnamese restaurants hereabouts are doing grand business of varying degrees.
Yet oriental Charcoal BBQ goes unloved – except for us!
As our meal winds down, we reflect that it’s a shame, for we have had a fantastic meal in good company at a truly fine bargain price.
More to the point, we’ve enjoyed food that defies any tendency to stereotype this part of Footscray as Vietnamese through and through.
It’s been of food unlike any of us have specifically tried before.
Truth is Bennie and I have been only moderately inspired by Ms Baklover’s otherwise excellent review at Footscray Food Blog.
The tipping point came with a comment left there by James, also a regular visitor to Consider The Sauce.
This place is GREAT! I went tonight with a friend – both of us have worked in Northern China. It’s just like the food we used to eat on the border with North Korea. All absolutely delicious (although as Ms Baklover suggests the plastic wrap is kind of weird!). We had 12+ dishes and paid about $50 in total! Amazing. And it’s BYO. Mo Vida, watch out for Chinese tapas!
It was such a lovely family experience too – we were made so welcome – the grandparents, parents and 6-month-old grandchild were all there. Such a memorable night.
That’ll do us – and thanks for the tip both of you!
Bennie and I are joined today by two other frequent Consider The Sauce visitors, Bruce and Maddy, meaning we can enjoy a wide-ranging repast.
We muddle through the ordering process yet end up with a really well-balanced meal.
By general consensus, we avoid offal such as giblets, hearts and livers, yet magically find that Maddy’s no-red-meat requirements require no compromise to our order at all.
Cabbage and vermicelli ($6) appears at first blush as though it’ll play a similar role in our meal as a serve of Vietnamese coleslaw. Instead, this is a much less crunchy dish, and much less robustly flavoured.
The cabbage seems to be only from the heart of the vegetable, so tender is it, yet it mixes well with the slithery noodles. The dish has the same sort of vinegar/sesame oil taste as the delicious bean sprouts often served at the beginning a Japanese meal. The charred chilli discs offer only the most mild of spice kicks.
By general acclaim, the most loved dish of the day is spicy salt and pepper tofu (photo at top, $12.80).
This has the same sort of seasoning as more frequently had by us all with chicken ribs or calamari – finely diced green onions, capsicum, salt, pepper.
The plump tofu pieces are either crunchy or extra crunchy on the outside, the innards smooth and squishy.
It’s super yummo!
We order a plethora of skewers, all of which cost about $2 a pop. We get a nice range of textures and flavours, although all come with cumin seasoning.
The BBQ capsicum and onion and the BBQ green beans work well for all of us.
The lamb likewise for the three boys and the chicken for Maddy.
The BBQ sausage is, as far as we can tell, nothing more than your standard hot dog – but still tastes pretty good after it is imbued with that barbecue flavour!
The single mis-step is BBQ beef tender.
Using the menu photo as a gauge, we expect skewers of a cut of juicy if rather fatty beef.
Instead, we get – of course! – tendon.
There’s nothing truly unpleasant about these, but they are awfully chewy and a step too far for us.
“Like the worst calamari you’ve ever had,” quips Bruce.
Back on track, the fried pork dumplings ($9) are another outright winner.
They’ve been pan-fried, the bottoms are delicately crispy, the tops tender but firm and the filling tasty and hot, if mild of flavour.
By this time, the staff have realised we’re not only about having a fabulous lunch but also about writing about it … so insist on providing us with more food to sample on the house.
Any discomfort on our part at this eventuality is swept aside by the enthusiasm and pride of the staff.
Veggies combination ($6) has cucumber, peanuts and chewy tofu skin that looks like cabbage but is nothing like it, all dressed in a similar concoction to the cabbage and vermicelli that now seems a long time ago. It’s OK but by this time I suspect we are confronting “food fatigue”.
The BBQ steamed bun is nice enough – Bennie loves it but it seems like toast to the rest of us.
The BBQ fish balls are what you’d expect, yet by this time we are tiring of the ubiquitous cumin-heavy seasoning.
Even without the “sample” dishes and taking into account a couple of non-bullseyes, we are well pleased with our lunch.
We’ve eaten superbly well for a sensational and low price, yet none of us feel bloated or over-full.
And it seems that more by luck than expertise, we’ve got a handle on how to order here – a bunch of “food on a stick” options, cool salad, main dish and dumplings, all for the sharing.
Oriental Charcoal BBQ offers a real tasty alternative in Footscray central.
And thanks to Maddy and Bruce for the fine company!