Weather-proof smiles in Werribee

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MiHUB Cafe, 12 Synnot St, Werribee. Phone: 9731 7877

The Consider The Sauce men are on a mission.

We’ve been told by our “eyes and ears” in the area about a cool little Sri Lankan joint in suburban Werribee.

But we get waylaid by other plans as we’re tooling through the Werribee CBD.

As we’re passing it, I say to Bennie: “That’s MiHUB Cafe over there …”

His immediate response is: “That’s where I’d like to go!”

But, but, but … his dad has the scent of the unknown and possibly delicious in his nostrils and is in a hunting mood.

But then again, OK, let’s do it your way, Mr Five Bowls.

Whatever the imperatives of new places and blog posts, I know fully well enough by now to relax and chill when appropriate, to let Bennie have his way – sometimes he evinces wisdom far superior to that of his father in such matters.

And the Sri Lankan place will still be standing by the time we get there.

Since first writing about this marvellous Sundays-only migrant-based operation, I have returned to MiHUB Cafe just for the sheer pleasure of it, but this is Bennie’s first visit.

He ends up enjoying it just as much as I do.

Bennie takes my adamant advice and goes for the gado gado ($5).

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He loves it a lot.

And it’s as I recall – a lively mix of vegetables, tofu and hard-boiled egg topped with superbly rich, dark and spicy peanut sauce unlike any found on your typical restaurant gado gado around Melbourne.

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My own plate of mixed curries with rice ($10) is less all-round successful, with the two vegetable dishes being somewhat forgettable.

The beef rendang is a winner, though.

And the highlight is a beautiful chicken curry, light on the spiciness but ultra-fragrant with lemongrass.

One problem with eating outside on such a chilly day – everyone present is pretty much rugged-up – is the food tends to go cold quickly.

But really, food is just part of the story here – the smiles and the friendliness are weather-proof.

While we’re lunching, any number of people wave hello with big smiles or come up and chat to us about, say, a Malaysian village planned for Broadmeadows or a planned venue move for the MiHUB Cafe operation itself.

We’ll keep you posted about both.

Mihub Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Ayam Penyet RIA

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ayam5

Ayam Penyet RIA, 248 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. Phone: 9077 2947

Ayam Penyet RIA is part of an Indonesian restaurant chain , one that – going by its website – is based in Singapore.

The South Melbourne branch has been open about a month – and the word is well and truly out among students and other Indonesians in Melbourne.

Even on a chilly Monday night, the limited seating is at a premium, with there being more potential customers than the place is able to accommodate.

The concise menu runs to four mostly meaty soups, three meat plates and a few more of egg and eggplant, along with gado gado.

I find the service cheerful and quick.

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But my “smashed chicken” platter with rice ($10.50) doesn’t quite reflect the various photos around the place in terms of generosity.

The greenery is limited to a single slice of cucumber, and there is a single chunk apiece of tempeh and tofu.

The good-sized piece of fried chicken is real fine, though, especially in conjunction with what the website calls “blacan-chilli relish” – a wonderfully potent concoction!

All this combined with the rice makes for a good meal.

But I suspect there may be better to be had here – the beef ribs and gado gado I see being whizzed past me look interesting and more substantial.

Worth another look, for sure.

Ayam Penyet RIA on Urbanspoon

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MiHUB Cafe

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MiHUB Cafe, 12 Synnot St, Werribee. Phone: 9731 7877

(See a later story on MiHUB Cafe here).

MiHUB Cafe has lived at other places and on other, more numerous days of the week.

But it’s been at its current address in Werribee for about a year and is, for the time being, open only on Sundays – from about 10am ’til 3pm.

My visit is absolutely guaranteed to be the first of many.

There are kids running everywhere.

Everyone is smiling. Everyone is friendly.

The food is great.

The people are even better.

All up, this glorious community initiative – in the courtyard of a brick house that is Migrant Hub HQ – feels pretty much like the very essence of what Consider The Sauce is all about.

Today there are stalls selling incredibly cheap Indonesian, Singaporean and Chinese (congee) food.

At other times there have been and will be the likes of Indian, Pakistani and even Tongan tucker.

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Chicken curry with roti ($6) makes a fine start.

The curry looks on the mean side quantity-wise, but is surprisingly filling. It’s quite oily mind you, but the gravy is rich, sticky and delicious, while the meat on the two small drumsticks comes from the bones easily to complete a curry that is quite unlike any I’ve had in a south-east Asian eatery.

Heading here from Yarraville, I’d been quietly hoping for home-cooked food – as opposed to restaurant food.

It seems I’m in luck in that regard.

Potato curry puffs ($1.50 each) are crisp and delightful.

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Two of the lovely people I meet are cafe manager/cook Nora and Migrant Hub president Walter.

She’s originally from Malaysia, he from the Philippines.

Walter explains to me the cafe is just part of what the hub does in working to help migrants of all sorts make their way in Australia.

Part of that is not just about familiarising them with Australian ways but also the ways of other migrant communities – and the cafe seems like an ideal way to facilitate that particular objective.

Walter also talks with me about the health issues facing migrant communities.

These include bringing with them from their countries of origin cooking styles often based largely around a scarcity of meat and landing in an affluent country where it’s easy for just about anyone to eat more (too much) meat and other prized (unhealthy) ingredients.

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The curry and puffs have done for me food-wise, but no way can I say “no” when Walter organises a plate of gado gado ($5) for me.

It’s the spiciest gado gado I’ve ever eaten.

It’s also – by quite a considerable margin – the BEST I’ve ever eaten.

Chewy omelette, tofu, potato, bean sprouts, cucumber, carrot and half a hard-boiled egg are smothered by a superb, dark and sticky peanut sauce.

Wow, it’s good!

I’ll diet tomorrow – honest!

Mihub Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Meetbowl

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Meetbowl, 95 York St, South Melbourne. Phone: 9696 4412

Meetbowl is so very much the epitome of a cheap ‘n’ cheerful ethnic cafe that it verges on caricature.

Dull decor that arrives somewhere between unlovely and shabby.

About a dozen tables inside, three outside.

Flimsy plastic chairs, though the eat-in cutlery and crockery are real enough.

A constantly revolving clientele that appears to be mostly Indonesian students and office workers.

I wonder if they’re here because of Meetbowl, or if Meetbowl is here because of them.

Next to me, there’s a mostly paleskin table of four that appears to be much more along my own lines in terms of age and style.

They look like social workers.

A drinks cabinet bereft of just about everything but bottled water and some dairy product refreshments in which I have no interest.

Fortunately, there are a stack of water containers and glasses for all.

Unfortunately, as I await my lunch, one of the industrious and obliging staff members manages to spill one of the water vessels right into the right shoe of the sole remaining social worker.

I could say she lets out a shriek, but that might be over-stating the situation.

In any case, everything stops.

A collective thought: “Is there going to be a scene?”

No, there isn’t.

Some earnest mopping and all is once again good.

The staff member even tries to refund the social worker’s meal money, but the offer is cheerfully dismissed as the lady returns to her noodles and Times Literary Supplement.

My own lunch is a combination laksa ($12).

Nothing in the least bit refined here – in fact, it’s macho.

The soup is a little disappointing, though – not really hot enough and just your standard, creamy laksa doings with noodles of both regulation kinds.

The chunky bits are big and bold – a pork ball not much smaller than the tennis variety; a large, chewy wonton; two slices of fish cake much heftier than is the norm; some rather drab roast pork.

It’s better than OK, but doesn’t really land a killer blow.

Still, I’m Very Glad this place is right here, right next door to my new place of employ.

Hopefully that gig will continue and roll on for … well, a bloody long time.

It’d be great to some day look back and know that I had the time and the work to get more adventurous and pursue the Meetbowl menu into areas at present unfamiliar to me.

I hear Bakso Special, Bakwan Special, Siomay Bandung, Batagor, Pempek Palembang and many more calling my name.

Meetbowl on Urbanspoon