Best Indonesian




The Uleg, 312 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Phone: 9388 8606

Our friends Nick and Marketa have asked us to join them on a Friday night at an Indonesian joint they’re keen on.

After long weeks of work and school, we’re not exactly bursting with enthusiasm as we hit the road, anticipating – and finding – a handful of bottlenecks along the way from Yarraville to Brunswick.

Our energy levels have hardly been boosted by the Facbook message I’d received from Marketa the previous night: “The portions are small and take a bit of time to arrive so have a little something before dinner!


But make the trek we do.

And end up being oh-so-glad we’ve done so.

The Uleg is the bomb.

It serves the best Indonesian food I’ve ever had.

Now, that may not be saying all that much at all.

But … the food here has high levels of homemade personality and soul, downhome refinement and distinctiveness I’ve never before encountered in an Indonesian eatery – and that we rarely encounter in eateries of any Asian persuasion.

It earns the top-shelf Consider The Sauce accolade – we wish it was in the west!




The Uleg is located on a portion of Sydney Road that is these days heavily hipsterised, though as with almost the entire length of the road there are many good and/or interesting eating options around.

Uleg’s longish dining room is lovely in wood and has the feel of a place that has been around for a while.

The service we find to be as warm and personable as the food.

The menu (see below) has about a dozen entrees in the $4 to $9 range.

Mains number about 50 and average about $13.

Save for a handful of snapper and barramundi dishes for around $17 and $24 respectively, they’re all configured as single-person dishes though that doesn’t deter all of us from tasting everything on our table.




Long wait times?

Our entrees turn up smartly.

But it’s true that our four mains arrive in a procession with up to about five minutes between them.

I’m led to believe there’s minimal staff in the kitchen and, besides, the wait times are no problem whatsoever considering the quality of the food.

Small portions?

Well, no, not really – though I know what Marketa means.

The serves aren’t food-court, cheap-eats ginormous – but they’re more than adequate.

But that quality’s the thing, right down to the hand-made condiments.

Besides, we order freely, eat very well and end up paying a most excellent fee of about $25 each.




First up – freshly squeezed lime juice over ice ($4).

So very, very good!

Bennie and I do two of these apiece.

There’s probably enough sugar involved to rival the canned soft drinks we habitually slurp with spicy food but this stuff nevertheless rocks our world as a tart, lip-smacking alternative.




Fried calamari is the most expensive entree at $8.50.

It’s fresh, tender, very lightly battered and good without being spectacular.




Tahu isi ($5.90) is two very enjoyable big cubes of fried tofu stuffed with beans sprouts, carrot and so on, and served with a very sticky soy sauce.




Nasi goreng ($9.90) we share.

It’s excellent, with fine wok-charred flavour and good-size chunks of chicken.

On to our mains!

Iga goreng ($11.90, top photograph) is beef ribs served with Balado sambal.

Oh my, this is wonderful!

The meat is tender and comes from the bones easily; there’s fat but it’s easily discarded.

The flavour-packed meat harmonises beaut with the chilli mash.




Chicken “Crunch” A.K.A ayam penyet ($11.90) is good, too, though it turns out to be the most mundane of our dishes so stiff is the compeition it faces.

The chook maryland is fine enough and is adorned with fried garlic flakes.




Beef rendang with roti ($10.90) is another trumph.

We often find restaurant rendang to be OK but dull.

This one is not like that – it sings with hand-mixed spices and deft cooking.




Finally, ox tail soup ($11.90) – bit of an odd man out that nevertheless fits just with our other selections.

It’s bigger than it photographs.

It’s salty in a good way.

It’s like a cross between two Vietnamese dishes – beef pho and on-the-bone beef stew.

Just without the star anise.

It has a heap of fat but also a heap of fall-apart-tender meat.

And submerged in there is a plump, deep-fried “potato cake” – no, most definitely not your typical Aussie F&C shop potato cake.

This one has spud cubes encased in a rich batter, the whole flavoursome and disintegrating at just the right pace as the soup eating progresses.

How I feel as we happily skip into the night, having had our weekend kickstarted in the most wonderful way: “Sorry for ever doubting you, Marketa – you’re a gun and a pal!”



Meal of the week No.3: Blok M




In the city on medical matters – very good news as its turns out – and checking out the “little” streets and laneways around the Flinders Street end of Elizabeth.

Wow, there’s a lot going on, a lot of new action happening.

Many of the places I observe are doing great business and appear to be serving many different kinds of food I’d be very happy to try.

But they’re all so busy!

That’s not in the least bit appealing.

So that’s why I choose Blok M, just up the hill little at 380 Little Bourke Street.

I peruse the pleasantly dog-eared and lengthy menu.

There’s some dishes of which I’ve heard; many more of which I have not.

I choose nasi campur, which is described as “mixed vegetables served with grilled chicken and oxtail soup” and costs $9.50.

The wait time is longer is than I expect but no stress – I’m not in any danger of missing my appointment.

My meal arrives and it’s as pretty as a picture.

Good rice.

Sweet, salty oxtail broth – like an Indonesian version of pho.

A jumble of cabbage and carrot that is like an unpickled achaar.

A chicken thigh that seems cutlery-resistant at first but which turns out to be perfectly cooked and tender, the sweet glaze making it resemble Pinoy-style chicken.

Ahhh, what a fabulously and perfect random surprise and delight – a really fine ten-buck feed!

If I worked in the CBD, I’d be checking off the Blok M menu items one by one until I’d gone through the whole lot.



Weather-proof smiles in Werribee



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).


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.


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.





Ayam Penyet RIA

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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.


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.





MiHUB Cafe



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.


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.


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.


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






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