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.



CBD Indonesian pleasin’




Salero Kito Padang, Tivoli Arcade Shop, 18, 239 Bourke St, Melbourne. Phone: 039 571 3097

Tivoli Arcade is old-school CBD and to be cherished for that.

Over the years, a variety of cheap-eateries have come and gone.

Salero Kito Padang’s current competition includes places of the Vietnamese, Indonesian and Nepalese varieties.

These premises were long inhabited by a Malay/Chinese joint called – IIRC – Chatterbox that I used to be happy to visit for perfectly fine chicken rice and the like.

This is my first chance to check out the new, West Sumatran configuration.

Most of the food is displayed in a bain marie and doesn’t appear particularly inspiring.

The menu includes jackfruit curry (maybe next time) and deep-fried ox lung (nope).

Nor does my plate of three choices with rice for $13 lead to wild excitement and high hopes.




Which just goes to show that one should never judge just about anything on appearances and first impressions, let alone on relative swishness of decor.

Because this is the best South-East Asian meal I’ve had in a long while.


For starters, what appear to meager servings of my three choices turn out to be more than plentiful enough to fill me up and make the $13 price seem something of a bargain.

The beef rendang is good-dry, tangy, chewy and free of fat.

The spicy eggplant has that very excellent silky thing going on and tastes heavenly. It’s not particularly spicy apart from the red-hot chilli mash, an extra dollop of which I am dished up from a choice of about five condiments.

The gratifyingly meaty bone-on chicken thigh is part of a mild chook curry that is nevertheless delicious.

Of the few dishes prepared to order, I see great love and care being accorded serves of a lurid yellow laksa.

That’s for me next time!






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.







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.

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