Midnight munchies

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cb2

 

China Bar, 235 Russell Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9639 1633

After earlier in the evening attending a very interesting panel discussion on “the challenges of urban renewal” at VU, I had no desire for food whatsoever.

So I spend the rest of the night just reading and goofing off.

Then, of course, the munchies kick in pretty much right on the pumpkin hour.

Normally, I’d simply go to bed looking forward to breakfast.

But this is one of those rare occasions – no work tomorrow, no son to get awake and off to school (including making his breakfast and lunch), not even any appointments or pressing matters to attend to.

So off I go in a reminder of earlier times in my life when post-midnight escapades were common and dawn conclusions were not rare.

I’d love to head somewhere more local, but as you all know – I’m sure – there literally is nowhere to go, AFAIK, save for kebab shacks.

Besides, getting into the CBD and finding a park at this time of night is such a breeze, it seems local.

China Bar or Stalactites?

China Bar.

Last time I was in the city late at night, Bennie and I hit the newer, 24-hour China Bar in Swanston Street as the Russell Street version was closed for renovations.

Since the, we’ve also checked out in a look-not-eat fashion the China Bar Signature Asian Buffet, a branch of which is also on Russell Street.

The problem there for us, should we ever indulge, is not the pricing but the vast range of food.

I reckon being around it all but being able to only consume a small bit of what’s available would do my head in a little.

 

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The regular Russell Street China Bar is an old friend from way back in the days when I lived in Flinders Lane and even before.

I know that these days, CB has many locations spread across Melbourne.

But it always seems like real-deal Chinese/Malaysian to me – with cheap, tasty food, many folks coming and going, and brusque staff.

All is as usual when I enter.

The place is packed but not unbearably so.

There’s no drunks in evidence but I always find it a really neat thing to re-discover that night owl eating is such a widespread, common and utterly normal activity, even on a week night.

There are many younger people, students and office workers both, in the house but also family groups.

My two-roast combination with rice costs $11.90 and looks both a treat and bloody enormous.

It is big but it’s made to look even bigger because of the huge amount of rice included.

The meat portions seem a little bigger than regulation serves and are good, even if some of the larger pieces of soya chicken and roast duck are a bit dry and the meat-bone relationship difficult to navigate.

Still, it’s good stuff … though if I wonder if I should have ordered the laksa.

But then, I always wonder that.

Home, bed.

 

China Bar on Urbanspoon

MiHub rocks it again

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Consider The Sauce is happily falling into the happy routine of always, whenever possible, attending MiHub functions at the Laverton Community Hub.

Where else would we want to be early evening on a Saturday once a month?

But I suspect there is a limit beyond which reader endurance and loyalty should not be prodded in terms of recording each event.

There’s a fine line between giving context to food reviews and stories by interweaving other aspects of our lives into CTS on the one hand and overdoing it on the other.

 

mihub46

 

So this may well be the last MiHub story for a while … although I will for sure continue to post MiHub notifications on the CTS FB page and continue to recommend all and sundry give MiHub activities a go!

As I posted on FB yesterday: “Yum food, delicious people!”

 

mihub45

 

The “pop-up market” in this case was a part of Diversity Week, so there was a heap of people and a heap of food.

The theme was ostensibly Malaysian – but there was also Middle Eastern sweets, Indian tucker and Afghani fried chicken.

 

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I ate well and widely.

And I just loved meeting and talking with all sorts folks.

This time around they included CTS readers …

 

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… Sara and Sharon …

 

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… and Roopi and Jaspreet.

 

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As well as my Star Weekly colleague Karen, her hubby Chee (on the right) and their friend Sharil!

 

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mihub41mihub411

 

Willy noodle shop

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wok4

 

Wok Rite Inn Noodle & Snack Bar, 5 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 4077

Wok Rite Inn has been recommended to us more than once by a regular reader whose opinions we respect very much.

The vibe, we have been told, is one of a neighbourhood noodle shop with a bit more going on than in your average such establishment.

Over two visits, we discover that’s a fair assessment.

The staff seem to be many and are obliging.

There’s basic seating both inside and out.

The menu ranges widely through Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes – something that’s not always a good sign, of course.

The food we are served is adequate in an average sort of way.

If we were any of the locals we see coming and going, we’d be regulars who know exactly which of the many menu boxes get our ticks.

 

wok5

 

Beef rendang with rice ($14.50) is rather good.

It’s on the sweet side and (unsurprisingly) mildly spiced, but there’s a heap of good, well-cooked beef.

And the generous flourish of snow peas and broccoli is appreciated.

 

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The basic curry laksa ($13.5) appears to be not made from scratch – but I’m OK with that.

I’ve had worse at supposedly specialist Malaysian places in the west.

I like the tofu and vegetable components.

But the main protein hit comes from far too much roast pork of a thick and rather rubbery variety.

 

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There’s plenty of that pork in the kwai teow ($13.50), too, though not so much as to deliver imbalance.

Bennie likes it even if he fails to finish it off – the serves here, it must be said, are of a very generous nature.

 

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I’m told the beef curry puffs are made in-house but that my vegetable rendition is not.

I’m fine with that, too.

I suspect that’s the case with the likes of curry puff and samosas at more places across the west than most of us might suspect – especially at the lower end of the price spectrum.

What I am not fine with is the fact my fried parcel is stone cold in the middle.

A perfectly cooked replacement, brought with an apologetic smile, tastes just right.

Check out the Wok Rite Inn website here.

 

Wok Rite In Noodle & Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

 

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A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas (2)

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kitchen22

 

Kitchen Inn, 469 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9328 2562

Appointment in the city, park at Vic Market, left enough for time for a quick lunch – of course!

I have no great plans or destinations in mind.

Indeed, this stretch of Elizabeth Street is so busy at lunch time I’m happy to get a seat just about anywhere.

I have no plans to write or take pictures.

But then I get Kitchen Inn’s Sarawak laksa ($10.90).

CTS has been here before.

I’ve even had the laksa here on another occasion.

But …

I don’t remember it being THIS good!!!

Gravy that looks like a rich chocolate milkshake. Spice/heat levels that are just right and plenty of deep, dusky flavour – quite unlike the more regular laksas around town.

Vermicelli only in terms of noodles, which is real nice for a change.

And the extravagant goodies … oh my!

Shredded chicken, two monster pieces of chewy tofu sucking up that amazing gravy, fish cake, bean sprouts, quite a few very good prawns, noodle-like strips of omelette.

And – best of all – stacks of salty pork belly/crackling that is wonderfully crunchy to begin with but that becomes equally wonderfully soggy as the eating of my meal unfolds.

Wow.

This is a 10/10 laksa – a masterpiece of Melbourne cheap eats.

See earlier Melbourne laksa monarch post here.

 

Kitchen Inn on Urbanspoon

 

kitchen21

China Bar 24 hours a day

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chin8

 

China Bar, 257-259 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9639 6988

Because of a pre-fatherhood, pre-western sojourn spent living in the CBD, the Russell Street China Bar became a much-loved and endlessly reliable and enjoyable eating place.

So it’s a little difficult for me to think of China Bar as a franchise chain.

But there it is, right on the group’s website.

They’re everywhere.

And – this I did not know – the group also encompasses Claypot King and Dessert Story.

Not that that should come as any surprise – there is a marked similarity in branding.

And another surprise – according to Urbanspoon, the Russell Street branch (the original?) is “closed temporarily”.

We’re back from our Friday CBD adventure, so have no way of knowing what this means.

Maybe a short-lived closure to enable a no-doubt badly needed tart-up?

No matter … after witnessing the Melbourne Storm down the Brisbane Broncos in an exciting, tough game at AAMI Park, Bennie likes the idea of trying out the newish “24-hour” China Bar.

As we amble up Swanston Street, we seem to be amidst the wind-down of the end-of-working-week crowd, with the night-owl activity soon to be ramping up.

 

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Inside China Bar, all is China Bar – even if the physical surroundings themselves are different.

Many people are eating, staff members – some of them with familiar faces – are bustling about.

That bustle and buzz is a big part of the attraction, as it is just about anywhere in Chinatown.

There seems to be more customers than I would normally expect chowing down on dumplings and smaller dishes.

But we go with the familiar.

 

chin5

 

My Hainanese crispy chicken rice costs $12.90 and stacks up thusly …

Rice – good chicken flavour but it’s packed so tightly into the bowl that it has become almost a like a pudding that needs carving.

Soup – warm only but good

Chilli, ginger/garlic/oil and cucumber accessories – oh dear, simply not enough zing.

Chicken – very crispy, very good, with a serving size that (as is so often the case) eats bigger than it appears. I could live without the gooey sauce underneath.

So … a little underwhelming considering the high esteem in which I hold the Russell Street branch, which I last visited late at night just a few months’ back.

Does this meal diminish my warm feelings for China Bar?

Just a little …

 

chin6

 

Bennie is quite smug in his certainty that his “seasoning salt spare ribs with rice” ($12.90) is the superior choice of our two meals.

He may be right.

I don’t try the chicken but the accompanying jumble of onion, capsicum and spices tastes OK.

But when asked if what he’s eating is as good as the same dish at a certain Chinese joint in Sunshine, his answer is: “No!”

 

China Bar on Urbanspoon

 

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Superb spicy Chinese

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hon4

Hon’s Kitchen, 228 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9041 4680

At first blush it would be easy to conclude the arrival of Hon’s Kitchen on Union Road is merely a case of one nondescript, generic noodle bar replacing another.

But a solo visit by yours truly – during which a rather fine beef noodle soup, a bit like pho but without the more pronounced seasoning in the broth, was enjoyed – has us thinking Hon’s Kitchen has hidden depths and riches.

Specifically, we have hunch that while black bean beef or sweet ‘n’ sour whatever may be the stock in trade here, careful menu selection may result in the sort of wonderful, top-class yet affordable Cantonese tucker we get from Dragon Express.

We love following our hunches – especially when they come good as spectacularly as they do tonight.

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Special combination fried rice ($9) is good. But really, considering the richnes of our other choices, we should have gone with the identically-priced vego version or just plain rice.

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Spicy chicken ($12.90) … truly superb!

Unlike versions we’ve had elsewhere that involve ribbettes and their bones, this dish is built around boneless chicken pieces deep-fried, with the resulting globules being delicious and marvellously crisp and dry.

Of course, the real prize here is the spicy, dry jumble of goodies that accompanies.

This includes three types of onion – crunchy brown fried shallots, green onion discs and slivers of fresh white onion.

It also includes two types of chilli – crunchy crushed numbers and evil-looking black-red bullets.

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Spicy eggplant ($12.90) is every bit as good and equally chilli-hit, albeit in quite a different way.

This number gets there through deep-frying the raw eggplant chunks and then whipping them into a sauce with chilli, vinegar and some tofu bits.

This dish was started from scratch for us – we saw the eggplant being peeled and chopped.

That such a fine dish resulted so quickly is some sort of magic, the eggplant itself displaying a deluxe lusciousness that beats even Japanese-style eggplant with miso or the slippery big pieces found in laksas.

Perhaps there’s been a mono-dimensional aspect to our meal – chillies rampant in both dishes, both of which have been deep-fried.

But the spiciness has been by no means close to our outer limits and both dishes have been ungreasy.

And while we suspect our selections are most likely among the least frequently ordered at Hon’s Kitchen, their outright excellence just adds weight to our belief that when it comes to Chinese food, some smart ordering at a humble suburban eatery can deliver eats every bit as great as anything to be found in your high-priced CBD palaces.

Hon's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Bits and pieces

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bits1

So how’s this for an eye-grabbing sign in Racecourse Road, Flemington?

Nope, can’t say I have … tried camel meat, that is.

Right next door, in the Grand Tofu, I ask Suzanne if she has.

Nope.

In fact, she seems surprised there is even such a sign gracing the halal butcher shop right next door.

What the Grand Tofu, Suzanne, Stephen and their crew do do is serve up a sperb chicken laksa.

Look, I’m quite fond of the two more famous Malaysian eateries just around the corner.

But I don’t like queues and they’re always so busy.

The Grand Tofu is frequently busy, too – but the staff always find time for a bit of a chat or at the very least a warm welcome.

Which can’t always be said of the competition.

And then there’s that chicken laksa (oh my!) – and much more besides.

bits2

Providorable is lovely foodie haven in Williamstown – you can read about it here.

Providorable proprietor Kelly recently posted the following on her business’s Fcebook page:

“Good morning everyone, I’m feeling this morning I need to write this post. I think a lot of the local shop keepers this week would say that things are looking brighter for Xmas sales after a very quiet winter. I urge everyone to support local business. Supermarkets are trying to shut down small business, this is where you get the personal service with product knowledge, not in a supermarket. Also, WHY have the council allowed two farmers markets per month in Willy? Do you realise that now there are two it takes business away from your local shops that are the ones that pay the rates & rents to make strip shopping be still available? Have you questioned any of the stall holders at farmers markets about where some of their products come from? There are genuine items being sold but some are not from their own farms being sold direct to public. Yeah, have one a month but why 2 every two weeks … you go and buy fruit and veg, it affects your local fruit shop, same as butcher, dog treats, coffee shop, jams and relishes etc etc. PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. By this market being there every two weeks, you are supporting outsiders who don’t pay the huge rents and rates we pay. OK rant over lol and enjoy your day. Williamstown has wonderful shops and fantastic shopkeepers. Keep us all in willy for years to come please.”

What do you think?

We’re quite fond of visiting farmers markets.

But in truth we rarely buy more than a coffee and maybe a snag or other eat-on-the-spot treat.

Fruit, vegetables and other produce?

Hardly ever.

But we do enthusiastically support and enjoy the hell out of our local shops and delis, be they in Williamstown, Altona, Seddon, Footscray, Sunshine or beyond.