A welcome return

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Yim Yam Thai Laos, 40 Ballarat St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 8585

So scarifying was our last visit to Yim Yam in Yarraville that it has taken more than five years to return.

On that occasion, on a busy Friday night, the place was uncomfortably cramped and the staff seemed harried to distraction.

At that time, a much younger Bennie was very much unused to spicy food, so we made a point of choosing one dish by adhering to the restaurant’s chilli grading system.

But our “one chilli” choice was so unbearably hot that even I could eat only a few mouthfuls.

When I tried to raise this matter with the staff member who seemed to be in charge, I was blown off with a dismissive wave of the hand.

It was a long time ago – and certainly before the arrival of Consider The Sauce.

But, yes, it has remained in memory a vivid experience for both of us.

Returning for a mid-week dinner, we find much – perhaps even everything – has changed.

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The place has expanded, with a lovely dining room now adjoining the original, smaller eating and kitchen space.

The staff are happy, obliging and on the ball.

With this sense of expansiveness, what might have previously been viewed as an imposition – being seated at the window bench right next to the door – is just fine by us.

We navigate a dauntingly long menu of dishes mostly unfamiliar to use with aplomb, ending up with just the sort of meal we desired, even if our picks are a little on the unadventurous side.

Even better, by going without our usual soft drinks and appetisers of the snacky variety, the bill clocks in at just a tick over $40, which we hold to be excellent value considering the quality of the food.

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Vegetarian pad thai ($12.90) is a fine foundation for our dinner.

It’s quite wet and mildly spiced, yet has a good lemony tang and a profusion of lovely vegetables, sprouts and tofu.

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Vientiane salad ($12.90) is Bennie’s choice and it’s a good one.

This one, too, has a bold lemon quotient, but we pretty much inhale the “white noodles with shredded green papaya, tomato, peanuts and herbs with a lemon flavoured dressing”.

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Our protein hit comes courtesy of guy yang gup jaow mark kham – “marinated grilled chicken with chilli tamarind dip” ($15.90).

It’s good but doesn’t transport us to delight as our previous, vegetable-based choices did.

That’s down to the chicken being a little on the bland side and also being very like the Vietnamese grilled chook we’ve eaten so often.

The sticky tamarind chilli sauce is terrific, though.

If anything, the best part of this dish is scooping up the mess of carrots, coriander, spring onion and peanuts imbued with the chicken/marinade cooking juices.

Tonight’s Yarraville adventure has come about because I’d had quite enough of driving for the day, so somewhere, anywhere in our immediate backyard has been the go.

Walking around Anderson and Ballarat streets leads us to acknowledge just how many Yarraville village eateries we have yet to visit and/or write about, even if quite a few of them fall into the “special occasion” category for us.

Still, it’s been a happy outing in that we’ll be more than glad to return to Yim Yam where previously we have stayed away.

Yim Yam Thai Laos on Urbanspoon

Soi 38′s Popup Tour of Thai Noodles – get on board!

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Soi 38 Thai Noodle Tour, opening night, Sketch & Tulip Cafe, 364 Victoria Street, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9665

We love Andy.

We love his website, the Thai-centric website Krapow.

And we particularly love the way he and his Soi 38 colleagues are allowing Melbourne to sample superbly delicious “under-represented” Thai dishes.

Especially when they are presented in the imaginative and alluring manner represented by Soi 38′s latest adventure – “A Tour Of Thai Noodles” spread over a succession of Friday nights at a very cool North Melbourne bar/cafe.

The first night of the “tour” sees various friends and pals of Andy and Soi 38 front up to Sketch & Tulip for complementary bowls of noodles as a promotional effort for the upcoming Friday nights.

Tonight’s fare is boat noodles – that doesn’t slow us down any, even if we have written about them before. See here and here.

And who should we clap our peepers on immediately on arrival?

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Two of our favourite people, food-wise or otherwise – Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog and street food obsessive Nat Stockley!

OK, we’re obviously at the right place!

If anything, the boat noodles are even more yummy than before – with a deep, dark and rich broth of just the right amount of chilliness and two kinds of beef.

One is stewed and the other, I’m told, is marinated for a couple of days in soda water and then simply poached.

The latter is pale and pinkish and pulls off one of my favourite food tricks – it’s both tender and marvellously chewy.

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We admire the way the Soi 38 crew are pricing their noodles.

Sure, tonight we’re supping “on the house”.

But even at the regular price of $5, you can go one, two, three or more bowls and still be getting an outright bargain on food you’ll not find anywhere else in Melbourne.

Or probably Australia for that matter.

Here’s the Thai Noodle Tour itinerary:

Week 1: Kuay Teow reua Nua Nahm (Beef boat noodles)

Week 2: Kuay Teow Sukhothai Muu Haeng (Dry sukothai pork noodles)

Week 3: Kuay Teow Tom Yum Muu Nahm (Hot and sour pork noodles)

Week 4: Kuay Teow Bamee Bpuu (Dry crab egg noodles)

Week 5: Kuay Teow Bamee Bped Nahm (Braised duck egg noodles)

Week 6: Kuay Terow Tom Yum Muu Haeng (Dry hot and sour pork noodles)

We plan on making as many of these occasions as we can.

You should, too.

For further details, check out the Soi 38 website and/or Facebook page.

Sketch & Tulip Cafe on Urbanspoon

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A motherhood statement

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Mum Mum Asian Street Food, 67 Flemington Road, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 7106

Mum Mum is a lovely eatery on Flemington Road that’s been open about four weeks.

Given its location opposite great swathes dedicated to the medical industry – where the food options are probably not so hot – and the many offices around here, I reckon this place will go well, especially at lunch time.

But anyone who feels their pulse quickening at the attractive thought of dining at an establishment with the words “Asian Street Food” incorporated into its name had best take a chill pill.

We end up reckoning there is good and maybe even very good food to be had here, even though our lunch is mixed bag.

It’s more that anyone seeking the funky pungency and aromas and spiciness of real-deal street food may be a little disappointed.

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From what the staff tell me, the usage of the street food term is a bid to create a point of difference between Mum Mum and the family-connected straight-up Thai place right next door.

So while the lunch menu from which we order is basically a Thai document, there are items such as taro prawns, seafood gyoza, various dumplings and spring rolls in the “Little Something” section.

The ground floor dining room of the Victorian double-storey building is a very nice, with different kinds of wood in the chairs, tables, stools, floor, stairs to the upstairs and screen creating a warm feel.

I like the idea of a Thai-style curry “free of coconut milk” and I like the idea of a lighter lunch with lots of fresh vegetables – so I order the “jungle veg. curry w. rice” ($11.90).

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This turns out to be a miscalculation on my part, because without coconut milk – or some other thickening agent – what I get, of course, is not curry but soup.

The vegetables are fine and the broth is spicy and highly fragrant with kaffir lime and basil.

But somewhere along the way this misses the mark with me – it fills me up but leaves me feeling empty.

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Bennie does much better with his “fresh basil chick w. fried egg” ($11.90), which is much more sexy than his dad’s lunch.

Piled on top of rice is an oily, garlicky mix of chicken mince, lots of fried onions of the kind that Bennie really loves these days and other vegetables, with a fried egg as head gear.

This, too, is rather spicy but too much so for the boy.

Interestingly, our pal Nat had a rather different experience with this dish at Mum Mum – as you can see by reading his comments at Urbanspoon.

Whether this is because Bennie has been served a very different and much better meal, or whether we are utterly clueless about a food style on which Nat is an internationally renowned expert we know not.

As we depart, I spy another customer tucking into what looks like a marvellous plate of lamb mussaman curry – that’s for me next time!

Check out the Mum Mum website here.

Mum Mum Asian Street Food on Urbanspoon

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Ace Thai noodles

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Sukhothai noodles by Soi 38, Indonesian Street Festival, Victoria Market

The Indonesian Street Festival is a typically, happily intense Melbourne multicultural celebration.

There are heaps of stalls and heaps of people.

We see some unusual dishes and we see many on which we could for sure take a punt.

But we maintain our focus.

We are here, primarily, to try out the offerings of the second public appearance by the Soi 38 team of Andy from the Thai-centric blog Krapow.

We were delighted with the boat noodles we had in North Melbourne and are eager for a second helping.

This time out, Andy and his crew are cooking up sukothai noodles.

Andy’s description runs thusly: “A light pork and garlic flavoured broth, various proteins including fish balls, sliced pork, pork balls and dried shrimp served over sen lek rice noodles and topped with sliced snake beans, fried pork crackling and crushed peanuts.”

(For a more detailed description of this dish and its background, see the Krapow post here.)

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The Soi 38 team members are going flat out, as are those of every other stall.

But our noodles are not a bain marie job – they’re made to order for all customers.

So we’re happy to pay, take our numbers and scout out a couple of hard-to-find seats.

It’s all worth the wait and jostling – and then some.

We both go the soup option instead of the dry variety (both $8).

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The broth is tangy, yet at first, such are the quantities of the other ingredients, it seems to act more as a sauce than a soup.

But as we consume the contents of our bowls, the dish takes on a more soupy persona.

The flavours become more intense; so does the spiciness.

We are both very happy chappies.

We sincerely suggest you keep track of Soi 38 through Krapow or its Facebook page – they’re offering a delicious, very affordable, friendly and fun way to enjoy Thai recipes and dishes you are highly unlikely to see listed at your local or favourite Thai joint.

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Tasty-T

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Tasty-T, Shop 5/100 Furlong Rd, Cairnlea Town Center. Phone: 8361 8868

Four courses for $9.90, five for $11.90?

Sounds like the sort of cheapskate desperation lunch deal you’d score at an Asian eatery in a shopping centre, right?

Well, that’s just what this is – but with a few wrinkles.

For one, Tasty-T is of a shopping centre but not in one. Instead, it’s situated off to the side in a longish building also housing a gym and other non-retail businesses.

More to the point, Tasty-T is far from being a plastic-seated food court cheap eat.

In fact, it’s super swish by Consider The Sauce standards, featuring well-padded and comfortable seating and otherwise lavish but still quite tasteful furniture and fittings.

(Unfortunately, I become so thoroughly enmeshed in enjoying my lunch and the company that goes with it that I forget to take photographs of the premises – bad blogger!)

I’ve been hipped to Tasty-T by Eve from Conversation With Jenny – read her review here – and it’s she and colleague Linda who join me for this mid-week lunch.

All three of us go the $9.95 route – soup, two entree snacks, main and drink, doing without Thai sweets in the interests of a short lunch break for my companions.

Tom yum goong is a suitably small lunchtime serve. It’s very sweet but with quality contents.

The good, unoily spring roll seems to be mainly stuffed with spud and/or pumpkin.

The fishcakes are a highlight of our lunch – only mildly spiced, they have really nice texture and flavour, and little of the rubbery aspect often found with these, especially at less expensive places.

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My massaman curry with rice is possibly the most mildly spiced curry dish I have ever eaten. Having said that, it’s not overly sweet, the spuds are perfect and the meat is tender and only a little bit fatty.

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Based on the hefty gobful of her noodles I consume, Eve is the big winner with her pad Thai gai. The noodles are vermicelli rather than the usual flat variety, the dish is surprisingly unoily and the whole thing sings with crunchy textures from the vegetable quotient.

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Linda seems quite content with her gai pad med mamuang (chicken stir fry with mixed vegetables and cashews).

In a neat bit of synchronicity, as I was preparing to write this story, I was engaged in email correspondence regarding another matter with Consider The Sauce fan Jacqui.

Turns out Jacqui is a Cairnlea local, lives just a black or so from Tasty-T and is well familiar with the place!

These are her comments:

“We go during lunch on the weekdays and weekends and have also ordered take out for dinner a few times! I like the thai fish cake entrees – so tasty! We also like the yum ped yang (roast duck salad). The pad Thai and massaman curry are also OK. There’s also a dish I had at lunch once with fried chicken, rice and salad so I thought that was quite good value! It’s so good because it’s spacious and the staff are really helpful when I bring my little bubba with me!”

With the proviso that the seasoning levels here are way, way below what I suspect almost all Consider The Sauce followers expect or desire from Asian food in general and Thai food in particular, Tasty-T is an attractive proposition in a variety of ways.

Tasty-T on Urbanspoon

Penn Thai

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Penn Thai, 208 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9314 5556

Penn Thai occupies the same space formerly occupied by She’s Thai.

The new management has spruced the place up a bit, we find the service and welcome a real positive and,  judging by the number of takeaway orders going out the door, they’ve already won many friends.

For my part, expectations are modest – along the lines of a good feed of wholesome, tasty suburban-style Thai food without the edginess or adventure that some of our more funky Thai-loving buddies habitually pursue.

But there’s a wrinkle here – one that shows the food doesn’t have to be explosively great for it to be part of a most excellent eating out experience.

You see, Bennie has mentioned his ever growing interest in Thai food several times in the past few weeks – so I am only to happy to encourage him.

And he really, really loves our mid-week dinner.

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In our attempts to have a broadly based meal, we do something that would no doubt make true Thai food cultists grimace – we order soup with tofu.

But our tom kha ($6.90) is fine, if a little on the mild side. Bennie loves the tangy broth, the chewy tofu actually adds a certain meatiness to proceedings and there’s stacks of other lovely vegetables.

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Satay chicken skewers ($5.90) are ordered solely with Bennie in mind.

Perhaps the glee with which he greets the rest of our meal indicates it’s time to start giving these a miss on future outings.

They’re OK, but I find them a little dry and tasteless.

But then, I always do.

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Massaman beef curry ($14.90) is the big hit of the night.

It’s runny, sweet and delicious.

The meat is superbly, fall-apart tender and minus fat or gristle. The spuds are equally good, while the peanuts and a few strands of carrot and red capsicum add texture.

“This is fantastic,” Bennie mumbles around serial spoonfuls.

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“Steam mix greens with oyster and sesame sauce” ($4.90) are good but as plain as can be. Lacking personality of their own, they quickly become just another element of the curry.

Penn Thai is open seven days a week and does home delivery.

Penn Thai Cafe & Take Away on Urbanspoon

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White Guy Cooks Thai photo shoot

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White Guy Cooks Thai photo shoot, Yarraville Station

Previous posts here and here.

This was just around the corner and about a block away, so I thought I’d pop down just for a look-see – so no big-deal post here.

The shoot was for the RMIT MBA alumni newsletter.

Had me a prawn slider – it was beaut!

However, I stand firm in my affection for these guys – the vibe is great, the food is neat and, I believe, reasonably priced.

As Ms Baklover has pointed out, it’s a fun alternative.

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Food trucks in the west: Generating a buzz …

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Jakob’s Kitchen/White Guy Cools Thai @ Yarraville Gardens

We’ve never been  clear on what the impediments were that kept Melbourne’s growing food truck scene out of the western suburbs for so long.

Whatever they were, they now seem to be points of the moot variety – as the food truck floodgates appear to have opened.

Who would’ve believed a few short months ago that on the Saturday before Christmas, Yarraville Gardens would be graced with not one, not two but THREE food trucks?

Yours truly has had some pleasure exploring the truckies, but for Bennie this is a first, so he’s suitably excited.

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We head straight for Jakob’s Kitchen, which specialises in sausages and kranskys and the like.

We both get smoked cheese and chilli kransky.

We’re given a significant discount on account of us turning up about 20 minutes past opening time but things not really being up and rolling.

This discount is afforded us, we hasten to add, before the boss – Andy, dad of the eponymous Jakob – discovers we are punters of the blogging variety.

But even at the full whack of $8 we’d have no cause for complaint – our snags are fine!

The chilli hit is just right for both of us, the onions do their job and the cheese is flavoursome.

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I had thought that’d be lunch for us completed, but after a pleasant jaunt around the park and the taking in of the summery sound of leather on willow – and as this is Bennie’s first food truck outing – we prolong our eating by hitting White Guy Cooks Thai, the crew of which is by this time operating right next door to the snagmobile.

On its first visit to Yarraville, I’d gone the curry route.

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This time we both get banh mi sliders ($4) – pork belly for him, prawns for me.

They’re incredibly delicious – the main ingredients, the creamy mayo, the seasonings, the fresh rolls all insanely good.

That’s it for us – we’ll leave it to other hungry locals to partake of Dos Diablos Mobile Cantina, which is also due to arrive any time at Yarraville Gardens.

Jakob's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

White Guy Cooks Thai Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

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White Guy Cooks Thai

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White Guy Cooks Thai, Yarraville Gardens. Phone: 0423 214 290

Food truck in the neighbourhood?

In fact, just two minutes’ drive up the road?

Frankly, I can’t get there soon enough.

This is such joyous news that I am therefore surprised to learn that I am White Guy Cooks Thai’s first customer for the day.

Then again, I also learn this enterprise has only been on the road – so to speak – for about a week and that it’s “very early days” in every regard.

The White Guy Cooks Thai crew members on duty for my Saturday lunch visit, Dave and Rachel, tell me the business did have to work patiently with the council to get approval to trade in the west, but that there were no great or insurmountable problems.

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Predictably, of the food available I go for the curry dish.

My massaman beef and potato curry with rice and Asian coleslaw ($11.50), served with recyclable container and spoon, is outstanding.

The rice is fine/OK.

The slaw is sweetish and tangy, rather limpid and wonderfully chewy.

The curry is very mildly spiced and the gravy is of lovely stickiness.

The meat is a just-right tender, as are the potato pieces, which are joined by carrot and fresh basil and some mung bean sprouts.

It’s fantastic lunch that’s not spoilt at all by the highish temperature, lack of seating – the garden stone wall does a fine job anyway – or the wind, the latter at least keeping the flies mostly at bay.

Heck, I may even go back for dinner! (Having been told they’ll be open until at least 8.30pm.)

Like ‘em on Facebook so you’ll know they’re at.

Thanks to Andy of Krapow for the tip-off!

White Guy Cooks Thai Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

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Boat noodles in Errol St

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Soi 38, North Melbourne Spring Fling, Errol St.

Having been out and about the previous day on official Consider The sauce business/fun, we figure this Sunday will be a cruise.

But the perfect visit to Highpoint – sleeping bag, four pairs of socks, in and out in under 20 minutes on a crazy mad busy Sunday – has us running ahead of schedule and in the mood.

Another pleasant surprise comes when, after telling Bennie he can have his choice of any burger joint within easy driving distance, he says: “I want noodles!”

So with much glee it is we head for North Melbourne and the Spring Fling in Errol St.

Andy, from Thaicentric blog Krapow, is using the festival to launch his Soi 38 enterprise and we’re keen for a taste.

Boat noodles are a new one on us – and most likely Most Melburnians, even those with a well-honed love of Thai food.

You can read what Andy and his crew are aiming at this Krapow post and the links at the end.

Their stall – fronted by a real-deal street food cart – is doing a roaring trade, but we wait just a few minutes to get our food.

Our boat noodles are a smallish serve that is just right for us and a fine deal at $5.

Andy may be irked by the comparison, but they come across to us as a drier Thai-style version of pho.

Thin noodles, a fish ball, some beautifully tender meat, all in a richly flavoursome pork broth, garnished with coriander, bean sprouts and crunchy, healthy (ahem …) pork crackling.

While being quite plain in the seasoning department, they’re very good.

Even better, they’re served in real bowls and non-disposable chop sticks.

In our experience with street/festival food in Melbourne, this is a first.

In our opinion, this is a thing of monumental hipness!

And it goes to show that if food sellers are really intent on not using plastic, styrofoam and otherwise throwaway trash cutlery and containers, it can be done.

Quite apart from the environmental aspects, it makes the eating experience so much more enjoyable.

Bravo!

We finish our meal with a serve – from the same crew of – khanom dorayaki ($5 for four).

These little pikelet-like sandwiches – filled with the likes of with custard, pandan Ccustard, sweet taro, sala custard and creaming soda custard – are soooooo good.

After wolfing down these light-as-a-feather pleasure bombs, we head for home having had a super lunch for $15.

Hopefully, this is the start of something big for the Soi 38 crew – we certainly wish them and will be keeping a watch to learn of their next outing.

Sweet Rice again …

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Sweet Rice, 102 Millers Rd, Altona North. Phone: 9315 3691

Having enjoyed our debut meal at Sweet Rice in Altona, with Consider The Sauce buddy Keri for company, we are keen to return to explore the menu further.

Truth is, yours truly dominated the ordering procedure on that visit, and not all that skillfully, either … we ended up with a lovely meal that was nevertheless dominated by fried items.

This time around, we’re joined by our lovely next door neighbours, Rob and Ming.

I am determined to order the green mango fish – for the simple reason it’s been tipped as the menu highlight by Andy of Krapow, which specialises in Thai food.

That’s good enough for me!

Other than that, I tell Ming and Rob, I plan to take  strictly hands-off approach – they can figure it out with Bennie.

So that’s what we do … and we have fine old time.

No entrees, five mains including a salad, rice.

The quantities and quality are all pretty much spot on, and our choices arrive in as quick time as can be expected..

Grilled beef salad ($9.90) has exactly the sort of zingy flavour, without much by way of a chilli hit, we are expecting.

But in other ways this dish puzzles us, as we are all used to Thai salads being made of much more finely chopped ingredients, or with meat that is finely shredded or comes in a crumbly mince form.

Here, the beef is simply larger slices of wok-cooked meat and the vegetables are equally large pieces of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and onion slices.

Nice, though.

Red curry chicken ($9) is smooth and creamy, with plenty of chicken and vegetables, including cherry tomatoes, capsicum and juilenned bamboo shoots.

But it seems almost shockingly mild in its seasoning levels.

Nice, too, but is this another case of an eatery catering to suburban takeaway expectations, perceived or otherwise?

Green mango fish ($12.90) – thanks, Andy! – is the big flavour hit of the night, even winning favour with the usually fish-hating Bennie.

A more than adequate array of crispy-battered and finely cooked fish fillets (we forget to ask what kind) are buried beneath a cheerful wig of mango strands, onion, chilli rings and coriander.

There’s a big lemon hit and everyone is happy.

You’ll be unsurprised to know that sweet and sour pork ($9, top photo) is a Bennie nomination.

But you may be surprised, as we are, that this dish – a Thai twist on a Chinese cliche – goes down a treat.

There’s little by way of sweet or sour, but the sticky sauce goes well with the light, ungreasy and nicely chewy battered pork pieces.

Prawns with chilli and basil sauce ($10.50) provides, at long last, the spice hit for which we have seemingly been yearning.

Indeed, the chilli levels are a bit too high for Bennie, but it’s all good and there’s plenty of prawns.

Oddly enough, I must have been suffering from chilli deprivation, because the remnants of the red curry chicken taste better after a run-in with high spice levels.

We’ve enjoyed a really nice meal that has never really reached stellar heights but that for sure places Sweet Rice in a niche significantly above your average suburban Thai restaurants.

Matched with incredible prices – our dinner for four, including three soft drinks, just barely tops $60 – and it’s easy and right to classify Sweet Rice as a true gem.

Thanks to Rob and Ming for the company and lending us their tastebuds!

Sweet Rice on Urbanspoon

Sweet Rice

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Sweet Rice, 102 Millers Rd, Altona North. Phone: 9315 3691

We arrive for our early and long-awaited dinner at Sweet Rice to find a rather dowdy cheap eats cafe.

The atmosphere seems a little gloomy, perhaps because the place is empty except for us and is barely warm on a very cold evening. And even though the lighting glare is soon to play havoc with photography.

Happily, by the time we are well into our meal the room has filled considerably, presenting a much more merry impression.

We are delighted about being joined by Consider The Sauce regular Keri – for the fine company, for the extra breadth three folks confer on the ordering process and the fact she gets into the swing of things by reminding me on a couple of occasions to take photos.

I get that way sometimes when I’m hungry and excited about eating in a new place!

The food here is cheap by any standards – by the standards of Thai restaurants in Melbourne, it seems exceptionally cheap.

Making us more excited is the fact there are quite a few novel items on the menu.

Some things we want to order – spicy lamb roti, beef noodle soup (whatever that is in a Thai context) – are unavailable.

The vegetable curry puffs ($4.50) are nice enough. But they’re so tiny that they seem almost all pastry and the filling gets lost in the jostle.

Keri’s no big of fish cakes; neither am I, to tell you the truth.

But these ($5.90), in my experience, are as good as we’ve had.

In this case, the rubbery effect is rather pleasing and it’s obvious by the internal greenery of sliced spring onion that these are house-generated.

The chicken satay skewers ($6.90) are ordered by command of Bennie; the rest of the team is happy to go along.

He loves them; his dad finds the chicken meat OK but a little fibrous.

But it’s the sauce that impresses – not so much peanutty, but with a lovely flavour that has a tang of curry about it.

Soft shell crab (top photo, $12.90) is Keri’s choice and it’s an outright winner.

The tiny crabs are tender and a little crunchy at the same time, while the batter and seasoning seem very much along the same lines of those found on salt-and-pepper calamari and chicken ribs in Malaysian joints.

Chu chee curry fish ($9.50) is, I’m later told, like a cross between a red curry and a panang curry.

Some rudimentary online sleuthing indicates that is very much the case, while I find one reference that maintains that it “is based on a red curry sauce and distinguished by the use of kaffir lime leaves and basil – it is a thick spicy sauce that is different from other Thai curries because of the texture“.

In any case, it’s delightful that in our dish the battered fish (we forget to forget to ask the species) is both crispy and covered in the gravy.

The accompanying vegetables are both vibrant of colour and lovely to eat.

Only problem is the parsimonious quantity of sauce.

When I’d earlier asked about the pork shank ($12.90), I’d been told it is deep fried.

We thought: Why not?

Still, we are surprised by the sheer size and imposing presence of our dish. Definitely a first for all of us!

The whole thing has been rubbed with five-spice and cinnamon.

There’s quite a lot of meat, which is pleasantly tasty and chewy in a nice way but a long way short of fall-off-the-bone tender.

The crackling is dry but actually quite tough, but yours truly gobbles a fair amount of it anyway.

Just as well there’s three of us – this dish would be ludicrous for a single diner and a bit on the over-the-top side for a couple. It’s made, we suggest, for group dining.

The presence of some unusual items on the Sweet Rice menu may have led us – oh, OK, me! – astray.

Had we stuck with a more orthodox order that included, say, a tangy salad, a regular curry and a vegetable-heavy vegetable wok dish, we may have enjoyed a more well-rounded dinner.

However, despite some oddities along the way, we’ve seen and tasted enough to reckon Sweet Rice may provide not only some of Melbourne’s cheapest Thai food but also some of its very best. There’s a home-cooked vibe here that defies any expectations of sauce-out-of-a-bottle.

The service was obliging and our food arrived in good time.

It’ll be interesting to see what the experts at krapow think about the place when they get around to it.

Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog is certainly a fan.

Thanks to Keri for being part of the team!

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She’s Thai – takeaway

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Friday takeaway dinner from She's Thai.

She’s Thai, 208 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9314 5556

Isn’t it some sort of bureaucratic insanity that sees kids start the new school year on a Thursday or Friday?

In any case, we’ve stumbled across the finish line of another week, including Bennie’s two-day week and my own commuting-and-driving routine.

We’re worn out and the house is out of food.

We’ve already been out on the fang once this week and will do so again some time over the weekend, so all we feel like is some quality sofa time.

It’s the perfect opportunity to take our local Thai joint, only sparingly frequented since our initial story, out for another spin.

Keeping the price down by cooking our own rice, going for two mains and ignoring the temptations of the entree list, we order red curry chicken and – wanting the crunch and zing of a stiry fry – the preow wahn, which is described as “sweet and sour using ‘royal cuisine’ style”.

Takeaway dinner from She's Thai.

Stir fry? Really?

Call it what you want – in our house we’ll call it soup.

Truly, our preow wahn is unlike anything we’ve ever come across before that has been even remotely stir fry.

The jumble of vegetables and pineapple is OK, but the gravy – soup! – is like a close cousin of the Cantonese sweet and sour.

A lame cousin.

Our red chicken curry is better, though fairly minimalist in terms of size.

What seems to be the same vegetable mix joins the chicken pieces is a gravy that separates out into its separate components.

Am I correct in assuming this signifies home-cooking, as opposed supermarket sauces and coconut milk overkill?

Aside from our stir fry being nothing we’d label as such and a disappointingly low level of spice and zing, our dinner goes OK but is still disappointing.

Surprisingly enough, that disappointment does little to dent our faith in the worthiness and integrity of She’s Thai.

Waiting to bat during the next day’s cricket match at Spotswood, Bennie calls it right: “It’d be better if we went there to eat their food!”

Not to mention relying on the staff for advice, making sure of much higher spice levels and more robust flavours, and maybe trying one of the handful of duck dishes.

And then there’s always the sticky and delicious massaman beef curry.

She's Thai - service with a smile!

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At 43

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43 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 1198

What was once Cafe Urbano – an establishment of no great distinction – is now At 34, cafe by day and Thai restaurant by night.

It’s been open for a while, and we’ve often wondered how it’s going. On week nights it’s seemed a little forlorn, unloved and sparsely populated.

At 6.30pm on this Saturday night, there seems no such problems. Two tables are already busy as we arrive, two more are quickly occupied soon after and by the time we split a table of seven has also taken up residence.

This outing is Bennie’s call and it’s an inspired one. Considering his dad has been plowing through the debilitating effects of glandular fever all week, a casual five-minute stroll around the corner is much preferable to a wild drive to the wilds of Deer Park and the unknown quantities of an Indian eatery on an industrial estate. Maybe next time!

We have a swell time.

We wonder why we took so long to drop by.

The service is delightful and the arrival of our tucker prompt.

If our meal is good rather than really dandy, we happily blame a couple of dud menu choices.

Incredibly, for all the countless times Bennie have been out on the fang, this is the first Thai meal we’ve shared.

We start with one of the specials – gai hoi bai toey (marinated chicken cooked in pandan leaf, $6.90).

This is just OK for us. The chicken pieces are smallish, making the price seem a little on the steep side. They’re juicy enough, but there’s little or no taste of the publicised marinade flavour.

The pork salad (naem sod, $11.50) is a different matter entirely.

This is just as zingy with lime/lemon, ginger, coriander and chilli as we could wish, all of it a super foil for the chewy pork mince. Although it is at the upper chilli limit at which Bennie can enjoy eating!

The pad kee mao (fried thick rice noodle with chilli, sweet basil, vegetables and tofu, $11.90) is very mild by comparison.

In reality, the noodles are restrained in number, making this more of a straight-up wok-fried mixed vegetable dish. It’s good and does the job of adding variety and colour to our meal.

Our last hurrah fills us up right good – siszzling beef ($16).

This, too, is nice enough – plenty of beef pieces, almost as many cashew nuts, pleasant gravy. The problem seems to us that it’s more of a Chinese-style dish than a Thai one!

So … a good meal that may have been made better had we not tried so hard to steer clear of the usual Thai suspects.

We regret, for instance, not ordering the red duck curry ($18) on the specials board.

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Wild Rice

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Shop 18/11-19 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 5484

On leaving Wild Rice after a really fine lunch, we troop up Ferguson St for a coffee at what turns out to be a hidey-hole of the Italian variety that we resolve to explore in further depth at the earliest possible opportunity.

As well, well-known Italian chef Rosa Mitchell is busy injecting Sicilian zest into the Hobson’s Bay Hotel, just opposite Wild Rice, though the prices we scan in the display menu outside put that joint into the “special occasion” bracket for us.

So maybe we’re being a touch harsh in our long-running disdain for Willy as a dining destination.

Still, it remains odd to us that a suburb so stuffed with eateries should have found so little place in our hearts, compared to, say, nearby Altona and Newport.

We’ve liked Wild Rice for a while, though, and are always pleased to return.

After visiting Snowballs Ice-Cream, we’d headed for Altona for a Viet/Sino place that turned out to be closed for Saturday lunch.

Further rambling was rejected in the interest of a safe bet in Willy.


Wild Rice is a swell Thai place with an elegant cafe-style vibe quite a way removed from that of many low-price places we frequent.

The service, we’ve found, is always swift and smiling.

The night-time a la carte list would stretch our budget – salads around the $15 mark, curries and stir fries from about $16 to $20 and up depending on your choice of protein.

So naturally, we head for the “lunch specials” list, which is available from noon to 5pm.

This features pad thai, tom yum and red curry noodle soups, and fried noodles for around $13-15.

But again, and happily for our wallets, we are drawn to the cheaper dishes.

Bennie will never say “no” to satay of any kind, so says yes here to the chicken stay and rice ($11.50)

The meat on his four skewers is a little hard to remove from the wood, but he loves it anyway. The satay sauce is a on the skimpy side, but tastes grand – it has a really distinctive flavour that speaks, we presume, of some real care and lack of shot cuts in the kitchen.

The rice and salad bits are good.


My “savoury pancakes” ($11.50) are actually a single rice flour pancake of the kind familiar to us from its counterpart in Vietnamese restaurants.

This one is a blast and half. It’s bloody good, with Bennie casting envious glances as his dad barely suppresses moans of pleasure. The stuffing is a just-right mix beans sprouts and minced pork. The salad quotient, provided by lettuce, carrot strands, mint and fresh coriander, is likewise near perfect. The whole dish is set off by being dressed with a beaut housemade sweet chilli sauce.

We really like the way both our meals treat the herbs as more than just a matter of garnish – the coriander and mint are sufficiently copious to make them full team members.

A couple of commentators at the Wild Rice entry on Urbanspoon opine that the restaurant is the “worst Thai food in the West” and “Thai food for people that don’t want the authenticity”.

The first comment is, I feel, on pretty shaky ground.

The second quip? I simply don’t know enough about Thai food to offer an authoritative judgment. But based on the non-bottle flavour of Bennie’s satay sauce and the simple, profound pleasures of my pancake, I suspect Wild Rice may actually be among the most authentic Thai places going around.

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She’s Thai

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208 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9314 5556

How mindlessly presumptuous – and how profoundly wrong.

In all the years we’ve lived in Yarraville or thereabouts, we’ve driven past She’s Thai countless times, but never deigned to enter.

In my mind, I’d painted a picture of this eatery as a low-rent Thai place unworthy of our attention.

This was based on the unfounded inkling that it was just another cheap eat Thai place that mostly likely purveyed food that wasn’t anything special or worse – and at prices a good dollar or two higher than charged for similar and better at our many local Viet and Indian favourites.

But finally, mid-week, curiosity wins out and through the doors of She’s Thai I amble.

From the moment I cross the threshold it’s clear my presumptions are without any basis.

This is a lovely neighbourhood restaurant.


The open kitchen bustles, with adjacent casual area for customers awaiting takeaway orders and the neighbouring more formal dining room adorned with Thai woodwork and decorations. Thai music tinkles in the background and there’s even a table laid out with recent newspapers for those waiting or dining solo.

To cap it all, cackles of glee escape the kitchen as I start taking photos – always a good sign!

I question the gent of Western persuasion – as the nearby sign reads, “She’s Thai But I’m Not!” – about the Thai provenance of the chive dumplings ($5). The gist of his reply seems to be they are to be found in some areas of Thailand while having obviously having a transnational heritage.

I order them anyway. A mistake – but the only one of my visit. These Thai chive dumpling may be paragons, but for me they are too plain and lacking flavour. The two flat dumplings remind me of nothing so much as the spring onion pancakes you find in some Chinese establishments.

My gang massaman (brown beef curry) is much, much better.

I’ve had this dish many times elsewhere, usually enjoying the mild but deep mix of peanut and coconut vibes with chunky meat and – always! – the potato pieces that sing with flavour, so tender they almost become part of the gravy.


The She’s Thai massaman curry ($12.50) is quite different – in fact, more like a goulash, so sticky and gooey is the gravy. The beef is chunky and tender. The coconut flavour is more restrained than I am expecting, though the peanut quotient is high thanks to the pleasing crunch of the many skinless half nuts on offer. They join the expected spuds, crinkle-cut carrots, heaps of pineapple and basil leaves in completing a rich and delicious dish.

A few nights later, I phone in a takeaway order for chicken pad thai ($11.50), which provides a lovely at-home meal of egg noodles, egg, bean sprouts and juicy chicken pieces.

She’s Thai doesn’t do home deliveries, but no matter for us – the place is so close that barely five minutes need pass between leaving and arriving home with the goodies.

And we’ll surely be returning to take in more of the menu on a dine-in basis – for sure something with a bit more colour and zing and spice from the stir fry and salad listings.

I’ll be excited to do so, as She’s Thai is a gem of a place.

Meanwhile, I’ve also had an insider’s thumbs up on At 43, the new Thai place in Yarraville that is Cafe Urbano by day!

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