Altona pho

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Window Cafe, 25 Borrack Square, Altona North. Phone: 9399 2442

Fresh red chilli slices.

There are none.

What kind of pho joint doesn’t have fresh red chilli slices?

Ahhh, the kind that does have raisin toast and ham and cheese croissants and does coffee.

But, heck, I don’t mind – because the pho I am served is very good.

Pho can be had in Altona-by-the-bay.

But Altona is a big suburb, so if you live away from the bay, for pho Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans beckon.

So if we lived hereabouts and had Window Cafe nearby, we’d still go often to Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans – naturally – but maybe a little less often.

 

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This is a simple, small place serving a tight range of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

As well as pho you can get the expected rice dishes, mee goreng and char kway teow (see menu below).

As far as pho goes, there’s only one size – big! – as is usual in non-pho specialist places away from the main Viet precincts.

 

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I go straight sliced beef – and am delighted with said meat’s quality and quantity.

Most of it is nicely lean and rare but there is also some good brisket of a slightly more fatty variety.

The broth is mildly flavoured but fine.

 

Window Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Meal of the week No.4: Xuan Banh Cuon

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Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine is a firm favourite of CTS, one we wish were able to visit more often.

So it’s nice to be greeted with smiles all round when we do.

Today – and while Bennie is making happy with his usual chargrilled pork with vermicelli – I get to play with two new additions to the menu.

Actually, we have tried the green papaya salad with beef jerky before – in a picnic setting.

Here, in the restaurant itself, it’s every bit as good – crunchy AND chewy, tangy and completely awesome.

It’s a lot wetter (i.e. more profoundly dressed) than the above photograph indicates.

Even better, this small serve ($6) is ample enough for Bennie to get a good taste as well.

Remarkable bargain!

And who doesn’t love it when roasted peanuts crown such a dish?

(The large size costs $10.)

 

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And how about this – banh goi or Vietnamese puff ($2)?

I could describe this as a Vietnamese version of your regular curry puff – but that would be doing it an injustice and would not be particularly truthful, either.

The deep-fried outer is crisped to a tee and delicate.

The loosely-packed innards consist of prawn, pork, vermicelli, mushroom, carrot and daikon.

And a lot of amazing.

See earlier story here.

Willy noodle shop

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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.

 

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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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Good Vietnamese in an arid area

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An Phat Pho Restaurant, 65a Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9077 7984

Where do all the newly arrived residents of West Footscray’s Bunbury Village do their shopping?

Sims doesn’t seem to be all that much busier – and we visit there often.

Nor do they appear to be hitting Braybrook’s Central West Plaza shopping centre, which appears to have had the same moribund vibe for years.

As well, food-wise Central West has never kicked any goals for us.

So that makes the arrival of An Dat Pho well worth celebrating.

 

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It’s situated on the other side of the car-park from Central West central, sharing a smaller business precinct with a fish and chippery, a charcoal chicken shop, a kebab/pizza place, a noodle shop, a TAB and a Subway.

I’ve tried them all except the latter two – nothing disastrous eventuated but nor did anything that inspired me to post on CTS.

So An Dat Pho is good news for locals – Vietnamese food in an area about midway between the riches of Footscray and Sunshine.

This is especially true as the very good Quan Viet, just up the road a bit on South Road, has closed, seemingly to be replaced in due course by some sort of noodle cafe.

On our visit, Bennie and I enjoy some good, solid if not spectacular Vietnamese food.

 

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Grilled pork skewers (nem nuon, $7) are yummy wrapped in lettuce leaves with herbs and dunked in dipping sauce.

 

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Com ga nuong (grilled chicken with tomato rice, $10) is a hit, with nicely flavoursome chook and fine chicken broth to accompany.

 

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Combination stir-fried thick rice noodles ($12) lets the meal down somewhat.

It’s OK but almost swimmingly wet – in fact, you could just about call it soup!

No problem – we like An Dat Pho and where it’s at, and the service has been grand.

We suspect gravitating towards the vermicelli, pho and rice dishes is the go here.

 

An Dat Pho Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Yumminess on Alfrieda

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Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

We’ve been here before … 28 Alfrieda Street, that is.

First as Just Good Food, then as Phuong Thao – and there was another incarnation in there along the way as well.

Such is the ebb and flow, the come and go of our foodie precincts.

The latest establishment to grace 28 Alfrieda is Phi Phi – and based on a beaut Sunday dinner, we think that is a fine thing indeed.

There’s a new fit-out and the staff are trying really hard and with much graciousness.

Phi Phi is a Vietnamese/Chinese place with a wide-ranging menu that takes in all you’d expect – seafood-based banquets right through to the most humble noodles and rice dishes.

The big ovens are still out back, so you can count on the roast meats still being the goods.

 

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When we visit, the place is fetchingly busy.

And we can think of no better testament to the place’s worthiness than the way complementary bowls of chicken soup are dispensed.

For two of our mains, we would have been very disappointed had we not got soup.

For another, it’s arrival was a pleasant surprise.

For the fourth, the chook soup addition was a shock and a big plus – now that’s class!

We don’t push any envelopes with what we order, but everything we have is good or much better.

 

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Hot and sour soup ($5) is far from being the hottest or sourest I’ve enjoyed, but it IS among the very best, so chock-full of pork, baby prawns, tofu, mushrooms and other goodies is it.

It’s fantastic!

 

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Soft-shell crab rice paper rolls ($7) and …

 

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… sashimi salmon rice paper rolls ($7) are both lovely, high-quality treats.

The crab taste, the fried-and-fishy tang of which can be off-putting to some, is nicely muted by the other protagonists.

In both cases, the rolls deliver fresh takes on the usual but nevertheless fit right in to the rice paper roll tradition.

 

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Fried won tons ($5) are just so good!

Obviously house-made, they are grease-free and plump with nicely seasoned minced pork.

 

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Hainanese chicken claypot ($11.50) comes with heaps of bok choy.

Its recipient is delighted to find the bottom rice has the desired, browned crunchiness!

 

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Of course, ordering Hainanese chicken rice in a non-Malaysian eatery is always a bit of punt – but can lead to nice twists.

In this case, the Phi Phi version ($10) comes with some non-Malay greenery.

The rice is good, too.

And as with the claypot rendition, the chicken is superb – beautifully cooked and tender, despite some of the pieces being quite dense, and expertly boned with not a deadly shard of nastiness in sight.

That I really, truly appreciate.

 

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Bennie goes for the salt and pepper pork ribs on tomato rice ($11), mainly because the lad is currently in a place where fried = good.

It’s all very nice, though I’ve had versions – be they pork, chicken, tofu, whatever – that have had more arresting zing in the seasoning department.

 

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One of our party goes real old-school by ordering beef with black bean sauce on rice ($12).

And why not?

We’re loving our dinner so much we confidently expect this, too, to be very good.

And so it is.

Like all the aforementioned mains, this comes with a bowl of chicken soup – not a usual move for a black bean-sauced dish and worthy of a “Bravo”!

 

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As we muse on our wonderful dinner, we count ourselves lucky that the food we like most is so affordable.

Our meal – including a can of soft drink and a durian smoothie – clocks in at a stupendously good $74 for four.

And that, in turn, has us reflecting on the fact our newly refurbished Yarraville pub has on its menu Singapore noodles priced at $26.

Yikes!

We’ll take Phi Phi any day.

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On an earlier reconnaissance visit, yours truly also went old-school with a serve of roast duck and soya chicken on rice.

 

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This $12 outing was also most enjoyable.

The meats were tender and expertly chopped, and the presence of not just soup but also ginger/garlic/oil mash and pickles made the dish memorable.

 

Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Deer Park eats goss

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Western Pho in Deer Park is on the move.

The humble yet excellent Vietnamese eatery on Burnside Street – written about and given a new and glowing thumbs up from CTS regular Juz here – will move around the corner to the service road shopping strip on Ballarat Road in three months or so.

Proprietor Phi tells me there will be more food, more staff and more seating – the new joint will have a seating capacity of at least 60.

I caught up with Phi and his builder, “Junior” Espinosa of GE Builder, at the old premises as they were discussing the floor plan for the new place.

“Junior” tells me has worked on such CTS faves as Hyderabad Inn, Dosa Hut and Pandu’s – that’s a nice pedigree!

 

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The new place still bears the signage of the previous tenant.

 

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And just a few doors away preparations are underway for an Indian eatery and …

 

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… another Vietnamese place!

This phases Phi not at all – competition being good and helping to build a happy neighbourhood eats destination, he reckons.

 

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Meanwhile, in even more good news for locals, the current Western Pho premises on Burnside Street, will be renamed Western Roll and feature banh mi, rice paper rolls and the like, including sauces from Phi’s hometown near Cam Ranh Bay – and coffee.

It’s all happening in Deer Park!

 

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Care To Share?

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The Care To Share project is a fine community initiative that aims to “connect residents with local refugee communities through simple acts of sharing”.

There are three strands to this project started by westerners Bree Anastasi, Danielle Entwistle, Kerry Sanders and Nikii McCoppin – two of them involve food, so naturally CTS pricked its ears up.

The Welcome Table sees “families from the inner west of Melbourne to open their homes and dining tables for one evening to a local refugee individual or family” for the purposes of eating, sharing and conversation.

CTS, on account of the restricted space of our tiny pad, had to beg off from this one – as excellent an idea as it is!

Cooking Conections will see “cooking classes delivered by members of the refugee community to individuals from the inner West” at the Yarraville Community Centre.

Our interest in this aspect of the project was rewarded by a request that we host those events we are able to – a request we were very excited to agree to!

The three Cooking Connection sessions thus far planned are:

Tuesday, June 17, 6-9pm – Vietnamese
Vy Cardona, Vietnamese foodie extraordinaire will take you on a culinary journey – and you’ll learn to make beef pho, rice paper rolls, spring rolls and lotus root salad.

Saturday, June 21, noon- 2.30pm – Afghani and Iranian
Jamshid and friends will share some their stories and some of the staple dishes of their Afghani homeland. Qabli pulao, Afghan biryani and the sweetness of sheer pira may be some of the lunchtime delights.

Sunday, June 22, noon-2.30pm – Ethiopian 
Abdi from Konjo restaurant in Footscray will take your tastebuds on a sub-African journey – their famous kitfo, tibs, injera amongst others –  and hopefully their specially roasted Ethiopian coffee makes an appearance, too!

Consider The Sauce truly will be hosting the last two of those.

There is a maximum capacity of 12 guests for each session.

Tickets cost $48 per person and all ticket monies go towards costs associated with holding the classes. Yours truly and the chefs are volunteering their time.

Visit the Care To Share Project here, or you can go straight to the booking page here.

And you can read the story written by my Star Weekly colleague Benjamin Millar here.

The third aspect of the Care To Share Project is I Hear You, “an art installation comprised of letters, pictures and various story telling mediums contributed by individuals of the local refugee community that are participating in ESL classes”.

It will run at the Footscray Community Arts Centre from Thursday, June 12, to Sunday, June 29.