Penang Road, 177 Clarendon St, South Melbourne. Phone: 9690 0536
My non-blogging journalism career seems to be mirroring, in its own way, the rapidly changing nature of work in Australia and no doubt elsewhere.
After 15 and more years on the one masthead and pretty much two decades with a single employer, I am on to my third workplace in as many years.
I’m finding myself nimble enough to keep pace with changing circumstances and enjoying the various challenges.
Even better, a far higher number of the stories I am working with are to do with coffee and/or food and/or restaurants than has previously been the case, even if mostly they’re about places I am not viscerally interested in or can afford.
At my new South Melbourne office, home of the The Weekly Review and associated enterprises, there are a few familiar faces from other places and times, but a lot of shared history even with those I have never met before.
Ironically, the one staff member with whom I share a deep and lengthy job history went unnoticed by me, so long had it been since we worked together.
It was only when partaking in a discussion of the local lunch options that he reminded me of all that and the metaphorical penny dropped. Turns out he’s hip to Consider The Sauce, too!
Ben is deeply involved in the business development side of things and is the office wine writer/guru to boot, so not so coincidentally likes a good feed, too.
So when he robustly enthuses about the Malaysian place just around the corner, I take notice for sure.
Still, work continues to be deadline-driven, so opportunities for lunch escapes are not that common.
Finally, though, we escape for a brief but spectacularly fine Malaysian lunch.
Penang Road has a modest facade, so gives little away about what goes on within.
Stepping through the door, though, I am pleasantly surprised to find a cheerfully busy restaurant with quite classy dark wood furniture, a step up from, say, Coconut House.
Penang Road has all he expected bases covered – laksas, rice dishes, noodles and snacks.
The place is quite crowded but we quickly score a table and get down to perusing the menu, placing our orders at the counter and getting our “number”.
Our food arrives with gratifying haste – and it’s brilliant!
Ben’s chicken rice ($9.60) looks fabulous.
Very good rice and plain soup/broth with what I suspect are chicken balls floating in it – neither of us get around to finding out, so intent are we on the meatier side of things and a wide-ranging conversation.
Best of all, the all-important mix of soy sauce, oil, chicken broth, ginger and garlic in which his boneless chicken resides is way more plentiful than is the norm in Melbourne’s Malaysian cheap eats joints.
And it’s tasty, too.
My “chicken chop with rice” ($9.90) is superb, though it’s a nutritionist’s nightmare in almost every conceivable and excellent way.
Same fine chicken rice and broth, albeit minus the balls.
Good fried egg atop the rice.
Plenty of chilli sauce of just the right heat levels on the side.
And the chicken?
This is truly “OMG fried chicken” of a kind to make the Colonel blush with shame.
It’s boneless (despite being described as “chop”), crispy, wonderfully chewy, ungreasy and so plentiful that I am unable to devour it all, despite rampant deliciousness.
The garlicky, spicy tang of our lunch lingers with gusto deep into a hard-working afternoon.
I find it thrilling that such a beaut Melbourne cheap eats experience has eventuated through evolving changes in the media landscape.
Than again, it’s not surprising at all … and how about those prices?