Jade Stream Chinese Restaurant, 62 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9748 9666
The, ahem, neighbourhood surrounding Hoopers Crossing station is surely one of most unlovely in the western suburbs.
But there is food.
Moving towards the city and along Old Geelong Road, one is confronted by a nightmare of roundabouts, asphalt, concrete and warehouse retail as the laughably titled Golden Mile unfolds.
Down the Golden Mile there is food, too – including a cavernous Indian place we have yet to fully explore and a trucked-away outpost of Italian coffee and biscotti.
Back in the area between the station and the Golden Mile proper, the grimness is being enhanced by urban upheaval as Pacific Werribee, up the road, sucks away the customers.
Some businesses are hanging on despite the changes the area is undergoing and the problems of access – the whirling traffic hereabouts is intense.
They include the entertainment/licensed/pokies venue of the Werribee Tigers and a Woolworths.
Also here is a motel that for years has had signs advertising its buffet.
This has long intrigued us – we may not think the area very attractive but it is part of our routine.
So one night, having time to kill before picking Bennie up from his guitar lesson, I step into the motel to find the buffet is very much a sometime thing despite the signage and that only a small menu is available.
The whole vibe is so desultory that I skedaddle up the road apiece to Jade Stream, another business clinging on here.
Ah, this is more like it – that’s what I think as I peruse the menu.
So that’s where we head for dinner.
What are we expecting, hoping for?
Just some smart, tasty Cantonese food – nothing innovative or challenging but something satisfying and of good quality.
And that’s pretty much exactly what we receive.
I’m guessing Jade Stream has been in place for a couple of decades – inside has an air of timelessness and a vibe speaks of a business that knows what it’s about and has a good handle on its customers.
While we’re enjoying our dinner, a handful of tables of various numbers come and go – and all of them appear to be of regulars on friendly terms with the staff.
We like that.
We find the service to be very good.
Jade Stream lays some claim to being a Chinese-Malaysian but mostly this is a straight-up Chinese joint.
Curry puffs ($5.50) are chubby cylinders and seem rather small.
But the fillings are very good – mostly a rich mix of minced meat with some crunch ‘n’ pop from peas.
Short soup ($6) has a very good and flavoursome broth with a bit of a peppery kick.
There are five slithery, delicious wontons – Bennie’s glinty-eyed enthusiasm wins him three, his dad gets two.
Garlic pepper steak ($25.90) also appears modest of proportion but in this case appearances are deceiving.
There’s nothing particularly garlicky about the sauce but it is nonetheless rich and wonderful.
The beef cubes are big, of high quality and superbly cooked – and we appreciate the many chunks of broccoli.
Szechuan eggplant hot pot is a big hit with us and an outright bargain, with the smaller dice of eggplant, peas, pork mince and chilli interspersed with silky, larger eggplant chunks of beaut flavour.
At $18.90, and with rice, it could easily serve as a light meal for two.
So big is the serve that we eat a little more than half, with the rest and the leftover rice going to be Bennie’s school lunch for the next day.
With two serves of rice but no soft drinks, our dinner has cost us a fair $61.30.