Vietnamese cool with many twists

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hem2

 

Hem 27, shop 27, 320-380 Epsom Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 2961

Hem is Vietnamese for alley.

The new Vietnamese restaurant at the showground shopping centre is in shop 27.

Hence Hem 27.

But that simple explanation tells only part of the story.

There has been a lot of thought and time put into the renovation of this space to provide a zippy, cheap eatery with some of the ambience of a Saigon alleyway.

 

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It certainly looks very different from the business it replaces!

But that, too, tells only part of the story.

Like just about all the westies we know, we eat a lot of Vietnamese food.

So when a new place opens – Hem 27 has been doing business for about a month – the scanning of the menu for new, different and interesting dishes is of the reflex variety.

At Hem 27, we strike it deliciously rich.

Sure, the longish menu (see below) has such stalwart Viatnamese regulars as pho and rice paper roles.

But there so much more!

The chef’s special list has two different soup noodles with crab.

And there’s another crab soup-noodle elsewhere on the menu – in the section that has Hanoi trio combo soup.

Consider The Sauce has visited three times – twice solo and once with a couple of buddies – and we’ve loved the food and everything about the place.

Here’s what we’ve tried:

 

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Chicken spare ribs (suon ga chien, six for $6.80) are every bit as good as we expect.

Excellent, in fact – crisp, superbly fried with no residue oil and tasty.

And surely the chicken wings are every bit as good.

 

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We expect our trio of fish cakes (cha ca thac lac chien, $7.80) to be superior to the usual, rubbery versions served up in routine Thai places.

And they are.

But there’s not much in it.

Yes, they’re rubbery but also quite tasty, with the grey colouring stimulating comparisons with pork.

 

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Nui xo bao bit ten trung ($15.80) is a version of diced beef – but with pan-fried macaroni instead of tomato rice.

The pasta is a rolled-gold kick – perhaps cooked with the same tomatoey sauce as the rice in the more familar version, it comes with a hefty quotient of wok hei.

Oh, splendid yumminess – I could eat this pasta all by itself.

For breakfast.

The gooey fried egg fits right in and the beef is so good – full of tender and flavour.

 

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Bun ra gi ca ($11.80) is coconut curry chicken noodle soup.

It’s a bit more spicy and richer in colour and flavour than most Vietnamese chicken curries I’ve tried.

The chicken bits are OK but play second fiddle to the wonderful chunks of sweet potato, so well cooked they are on the verge of becoming part of the sauce.

A Vietnamese version of laksa?

Kind of.

 

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Chosen from a list of four salads, goi xa xiu chay ($14.80) is topped with fried, almost-crisp tofu strips and vegetarian “barbecued pork”.

I’ve never been one for mock meat but as one of my companions points out, this works with its barbecue-style sauce and when gobbled with the salad components.

And they are excellent, fresh and zingy – with lots of roasted peanuts.

 

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Ca kho to ($18) is Vietnamese caramelised braised fish in a clay pot – and it’s a killer.

When this dish arrives at our table, I find the rising aromas a little confronting.

But the eating and tasting dispels all doubt – this is a lusty, rich stunner.

The fish – basa (a sort-of Vietnamese catfish also know as swai) – is extremely well cooked and falling apart at the first touch of eating implements.

But it’s all good and the dish’s consumption elicits much ooh-ing and aah-ing.

 

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Our obvious choices for dessert – the flan and the creme caramel – are sold out for the day.

Darn!

But coconut ice-cream – ken dua ($5.80) – does us just fine.

It’s a white delight that comes with more of those peanuts.

 

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Sweet steamed rice cake – banh bo hap nuoc cot duot ($5.80)-  is rice cake dipped using toothpicks in coconut cream.

I find it to be intriguing but fail to be won over.

The rice cake patties have a similar, spongy texture to hoppers or injera and are plain in terms of taste.

Dipping them in the beaut cream and then swallowing feels a bit like downing an oyster!

As all of the above makes clear, not everything tried by CTS at Hem 27 was found to be totally persuasive.

But we dig the whole place and what it’s about without inhibition.

The service has been fine – thanks, Mindy!

And there’s a whole lot more on that menu to try.

Sticking my neck out: This place is destined to be a smash hit.

And maybe even to attain the same sort of cult-like status as, say 8bit?

 

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Ceylon hot

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ceylon26

 

Fusion Ceylon, 27 Watton Street, Weribee. Phone: 0433 696 726

We feel blessed to have become part of a generation of westies for whom Werribee has no baggage.

For us, the negative stories are nothing more than urban legends.

We love a drive down the highway to get there and we generally have a good time when we do.

And there seems to be more and more food from which to choose.

Since our earlier story, Fusion Ceylon has become a favourite.

We like it a lot.

Even better, as an impromptu Sunday night dinner for three of us illustrated, the lads there have worked wonders with the look and feel of the place.

 

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Look hard and the remnants of the former fish and chip remain discernible.

But mostly this has become a very nice place to spend some time, this achieved by the simple agency of little more than rustic wood furnishings and fittings.

And 40-gallon drums.

Even better, we discover we’ve got lucky – Sunday night is hopper night.

And they’re being prepared with great aplomb right beside our table.

Free entertainment!

 

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The hopper meal costs $15 and consists of four plain hoppers, two egg hoppers, one of a choice of three curries and “Sri Lankan-style caramelised onions”.

It’s all grand and we eat like kings.

Well, two kings and one queen.

Our curry – pork – is mild but very rich.

There’s a stack of fat in there but it’s easily extracted if that’s not your thing.

 

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Based on our previous visits, we know our fave from the regular menu is the Fusion Ceylon biryani – we’ve come to love its combo of biryani heat/spice and wok hei.

The latter is not so evident tonight but it’s still a fantastic dish.

The chook drumstick is so super dooper tasty, it has all of us ooh-ing ahh-ing, while I get golden fried hard-boiled egg all to myself.

Off to the right is a dollop of fabulous pineapple pickle.

As there’s three of us, we do order an extra egg hopper and an extra serve of pork curry.

But even then the damage for Trio CTS is a paltry $36.

 

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Life goes on at Berkshire Road

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madam1

 

Madam Curry, 71 Berkshire Road, Sunshine North.

Ah well, that’s the end of an era in western suburbs food history.

Marco and Maria from Latin Food and Wines (frequently referred to as La Morenita in the many stories we have run about them) have moved from their long-time North Sunshine redoubt for a great new home in Deer Park.

There’ll be more about them and that right here at CTS in due course …

It seems the sleepy Berkshire Road shopping strip that has been such a big part of our lives for so many years will become even more somnolent.

But food things there are still ticking over.

The newest arrival is the roti-producing outfit called Madam Curry, which has moved from Sunshine Plaza into the premises formerly occupied by a failed South American eatery.

 

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My understanding is that for the Madam Curry operation, serving walk-up customers curries, rotis and the like is strictly a second-string affair to the contracts they have to supply rotis across the city.

Thus as I arrive at their new digs for lunch I am wondering who will actually be stepping up for a lunch-time feed in the back streets of North Sunshine.

So I am happily surprised that as I am lunching, two different groups of local workers/businessmen come and go.

Madam Curry’s stock in trade may be supplying rotis to the Melbourne hospitality industry but it seems catering to the lunch trade in a neighbourhood where there is not much food to be had is a smart move.

The eat-in/takeaway menu (see below) covers a tight range of reasonably priced starters, roti canai dishes, wraps and noodles.

 

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Prawn dumplings ($5.50) are nice – plump and flavoursome – without having the oomph to be expected from a top-line yum cha joint.

 

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The prominent appearance of curry leaves is a good sign of home-cooking in my chicken curry with roti cani ($9.90).

The curry IS good, made so far as I can tell from thigh meat and featuring a goodly number of spud bits in a tasty, mild curry sauce.

The roti is OK but does have something of a mass-produced taste/feel to it.

 

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Westie eats goss 7/4/16

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wgoss0704161

 

The premises that housed the now-closed Nando’s outlet on Anderson Street in Yarraville is to be a Vietnamese eatery.

The windows remain papered over but the signage is up!

 

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Around the corner on Ballarat Street, the wonderful Friend or Pho has extended its opening hours.

It’s now open for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, with Wednesday the only non-opening day.

 

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Over in Brooklyn, Dosa Palace is open at 28A Millers Road.

I dropped in on opening day for a very nice masala dosa – the potato stuffing was particularly memorable.

Unlike its WeFo sister restaurant, Hyderabad Inn, it’s a low-key cafe-style place but will, I’m sure, do the locals just fine.

What’s up in Willy?

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raga3

 

Raga Indian Cuisine, 223 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 6982

A couple of years ago, Consider The Sauce was very excited to try – for the first time – the funky South African workingman’s soul food that is bunny chow.

Sadly, before I got around to a return visit to Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre for a return encounter, the humble cafe concerned closed down.

(See here for that story and some background on bunny chows!)

So I was delighted, as we ambled away from enjoying Nelson Place’s new Italian joint, that Bennie noticed the above notice in the window of a nearby Indian eatery.

At the first available, opportunity I’m there.

After I order my lamb bunny, the staff/management soon work out I’m “that guy with that camera” – and I am unsurprised to learn Raga has ties to the now defunct Point Cook cafe at which I first tried a bunny chow!

 

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So I am brought a complementary dish courtesy of the chef.

Quail 65 is a knockout – and probably the best Indo-Chinese dish I’ve ever tried.

The rotund fritters are wonderfully crisp and nicely salty on the outside, while the shredded quail meat inside is fabulous.

All is attended by lovely, spiced cucumber noodles.

They are so good!

But I am mindful of leaving room for my bunny so donate the remaining two fritters to the grateful inhabitants of the adjacent table.

 

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Now take it as given that my experience with bunny chows is limited … but that said, I reckon my Raga lamb bunny is a killer delight.

The accompanying salad, served in a giant prawn cracker, is just right.

The lamb curry is plentiful, very spicy and studded with tender spud chunks.

This time around, knowing a little of bunny lore, I make only small use of cutlery, mostly use my hands and love every mouthful of curry and bread.

But it’s a big meal and I call a halt to my feasting after consuming all the curry and about half the bread.

The price?

I suspect experienced Durban bunny hounds will snort with derision at paying $17.50 for what is ostensibly blue-collar street food.

But I don’t have any problem with the price tag – it’s a good investment, IMO, for a fine meal.

And especially given this is probably the only place in Melbourne, and even within Australia, that serves bunny chows.

After all the cafe-style Indian places we frequent, it’s been real nice to spend some time in a proper, well-appointed Indian restaurant.

And the thalis ordered by a happy a neighbouring table seem like a great deal. The thalis, like the bunnies, are served on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The mint/tamarind sauce that came with my papadums was adorned with latte art!

 

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Yum Chinese roasts, dumplings

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bbq2

 

BBQ Noodle House, Shop 14, 238 Boardwalk Boulevard, Point Cook. Phone: 8375 2356

BBQ Noodle House shares a food-providing strip adjacent Featherstone shopping centre with an F&C place, a charcoal chicken place and a pizza joint.

It looks like a typical suburban noodle shop – the kind where you’ll get very average noodles and dodgy take-away.

But there’s more of interest here …

Chinese roast meats can be bought in Sunshine but only, so far as I’m aware, at a Hampshire Road supermarket – not in a house-roasted sit-down restaurant setting.

There are several such places in Footscray and at least one good one in St Albans.

But on the bay side of the Westgate Freeway/Princes Highway?

Nope.

None at all.

The first thing we note about BBQ Noodle House is the line-up of typical roast beasties – and bits of beasties – hanging up in typical fashion in the window.

The second thing we note, equally approvingly, is the big, tubby roasting oven in the kitchen.

Yes!

 

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Our mixed roast platter ($12) is just fine, with meat juices sluicing up the rice and overcooked but lovely bok choy on the side.

The barbecue pork and roast duck are tender, juicy and tasty – though, predictably, the duck meat near the bone is something of a challenge.

 

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A bowl of chicken broth is brought to us upon request and without extra charge.

It is hot and delicious.

 

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Pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings ($11.50) are winners, too.

Whatever the cabbage component, it has been subsumed into the pork mixture but no matter.

The dumplings are quite heavy, and even a bit stodgy – in a good way.

But they taste fabulous.

And we dig the strands of pickled vegetables that are on hand.

 

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Even the vegetable spring rolls ($4) come up trumps.

They’re well fried and the innards are dark with chopped fungi.

 

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Fine sweeties, wholesale prices

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med2

 

Mediterranean Wholesalers, 482 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Phone: 9380 4777

After we moved to the western suburbs, we maintained regular visits to Mediterranean Wholesalers – that repository of just about everything Italian on Sydney Road – for several years.

Maybe it was because there was then less available in the west of what we were seeking – oil, great cheese and sausages, pasta, pulses and much more.

And maybe, too, it was simply a matter of not then, yet knowing where to source such goodies in the west.

That pleasurable habit fell by the wayside many years ago now … but very recently Bennie and I had some to kill before a hospital visit and it gave us a great deal of pleasure to re-visit Mediterranean Wholesalers.

We had lunched elsewhere – at our new fave non-westie joint – so were thinking only of coffee and some sweet treats.

It was a great fun to be in the place again – all appeared to be the same: The smells, the stock, the aisles of wonderful.

 

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Smiles aglow, we had a slice of lovely flourless chocolate cake ($3) and a baby ricotta canoli ($1.50).

My very good cafe latte clocked in at $2.50 and Bennie’s San Pelligrino chinotto cost a fabulously cheap $1.50.

If only all cafes sold San Pelligrino soft drinks at such prices we’d be regular chuggers.

Incredibly, our brief and enjoyable visit cost us less than $10.

 

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