Mighty Korean hit

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Mumchan, 1b Triholm Avenue, Laverton. Phone: 7013 4592

It’s taken a while for us to pursue a reader tip-off about Mumchan.

But we know immediately upon entering that this is going to be worthwhile adventure.

 

 

Item: The display fridge is stacked with all sorts of interesting pickles, preserves and more, all set for taking home.

And, yes, we take some home.

Item: Even at our arranged meeting time of 6.30pm on a Friday, we are obliged to do something CTS rarely does or even considers.

Yes, we have to wait for a table.

But not too long – besides our dining companions are yet to arrive.

We are seated soon after they do.

Tonight, Bennie and I are joined by a Team CTS comprising my Star Weekly colleague Maria, her partner Gary and son Matteo.

Item: As Gary points out, so chic is Mumchan – but not in an overbearing way – that it looks like it’d be just as home in Seddon, Fitzroy or the CBD.

Regular readers will know decor doesn’t feature high on the CTS list of winning factors.

But we do enjoy supping in fine surrounds.

 

 

The big kitchen is mostly open to observation, the staff deal with a busy night with smiling aplomb and the wait times are just right.

The menu is studded with dishes familiar to us and many not so.

Along with the starters are special dishes, fried chicken to share and lists of rice offerings and stews that appear to be one-person meals.

 

 

Japchae ($16) is a comforting noodle dish and a tad on the conservative side, chosen – I suspect – by Maria with Matteo in mind.

He pretty much ignores it completely, but the rest of us enjoy it.

 

 

Bennie’s kimchi stew ($14) of kimchi, pork and tofu in spicy broth is fantastic.

It’s called – according to Korean-loving CTS buddy Justin – kim chi jigae.

Even for myself, not a kimchi zealot by any stretch, the soup is tasty and tangy.

Bennie tells me the pork cubes frolicking with the tofu and noodles are short of fall-apart, but that their solidity is just right for his dish at hand.

 

 

Gary’s stonepot bibimbap with beef ($16) looks just right, all the expected nuts and bolts in lovely, ordered display.

 

 

Fried chicken?

Of course!

Now, $33 may sound a bit steep for what is described as a “whole chicken”.

But so many pieces are there, it seems like more than one chook gone into constructing our shared bowl.

Certainly, there’s more than enough for us all to enjoy at least a couple of pieces.

Bennie later says that he wished we’d gone with one of the flavour coatings – sweet and spicy, sweet soy and cheese snow are available.

But as a first-up try at Mumchan, I think we’re all happy with the regular fried chicken.

It’s great – and puts the fare served up by many specialist, hipster-style fried chicken places to shame.

 

 

My own choice of spicy beef soup ($16) is a sensation.

Big call: This is the best Korean dish I’ve ever enjoyed.

Among the plethora of noodles, egg, mushrooms and mildly spicy broth is plenty of tremendous pork that in barbecue terminology would be referred to as “pulled”.

We’ll be back at Mumchan sooner rather than later.

After we’ve booked a table.

 

A Sunshine Star

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Afghan Star Restaurant, 251 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone 0431 970 348

There are – I believe – three places serving the food of Afghanistan in Sunshine.

Amid the (mostly) Vietnamese hubub around Sunshine central and Hampshire Road, they are easy to miss – and Afghan Star is perhaps the most anonymous of them.

It looks, from the outside and inside both, like a humdrum takeaway joint of non-specific origins.

You can get a pizza here – with pineapple, if that’s your kind of thing.

The decor is utilitarian.

But after sporadic visits over the recent couple of years, I reckon it’s time for a CTS story.

Because I really do like this place.

And if the review visit – with Bennie Weir and Nat Stockley in tow – doesn’t quite reach the heights of my previous (solo) visits, I nevertheless remain enamoured of Afghan Star.

Here is less proper restaurant routine and more a place to grab some quick and very cheap Afghan food.

There’s a range of stews/curries called qorma. I’ve tried a couple of them; they’re good.

But really, the top action here is all about grilled meats.

 

 

But first let me note a couple of happy details – the sort of thing that tickles the CTS soul and makes us love places beyond the main gist of the food.

One is the wonderful fruit salad tablecloth with which we are blessed.

And, no, I am not being facetious.

 

 

The second is the stupendously wonderful flatbread – it’s hot, freshly made and enormous.

On each and every visit I have made to Afghan Star, I have taken at least half one of these home with me.

So good!

 

 

And if I order charcoal chicken, I end up taking some of that home, too.

Because a whole, excellent chook – with flatbread, some salady bits/pieces and a minty dipping sauce with a subtle yet important chilli kick – costs $14.99.

That’s a for-sure bargain!

The chicken is very, very good, best and most juicy/succulent on the bone, though inevitably a bit dry in the heart of the breast.

That’s what the minty sauce is for.

 

 

It’s a fine thing that there’s plenty of my chicken to go around, because Bennie is disappointed with his doner mix kebab platter ($10).

For starters, he doesn’t believe it accurately reflects the colour photo at the serving counter upon which he’s based his selection.

It’s OK – but amounts to HSP on a plate.

 

 

Much better – and returning to the heart of the Afghan Star matter – is Nat’s mix kebab platter, another $14.99 steal served on rice and with the same flatbread, salad and sauce.

The tikka/shish lamb meat is very tasty, though a tad on the dry/tough side. Just a tad …

The kobida/kofta minced lamb meat is much better – chewy and nicely (mildly) seasoned.

But really, these are minor quibbles – this kind of food/meat usually sells for more, and sometimes way more, than here.

Afghan Star gets the job done nicely and with smiling, efficient service – and all with a comprehensive lack of on-trend or hipster angles.

For that alone, I love it.

 

Pure Sunshine

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Ghion Restaurant & Cafe, 12 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0423 362 995

There’s no doubt the old Sunshine station – and its gloomy, even spooky tunnel/underpass through to City Place – deserved and needed to be replaced.

But given the new station edifice involves a much less direct and stair-heavy route, I wondered what impact the new station arrangements would have on City Place and the surrounding businesses and neighbourhood.

Surely, the curious would be much less inclined to venture to “the other side of the tracks” from Sunshine central and its much more numerous shops and eateries?

Well, yes – I guess so.

But something rather nice appears to be happening in the face of this enforced “separation”.

You see, it’s now possible to consider that City Place and the adjacent Sun Crescent constitute an entirely different neighbourhood.

Or even a different suburb – one with its own pace, space and vibe.

It’s very laid back, with none of the hustle and bustle of Sunshine proper.

I’d not go so far as to suggest this neighbourhood is prospering or constantly buzzing, but it does seem to be getting on with doing its own thing.

It’s tempting to describe the overall vibe as African, but that would be misleading.

There’s hairdressers/barbers, a cafe, groceries and an arts space.

The fine and long-term Chinese eatery Dragon Express remains in place, while around the corner on Sun Crescent is the utterly fabulous Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, as well as a kebab shop, an Ethiopian place and a Sri Lankan outlet.

Back on City Place, Ghion is doing really good Ethiopian tucker and has become a regular haunt for those seeking a lightish casual lunch in a tranquil, relaxing setting.

I’m guessing it’s also on the ball come dinnertime.

The classic vegetarian combo yetsom beyaynetu is awesome here – as good as any I’ve tried.

Lentils/pulses three different ways; the familiar carrot/potato, beetroot and greens; sprightly salad – all beautifully cooked and presented, all in just the right quantities for a wonderfully balanced meal.

This winning offering costs a supremely cheap $12.

But if you visit Ghion on Wednesday – day or night – it’ll cost you a mere $10.

How good is that?

Among the various meat dishes, lega tibs ($13) is lovely.

It’s a tomato-based, zingy concoction with good lamb chunks and the onion providing nice crunch through being just the right side al dente.

Wait times at Ghion are spot on – long enough to bespeak much care in the kitchen, short enough to ward off hungry impatience.

Gordon Street Bakery

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Gordon Street Bakery, 63 Gordon Street, Footscray.

Much excitement has attended the arrival of a French bakery in Gordon Street, Footscray.

Several readers have contacted CTS to express their pleasure and curiosity.

For them and everyone else, we have good news – but we would also counsel patience.

The place is up and running – and baking.

But while it is done out in bright cafe style, the arrival of a coffee machine is a couple of weeks away.

 

 

The bakery is the work of Wilhelm Isaac (above), who tells me he’ll be providing simple in-house fare such as ham-and-cheese croissants and filled baguettes.

 

 

In the meantime, there’s goodies to go.

The baguette I take home is a ripper – crunchy, chewy, superb.

The kind of thing, in other words, that elevates the simple fillings I use – cheese, roast red capsicum, rocket, tomato – well into sublime.

OK, it IS Red Leicester I use – but that’s what is in the fridge.

And it isn’t it great to see Gordon Street Bakery join Karlaylissi in injecting some cool life into this dreary precinct?

Gordon Street Bakery is open 7am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

 

Grill time

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GJ’s Grill, 8Street food court, Docklands.

8Street is a new indoor arcade of Asian eateries – it’s pretty much right under the big ferris wheel.

So new is it, we’re here on opening day for the lot of them.

Or, rather, it’s opening day for all the businesses, but we’re here for just one – the purveyor of Philippines eats known as GJ’s Grill.

We’ve tried – once – the original GJ’s in Franklin Street, near Vic Market, with OK if not memorable results.

Very long-time readers will know we have a certain, um, ambivalence about Filipino food.

But we’re definitely up for trying the new GJ’s.

Because we’re in the expert hands of the Urban Ma, Jacqui, hubby Wes and their kids.

They’re big GJ’s fans and besides it’s been way too long since we’ve enjoyed a catch-up.

 

 

And we’re heartened by the knowledge the menu (see below) is all about grilled/roast meats and nothing at all about the braises and so on that often fill bain maries in Filipino eateries.

Great!

The routine is regulation food court – pay at the counter and wait for your number to come up – and the food is served in cardboard containers.

I’m a bit nonplussed that the photos for this story make the food look unlovely, parsimonious and unadorned.

It’s none of those things – we eat well and affordably.

 

 

Bennie has the beef talapa with garlic rice ($14.50).

Jacqui has warned us that the meat will be well done in the Pinoy style.

She’s right, but it’s still good eating.

And this is another of those dishes that could be included in a mooted CTS story about dishes that come with an egg – you know, nasi goreng, com tam (Vietnamese pork chop with broken rice), bandeja paisa (Colombian beans and rice), like that.

Biryani? Well, that means hard-boiled egg – but an honourable mention, anyway.

 

 

With the same garlic rice comes my lechon – crispy skin pork.

It’s excellent – and sinfully rich and fatty; quite like classic Chinese roast pork, but without the seasonings.

Both our meals are lifted in the zing department by serves of atchara – a liquidish pickle concoction made from grated unripe papaya.

 

 

We’re powerful hungry, so also get a couple of the classic pork skewers.

These are awesome and much more generous than we’ve had in the past, so the $5 each price tag is no problem.

The meat is tender, succulent, perfect.

 

 

It’s too rich for me, but my dining companions also share a serve of another classic – sisig ($19).

This is an offalish jumble that is a bit like the topping of an HSP – without the chips!

It’s tricky to gauge how GJ’s and its neighbouring 8Street establishments will go at Docklands.

Parking is a problem here.

But if you’re there anyway, GJ’s is worth checking out for something a little different.

 

 

Mid-East treats in South Kingsville

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Dukkah, 23 Vernon Street, South Kingsville. Phone: 9399 3737

Dukkah is a bright new arrival on Vernon Street.

The long dining room has been done up a treat.

 

 

It’s casual and elegant, spacious and warm.

There’s a lot of old, gorgeous wood in use.

At the bar in the form of doors (above) …

 

 

… and even rulers for the outdoor seating.

 

 

Bennie and I choose the easy option of getting stuck into the share platter, which sells for $48 for two people.

It starts with three dips, all with clear and concise flavours – and all offering something different from most Mid-East eats emporiums.

Lemon turmeric hummus with Egyptian dukkah, fel-fel (chargrilled capsicum cream cheese with sweet paprika, walnuts and chives) and beet labneh (caramelised beetroot and yoghurt with black sesame seeds) come with good toasted bread that runs out just before we’ve slurped the last of the dips.

But as Bennie quips, more bread and we’d be stuff before the mains arrive.

 

 

And the mains?

Oh my golly gosh – they are splendid!

Two fat, exemplary cigars of lamb kofta – dense, perfect and with just the right mild level of ME-style seasoning.

Two skewers of chicken shish tawook with capsicum and red onion.

The chook chunks look sufficiently and worrying large to promise dryness, but such is emphatically not the case.

In other words, superb.

Out meaty skewers are accompanied by very nice quinoa tabouli and rice pilaf in exactly the right proportions.

As we gleefully devour all, father and son banter a bit about the merits of our meal – and its price.

Bennie reckons $48 is a bit steep, with the sort of deal he gets at his beloved Footscray Best Kebab House colouring his views profoundly.

I beg, very much, to differ.

Dukkah is a quite different sort of place and the quality – especially of the meats – is above that of the majority of kebab shops.

And the combined regular cost of our dishes from the menu would be $54.

 

 

No such quibbling is possible with the Dukkah desserts – and we try both.

Om ali – puff pastry pudding with coconut, cinnamon milk, hazelnut and sultanas served in a tagine – is the Egyptian version of bread-and-butter.

It’s wonderful, rich, quite heavy.

This beauty – which could easily serve two – clocks in at a very cheap $12.

Kunafa (layers of shredded angel hair pastry, mango and cream topped with pistachio dust and rose petals, top photo) is lighter, a good deal more playful – and just as tasty.

It, too, is priced keenly at $11.

The days when Vernon Street was a regular haunt for us – remember Famous Blue Raincoat? – seem long ago now.

As a food destination, the street faded for a while there, with the introduction of one-way traffic undoubtedly altering the neighbourhood’s dynamics and probably the viability of some business.

But perhaps Dukkah is joining other local businesses in creating something of renaissance here.

We’d like that.

Check out the Dukkah website – including menu – here.

 

Meal of the week No.50: Punjab Sweets

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Home deliveries?

We  try to keep them to a minimum – and more based on empty fridge and pantry and all-round tiredness than any sense of celebratory extravagance.

But this week I spied a new arrival in the food delivery app world – Punjab Sweets (56 Irving Street, Footscray, formerly known as Saudagar).

So caved, I did.

When it comes to deliveries, we’re usually cautious about various kinds of breads.

Dosas, in particular, don’t travel well.

But then, the universal popularity of delivered pizzas leaves us bemused.

So how would Punjab Sweets’ chole bhature go?

Well, as it turns out … very, very good indeed.

To my great surprise and outright delight, the two fried breads/bhatura are hot, not overly oily and in such good nick it’s like they could’ve been whisked straight from the kitchen to an in-house table.

Wow!

The chick peas, too, are fine and dandy – al dente and all delicious.

Throw in the expected onion slices and yogurt and all is good.

This is a swell offering at $9.99.

And even at $15 all up delivered to our front door, it’s still a good deal.