Double banger

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Angie’s Kitchen, Shop 75, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9939 5821
Macelleria, Shop 74 Moonee Ponds Central, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8441

Periodically, we find ourselves in Moonee Ponds and, more specifically, on Puckle Street.

And it’s then that we wonder: “What the hell are we doing here?”

It’s all a perfectly OK retail/eating precinct – and we love scoping out some of the gorgeous real estate between Puckle Street and, say, Highpoint on our way home.

But by and large, when it comes to the kinds of food that sets our pulses racing, the neighbourhood is, well, just average.

But there are hot spots.

We continue to love shopping, when we’re in the area, at Fresh On Young – the subject of the second ever CTS story.

More recently, on Hall Street – on the other side of Puckle Street from Young – there is a food flourishing going on, one we make the most of with twin winning lunches at adjoining newcomers.

Both Angie’s Kitchen and Macelleria front Hall Street, but are part of the wider Moonee Ponds Central retail/food/services set-up.

 

 

The colour scheme, fittings and all-round general vibe in Angie’s Kitchen make it feel like the kind of place you’d be very comfortable taking your gran.

But there is some real serious, delicious and keenly priced Chinese food going on here – and it’s all produced and created in house from the ground up.

As we takes our seats, we are entertaining thoughts of trying up to a handful of the many dumplings featured on the menu (see below) – and chicken feet.

We lose out on the chicken feet.

“They wouldn’t work in Moonee Ponds,” we’re later told.

Meanwhile, we mention to the staff member serving us that we’re used to ordering (and eating) Chinese roasts in combos of two or three meats, accompanied by rice and bok choy – as we’d enjoyed the previous week.

Yet this option is not open to us at Angie’s Kitchen.

No problem, we’re helpfully informed – just order the mixed roast platter ($30), a small serve of greens with oyster sauce and a bowl of rice.

So – big change of plans – that’s what we do.

The photo of the mixed roast platter at the top of this story does not adequately convey the generous size of the portions – nor their outright deliciousness.

Oh boy, oh boy – this is fabulous stuff!

And this is quite a different setting from that in which we more normally enjoy this kind of food, but we revel in it.

The portions of duck and barbecued pork are chunkier than the norm, but nevertheless excellent – and, for the most, juicy and tender.

The roast pork pieces, including their crackling, are quite delicate.

 

 

Our small serve of mixed greens ($9.80) is purpose made for accompanying the roast meats and does the job admirably.

 

 

The roast/greens mix makes for quite a substantial lunch, but we cannot resist the temptation of trying the steamed BBQ pork buns ($6.20).

 

 

These, too, are superb, with wonderfully sticky and sweet fillings.

We’ve eaten like royalty so have no qualms whatsoever about the $49 price tag – it seems like a bargain.

 

 

When I first heard about Macelleria and its slogan – “The Butcher That Cooks For You” – I was skeptical.

It sounded a bit gimmicky to me.

We discover that, to some extent at least, that feeling is warranted.

 

 

Customers can and do buy meat from Macelleria to take home – but mostly this a steak/grill joint (one of four in Melbourne) with a display cabinet.

But what arouses our curiosity, impels us through the door and – eventually – finds us taking a lunch-time table is the menu item that is the half rack of beef ribs (menu below).

Based on our previous experiences with the bigness of beef ribs, a half rack with a side salad and mash for $24.90 sounds like a fine deal.

 

 

The dining room is a lovely, airy place in which to lunch and watch the passing parade on Hall Street.

 

 

Bennie is the lucky punter who gets to order and enjoy the beef ribs.

It proves to be excellent.

The ribs aren’t as big as many we’ve enjoyed, but plenty big enough for lunch.

The meat and its rosemary and garlic marinade are terrific.

The side salad is beaut and the creamy mash also fine – though so voluminous is the latter that Bennie falls quite a way short of finishing it.

 

 

My own bangers and mash is a much more modest outing, both in ambition and price ($17.90).

The finely ground beef snags are very flavoursome and the mash the same as that which adorned Bennie’s ribs.

But the high point of my meal is the rich, perfect onion gravy.

 

 

I bolster my meal with a serve of coleslaw ($7.90).

This proves to be a mistake.

For starters, Bennie’s side salad would’ve sufficed for both of us.

And this slaw is just OK – in fact, it’s a bit drab.

 

Chinese, fabulous

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Sun Wong Ky, 51 Byron Street, Footscray.

Footscray’s Little Saigon Market will never be replaced – figuritively and, it often seems, quite literally.

But we mostly have an ability to live in the present and appreciate what we have, rather than what once was.

So we enjoy the sparkling neighbourhood that has grown up around the burnt-out shell of the old market.

Centred on Byron Street, the neighbourhood has numerous businesses and a chilled-out vibe that is a nice retreat from the traffic and bustle of Barkly, Leeds, Hopkins and Nicholson streets.

 

 

Sun Wong Ky is fully symbolic of an area in transition – its new shop sits right opposite the premises it once occupied in the old market.

When the new place opened, the offerings and set-up seemed to us rather basic and aimed more at take-home customers.

Now, though, there is a much more eatery thing going on (see menu below), so we are right up for taking their Chinese roast meats for a whirl.

There are a few tables and chairs inside, but we take one of several outside tables and enjoy watching the world go by as we wait.

Bennie and I both choose the two-meat roast combo, priced at an excellent $12.80.

 

 

Soya chicken and barbecued pork for him and …

 

 

… soya chicken and roast pork for me.

Oh my!

This is great stuff – as good as any Chinese roast meats we’ve enjoyed in the west.

And that’s saying a lot.

The chicken – even the bigger, denser pieces – is very tender and juicy.

Likewise with Bennie’s barbecued pork.

The roast pork has superb crackling – not too gnarly, yet with plenty of crackle.

Cooking juices have been poured on the rice and under each pile of meat is good bok choy.

 

 

By contrast, our serve of chicken feet ($6) is dull, with none of the zingy saltiness from blackbean sauce or chilli kick we expect.

They’re big, though, and even surprisingly meaty – more like eating wings than feets!

 

Yarraville dumpling zone

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Chi Bao, 46 Anderson Street, Yarraville.

Greater Asia is as vast as Yarraville’s village is tiny.

Nevertheless, in our 15+ Yarraville years, we have tried a goodly number of local eateries of one Asian persuasion or another.

Sometime it’s been great.

More often it’s been just OK.

And sometimes it’s been dreadful.

Yet heading to Chi Bao – the village’s spanking new dumpling emporium – we are cheerful, optimistic.

But nor are we weighted down with high expectations.

We figure we’ll be doing fine if we get something of similar standard to what we might be served at Highpoint or Pacific Werribee.

 

 

So we are consequently ecstatic, thrilled and quite happy about the quality and deliciousness of our lunch.

The menu does play it a little safe in places – after all this is not central Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans, where hardcore can be a viable business plan.

So the Chi Bao menu has, of course, fried rice, but also Shanghai fried noodles, spring rolls and even sweet and sour pork.

But in the food we enjoy there is not slightest sense of gentrificated compromise, even if the pricing appears to be a tad higher than we’d pay for similar food in Footscray.

And we appreciate that our chosen dishes do not all arrive in a flurry – the wait times denote the care evident in our food.

 

 

Up first is the simplest of salads ($7.80) – cucumber with the lightest of applications of a vinegar sesame dressing.

It’s cool and just right.

 

 

Salt and pepper tofu ($6.80) appears, at first blush, to be rather pale and unappealing.

But in the eating it is superb, the tofu pieces delicately rendered and imbued with a spot-on level of salt.

 

 

The chilli dumplings ($16.80) are 10 steamed pork-and-cabbage parcels luxuriating in house-made chilli oil.

The dumplings are every bit as good as we could wish for.

But what really excites us about this dish is the funky, rich, sticky and spicy chilli oil.

It’s not in the danger zone, but is very much an improvement on the weak, pallid, watery versions we have been served elsewhere.

 

 

Our beef and celery pan-fried dumplings ($15.80 for 12) arrive freshly turned out of the pan and sporting a lacy bottom.

These, too, are superb – though we detect little or no difference in flavour attributable to the presence of celery over cabbage.

The dumplings at Chi Bao are colour-coded to make identification by the staff easier when it comes tom look-a-like dishes.

So the chicken dumplings, for instance, have some turmeric included.

In the case of our beef-and-celery dumplings, the grey-with-black-dots colour scheme is thanks to black sesame.

Chi Bao is a hit.

It is happily occupying a niche in Yarraville that obviously needed filling.

 

A is for Alfrieda Street. And awesome.

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

On a blazing hot Melbourne day, is there any better place to be than luxuriating in the AC-cooled confines of Phi Phi?

Nope.

It’s been a while since we’ve been here for a feed.

The place has had a bit of a makeover and there’s some new faces around.

But all else appears much the same – including the superb food.

We’re in the house to enjoy it with Brimbank councillors Duyen Anh Pham and Virginia Tachos.

We play it safe when ordering – nothing in the way of boundary testing for us during this lunch.

But what we do order is AMAZING.

Virginia originally wanted Vietnamese coleslaw, but is delighted nevertheless with the rare beef salad with lemon juice ($25, top photo).

More in a Thai style than Vietnamese, it’s just as tangy as expected and turbocharged with all sorts of greenery.

The meat is rare as promised and excellent.

 

 

Good thing we ordered the small version of the combination fried rice ($10), as it’s very generous.

It’s also momentously fluffy and studded with many plump and good-sized prawns.

This lives on another planet from fried rice of meh bain marie infamy.

 

 

Silky tofu done in salt and pepper style ($14) is Bennie’s choice – and it doesn’t disappoint.

The tofu chunks are profoundly plump and delicious.

 

 

A large serve of roast pork ($18) is incredible.

But that’s no surprise, as the barbecue meats here are deservedly a source of pride.

It’s all good and mostly tender, with just enough gnarly crunch to keep things interesting.

Phi Phi is a jewel of St Albans and the west.

 

Tina’s turns it on

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Tina’s Dumpling House, 54 Pier Street, Altona. Phone: 9398 8851

Tina’s Dumpling House is a major arrival in Altona.

We’d be tempted to opine it is the best eating place in Altona, but …

Unlike just about all other media outlets who comment on Melbourne food – from the MSM through to hobbyists, all with their endless selective/definitive “Top 10” and “Melbourne’s greatest” lists – we won’t be doing that for the simple reason that we haven’t tried all the eating places in Altona.

So let’s just say that the food at Tina’s is very good and the prices and service righteous – so much so that Altona locals will surely ensure its success and residents of the wider west are advised to consider it a destination.

Indeed, in terms of quality for this kind of food, the prices are bang on par with what’s available elsewhere.

As well, most dumplings can be had in variable serving sizes of six or 12 pieces.

Of course, Tina’s is not just about dumplings – there’s a broad range of main courses, rice dishes and noodles available (see menu below).

And, yes, you can get here lemon chicken or sweet-and-sour pork if that is your bent.

Tina’s has taken over a Pier Street premises long home to a previous Chinese restaurant.

It’s a lovely room in which to sup.

The wait time of 15 to 20 minutes for dumplings is re-assuring in terms of knowing a house-made philosophy is in play.

Pan-fried pork-and-cabbage dumplings ($7.80 for six, $11.80 for 12, top photo) are terrific.

All too often, we find the meaty centres of such dumplings have a turd-like toughness – even good ones!

At Tina’s, the fillings are luscious and tender.

Steamed prawn dumplings ($7.80 for four) are just as good, with a full quotient of that essential bursty prawn effect going on.

Steamed BBQ pork buns ($6.80 for two) are, for me, a revelation.

We usually order these for bun fan boy Bennie, while I remain bemused and/or unimpressed.

This plump pair are superb and make a fan boy out of me – like son, like father.

The fluffy/moist buns are stuffed with a more generous than usual mix of hot, sticky chopped pork heavily perfumed with rice wine.

Beef brisket soup noodle is one of our regular choices, but always with egg noodles.

At Tina’s, we stumble into a rendition made with rice noodles, their whiteness imbuing the bowl with a pallidness that suggests bland.

But there’s no doubting the robustness of the broth or the pleasure to be had from the excellent, tender chunks of beef ($11.80).

Food lore tells us that there nothing Singaporean about Singapore fried noodles – just as there is nothing Chinese about egg foo young.

But that doesn’t mean a dish of “Singapore” fried noodles, often less oily than other Chinese wok-fried noodle dishes and with a fetching grittiness delivered by curry powder, cannot be immensely enjoyable and satisfying.

Tina’s version ($11) is a winner – hot, mildly spicy and with plenty of veg, meat and seafood.

And, yep, seafood extender.

Meal of the week No.43: Dumpling Story

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CTS has never been much impressed by the food offerings at Pacific Werribee.

As well, one of the few outlets that may be expected to arouse our interest, if not our enthusiasm, is Dumpling Story – and I’ve long carried some baggage in that regard because of an unfortunate meal endured by someone near and dear to us.

So what am I doing here?

Well, it’s parent-teacher night.

I’ve departed Yarraville in plenty of time to allow for whatever the freeway and weather may come my way … so much so that I’ve arrived with heaps of time to grab some dinner before the business part of the evening unfolds.

That’s a lot happier prospect than trying to find something to eat between Werribee and Yarraville about 9pm on a cold Monday night.

Still, as you’d expect, my expectations are pretty much rock bottom.

I order and wait.

A bit less than 10 minutes later, I am presented with my combination laksa ($11.80).

And am duly knocked out.

I’m not about to proclaim this laksa as a champion of its kind, and maybe my happiness is coloured by my low hopes.

But this is really very good.

Commercial laksa gravy?

Maybe – there are no curry leaves that sometimes are a tip-off that the soup part has been tweaked in-house.

But no matter – this tastes fine.

It’s a big serve.

There’s a hefty amount of good, if somewhat bland, chicken.

Better, there are several delectable slivers of excellent eggplant.

And four plump, tasty and peeled prawns.

And more …

I’ll be much more open-minded about this place – and its extensive and interesting menu – when I’m down this way again.

 

After-school Chinese BBQ

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Williams Landing Wok Wok BBQ and Chinese Cuisine, Shop 24B, Williams Landing Shopping Centre, 100 Overton Road, Williams Landing. Phone: 9972 5692

After perusing the Wok Wok menu, both while ordering and later at home, it’s easy to suspect this story will be doing the place something of an injustice.

So packed is the menu with wonderful Chinese food – especially of the seafood variety – that we suspect it most likely offers one of the really spectacular options for Chinese food in the western suburbs.

But when we visit, that’s not the path we take.

It’s after school; we have a 6pm appointment in Point Cook; we have time to kill; we are hungry.

And Wok Wok is open.

 

 

So we resort to our cheap ‘n’ cheerful default setting in such settings – the roast meats.

But, hey, that works just fine, too.

Because what better way to assess a Chinese place than its house-made BBQ birds of various kinds?

And, golly, what a fine time we have.

 

 

I doubt Wok Wok is a real-deal serious yum cha place, but there is a nice list of dumplings and “others”.

So as we really are hungry, we are happy to start with one of Bennie’ faves – a pair of steamed BBQ pork buns ($7).

They are hot and fresh, with a good and sticky filling.

Though even this good they will always be more favoured by son rather than father.

 

 

We take different yet overlapping routes to our consumption of the roast meats.

Bennie takes the two BBQ combination soup noodle ($14.50) pathway.

 

 

With it come his selections – roast duck and BBQ pork.

 

 

His dad, too, goes the double combination – BBQ pork and soya chicken – but this time with rice ($14.50).

 

 

I get a side bowl of chicken broth on request.

Both our meals have much in common …

The chicken broth/soup broth is hot, tasty, a bit salty (we like it like that) and peppery.

There’s good bok choy on hand to make us feel we’re covering the veg department despite eating sinful food.

And – most importantly – the meats are excellent.

The BBQ pork is a tad tough and chewy, but not enough to be a problem.

Wok Wok is handily located and appears to be on the ball.

 

A fine lunch in St Albans

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New Favorite, 306 Main Road east, St Albans. Phone: 8395 5315

Consider The Sauce has been at 306 Main Road East before.

But that was the best part of six years ago when it was travelling under the name Hong Kong Noodle Bar.

Way more recently, the location has been embraced by new management and launched under a new name, New Favorite.

 

 

For this mid-week lunch, I have the distinct pleasure of being joined by Brimbank councillors Duyen Anh Pham and Virginia Tachos and their equally community-spirited colleague, Dinh Trang.

 

 

Our fun time gets rolling with one of the all-time fave CTS things – complementary soup.

In this case, that means a deeply brown broth of the beef variety – much more mildly flavoured than its intense appearance would suggest.

 

 

New Favorite covers a broad range of mixed Chinese, Vietnamese and “other” dishes, making it an attractive proposition in terms of an alternative to the tight focus on Vietnamese food hereabouts.

The food is cheap and excellent.

And I suspect the same giant roasting ovens are still in play, making this the only – AFAIK – option in the neighbourhood for super Chinese roast meats while Phi Phi, around the corner on Alfrieda Street, is undergoing renovations.

My combo of soy chicken and roast duck on rice ($11.80) is fine, with even the chunkier chook breast meat beinge juicy.

As good, the duck is much less chewy and gnarly than is frequently the case.

 

 

My friends enjoy their selections, too.

They include char kwai teow ($10.80) …

 

 

… mapo tofu on rice ($10.80) and …

 

 

… combination fried noodles ($13.80).

Thanks for the company and conversation!

 

Fine dumplings

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MC Dumpling, 106 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9191 6511

Putting aside my gentle ribbing about the “Scottish ancestry” of Hopkins Street’s new dumpling purveyor, it turns out there is method in their method.

MC Dumpling, you see, stands for My Chinese Dumpling.

But more than that, this place does embrace a fast-food look and process.

And that, as in this case, can be good.

What it means here is bright, clean surrounds; brisk service with a smile; and freshly prepared and very affordable food (see menu below).

 

 

But it is the dumplings that are definitely the go here.

These steamed pork and chive numbers, for instance, are fabulous at $9 for 16.

Fresh-as, not too big, kinda dainty, juicy/succulent – even if there was little by of discernible chive vibe.

 

 

Ditto with these lamb and leek dumplings – same number, same price, same good impression.

 

 

We fare slightly less impressively with the sides.

These chicken ribs normally cost $3, but are being presented to customers free with any order as an opening celebration.

We don’t know how long that’ll be the case!

They’re well fried and ungreasy – but tasteless.

Or rather, taste not of chicken.

 

 

Actually, ALL the sides cost $3 – including these corn fritters.

They’re a variation on the more familiar spring onion pancake and are OK.

 

 

For the price, these tender slabs of deep-fried bean curd are very nice.

There’s more to explore by way of sides here.

And the dumplings – and the place – appeal as happy additions to Footscray central.

 

A Footscray institution

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Jim Wong Restaurant, 259 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 5971

It’s all very easy to take the likes of the late Jim Wong’s establishment – and the nearby Poon’s – for granted, surrounded as they are by colourful, delicious and affordable options of the more recently arrived Vietnamese, African and even Indian varieties.

They can conjure up, in the minds of the world weary or cynical, mental visions of tiresomely old-school food that has passed its use-by date.

Daggy?

Sure, but as regular readers will know, that has never stopped us.

On top of the funky, spicy, worldly western suburbs tucker that is the very core of our eating-out endeavours, we’re not averse to an RSL or bowls club roast lunch and the like.

So we’re very happy indeed to front for a mid-week dinner at Jim Wong, something that is somewhat belated in terms of the history of CTS.

And a fine time we have.

We love it – the menu, the decor, the furniture, just about everything.

We love it that there is real linen on the tables – and we even love it that we have to request chop sticks.

The food?

Well, mostly we love that, too.

We  like the possibilities evoked by the nicely priced banquet line-up that ranges in price from $25 and upwards.

But the meat courses feature dishes with satay sauce, in which we are not interested.

Likewise, we know – based on unsatisfactory experiences in other places and at other times – not to order dishes with a South-East Asian heritage, so we ignore the Jim Wong offerings of char kwai teow and Hokkien noodles.

 

 

Short soup ($5) is, as Bennie declares, “plain but good”.

Of the two wontons I try, one is doughy, the other is lovely, with the very austere broth being quite different from those found in the nearby Vietnamese joints.

 

 

BBQ roast pork ribs ($8) are fabulous.

There’s only a couple of pieces of bone and/or gristle.

The meat is well-cooked, but nicely short of dry and the flavours are a kick, all abetted by a rich, dark sticky sauce.

 

 

Beef with black bean sauce ($23) is just OK – we’d like quite a bit more sharp zing from the sauce and the price seems a bit steep.

But we eat it all anyway …

 

 

No such problems with the greens with garlic sauce ($13.50).

This is the dish we have been most eagerly anticipating and we are not disappointed.

It is, of course, simplicity itself.

But there’s less oil involved than in many other versions we’ve had, some of which cost more than we’re paying, so this actually seems like a bit of a bargain.

We’ve eaten well and enjoyed what are, for us, unusual circumstances.

And while we’ve paid a little more than we would for an equivalent spread elsewhere in Footscray, we’re happy to have done so, taking on board a tasty reminder of a still-thriving emblem of Footscray heritage.

 

 

Oodles of noodles

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queen3

 

Noodle Queen, 240 Swanston Street, CBD. Phone: 0435 869 777

After a gap of several years, Bennie and I have once again taken up wing chun.

We stopped, after quite a few happy years at Wing Chun Bing Fa Academy in the CBD, for various reasons, most of which I cannot now recall.

We looked at finding a school and teacher in the west, but in the end the depth of the family connection already forged with Sifu Julian and his family and their school won out.

So it’s back to Swanston Street we are heading.

Actually, that’s not true.

The whole shebang is moving from its Curtain House home of many years to new digs on the corner of Victoria and Lygon streets.

 

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Team CTS with Sifu Julian. For more information on Wing Chun Bing Fa Academy, go here.

 

In the meantime, we have really enjoyed getting back into the kung fu drill, including getting on top of the logistics of making two classes a week.

And checking out all the new, funky Asian eateries – including several interesting outfits on Swanston Street around our temporary martial arts destination.

So after a Saturday class, we hungrily hit Noodle Queen.

It’s a long room, nicely done out.

It’s busy, the prices are cheap and the wait times are appropriate for the food involved.

Ordering and paying is done at the cash register, with customers then provided a number.

The food here is from Sichuan – but not in a generic manner.

Instead, at least some of the dishes come from specific areas within Sichuan – regionalism we can applaud!

 

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Yibin burning noodles ($11.80), for instance come from the city of Yibin, in the south-eastern part of Sichuan.

They are fantastic – and Bennie talks about them for days after.

Burning?

Not really, not by our standards anyway – and the dish is given a mere single chilli in the place’s heat grading system.

But the blend of oily noodles, chopped pickles, smashed peanuts and pork mince is full-on delicious.

It gets better as it goes, with the liquids and chopped ingredients gravitating towards the bottom of the bowl, ensuring the last few mouthfuls excel.

 

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From the neighbouring city of Luzhou comes fried diced duck and ginger topping on spicy noodles ($11.80).

Overall, this is good but not as impressive as the Yibin dish.

Mind you, my impressions are coloured by the fact Bennie has first crack at this offering and he scarfs the meatiest, juiciest pieces of duck.

The more bony pieces left for his dad, however, do taste lovely.

But I detect little – nothing, actually – of the advertised ginger topping.

 

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Deep-fried wontons ($5.80 for six) are perfectly cooked and tasty, but largely excess to our requirements.

This is the sort of ordering we fall prey to, not in the interests of immediate gratification, but with a view to making a better CTS story!

Another wing chun class and another meal at the same joint … starts with a smaller, appetiser dish called shredded chicken topping on spicy cold noodles ($4.80, top photo).

This is great!

The same sort of oiled noodles are the base, room temperature rather than cold, with plenty of peanuts and the nice chook pieces making for a winner.

 

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We are seduced by the menu photo of spicy stewed beef with noodle/wonton soup ($13.80).

What we get looks very different – and is simply the Noodle Queen take on the beef brisket/wonton noodle soup we have enjoyed many, many times elsewhere.

Still, it’s a good version, with the beef in strips rather than the more familiar chunks.

 

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Pork and cabbage dumplings with “sceret spicy sauce” ($10.80 for 10) are fab.

They look like they’ll be dry and doughy.

Not so!

They’re, in fact, tender, slippery and quite delicate.

They have less meaty fillings than we might’ve expected, but we feel no sense of deprivation.

They’re super, especially with the sweetish sauce that starts out benign in terms of chilli heat but builds cumulatively as we work our happy way through the parcels.

Bennie loves Noodle Queen so much, I’m going to have to dig my heels when it comes to trying new places for our post-wing chun dining.

 

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Meal of the week No.34: Dainty Sichuan

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dainty1

 

Bennie and I enjoyed our visit to Tina’s Noodle Kitchen at Highpoint, but were a little surprised at the full-on nature of the food on offer.

It’s no surprise to find Tina’s has been re-badged under the Dainty Sichuan name and the food brought more into line with what may be commercially viable in a shopping centre.

But there’s good news, based on my mid-week lunch.

The menu now offers such more easily negotiated  dishes, all very affordable and many in combos with rice or noodles.

There’s a tight range of dumpling offerings and things such as eggplant and tofu with rice, egg gravy fish fillet, beef omelette on rice and stewed pork belly with eggplant.

My beef noodle soup ($11.80) is a winner and a larger serve than I can handle – and strongly indicates that while compromises have been made here, this remains food quite a cut above shopping centre mediocrity.

All is very good – the noodles, bok choy chopped for ease of eating, pungent soup, beef not fall-apart tender but of gratifyingly high quality.

Truth to tell, though, this is at the upper limits of what even I can handle chilli-wise.

Still, even that must be counted as a plus in such a context.

 

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A BBQ dinner of two halves

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chinb7

 

Chinese BBQ, 301 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 6929

With I Love Dumplings having successfully transported itself down the road to the old bank building on Racecourse Road, its old premises have duly become Chinese BBQ – though they are both run by the same management, going by the receipt I receive for our meal.

Its is, clearly, dedicated to Asian-style BBQ – though this is more strictly in the Chinese tradition … as opposed to the Viet vibe of the superb meal Bennie and I recently enjoyed at Phi Phi 2 in St Albans.

I am looking forward to a good mid-week feed in which I can ponder the differences!

For company I have CTS trooper Marns, a woman of robust appetite and great sparkle.

 

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The menu (see below) is roughly divided into two parts – skewers and BBQ.

We’re told the minimum for skewers is $20 so we order freely – shrimp, calamari, lamb, chicken, Chinese cabbage, enokis, broccoli, lotus root.

They cost per skewer ranges from 50 cents to $2.50.

From the regular BBQ we order ox tongue ($15), corn ($6) and potato ($6).

 

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The latter follow the arrival of the glowing coals for our BBQ set-up and very sesame dipping sauce, kimchi and marinated sprouts.

Then we’re off …

It’s heaps of fun.

 

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The ox tongue, frozen so it can be thinly sliced, cooks the fastest, and is a treat.

The vegetables take quite a bit longer and I am a little dismayed to that some of the spud slices initially turn black.

But it all comes good in the end, the potato browning up nicely and the corn being delicious.

In fact these humble husk discs turn out to be one of the highlights of our meal – so good to have barbecued corn that is also juicy.

Such is not always the case!

Then it’s on to our skewers … and it’s at this point that our meal and evening goes a bit nutty, maybe even a bit haywire.

 

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The skewers are brought to our table all dunked in a bucket of what we take to be some sort of marinade.

We quickly make happy by throwing some on the grill.

Only to be immediately told – no, no – that’s not how you do it.

The skewers, we’re told, have already been cooked out back – steamed, apparently – and are ready to go.

Oh.

That would explain, perhaps, the flare-up when Marns puts some of the meat skewers on the grill.

We’re a bit non-plussed but soldier on.

Some of what we have – the Chinese cabbage, the lotus root – is far from impressive.

Some – the easily-peeled shrimp, the broccoli – is good.

The broth/soup/marinade in which the skewers have been bathing has oil, chilli (mild by request) and no doubt many other ingredients, the nature of which I am unable to learn from the staff because of language issues on my part.

The lusty, musty and only (for me) partially attractive seasoning recalls in large part some of the flavours much earlier enjoyed – again without being much the wiser – at a Moonee Ponds hot pot joint.

 

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Look, the confusion can be largely attributed to us – it says plainly on the menu (if in rather small type) that the skewers are “hot & spicy pot” food.

On the other hand, it seems very natural that customers only a little familiar with this kind of food, such as we two, would grab a table at an eatery with “BBQ” in its title and “skewers” on its menu … and put the two together in our minds.

No harm done and we have an otherwise enjoyable meal.

But the dunked skewers haven’t provided the sort of charred, smoky tastes for which we came here.

Perhaps a bit more explaining of the place’s food and ordering routines by the staff to new customers is needed here.

Our meal, including two cans of soft drink, comes in at a very reasonable $60.

 

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Yum cha blow-out

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Gold Leaf, 491 Ballarat Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 9311 1863

In the past year or so, CTS has dined yum cha – see here and here.

But as enjoyable as those outings were, in places that run yum cha a la carte and to order and without trolleys, we figured it was time for the real deal.

 

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You know the drill – huge barn of a place, high noise levels, trolleys whizzing everywhere.

 

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So CTS and a bunch of willing pals hit Gold Leaf in Sunshine.

Typically, Bennie and I arrived first and somewhat early.

We were forced to cool our heels with other early arrivers as the staff meal tables were cleared and then – in we went!

 

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Within half an hour, the joint is packed and rocking.

With a group of eight eating madly, I don’t even think about keeping note of individual items and their prices.

Suffice it to say, it really does make a difference – the food here was of a very high standard and the service fine.

 

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We had many of the staples and a few more adventurous things.

 

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Eating the divine roast pork/crackling, for instance, I placed in my bowl some of the attending noodles – only to learn I was eating jellyfish for the first time.

It was lovely!

 

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It was a wonderful experience and the price – a buck or so over $30 per head – equally splendid.

 

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But some things never change …

As we’re wrapping up desserts and wrapping up generally, I notice even more trolleys sallying forth laden with very interesting a delicious-looking items.

No room for them … this time!

 

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Yum Chinese roasts, dumplings

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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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Old-school Chinese winner

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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.

On the retail strip across the road from the station, this being more of an old-style suburban shopping area, there is a hip cafe and a very nice Indian joint.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Westie eats goss 13/3/16

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Down on sleepy Woods Street, Laverton, Seven Star Chinese Restaurant has been open a few months, inhabiting a property formerly occupied by an Indian grocery.

 

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Strolling inside, I am delighted to find a rather lovely and swish dining room.

At Seven Star, dishes such as beef with black bean sauce and satay beef with vegetables are relegated to the “Oz style Chinese dish” section of the menu.

Under the “Authentic Chinese dish” section are to be found such overtly interesting fare as garlic pig tripe, fish flavour eggplant with pork mince, crispy pig trotters and boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chilli.

There’s also a cold list that includes fried peanut salad, oily chicken, wined chicken, pig ear in chilli oil and braised chicken giblets.

CTS will be checking this place out for sure, so stay tuned for a review!

 

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Taste Of The Middle East is on Synnot Street in Werribee, right next to Coles.

Following up on a reader tip – thanks, Clint! – I am surprised to find that it’s no longer in the “coming soon” category but is up and running for Sunday lunch.

However, I soon discover a menu that’s dedicated to eggs, steak sangers, parmas and the like.

Turns out the regular cafe menu will continue to run in the mornings and I’m a day early for the Middle Eastern goodies, which will kick in later in the day – beginning the day after my brief visit.

We’ll be checking this one out, too.

 

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Coming soon is Dosa Palace in Altona.

Brought to us by Nagesh of Hyderabad Inn fame, it’s located on Millers Road, Brooklyn, between the West Gate Freeway and Geelong Road.

This is undoubtedly a novel place to open a restaurant, with solid commercial/industrial on one side of Millers Road and a rather lovely residential neighbourhood tucked away on the other.

Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Despite the name, expect pretty much a full-service Indian line-up of food.

Mr, where are our dumplings?

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Mr Pan Fry, 268 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0455 452 119

Consider The Sauce and pals – quite a number of them – have gathered for a sort-of informal Chinese New Year celebration.

The venue for our eating is a brand new Chinese place called Mr Pan Fry.

As previously noted, we love the intense diversity of Racecourse Road.

But we rarely venture down this end, so I have no recall of what sort of business was formerly in these premises.

Mr Pan Fry is done out crisp but basic furnishings and colours.

The front window space is dedicated to on-view dumpling production, though by the time I think to photograph some of that action, the work has ceased for the night.

There’s a heaping variety of those dumplings listed on the menu, which also extends to a variety of meat and vegetable main dishes and some rudimentary rice and noodle offerings.

We order with abandon, doubling up on some dishes to make sure there’s enough to keep all nine of our mouths happy.

 

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Shanghai fried noodles ($10.80) are a good, basic dish.

 

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The broth-laden “baowie steamed juicy pork buns” ($10.80) are very excellent.

 

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Pot stickers (pan-fried chicken and prawn dumplings, $12.80) are served like a crispy upside-down pie.

They, too, are very good.

 

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Stir-fried tofu with vegetables ($13.80) and …

 

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… fried tofu with pork mince and Sichaun sauce ($13.80) steer us away from dumplings with some aplomb.

The latter’s tofu is a silky smooth treat in a dish that is our most spicy of the night by quite a distance.

 

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Stir-fried salted pepper ribs ($18) are nice but not quite what we – well, what I – have been expecting.

The tangy batter is rather like that most of tonight’s group had across the road at Pacific Seafood BBQ House on a night of rampant crabiness. In that case, the batter coated chicken ribs.

With the pork ribs? Hmmm, interesting … chewy but not quite a bullseye.

In addition to all of the above, at Mr Pan Fry we also enjoy spring onion pancake and another variety of dumpling, the precise nature of which now escapes me as a result of re-ordering due to unavailability of one species in our initial choices.

And we had a delicious, unctuous dish labelled stewed pork belly with chef special sauce ($20.80), which for some reason escapes scrutiny by my camera but which is, perhaps, the hit of the night.

We find the food at Mr Pan Fry to be mostly very good, with the dumplings rating a notch higher.

The menu isn’t as long but the approach is somewhat similar to the adjacent I Love Dumplings.

I suspect, somehow, that Mr Pan Fry has a good chance of becoming a regular haunt as it’s a lovely, cosy place and the service we are provided is warm, smiling and obliging.

We’ve eaten well and having such a big group seems to have helped keep the price per head at most admirable $22.

 

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Bao boogie @ Littlefoot

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The Bao Bros Pop-up @ Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

The Bao Bros are coming to Footscray.

They’ve secured a very interesting location.

But its unveiling is several months away.

In the meantime, they’ll be testing their recipes, processes and skills at that sublime monument to good times known as Littlefoot.

For details of how that pop-up-style project will unfold in terms of how and when, check the Facebook pages of either the Bao Bros or Littlefoot.

 

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Littlefoot’s Liana and Stu with the Bao Bros crew – Mickey, Kiet and Long.

 

If you look up “bao” at, say, Wikipedia, you’ll find the main reference is to the likes of pork buns familiar from yum cha.

The Bao Bros offerings, though, are by way of a Taiwanese variation in which the buns are turned into fat sandwich casings.

The idea, I’m told, is that the buns be so ethereal and lightweight that they virtually disappear and let superior ingredients shine.

On that account, Bennie and I reckon the Bao Bros score really well.

We loved their handiwork and were grinning right from the first mouthful when he and I joined a group of folks acting as guinea pigs for the Bao Bros bun line-up.

We reckon these make for a delicious fast-food experience.

The pricing will be in a very good $5 to $8 range, and maybe two for $10.

We tried all five.

Or, in my case, almost all five.

I didn’t make it as far as the tofu number (top photograph) but Bennie actually liked it the best, digging its crisp tofu, crunchy veg and dollops of pesto.

As for the rest …

 

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Pulled pork was, for me, top dog (or top pig) – salty, wet and with a bit of a spice kick.

 

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The beef was almost as good.

 

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The fish items were, too, very good, with crisp-battered fish, tartare sauce and dill.

 

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The fried chicken bao looked a treat but were the only ones that fell down on the job a little for us. The chook was beautifully cooked but rather flavourless, while the slaw could’ve been more finely chopped and had more dressing.

Those minor quibbles aside, we loved our bao!

See earlier Littlefoot story here.

 

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CTS reader Zelda (on the right) and her pals were on bao test duty, too, and were as impressed as we were.

Yum cha by Kenny – no relation

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Kenny’s Yum Cha House, 34 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8688

The premises recently occupied by Kenny’s Yum Cha House was previously, and for many years, a rather nondescript noodle shop we never tried.

A new family has taken over, headed by dumpling-making dad Kenny, and they’re doing very nice things.

I confess to having tried “hokkien noodles” a few weeks before Christmas and being unimpressed.

But then a home delivery of some of yum cha items – and very good they were – re-sparked my interest.

 

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So heading to Ferguson Street with two regular CTS companions, I am filled with hope.

But there is cause to be cautious in terms of optimism.

After all, normal expectations for yum cha goodies served in such a humble, corner store setting would normally fall into the realms of cheap, enjoyable but surely frozen and mass-produced dumplings and the like.

 

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What we enjoy at Kenny’s Yum Cha House is way, way better than that – top-notch yum cha that pretty much matches what you’ll find at any of the storied yum cha places around town.

In fact, this place sort of redefines yum cha and how it can work.

Yum cha doesn’t have to be Sunday brunch; it can also easily be dinner.

Great yum cha doesn’t have to involve trollies; it can just as easily be a la carte.

In truth, it can even be argued that ordering as you go is preferable.

 

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Finally, Kenny’s Yum Cha House proves beaut yum cha doesn’t have to be served in a vast barn; a smallish neighbourhood enterprise can do it, too.

Everything we have is good or better:

  • Pan-fried dumplings ($8 for five).
  • Pork dumplings ($5.50 for three).
  • Chive prawn dumplings ($6 for three).
  • Pork ribs in black bean sauce ($5.50).
  • Chicken feet in black bean sauce ($5).

Only the last mentioned are in any way less than excellent; they lack a certain spicy zing.

 

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As well, as we find that assessing a yum cha joint can at least partially be done on the basis of greenery, we order Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($12) – and that, too, is lovely.

 

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It’s been a rather smashing meal – cheap, easy, impromptu (we pay $16 per person).

And on a Monday night in Williamstown!

 

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Kenny meets Kenny.

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