Solid shopping centre Asian

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Asian Street, Shop 10, 50 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9748 6908

Hoppers Crossing shopping centre, right next door to the station, has had a revamp.

Honestly, with the opening of whizz-bang Pacific Werribee just up the road apiece, I thought the powers that be may have just called it quits at Hoppers.

But, no, it appear there is demand – so the show goes on.

Of course, nothing is going ever going to make the immediate neighbourhood around here salubrious, with its roundabouts and ceaseless traffic flow.

 

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But we’re interested to see what food is on offer.

We spy a banh mi place, a chic cafe, an Indian outlet – and Asian Street.

This place sells quite a wide range of Asian food – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, some yum cha, and even provides Asian groceries.

The big question for us is this: Will the food here be any better than the usual shopping centre food court fare?

 

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The quickie take-away offerings appear to suggest not.

 

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On the other hand, we are encouraged by the knowledge that the Chinese roast meats on hand are cooked in house, giant ovens and all.

As well, the place serves dishes quite a bit edgier than normally found in a shopping centre context – spicy green bean jelly noodle, for instance, on the Chinese entree list, as well as a line-up of skewers.

 

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After contemplating the menu (see below), we start with a couple of curry puffs ($2), one vegetable and one chicken.

They look chubby and nice, but collapse when attacked.

They’re OK, but we don’t notice much difference in the fillings.

 

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Bennie happily devours his katsu curry on rice ($11.80).

It’s a solid and generous outing, though the pork seems a bit dry to me.

 

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I do much better with my double roast meats on rice ($12.80).

Soy chicken is not listed on the menu, but I request it on the basis of having seen the roasted birds hanging up!

The chook is fine.

The roast pork is, too, though it is very fatty.

What I’m mostly missing, though, is the attending bowl of chicken broth that routinely accompanies such a dish.

Bennie reckons I’m pushing my luck by requesting soup in such a place, fearing I’ll be brought another entire meal.

 

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Such is not the case!

My soup is brought graciously, speedily and without extra charge.

It’s hot, salty and very good.

There’s not a lot of the food offered by Asian Street around here.

I’d want to take staples such as mee goreng, ramen or cumin lamb skewers for a spin before really sitting in judgment.

In the meantime, Asian Street strikes us as a place that could be a real treasure for locals with a knack for smart ordering.

 

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Indian surprise

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Ethnic India, 4/2-6 Kilmur Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9369 4133

Ethnic India is located on the Golden Mile in Hoppers Crossing, on one of the light industrial/commercial precincts that are offshoots of it.

When I Bennie and I arrive for our Sunday lunch, I get a surprise.

I’d visited on my own several months previously for a quick look and lunch.

At that time, I reckoned Ethnic India must have been easily the biggest Indian restaurant in Melbourne, taking up a whole warehouse.

Through the use of screens and such like, efforts had been made to create a separate restaurant space from the bar, functions rooms, kitchen and so on.

But, basically, it was a huge space.

What Bennie and I find is quite different.

The proprietors have pretty much created a building within a building – all the same facilities remain but they are much more strictly defined.

 

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They include a restaurant space that is the typical flash of some Indian places – including tall-backed chairs so lavishly cushioned that, upon sitting, you feel like you are sinking almost until your chin rests on the table.

On this day, there are a heaps of guests arriving for a catered birthday party out back, but we are the only restaurant guests.

The very long menu (see below) is presented on both sides of two wooden paddles.

We proceed to enjoy a fine light lunch.

Onion bhaji ($8.50, top photograph) are less like the Indian-style onion rings we are expecting and more like pakoras.

They’re good, though, and nicely moist. We take two of them home for Bennie’s next-day school lunch.

 

 

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Cholle bhature is also very good, if a bit pricey at $15 for a snack-style offering.

The chick peas are excellent – they seem fresher than is often the case with this dish and are mildly spiced.

The breads are a tad oily but hot and fine.

 

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The price is ameliorated somewhat by the $15 deal also including this salted “Punjabi style” lassie.

 

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I was fascinated to read this story about biryanis – I had no idea there are so many varieties!

I wish more of them were available in Melbourne!

I think the mostly uniform biryanis we eat in and around West Footscray are of the Hyderabad kind.

The Ethnic India lamb biryani ($15) is a significant contrast.

All is different from what we are familiar with – the seasoning (mild chilli levels); the colour; the inclusion of many currants, cashes and green capsicum pieces; lamb chunks not on the bone but instead of the kind you’d find in a regular curry – most welcome!

There’s a hefty serve of raita on the side to complete a solid offering.

Ethnic India is well worth a try – and parking is a breeze.

 

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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.

Fine Indian in Hoppers with a late-night option

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delhi4

 

Delhi Nights, 13 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8087 0295

As with so many unassuming shopping strips, it’s easy to miss the row of shops and eateries across the road from Hoppers Crossing train station.

It has a cool cafe in the form of Corinthians and I’ve heard that the pies at Pauls Traditional Bakery & Cafe are well worth a try.

But Indian on this strip?

We’ve never before noticed it.

Even Bennie is surprised, as this is all familiar territory to him on account of this tangle of rail lines and roads being part of his daily school routine.

Turns out we haven’t really been inattentive as Delhi Nights has been open only a couple of months.

 

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It has all the hallmarks of being a good, cheap neighbourhood Indian eatery – plain but nice decor, a big display of sweets and savoury snacks, Bollywood on a big screen in the corner, a long menu and several tables of happy locals in for an early dinner.

Actually, perhaps the most notable thing about Delhi Nights is that it is open from 10pm through to 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

At those times, a “Night Menu” (see below) of chaats and a half-dozen or so curries is in play.

 

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Wow.

How about that?

A late-night western suburbs curry joint in Hoppers Crossing.

I’m told the response to this innovation has been good.

The Delhi Nights menu covers all the expected bases, though the dosa and Indo-Chinese lineup is not as lengthy as those in most such places.

Best of all, from my biased point of view, the chaat menu extends to some sexy stuffed breads and the like – including aloo puri, pav bhaji, Amritsrai kulcha thali and aloo prantha thali.

 

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My gobhi prantha thali ($11.99) is the goods, with an impressive pile of breads stuffed with a crumbly cauliflower mix.

These, though, are very spicy to my way of thinking and tasting, so I make no use of the pickle on hand but make very happy with the raita.

 

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Bennie is very happy with his “dine-in” thali spcial ($11.99).

With this he gets his choice of a meat curry (lamb Madras is this case), a “chef’s choice” veg curry, a plain naan and raita.

The menu says he should also get saffron rice, as other customers are, but he worries not as what is in front of him is just right and he happily scoops up the lot.

All too often these sorts of thali deals seem to involve whatever tired curries happen to be lying around in the kitchen.

That’s certainly not the case here, with the chick peas in particular having a lovely freesh-cooked appeal.

The service has been fine and the papadums free.

 

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Good Place for Malaysian

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makan7

 

Makan Place, Pacific Werribee, Hoppers Crossing. Phone 8742 2368

Whatever the planned longevity of shopping centres, there’s no doubt that once they’re up we’re stuck with them for several decades.

Stuck, too, with old-school food courts, lousy fast food and a neverending torrent of plastic.

But with the new food area at Highpoint (see stories here and here) and the even newer Urban Diner precinct at the rebranded Pacific Werribee at Hoppers Crossing, it seems that – going forward (ugh!) – developers have finally twigged that their customers want better food in better surroundings.

And that it is a very good idea to provide them.

Nevertheless, I confess to being on the snooty side when I first saw the Pacific Werribee/Urban Diner food line-up.

Sure, there’s outlets – Grill’d and Guzmen y Gomez, in particular – of which we’re fond.

But there appeared to be little of real interest to us.

 

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Somehow, during that process, I missed Makan Place – until a story by the Urban Ma tweaked our interest.

A full-on, new Malaysian restaurant at a Hoppers Crossing shopping centre?

Oh yes, we’ll be in that!

So it is that we front up after Bennie’s guitar lesson, also (very handily) just up the road.

Makan Place is a lovely eatery in which to spend some time, with several different seating configurations on hand.

 

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We find the ordering system – mark dish numbers on a slip, push a buzzer on the condiment tray, have order whisked away by a staff member – works really well.

The service is fine and our food arrives very quickly.

The menu is pretty much as expected, long and packed with photographs, and starts with “toast” and snack items.

At first, I fear we may have over-ordered – but we down the lot.

Hungry lads are we!

 

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French toast with Kaya and peanut butter ($5.90) we order based on the Urban Ma’s enthusiastic recommendation.

I figure that if I don’t like it, Bennie sure as hell will.

It strikes me as more of a breakfast dish – very rich, almost cloying.

Bennie loves it!

 

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I recall a time when most Malaysian eateries in Melbourne served acar as a side dish.

The Makan Place version ($5.90) makes wish that was still the case.

This generous serve of (very) lightly pickled vegetables is superb, crunchy and packed with sesame flavour.

It would’ve been nice if some cauliflower had joined the carrot, cucumber and cabbage.

 

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Bennie’s nasi lemak with beef rendang is another winner – and another good-sized meal for the price ($12.90).

All the usual components are in place, including some of that acar.

The curry serve is also generous but – as is often the case – the big chunks of beef are dry.

Smaller and more tender pieces are needed – or at least quite a lot more gravy to make up for the dryness.

 

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Just for comparison purposes, I order the regular chicken laksa ($11.90).

It’s a good, solid if unspectacular laksa but not quite not in the same class as that to be had at M Yong Tofu in Flemington.

Still, our quibbles are very minor – Makan Place is a fine addition to the Malaysian options available in the west.

Our total bill, having eaten very well, is a most excellent $36.60.

 

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Hip and happy in Hoppers

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Corinthians, 37 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 4009

Consider The Sauce has been aware for quite a while of the cool coffee spot that is Corinthians in Hoppers Crossing without ever developing a pressing desire to visit.

However, a recent journey to Hoppers to pick up Bennie found me dropping in for a takeaway coffee and being impressed by the lovely vibe.

Two absolutely amazing gluten-free choc cookies – one for myself out of curiosity, one for Bennie on the theory that “he’s going love the living hell out of this” – did the rest of putting a visit for something more substantial rather higher on the CTS agenda.

So it is that I visit with a pal – the one responsible for the fine new-on-the-scene blog, Not My Bread And Butter.

It’s a nice, cosy room and is obviously quite the coffee spot to be during this mid-week lunch hour.

OK, it’s not like this part of the west is overly blessed with such options – but it’s a credit to the Corinthians crew that they nevertheless aim for high standards in food, service and coffee.

Both our meals are fine, if hardly representative of the menu as whole; there’s salads, for instance, that will have to wait for another time.

 

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My mac ‘n’ cheese ($19) is a humble yet garlicky dish. But I like it a lot – it’s filling, hearty, bigger than it appears and (thankfully) more moist than some of the dry and crumbly versions I’ve had since this dish became a fad.

The rocket and radish salad on the side is very fresh a dressed just right.

 

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My friend enjoys her 24-hour beans – don’t they look special? – with two rotund poached eggs and gluten-free toast ($20).

 

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Unfortunately, there is no evidence of world-beating choc cookies today so we more than make do with a shared slice of carrot cake ($5).

I’m no big fan of carrot cake but find this one to be nice indeed – very moist and tasty.

My cafe latte ($3.50) is excellent.

 

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Hopper’s Crossing Italian hideaway

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domani3

 

Domani Pasticceria, Shop 4, 220 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 7852

Traffic lights have been installed at the corner of Forsyth Road and Old Geelong Road … to the undoubted relief of long-suffering local motorists.

Still, the roads hereabouts are demanding of driver concentration.

Old Geelong Road from Forsyth right down to Hoppers Crossing Station is one of the west’s least lovely boulevards, a kilometre or so of discount furniture stores, hardware establishments, car-fixer-upperers and discount furniture stores.

 

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We’re not being judgmental in saying that – we understand that it’s to this stretch of commercial activity that the many new residents of housing estates come to find affordable stuff for their new homes.

We’ve done so ourselves, albeit to the Good Guys for a new phone and an amusement place for a long-ago birthday party.

But no one is ever going to award this stretch of road a good-looking award.

Still, as ever in the west, interesting things are there to be found by those prepared to have a peek.

One such is Domani Pasticceria.

 

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It’s located behind a drive-through coffee stand and a fresh chicken shop that also does duty as a continental deli.

Parking is ample and, in a neighbourhood where good food and coffee are rather scarce, Domani presents as a calming retreat.

It’s Italian old-school in the way of Cavallaro’s in Footscray.

There’s nothing savoury about Domani – no pizza or pasta or sandwiches of any kind.

I suspect Domani makes most of its income from baking cakes to order for birthdays, weddings and the like.

But when Bennie and I try it out for post-school coffee and treats, it comes up, well, a treat.

 

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We split between us a chocolate mudcake ($2.50) and a chocolate beignet ($3.50).

The mudcake is pretty much a glorified, dense cupcake and just OK.

The beignet is something else … and it’s a good thing we’re sharing.

So engorged is it with chocolate cream that Bennie and I lapse into giggles at the very delicious decadence of it.

Bennie goes the chinotto route while my $3 cafe latte is very fine.

 

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The minimum card purchase is $15 so that’s exactly the amount of biscotti we snag to take home.

They’re terrific and fresh.

 

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