Gami whammy

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Gami Chicken & Beer, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 7379 7288

We’ve had us some fine fried chicken of late – notably at fine Korean establishments in Laverton and Williams Landing.

Among the feedback we received following those two stories was a robust suggestion we check out the fried chicken served by the Gami chain.

OK, we’re up for that – even if we are always going to have a natural affinity for smaller and/or family businesses.

So off we toddle to Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre and the newish Gami outlet there.

This is not a neighbourhood into which we stray often – but today we’re happy for the change.

 

 

The Gami outlet is not in the centre proper – instead it is perched alongside Point Cook Road.

Inside, it has many of the hallmarks and vibes of a fast food eatery – and even looks a little like the tarted up interior of a shipping container.

But this is a real-deal restaurant, with good table service during a medium busy lunch rush.

We choose from the separate lunch list (see below) and its tighter, slightly cheaper roll call of dishes from the main menu.

On the menu proper there are plenty pf options – salad, stews and so on – that do not involve deep-fried poultry.

 

 

After ordering, we are presented with two small, complementary dishes to keep us busy.

Sweetish pickled radish and … does anyone know what these stubby Korean versions grissini are called?

In any case, they’re a nice time filler.

 

 

A small side of chips ($4.50) are hot, good and just a little on the chewy side.

And, yep, that’s regular tomato sauce.

 

 

Bennie is happy with his Gami chicken burger and chips ($15.50).

It has good, crisp chicken and a heap of crunchy cabbage.

 

 

But I suspect he envies my half boneless chicken ($18, dinner price $19.50) and its mix of thigh and chicken pieces.

And so he should – this is fabulous fried chook, every bit as good as that provided by the two Korean restaurants cited at the start of this story.

Some of the breast pieces are tending towards dry, but not unforgivably so, and this is also a generous serve, bigger than it appears at first glance.

Alongside is a very fine and spicy dipping sauce.

There’s also more of that fresh and crunchy cabbage, anointed with a mix of mayo and, yes, that’s regular tomato sauce.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how well this lubricating duo works.

 

Chook frenzy

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Mun Korean Kitchen, G05, 102, Overton Road, Williams Landing. Phone: 0491 079 434

The men of Consider The Sauce are hungry.

There’ll be no mucking about tonight.

Specifically, there’ll be no trucking with the half measures of ordering half a chicken.

So we order a whole one ($34).

This a Korean first for us, ordering a whole one that is.

It’s ambitious, too, as we know that when Korean eateries say “whole chicken”, they invariably mean a whole lot of pieces that appear to amount to significantly more than a whole bird.

But just because we order the big deal, doesn’t mean we’re wanting – or are able – to eat it all.

We don’t.

So four pieces go home and will constitute, the next day, probably the best school lunch Bennie will ever have.

The cool thing about this chicken – we get half sweet chilli, half soy/garlic – is that despite being quite wet with the sauces, all the pieces retain wonderful crunch.

Did someone say Korean fried chicken is better than hipster joint fried chicken?

Yes.

We did.

 

 

Incredibly, despite the poultry excellence, our fried chicken is marginally upstaged in the flavour department by our other dinner selection.

From the chargrilled BBQ list we get spicy pork bulgogi ($22).

The thin-sliced meat is of heavenly taste.

It sits on crunchy cabbage and there’s enough miso-like flavour and chilli action going on to keep us very interested.

We eat it, in the style of san choi bao, encased in the accompanying cos lettuce leaves.

The caramelised kimchi and ssamjang sauce add diversity of flavour and texture, while the rice balls do the same in a plain way.

Mun Korean Kitchen is a lovely place in which to dine.

The service is impeccable, smiling and warm.

And the menu has your more regular offerings such as bibimbap and kimchi fried rice with spam.

Check out the Mun Korean Kitchen website – including menu – here.

 

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.

 

The Kimchi Guru

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“Kimchi” by Jackson Pollock, West Footscray, 2018.

 

If there’s one thing that exceeds in enjoyment the fabulous food we eat doing Consider The Sauce, it’s all the many wonderful people we meet in the process.

One of them is Justin Mansfield, a fine bloke and a long-time reader and supporter of CTS who has become a good lunch buddy and all-round pal.

He is also a man with very sour tastes.

We have happily taken delivery of jars from three different batches of his amazing pickled cucumbers.

So when the opportunity arises for me to take up an otherwise empty place in one of his kimchi classes, I grab it.

Even though I’m not a kimchi fan!

I figure Justin’s kimchi is bound to be superior to that served in most Korean places.

Besides, like it or not, I am interested in the story and the process.

(See below for details of a forthcoming class.)

 

 

The crew that gathers at West Footscray House is an interesting and happy one, with about half its members CTS readers.

Justin runs a great class.

He covers just enough of the history and background without getting bogged down in detail.

Just as interesting is his advice on the sourcing of ingredients and the tale behind his journey to becoming a self-confessed “kimchi nerd”.

 

 

Over two and a half enjoyable hours, he takes us from a pile of womboks …

 

 

… to the finished product.

 

 

Along the way, we learn about the necessity of sourcing the right dry ingredients such as salt …

 

 

… and chilli flakes, as well as the other vegetables.

 

 

After that, it’s just a matter of salting …

 

 

… mixing …

 

 

… blending …

 

 

… tossing …

 

 

… and bottling.

It was a hoot!

I learned a lot and now have two bottles of prime kimchi to experiment with at home.

For Justin’s kimchi class on July 15, go here.

 

Phi Phi 2 … cool for lunch

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Phi Phi 2, 31a Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone 9077 2466

Following a superb dinner enjoyed by Bennie and myself at the flash, new Phi Phi 2 in St Albans, it’s a pleasure to return for lunch with the Urban Ma.

What a hoot!

It’s almost like experiencing a different restaurant – a matter, well, of day and night.

Mind you, the number of patrons is fewer – word that Phi Phi 2 is offering a welcome point of difference from the rest of the St Albans precinct may be taking a while to get around.

But the staff are many and on the ball.

The menu (see below) is succinct and like nothing I’ve ever before seen.

Asian-fusion?

Maybe – but if so, quite different from that being excellently purveyed by West of Kin in Braybrook.

Some dishes are outright Asian in concept and execution; others have European/Western breeding imbued through with Asian flavours.

We start with a couple of serves of bao ($8 per serve).

 

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They’re both very good, with pungent (wasabi?) dressing.

Though the pork belly duo (above) are a bit tricky to eat on account of the piggy bits being difficult to bite through; cut them up in the kitchen, I reckon.

 

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The duck duo – labelled “Quack Attack” on the menu – is bettter, the duck being moist and perfect.

 

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Jacqui’s “Mother Ducker” ($14) – sliced roast duck risotto with bacon, mushroom and pumpkin cooked in duck broth – is fabulous.

And a prime example of the aforesaid combination of Western themes imbued with Asian flavours.

 

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My fish burger ($12, not on the menu but joining the “Dark Night” beef burger) is fine – though I should’ve asked for the cheese to be omitted.

The fish – hoki, I am informed – is lovely and joined by onion rings and dressing in a black bun.

It is, as you’d expect eyeballing the above photo, a very messy thing to eat.

But is very good.

 

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My understanding is that Phi Phi 2 is serving lunch Mondays through Fridays but that may change because of the day fare’s popularity.

 

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The Urban Ma is enjoying her lunch; her daughter seems a whole lot less impressed with proceedings – particularly with the photographer.

Seriously sexy Asian BBQ

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Phi Phi 2, 31a Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone 9077 2466

First I heard there was a new Korean place on Alfrieda Street.

Then I heard it was Asian-fusion.

Then I heard it was a new branch of one of our fave St Albans eateries, Phi Phi.

Then I saw the photos on the new place’s Facebook page and … I remained somewhat confused.

But it doesn’t take long after ascending the stairs of Phi Phi 2 for all to become clear to me and Bennie.

Phi Phi 2 serves a limited range of curries and salads. It has a lighter, tighter lunch menu.

But the night-time action is overwhelmingly about cooked-at-table BBQ and hot pots.

And given the hot pot variation is freely available at a couple of nearby joints and more broadly across the west, almost all customers go the BBQ route.

We do, too – with abandon and, ultimately, great joy.

 

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Phi Phi 2 replaces a long-standing Vietnamese eatery.

It’s been done out in dark wood, with most of the seating being in the form of booths that line the long room. There a trio of tall, small tables at the front windows overlooking Alfrieda Street and a couple of bigger tables at back for larger groups.

There’s an army of staff doing great stuff on the night we visit and we find the service to be grand.

Phi Phi 2 has been open about three weeks and is already proving popular – and with good cause.

How popular?

Our allocated “cooker”, Jensty, tells us some staff members regularly come in here on their rostered days off – just to eat!

The BBQ cooking/food here has its roots very deeply in South Korea but much of the seasoning/sauces/marinades and approach come more directly from Vietnam where, Jentsy tells us, this kind of cooking is very popular.

We seriously consider ordering from the “chef’s special” list (see menu below) the cooked-in-the-kitchen “charcoal chicken feet” but decide that eight foots would skew our meal-for-two too radically in one direction.

Instead, we start with two dishes from the entree list.

 

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Crispy tiger prawns ($12.90) are cocooned in crunchy noodles that shatter upon being chomped. The prawns are very good dipped in the accompanying (cocktail?) sauce.

 

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BBQ lamb ribs ($10.90) look like they’re a very big serve – but they are just four, as they are resting of a fluffy bed of greens.

Still, they’re fine – fatty, as expected, but with great flavour.

We happily munch like carnivorous rabbits on the marinade-seasoned leaves as we await the main BBQ action to unfold.

 

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First we are provided some sides ‘n’ stuff – a green salad and bowls of kimchi and pickled bean sprouts and the like.

It may not be saying a whole helluva lot – but this is the best kimchi Bennie and I have ever had.

Maybe not purebred Korean-style but just marvellous – not very spicy, the cabbage more finely chopped, a strong tang of ginger in every mouthful.

We are provided several more complementary bowls of both the kimchi and the sprouts as our meal progresses.

As well, we are each provided three dipping sauces for the BBQ goodies – soy/miso, a mild chilli with a strong lemongrass component and a tamarind.

 

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Here’s what we order for our sooper-dooper BBQ feast: Pork belly (salt-chilli marinade, $12.90, above photo), ox tongue ($9.90) and chicken thigh (Thai marinade, $11.90).

 

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And we also get a splendid vegetable and mushroom combo ($14).

 

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The glowing coals are brought to our table and then it’s on!

 

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Jensty tells us that staff members are allocated a couple of tables each to handle the cooking.

We appreciate that. We’d rise to the challenge of doing it ourselves, no doubt, but we’d be a bit nervous about it.

It’s all about timing – and she does it with skill that is almost nonchalant.

 

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The vegetables take a good deal longer than the meats, but it’s all fantastic.

The meats are charred nicely and without exception every mouthful is succulent.

Bottom line – this is some kind of nirvana for meat eaters.

Bennie rates the pork belly the highest; I love the ox tongue the most.

The vegetables are all terrific, too – three different kinds of mushroom, okra, pumpkin, eggplant, corn.

The one lapse – and the only quibble of our entire evening – are the chat spud halves. They’ve been partially boiled before hitting the grill, but still present as a little under-cooked and even (perhaps) out of place.

 

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We conclude with a couple of scoops of green tea ice-cream ($6) that has been brought in, is perfectly nice yet is probably excess to requirements.

 

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Take the ice-cream and a couple of lovely mocktails off our bill and the damage for food alone is $72.50.

That strikes me as a bargain for a feast of this quality and quantity.

Certainly, we have paid significantly more for way less impressive meals in regulation Korean eateries.

It’s a lovely thing to see some flash on Alfrieda Street!

(This post has been sponsored by the St Albans Business Group. However, Consider The Sauce chose and paid for the food involved and the STBG neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

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Beaut bento, better burger

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Searz Caffi, 39 Challis Street, Newport. Phone: 9399 2393

The Challis Street shops in Newport – off Mason Street – are the sort of strip we’ve been driving by for years just for a look every now and then to see if there’s anything cooking.

On Challis Street, there never has been.

And now there is.

Searz is a very fine local cafe.

It serves (see menu below) standard-range cafe breakfasts and mains such as a caesar salad, a burrito bowl and fish ‘n’ chips.

But running through the mains and the smaller (“tapas”) dishes are Japanese/Korean influences.

We find our meals of two visits, the service and timing, the whole experience to be absolutely top notch.

 

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The bento special no doubt changes periodically.

This version has fish three different ways – teriyaki salmon, battered cod with wasabi mayo and grilled gemfish with Korean chilli sauce.

They are all delicious and beautifully cooked.

There’s about half a dozen different kind of pickle, some of which I love, some of which I could do without.

The house-made zucchini pickles are very fine.

The bento mix is completed by good salad and rice.

This bento, given the quality of the seafood involved, would be right at home in a bona fide Japanese restaurant.

And the price, $18, is grand.

 

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Bennie’s bibimbap $16) is a doozy, too.

He loves the finely cooked beef and mushrooms, the salady bits, egg, enokis and more.

Unlike so many versions of this dish, this one has enough fluid action going on that it is a well-lubricated “sweet and spicy” treat right to the bottom of the bowl.

 

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But however fine his bibimbap, Bennie is openly envious of my “1010 burger” ($15) – and so he should be.

Despite the burger burn-out factor of the past year or so, this strikes us as being a superb.

It’s a 9/10 burger and chips combo that scrubs up much better than many of those to be had at more storied burger joints around Melbourne.

There’s more of those zucchini pickles in there.

And there’s “Searz aiolio”, tomato relish and the usual, standard salad accessories.

The meat patty is thick, juicy and screaming with beefy flavour.

Gosh, it’s fantastic.

The chips are hot, fresh and very plentiful.

Searz is a prime example of everything a neighbourhood cafe should be.

And the food, what we have enjoyed of it, rocks.

 

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