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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Meal of the week No.26: Snow Tree

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Ever since visiting Snow Tree for dinner with friends, I’ve harboured the suspicion that it would make a better a lunch place.

Boxing Day is the time to find out, especially with Bennie still being in bed and playing Maximum Sloth to the max.

Footscray Central is, of course fully open and in working order – as it was on Christmas Day.

The full menu is available but I choose from the lunch deals list.

My spicy beef with rice, miso soup and three side dishes costs a very handy $9.90.

It’s good.

The miso soup is very pale and tasteless.

But the side dishes – bean sprouts, kimchi and three chunk of tender, tasty sweet potato – are fine.

With the rice come three more bits and pieces, deep fried and unannounced.

My spring roll is hot and rather nice but the crumbed item could be prawn or seafood extender.

The third of the trio is a flat tube that appears to filled with mince – and perhaps potato?

Under the fried goodies is some mayo-dressed sliced fresh cabbage with a couple of bits of pickled ginger that goes good with the plentiful beef.

The beef – also with cabbage, as well as carrot and other foliage – is very good indeed.

But it is very spicy.

So … not a masterwork of lunch by any means.

But for $10, a nice option to the many Vietnamese, Indian and other offerings at this location.

Highpoint fried chook

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Nene Chicken, Highpoint. Phone: 9318 2843

It’s clear that western suburbs have bought massively into Melbourne’s mania for burgers.

The fried chicken thing isn’t quite as manic and our western neighbourhoods have mostly not risen to it charms.

There’s invariably fried chook on hand at charcoal chicken shops, such as the newish Manok, but it often seems like an after-thought. We are never tempted.

There’s fried poultry at westside Korean places such as Frying Colours and Snow Tree.

But as for any joints specialising in fried chicken of the American, or southern American, tradition … well, nope.

Not so far as we know.

 

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Nene is Korean, too, but we wonder on the drive to it if maybe it’ll constitute a western suburbs fried chicken hot-spot.

The utter folly of going to Highpoint on a 40-degree weekend day less than a week before Christmas proves to be of pleasingly little consequence.

The parking situation is intense.

But once we’re inside, things in general and all the people are surprisingly cool and civilised.

The Nene menu comes with so many variables, it takes us a while to work out what we think will work for us.

Here’s how, in the end, we order:

Kimchi chicken burger (9.95 – on a milk bun with salad, onion, dressing and kimchi with bulgogi sauce.

Regular original fried chicken ($10.94) – four pieces with coleslaw and pickled radish; upsized ($4.95) with chips and a drink.

Extra drink ($3.70).

This all pans out to $29.95 for a satisfactorily sized meal for Bennie and I.

 

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Bennie’s kimchi burger is probably our repast’s highlight – it’s a refreshing change from the many kinds of beef and chook burgers we’ve had this year.

He gives it seven out of 10.

 

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The chicken turns out to be five pieces rather than four – though it must be stated these are very small pieces.

It’s good and non-greasy without being in any way notable.

Despite the small sizes, I am happy for Bennie to have a couple.

His burger was good but it lasted all of a minute.

The cubed and sweetly pickled radish is nice; the coleslaw is rubbish – dry and tasteless.

 

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The chips are fine and there’s plenty for both of us.

Nene Chicken strikes us as being just OK – and a long way short of fried chicken nirvana.

And there are several better options close by in the new Highpoint food precinct.

But it’s still better than the usual Kind of fried chicken grease-fests Found at such shopping Centres.