Episodic poultry

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Chicken Episode, 522 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9593 9929

Chicken Episode lives in premises that previously housed a long-standing Indian eatery in Kensington, right next door to Kensington Food Hall.

A younger sibling for an identically named restaurant in St Kilda, Chicken Episode is a tributary temple to pop culture, Korean style.

There’s what seems like thousands of rubber chicken in here.

 

 

And meme-like humour abounds.

I’m tempted to suggest this would be a cool place to bring bored or easily entertained teens – but some of humour on the table place mats is a little on the raunchy side.

Along with fried chicken and myriad burgers, the menu (see below) features some Korean comfort food such as bibimbap.

We can live with the kooky surroundings, but it’s the food that interests us.

We are a little wary.

That’s because we’re dropping in early in the week, early at lunch hour – not, in our experience, the best of times to interact with deep-fried food.

So how do we go?

Well, part truly excellent and part just so-so.

 

 

Bennie’s supreme chicken burger ($14.87) looks a little on the sad sack side.

He likes it well enough and tells me most of the ingredients – including sweet chilli sauce, melted cheese, tomato, ham, caramelised onions – are of a perfectly acceptable standard.

But he finds the chicken coating to be more of the soft kind found on battered fish, his final verdict being that his burger the kind of thing he’d expect to get at his now former high school.

The chips are excellent.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, he is frankly envious of my lunch.

And so he should be – it’s very, very good.

The solo deal, costing an amazing $14.50, consists of the same excellent chips, four pieces of fried chicken, a side serve of coleslaw AND a can of soft drink.

The chicken pieces are ungreasy and wonderful, the coating crisp and powdered with white pepper.

The coleslaw is fine and just the right size for such a meal deal.

 

 

Unfortunately, the coleslaw includes a tine from a plastic fork.

After this too-crunchy ingredient is pointed out to the staff, we receive an apology.

And that’s good enough for us – we never make too much of an issue out of such things or make a play for having the bill waived and/or a freebie future meal.

It will be interesting to watch how Chicken Episode goes on Macaulay Road.

We’ll happily return for more of that fried chicken.

 

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.

 

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.

Killer Korean BBQ

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tobagi3Consider The Sauce is enjoying a splendid year – but it’s not one that is turning out as expected. At its start, I envisaged much activity of the CTS Feast variety. To date, however, there has been a single Feast event. Attempts to get others up and running have failed to come to fruition. I’m OK with that – if such things are not to be, pushing harder doesn’t seem to help. In the meantime, Bennie and I – with help from a variety of very fine foodie pals – have simply continued to explore the western suburbs with glee. That relaxed approach seems to engender it own rewards in terms of interesting approaches that lob into the CTS email inbox. One such a few months back came from Moonee Valley Council – regarding a project in which CTS is very happy to have become involved. So … this post is the first of six that will appear in the next half-year or so sponsored by Moonee Valley Council. Long-time readers will know by now – and new readers can be assured – that our participation has only been made possible by being free to choose freely the six eateries to be written about and by having complete freedom to say whatever we please, good or bad. In other words … it’s business as usual here at CTS.

 

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Tobagi BBQ, 726 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 8870

The stretch of Mount Alexander Road heading uphill to Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds can come across as a closed shop by day.

By night, by contrast and strictly thinking of food, it becomes a good deal more appealing.

As Bennie and I wander down one side of the road and up the other, we ponder quite a nice range of restaurants and cuisines before ending up pretty much where we started, thence to enter Tobagi BBQ, a Korean joint we’ve had on our “to do” list for a long time.

We end up being ever so happy we step through the Tobagi door, as we enjoy good Korean food of a homespun sort we’ve not come across before, cooked and served with panache.

The place is rather plain, if you look closely, but the clever use of many browns creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.

At first, on a mid-week night, we’re the only customers so enjoy the exclusive and friendly attention of both Elle and Jiweon, while the latter’s dad, Gerry, is in the kitchen.

 

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Our first dish, vegetable dumplings ($8), doesn’t augur well for a fulfilling or filling evening.

The dumplings are OK, with mushy fillings that are very garlicky, but the serve size seems on the parsimonious side.

 

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The arrival of “denjang soup” ($10) is much reassuring.

A big, very fine bowl of basic miso soup is studded with heaps of tofu and enoki mushrooms.

There’s plenty enough for Bennie and I to share, though as with our mains the mix of white/black rise seems superfluous to our mutual mindset and appetite.

Even if such grains are the Korean way …

 

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I have friends for whom the idea of paying for kimchi is anathema.

Me, I’ve got no problem with it in an Australian setting, particularly when $4 gets us this lovely, generous bowl of fresh, zingy and only-lightly-pickled cucumber.

 

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Then it’s on to our mains – for which we throw caution, both food and financial, to the wind by going big on meat with beef bulgogi ($25), of thinly sliced and marinated beef with enoki mushies, and pork galbi ($29), of free-range pork ribs marinated in chilli paste and sesame oil.

 

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To go with our mains, we are provided with three sauces – sesame oil/salt, miso paste and chilli paste, along with lettuce leaves and two serve of the same rice ($3 each).

 

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It’s at this point in our evening that Jiweon really comes into her own by deftly barbecuing our meats at our table.

Good job!

 

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We start in on the beef and enokis at the medium-rare stage – and it tastes very, very nice, with great texture and BBQ flavour.

We eat some with the nearby sauces.

We eat some rolled up in the butter lettuce leaves, as instructed.

We eat some just making it up as we go.

 

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The pork proves even more demanding of Jiweon’s time.

She barbecues the big, handsome chunk of meat whole for a while before cutting the meat from the bones with scissors and continuing the cooking.

In the end, we are left with heaps of smaller chunks each and a nice, meaty bone to gnaw on at the end.

The meat is an interesting contrast to all the US-style barbecue we’ve indulged in this year.

Here, the pork rib meat is quite chewy, very tasty and not as spicy as seems might be the case.

We’ve had a beaut meal and love the people here.

It’s a meal, though, that has stretched the definition of “cheap eats”.

But we’re happy with the quality and quantity of what we’ve been served. We reckon it’s all been good value for money.

Truth is, we could’ve got away with paying less by the simple, prudent moves of not ordering rice we didn’t need and two cans of soft drink where water would do!

Maybe a hotpot for us next time …

(This post has been sponsored by Moonee Valley Council.)

 

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