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.

 

Be one with the Biryani Nation

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Biryani Nation, 6 Lohse Street, Lverton. Phone: 8597 3452

The Lohse and Hall Street shops are tucked away, over the train tracks and about a kilometre from Laverton’s main shopping area, around Aviation Road and Cheeky Chewies Cafe.

Very local, very low key.

There was a couple of Indian places here we never visited.

They’re gone – and now there’s just the very brand new Biryani Nation.

With a name like that, you’d want to be pretty darn good at cooking … biryanis.

Certainly, the menu makes a big deal out of this sub-continental rice dish – there are about 30 of them, including vegetarian options, listed (see below).

Apart from the regulation and expected dum biryanis – in which the meat is cooked with the rice – I suspect many of the Biryani Nation dishes could more accurately be labelled as pulaos.

That’s of no matter to me – I’m not about to get into hair-splitting if the food is good and there is a range of flavours and seasoning among the various biryani selections.

There is – I know, because I’ve tried two of them and they were very good.

 

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Chicken fry biryani ($13.95) has crunchy fried onions, cashews, curry leaves and plenty of meaty, chewy chicken pieces on the bone.

The accompanying gravy (tastes peanutty but is, I’m told, cashew-based) and raita are served in admirably hefty quantities and are excellent.

 

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Gongura mutton biryani ($16.95) is more in the pulao style – but is a knockout.

Gongura, I find out, is a leafy vegetable widely used in India – it’s basically sorrel.

Here, as in saag/spincach dishes, it is used as a puree marinade cooking medium for the mutton, one piece of which crowns my rice pile and many others of which are buried within.

Some of the mutton pieces are bone-free and wonderful.

As many more are on the bone and rather tough – but I like it like that, getting fully into the hands-on swing that very much goes with this sort of territory.

The big thing is the flavour – the gongura produces a zesty, citrus-like tang like I’ve never before experienced in Indian food.

I love it!

So much so, that I use the raita only sparingly, and the gravy not at all, in order to enjoy the leafy puree all the more.

 

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For non-biryani fans, there’s plenty of scope for enjoyment elsewhere on the Biryani Nation menu – dosas, Indo-Chinese, thalis.

These onion pakora ($4.95) are beaut with their crunchy batter and curry leaves.

 

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The Biryani nation desserts range runs mostly to the familiar likes of kulfi and gulab jamun, but …

I am presented, complementarily, with this amazing double ka meetha on account of it being opening day.

They should put it on the menu!

It’s an Indian take on bread pudding, the white sliced bread all puffed up with milk and perfumed with saffron and cardamom.

And sugar.

Topped with chopped almonds and pistachios, it’s a killer treat.

 

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Cheeky, cheap and excellent

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Cheeky Chewies Cafe, 18 Aviation Road, Laverton. Phone: 9369 9913

Asian fusion?

We’ve been won over by this concept, particularly by West of Kin in Braybrook.

But there, the food is ambitious and the prices tend to reflect that.

At Cheeky Chewies, a bright new arrival in Laverton, the vibe is more everyday cafe, with asking prices to match – there’s nothing above $20 and most of the more hefty dishes clock in at about $16.

Actually, while Cheeky Chewies is self-described as offering “Asian fusion”, truth is this place is more about mixing, on the one hand, Western-style fare (a parma, fish and chips) with, on the other, pretty much straight-up Asian offerings.

 

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Over two lunches on successive days, Bennie and I eat very well indeed, with only a couple of minor flat spots.

The service is top-notch and we like this place a lot.

On our first visit, we tackle a bunch of the “small dish” offerings listed on the menu (see below).

Chilli wontons (top photo, five for $10) are dynamite, the delicate casings housing a lovely pork mince filling, with both doing a lovely tango with the zingy vinegar chilli sauce.

 

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“Super Crispy Chicken Wings” (four for $8.90) could more accurately be described as wingettes, but are excellent.

Nothing flash is served up here – simply superbly cooked, unoily chook.

My heart sank a little when I saw a bottle sweet chilli sauce being wielded in the kitchen, but thankfully that jam-like concoction is served on the side and is ignored.

 

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“Cheezy Pumpkin Bags” (three for $8) display the same expert frying skills, but we detect none of the advertised cheesiness – just pumpkin.

And the dipping sauce tastes like plain old mayo to us, though we are assured it really is “homemade honey mustard sauce”.

The lesson here for Bennie and me is, I suspect, never order anything involving pumpkin.

 

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The “What-A-Burger” ($16.90) is OK, the nice slab of pork having a good lemongrass kick.

But for the price, this offering seems a little on the austere side when there are so many high-powered burger options across the west at similar prices.

 

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The Cheeky Chewies nasi lemak ($14.90) is listed in the breakfast section of the menu, but can also, of course, do lunch duty.

It’s wonderful – better, fresher and more interesting than most equivalents you’ll find in regulation Malaysian eateries.

If there’s one thing that prevents nasi lemak being as popular with us as, say, pho or Hainan chicken rice, it is the inclusion of anchovies.

Invariably, they seem to us stale, nasty blemishes.

Here at Cheeky Chewies they are prepared in-house and the result is winning.

Blonde and crisp, they enhance the dish.

The sticky chunk of chook rendang is fine.

But the real triumph is provided by the house-made sambal.

It’s of only mild spiciness, but has a rich, deep flavour with a touch of smoky about it – wonderful!

 

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Our Thai-style pork/noodle salad ($14.90) is a quality assemblage of excellently fresh ingredients with the just the right, spirited mix of chilli and lemon.

The cafe lattes ($3.90) that complete our second meal here are superb.

 

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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.

Indian street food in Laverton

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A-One Sweets, 52 Bladin Street, Laverton. Phone: 8360 7989

Consider The Sauce enjoyed its visit with the Urban Ma to new CBD joint Delhi Streets – the food we had was good.

But I have been bemused, but not surprised, by some subsequent reviews of the place.

More precisely, I’m bemused that the place’s publicity is being bought into to such an extent that it is being put about that Delhi Streets is doing something edgy and adventurous in “bringing Indian street food to Melbourne”.

I feel this is misleading as just about everything Delhi Streets serves has long been available across Melbourne, including West Footscray, Werribee and elsewhere.

The places that do Indian street food can sometimes be businesses of the more regulation Indian variety that have dosas, chaat and the like on their menus – but they’re also often humble shops that do little more than serve snacky Indian treats and have overwhelmingly Indian customers.

A-One Sweets is one such place.

 

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Like so many of its kind, it’s a bare-bones Indian cafe – with lots of sweets of course!

But they do a nice, simple and very cheap line of snacks such as aloo tikki and pani puri.

There’s also a vegetarian thali and paranthas stuffed with gobi, aloo or paneer and served with butter, yogurt and pickle.

I’m actually in Laverton to do some volunteer duty on the West Welcome Wagon sausage sizzle at the market at the Woods Street Arts Space.

But I know that if I turn up for tong duty on an empty stomach, I’ll end up eating about a dozen of those $2.50 suckers.

And while I’m partial to a sausage sizzle snag in white bread, I most certainly do not want to make a meal of them, so to speak.

So I venture to the Bladin Street shops a few blocks away and into A-One Sweets, which has been on my to-do list for a while.

I tell the nice man behind the counter, as I peruse the menu, that I feel like something other than chole bhature – that, indeed, I’ve had that fabulous Indian dish at many places festooned across the west.

“Ah,” he says with a big smile. “But have you had our chole bhature?”

He’s persuasive, I say “Yes!” and I’m ever so glad I do.

 

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My $9 meal is a doozy.

The breads are puffed up like footballs and ungreasy.

There’s plenty of yogurt to join the regulation raw onion slices and commercial, tangy pickle.

Best of all, the chick pea curry is very nice indeed.

I love it and pretty much leave my thali tray clean.

 

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From there it’s back to Woods Street to join my fellow WWW sausage sizzle volunteers.

It’s great to meet and swap notes with some fellow westies.

We sell a heap of snags and make some good cash money for West Welcome Wagon.

Everything I am wearing, though, will be going straight into the laundry basket!

A-One Sweets is one of those gems of places away from the main drags and shopping centres that are an outright pleasure and thrill to stumble upon.

 

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MiHub rocks it again

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Consider The Sauce is happily falling into the happy routine of always, whenever possible, attending MiHub functions at the Laverton Community Hub.

Where else would we want to be early evening on a Saturday once a month?

But I suspect there is a limit beyond which reader endurance and loyalty should not be prodded in terms of recording each event.

There’s a fine line between giving context to food reviews and stories by interweaving other aspects of our lives into CTS on the one hand and overdoing it on the other.

 

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So this may well be the last MiHub story for a while … although I will for sure continue to post MiHub notifications on the CTS FB page and continue to recommend all and sundry give MiHub activities a go!

As I posted on FB yesterday: “Yum food, delicious people!”

 

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The “pop-up market” in this case was a part of Diversity Week, so there was a heap of people and a heap of food.

The theme was ostensibly Malaysian – but there was also Middle Eastern sweets, Indian tucker and Afghani fried chicken.

 

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I ate well and widely.

And I just loved meeting and talking with all sorts folks.

This time around they included CTS readers …

 

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… Sara and Sharon …

 

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… and Roopi and Jaspreet.

 

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As well as my Star Weekly colleague Karen, her hubby Chee (on the right) and their friend Sharil!

 

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MiHub – monthly!

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CTS enjoyed chatting with this happy and livewire bunch of young women. They’re all from Malaysia, all friends, have all been studying – on scholarships – at Melbourne University since July. As such, they’re apartment dwellers but were very happy to have collectively made the train trip to Laverton for “a taste of home”.

 

MiHub Night Market, Laverton Multicultural Hub, 95-105 Railway Avenue, Laverton.

After its premises was sold under it, some doubt surrounded the future of the MiHub institution.

So it was a happy hoot to attend its latest incarnation – as a “night market” at Laverton Multicultural Hub.

Best of all, the new night market set-up will continue on a near-monthly basis for the rest of the year.

MiHub will operate on the following Saturdays:

March 21
May 2
June 6
August 1
September 5
October 3
November 7
December 5

CTS was delighted to run into several readers who had rocked up in response to our preview story earlier in the week as well as a number of other friendly faces.

However, gauging by the number of people story checking that story out online, I fear some may have turned up quite late in the day and after I had departed.

Truth is, while the advertised ending time was 9pm, just about all the food had been sold and eaten by about 7pm.

 

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Please keep in mind, this is a community initiative run by volunteers – not a professional, commercial festival or market that will cost you hefty admission fee or involve an hours’ worth of waiting in queue.

Aunty Nora has enthused to us that future 2015 MiHubs will be better and bigger and include music.

Turning up early is probably a good idea!

If all goes as tentatively planned, CTS will be on board as willing workers next time out in a dish-washing bid to introduce real crockery and cutlery to proceedings.

 

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Among the attendees were dad Kelvin, mum Susan and boys Brendan and Ryan.

For this Tarneit family, the Laverton venue was the fourth at which they’d attended MiHub festivities.

 

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I really enjoyed my superb, freshly-made murtabak with a slightly spice but very nice beef/vegetable stew.

 

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And I loved, too, the delicate tuna patties, samosas and gulab jamun created and sold with a big smile by Masuma.

 

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These tofu cubes had been stuffed with a garlicky mix of veg, bean sprouts and vermicelli then deep-dried to a crisp.

 

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Full of tummy and hanging out with Aunty Nora and son Jake.

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Mother Nora’s new adventure

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Saffron Kitchen, Laverton Community Hub, 95-105 Railway Avenue, Laverton. Phone: 8368 0177

That much-cherished institution, MiHUB Cafe in Werribee, is ceasing to exist as we know it.

The day after this story is published, the Synnot Street property that has housed this most admirable – and delicious! – community enterprise is to be auctioned, with the chances being it will become a medical centre of some sort.

So MiHUB’s future is way up in the air, with no new venue being yet found.

All is not lost, however, as the spirit is willing … besides, we’ve seen the MiHUB crew and their fare at the likes of the Indonesian Street Food Festival, and enjoyed that fare at a charity bash in Werribee.

So there are other ways of being!

In the meantime, one MiHUB’s leading lights, Mother Nora, has taken up a role at the new branch of Saffron Kitche, operating out of the Laverton Community Hub.

Where Nora goes, we follow … so it is that I rock up for a mid-week lunch.

Under the auspices of the Wyndham Community & Education Centre, Saffron Kitchen “will target training and employment pathway opportunities for local people including the long-term unemployed, people with a disability and people from new and emerging communities”.

It’s a simple place that offers simple, tasty and cheap vegetarian food.

 

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Each of my offerings – an eggy fried rice, a nice lentil-and-veg dish, glassy noodles with slithery mushrooms and gado gado with a beaut nutty sauce – are priced individually, but I snag a “combo” deal for $10.

My $3.50 cafe latte is excellent!

Laverton’s Saffron Kitchen is open 8am-4pm on week days.

 

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New tastes at a brilliant temple of boganism

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Flying Elephants and B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi, Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton

Mexican food at Lavo Market?

With a name like Flying Elephants?

I’m fully expecting a neo-hippie or utterly whitebread take on … someone’s idea of Mexican food.

What I find is quite different – a smallish operation staffed by a friendly crew of three, each and everyone of them boasting Thai ancestry.

How wonderfully westie is that?

In fact, Lavo Market is pretty much that way all round.

Anyone feeling gloomy about the prospects of the west being strangled by yuppifying gentrification should visit this weekend wonder – in its hardcore, unrepentant untrendiness, it will surely give your spirits a lift.

The Flying Elephants sell a compact range of burritos, flautas and tacos.

My chicken taco ($5) is a real nice surprise.

For starters, there’s two of them – bargain!

On to commercial but OK tortillas are piled good chicken, two kinds of cheese, some simple salsa and lettuce. There’s a variety of hot sauces to round things out.

This may not be up to the sort of standard set by La Tortilleria – but I’m not complaining.

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I haven’t been to this market since first writing about it, so I’m delighted to find the Flying Elephants are just one several new food enterprises up and running.

One of them will not be getting my custom or my money.

People with cameras are potential customers, too.

Stallholders not wishing photographs to be taken should erect signs saying just that.

Or simply saying something like, “Please don’t take photographs – but you’re very welcome to try our food” would do nicely.

Death stares and verbal abuse? No thanks.

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I fare much better at another newie – the bright red B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi.

As with the Flying Elephants, the B&K team have gone that extra mile by providing some tables and chairs – something that can’t be said of many of the market’s food outlets.

They’re selling chevapi and souvlaki in a range of configurations both plated and stuffed in bread of one kind or another.

My plate of five chevapi, two salads and a bread roll is $6.50 – another bargain!

This a Croatian food, so – knowing the Croatian skill with spuds and cabbage – it’s the potato and cabbage salads I am most interested in.

I’m not disappointed.

While the salads have something rather monotone about them, they are both fresh, zingy and delicious.

The chevapi themselves are OK but need more seasoning.

 

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Truckies Drive In Cafe

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Truckies Drive In Cafe, 90-92 Boundary Rd, Laverton North. Phone: 9325 1553

There are hundreds of fast-food outfits spread across the industrial wild west, servicing myriad operations big and small, lubricating the wheels of commerce and feeding a mix of blue-collar workers of many kinds and their support colleagues.

I’ve always assumed that they’re pretty much interchangeable and that the food involved is not much good and even less good for one’s health.

So why try this one?

Well, I’ve driven past it many times, so it has become an itch to be scratched.

It’s got the sort of name and something of the appearance of a genuine ‘Merican-style truck stop.

Still, my hopes are appropriately modest.

A good burger would be good.

A very good burger with fresh, hot, crunchy chips would be a bonus.

My more extreme fantasies run to a wise-cracking waitress named Loretta or Rhonda, a jukebox stuffed with prime Merle Haggard and a slice of house-made apple pie a la mode.

And fantasies they are, as I discover when I enter what looks like a routine fast-food place.

But the welcome from proprietor Elias and his crew is warm and welcoming.

They’ve been here for almost the all the eight years an eatery has operated here.

Even better, my dismay at the line-up of already-made and wilting burgers and kebabs is immediately dispelled upon being told that, yes indeed, a burger can be made fresh to my specifications.

My burger is better than good.

The flattened patty is rather lightweight but tastes OK.

The other components – lettuce, tomato, bacon, some raw onion, sauce – are fine.

But the ace in the hole is the top-quality bun – fresh, big and delicious.

The chips are hot, well-done and inhalable.

Even better, there’s HP Sauce on hand in which to dunk them.

Burger and a can of soft drink $6.90, chips $2.

Bargain!

And at that sort of price, requesting an extra patty is quite viable should you want a more meaty feed.

And now some wise words from two of my fellow western suburbs food fans:

Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton

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Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton. Phone: 9369 6426

The shock of stumbling upon Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton is intense and pleasurable.

The reason?

Earlier in the day I’d been contemplating an entire day – indeed, an entire weekend – free and clear.

Extremely desirous was I of adventure, an outing, something good to eat and generally having my mind blown.

But not for the first time I was struck by a feeling that after more than a decade in the west, and after two years of full-on blogging activity that has entailed much exploration, I’d tapped our region out, that I’d been everywhere and done pretty much everything.

I even resorted to a slightly panicked perusal of Google maps in order to discover some shopping strip or industrial estate we had yet to examine.

As I say, this nagging feeling has visited previously.

It’s ridiculous. It’s misplaced. It always is.

So off I head, driving west on the freeway and taking the Kororoit Rd off ramp, with only some vague awareness of a Laverton market to steer me.

On Leakes Rd, I am happily stunned to see thousands of people and thousands of cars.

Many people are already departing, even though it’s just on noon, arms laden with market-bought goodies of many kinds.

I park in a vast, muddy parking lot and make my way to one of the market entrances, where I pay my $1 entry fee.

Yes, that’s correct – this is a market that charges an entry fee.

The market is pretty darn amazing – in the range of goods on sale, the diversity of the customers and the varied range of dogs, all of it underscored by amplified, slightly distorted Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions such as Hank Williams’ Jambalaya.

The longer I spend in the west, the more I come to believe that Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions are a lofty, refined and magical artform.

According to its website, the market has about 1400 stalls set on about 14 hectares, including two large pavilions.

Naturally, the market bears some resemblance to markets Victoria and Footscray.

But it’s also very, very different.

For Rubble & Riches also has elements that make it feel like part swap meet, part garage sale and part op shop.

There’s secondhand small machinery, furniture and brickabrack of a bewildering variety, along with all the usual clothing and knicknacks that are market staples.

There’s a quite nice range of food-to-eat-right-now stalls, but only a very small coverage of fruit and vegetables, and none at all that I could see of fresh meat, poultry or fish.

To my utter delight, there’s an outdoor Vietnamese eatery set up in an old bus and with patrons eating under adjacent canvas.

The food they’re eating looks fine – banh mi, rice and pork chop and even some interesting looking vegetarian soup noodle options.

But after checking out the entire site, I opt first up for a bratwurst from the grill shop set up by Radtke Catering, the intoxicating aromas from which permeate the hall in which it is situated.

As well as a range of snags, they’re cooking up ham and chicken steaks.

My sausage is sold to me under the name German bratwurst, but is quite different texture and even taste to those I am familiar with from the Vic Market. Still, at $5.50 it’s good.

Still, hungry I choose next a chorizo ($7) from a stall run by a lovely, smiling Chilean dude and his friendly staff (top photo).

I go with the green salsa, but soon discover it’s tame, so return for a big dollop of the its red sibling. It’s not red hot either, but spices things up nicely and leaves a tingle on my lips.

At this point, I say to myself: “Righto – enough of this health food stuff … fruit for the rest of the day!”

Accordingly, I purchase a baguette-shaped chocolate brioch loaf ($2.50) from Nikola, who is manning the Noisette baked goodies stall.

His company has been at the market for just three weeks and his verdict is still out on its merits.

On reflection, I have some doubts about the practical utility of this market.

I could never see us choosing it over our other favourites for stocking up the house with food or anything else.

But for a weekend visit of high entertainment value, it’s all class.

Having assumed that the folks who are collecting the $1 entry fee are doing so on behalf of some local community or sports group, I ask if that is the case as I am departing.

Not so, I’m, told – this is weekend work for them, they get paid and the fee dosh goes to the market operators.

The market, which I gather has been running for at least 15 years, is open from 7am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Kowloon House

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1A Triholm Ave, Laverton. Phone: 9369 4121

One of my fondest (tastiest) memories of my St Kilda years is of a modest little food shop at the Espy end of Fitzroy St.

Cleopatra’s was basically a takeaway joint, though a couple of tables meant it could just about pass for a restaurant – and that’s precisely how I used it on countless occasions over many years.

The family that ran it was delightful and friendly, and their Lebanese food was stupendously fine – I have particularly mouth-watering recall of the chicken skewers and housemade lemonade.

As that end of Fitzroy St became increasingly cluttered with slick restaurants, Cleopatra’s migrated up the road to full restaurant status opposite the Junction Oval. By then I’d moved west, so visits were few.

And then it was gone.

(If anyone knows if the family concerned is still in the food business, please let me know!)

Cleopatra’s and its fine food had, of course, nothing at all to do with the famed empress or the land she ruled.

The name, I’ve always presumed, signalled an earlier and less sophisticated era of Australian foodiness, when citizens needed to be hit over the head with signposts of the most basic and banal and not necessarily all that accurate kind.

Same deal with Kowloon House in Laverton – likewise, it has little or nothing to do with Kowloon. Although it does trade in fried noodles, laksas and tom yum dishes, it’s another Filipino hot spot.


We’d already checked out Kabayan Filipino Restaurant in Cairnlea, and we’re very much looking forward to the Philippine Fiesta at the Melbourne Showgrounds in a couple of weeks.

So my solo trip to Kowloon House, which I’d spied on my many commutes by train to Geelong, on a typical Melbourne spring day (pelting down with rain) was more by way of tuning up.

It’s a cheerful and welcoming place, and whatever it’s dependence on clientele that prefers other southeast Asian dishes, it’s clearly Filipino at heart – as a bain marie of defiantly funky-looking stew dishes and array of groceries attest.

Once again I was confronted with the choice between bain marie and grilled dishes, opting for tapsilog, a rice-based dish that seems to be a breakfast meal that has come to have wider applications.

I liked it a lot.

The garlic rice was fluffy and flecked with egg. The fried egg was perfect. The marinated beef (I forgot to ask what exactly it was marinated in) was black, tough, chewy, but went real well with the little bowl of soy sauce-laced vinegar provided for dipping. And the little bundle of pickled papaya salad added another touch of piquancy.

It was a meal of happiness but also one of dubious healthiness!

The takeaway/catering menu of Kowloon House lists a revolving cast of daily specials: Tapsilob, halo-halo, pinakbet, sisig, caldareta, chicken adobo, monggo, dinuguan, ginatang langka, medudo, okoy, sinigang na baboy, turon.

Having just finished, ahem, digesting Google/Wikipedia explanations for most of them, I realise my Filpino food journey has a long way to go!

Kowloon House on Urbanspoon