Meal of the week No.32: Old Town White Coffee

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A couple of times a month, various affairs draw me into the CBD.

Whatever the business at hand, the city adventure always seems something of a failure unless I manage to secure a beaut lunch.

Which is pretty bloody silly, as the CBD is by no means familiar to me these days – particularly Elizabeth Street, where I invariably end up searching and eating.

It’s all a bit of a lottery, really.

And it’s got both easier and harder because the number of cheap Asian eateries on Elizabeth, roughly between Bourke and Abeckett, seems to have doubled or more in the past year or so.

Anyway, this year I’ve endured some truly rubbish meals in the area.

But today I get lucky and have a fine lunch.

Old Town White Coffee (303 Elizabeth Street) – I don’t stick around long enough to find out the cultural and/or food history of the name – is smartly done out, as are the staff.

The patrons – the place is busy but not hyper so – appear to be enjoying what look like fine Malaysian-based meals.

The menu is quite extensive and features many familiar dishes, but here they are packaged in rather imaginative ways.

I don’t even get through the longish list before making my choice – Old Town Fried Chicken Beriani ($14.90).

It’s very enjoyable.

The papadums are crisp and unoily.

The achaar is most splendid – I wish there was more of it!

The rice is indeed redolent, in an enjoyably vague sort of way, of the Indian rice classic from which my lunch draws its inspiration.

The curry has spud pieces and the gravy/sauce is very heavily perfumed with cardamom.

The two chicken pieces look over-cooked and tied, but are juicy, meaty and fine.

 

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For sure, I’ll happily return here on my next CBD foray to explore the menu further.

However, a word of warning:

Old Town is one of the starker examples I have come across of the menu photos really, really not matching what is served.

Check out the above photo – pictured is the beef rendang version of my chicken-based lunch.

Notice the difference?

 

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Pork ribs you can afford

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gorilla7

 

Gorilla Grill, 36 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 0401 830 800

It’s opening day – or, rather, night – at Gorilla Grill, the bricks-and-mortar carnation of the food truck of the same name.

With the recent opening of splendid Japanese eatery Shinmai Tasty just a few doors away, Edgewater Boulevard has, effectively for the first time, got something of a foodie buzz about it.

 

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The Gorillas are churning out fries, burgers, fried chook and more – some, but not all, with a Korean touch – with rush-hour steeliness.

The place is smokin’.

Those who followed CTS BBQ adventures of the past couple of years – at, say, Smokehouse 101 or Up In Smokemay have noted we have a cost-based aversion to pork ribs.

We love ’em!

But the cost, including bones, inevitably seems out of whack compared to other available goodies such as brisket.

At Gorilla Grill, we feel liberated.

Here, a half rack costs $18 and a full rack $27 – both served with chips.

 

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Hoorah!

Our half rack is excellent and is a goodly sized slab of meat.

There’s a heap of terrific, juicy meat on those bones, the sauce is excellent and the chips are fine, too.

This just about does the pair of us – for $18, it presents as a cracking meal for one.

OK, this is ribs in a fast-food setting, but we do not care.

Lip-smacking good is the verdict.

 

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Coleslaw ($3) is nicely crisp jumble of white and red cabbage daubed with mayo; good but not a knock-out.

 

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I’m so rapt with our ribs that I barely notice our Krusty Burger ($12) with its nice, crunchy chunk of chook, salady bits and bacon, though Bennie gives it a firm thumbs up.

 

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Life goes on at Berkshire Road

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madam1

 

Madam Curry, 71 Berkshire Road, Sunshine North.

Ah well, that’s the end of an era in western suburbs food history.

Marco and Maria from Latin Food and Wines (frequently referred to as La Morenita in the many stories we have run about them) have moved from their long-time North Sunshine redoubt for a great new home in Deer Park.

There’ll be more about them and that right here at CTS in due course …

It seems the sleepy Berkshire Road shopping strip that has been such a big part of our lives for so many years will become even more somnolent.

But food things there are still ticking over.

The newest arrival is the roti-producing outfit called Madam Curry, which has moved from Sunshine Plaza into the premises formerly occupied by a failed South American eatery.

 

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My understanding is that for the Madam Curry operation, serving walk-up customers curries, rotis and the like is strictly a second-string affair to the contracts they have to supply rotis across the city.

Thus as I arrive at their new digs for lunch I am wondering who will actually be stepping up for a lunch-time feed in the back streets of North Sunshine.

So I am happily surprised that as I am lunching, two different groups of local workers/businessmen come and go.

Madam Curry’s stock in trade may be supplying rotis to the Melbourne hospitality industry but it seems catering to the lunch trade in a neighbourhood where there is not much food to be had is a smart move.

The eat-in/takeaway menu (see below) covers a tight range of reasonably priced starters, roti canai dishes, wraps and noodles.

 

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Prawn dumplings ($5.50) are nice – plump and flavoursome – without having the oomph to be expected from a top-line yum cha joint.

 

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The prominent appearance of curry leaves is a good sign of home-cooking in my chicken curry with roti cani ($9.90).

The curry IS good, made so far as I can tell from thigh meat and featuring a goodly number of spud bits in a tasty, mild curry sauce.

The roti is OK but does have something of a mass-produced taste/feel to it.

 

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Very short Road trip

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roti24

 

Roti Road, Highpoint. Phone: 9317 4293

When Consider The Sauce and friends hit Roti Road in Footscray – see story here – we enjoyed a good feed.

However, subsequent visits failed to back up that good impression.

One such visit involved myself and Bennie and also involved, IIRC, nasi lemak and Hainan chicken rice – both dishes being of the very average variety.

Another visit involved myself alone and was prompted by the restaurant’s claim on FB that it had listened to its customers and lifted its laksa game. I found that not to be the case, or not according to my laksa tastes anyway.

Since then, we have – as you’d expect – avoided the place, save for a very occasional visit for the reliable, cheap roti canai.

And that’s why Roti Road is pretty much the last of the eateries at the new Highpoint dining area to be checked out by us.

Bowling up solo just before Christmas, I wasn’t exactly feeling trepidatious but I certainly had no high hopes.

 

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So I am surprised and delighted to find that my lunch – Hainanese chicken rice ($12.90) – is in every way wonderful.

Soup – hot and not too salty.

Condiments – chilli sauce and ginger mash just right.

Chicken – a big serve of beautifully tender and expertly boned meat luxuriating in cooking juices mixed with soy sauce.

Rice – stock-cooked and fine for the job at hand.

Really – one of the best versions of this famous dish I’ve enjoyed in recent years.

A more recent visit with two lads in tow fails to reach such heights but makes for a good lunch nevertheless.

 

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Six chicken satay sticks are the real deal, coolly priced at $9.90 and served with a sticky and flavoursome peanutty sauce on the side..

I am irked that I must share them with two teens.

 

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Mee goreng ($11.90) is a fine version of another staple dish – we like it a lot.

 

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Vegetable curry with rice ($11.90) tries hard but doesn’t really get where it should be going.

We like that there’s myriad green vegetables such as beans and broccoli involved.

Bbut the eggplant is cooked down to mush and the whole impresses as steamed vegetables with curry gravy added rather than as a from-scratch curry.

Still, it’s not a bad way to ensure vegetables are had in a setting where it’s easy to give them miss.

Good Place for Malaysian

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makan7

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Oh yes, we’ll be in that!

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

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

 

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

The service is fine and our food arrives very quickly.

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

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

Hungry lads are we!

 

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

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

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

Bennie loves it!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Superior chicken rice in Niddrie

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lazat31

 

Lazat 2, 328 Keilor Road, Niddrie. Phone: 9379 8878

Consider The Sauce tried – with satisfaction – and wrote about Malaysian restaurant Lazat soon after it opened in Sunshine in 2012.

But it has never become a regular stop for us, though I know it is a much-loved favourite of some readers.

The reason, I reckon, for our lack of regular visits comes down to it being located just off Ballarat Road in an area of service industries, with the neverending traffic whizzing by.

When we think of Sunshine, we automatically think of the other end of Hampshire Road and of parking and having a good walk around before deciding what to eat.

Today, though, I’m a long way from Sunshine.

I’m on Keilor Road in Niddrie.

It’s an old-school shopping strip with a wide mix of shops and eateries, one that always looks like it should offer much in the way of food finds.

But every time I’m hereabouts and have a closer look, very little jumps out at me and says: “Drop everything – eat here, right now!”

Though there is a very good-looking Turkish place I’ve been trying for which I’ve been wanting to muster up for some time … it’ll get done some time.

Today I’m here for the opening of Lazat 2.

The new Lazat sibling is located on an intensely foodish strip and and sandwiched between Italian and Japanese joints on one side and a Greek and a Nando’s on the other.

 

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The restaurant is modestly proportioned but is nevertheless a longish and coolly welcoming space.

It may be opening day but I’m far from alone, with a number of locals already seated when I enter, eager to try out this new arrival.

I take a seat one of two long wooden tables and ponder lunch.

For a first-up look at a new Malaysian place, my normal routine – for sure – would be to try the non-seafood laksa.

But today I do not feel like such a weighty lunch.

So I opt, instead, for the Hainanese chicken rice – another pretty handy Malaysian ready-reckoner!

The Lazat 2 menu covers all the bases you’d expect.

Lobak sells for $6.80 and curry puffs for $6.

Full serves of beef rendang or chicken curry clock in at $18.80.

Noodles such as mee goreng fetch $13.80.

My chicken rice is a flat-out doozy – one of the best versions I’ve had for several years.

Step 1 – try the soup: Nice and hot, not too salty, flavour good.

Step 2 – try the rice, unadorned with condiments: Very good with a hint of ginger.

Step 3 – try the chook: Oh boy!

This chicken – and there’s plenty of it – is fabulous.

It’s at room temperature; actually, it’s cold.

But I mind not, thinking of it as a kind of salad.

It’s tender and very flavoursome.

Best of all, it has been impeccably, expertly boned – not a shingle shard or killer fragment of bone passes my lips.

Hurrah!

Step 4 – do the mix-up: Blend chilli and soy sauces, and soup, with rice; eat with chicken and coriander.

Step 5 – sigh with happiness.

Considering the quality of my meal and the asking price for noodle dishes, I consider the $11.80 I have paid a most excellent bargain.

(This story has been sponsored by Moonee Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)

 

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Midnight munchies

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cb2

 

China Bar, 235 Russell Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9639 1633

After earlier in the evening attending a very interesting panel discussion on “the challenges of urban renewal” at VU, I had no desire for food whatsoever.

So I spend the rest of the night just reading and goofing off.

Then, of course, the munchies kick in pretty much right on the pumpkin hour.

Normally, I’d simply go to bed looking forward to breakfast.

But this is one of those rare occasions – no work tomorrow, no son to get awake and off to school (including making his breakfast and lunch), not even any appointments or pressing matters to attend to.

So off I go in a reminder of earlier times in my life when post-midnight escapades were common and dawn conclusions were not rare.

I’d love to head somewhere more local, but as you all know – I’m sure – there literally is nowhere to go, AFAIK, save for kebab shacks.

Besides, getting into the CBD and finding a park at this time of night is such a breeze, it seems local.

China Bar or Stalactites?

China Bar.

Last time I was in the city late at night, Bennie and I hit the newer, 24-hour China Bar in Swanston Street as the Russell Street version was closed for renovations.

Since the, we’ve also checked out in a look-not-eat fashion the China Bar Signature Asian Buffet, a branch of which is also on Russell Street.

The problem there for us, should we ever indulge, is not the pricing but the vast range of food.

I reckon being around it all but being able to only consume a small bit of what’s available would do my head in a little.

 

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The regular Russell Street China Bar is an old friend from way back in the days when I lived in Flinders Lane and even before.

I know that these days, CB has many locations spread across Melbourne.

But it always seems like real-deal Chinese/Malaysian to me – with cheap, tasty food, many folks coming and going, and brusque staff.

All is as usual when I enter.

The place is packed but not unbearably so.

There’s no drunks in evidence but I always find it a really neat thing to re-discover that night owl eating is such a widespread, common and utterly normal activity, even on a week night.

There are many younger people, students and office workers both, in the house but also family groups.

My two-roast combination with rice costs $11.90 and looks both a treat and bloody enormous.

It is big but it’s made to look even bigger because of the huge amount of rice included.

The meat portions seem a little bigger than regulation serves and are good, even if some of the larger pieces of soya chicken and roast duck are a bit dry and the meat-bone relationship difficult to navigate.

Still, it’s good stuff … though if I wonder if I should have ordered the laksa.

But then, I always wonder that.

Home, bed.