Naked and hungry

2 Comments

 

Naked Egg, 32A Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9396 0309
Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

We’ve been hearing the talk – that Yarraville cafe Naked Egg has been doing fab takeaway meals.

So we check them out.

And the outcome is outstanding.

Some takeaway meals don’t suit us as we don’t have a microwave oven.

So I get two serves of chicken cacciatore at $18 each.

Actually, with its sausage and beans involvement, it’s more a cassoulet.

But let’s not split hairs, eh?

 

 

Bennie has somehow become the tightwad of the family, so gets a bit sniffy about the asking price of $18 a serve.

I beg to differ.

Adamantly.

Our “stew” is gloriously rich and delicious, with seeming multitudes of chicken bits, sausage and vegetables, all in a rich, thick sauce of profound delectableness.

Expert cooking going on here, methinks.

In a restaurant setting – oh, those were the days and hopefully will be again – I’d expect to pay in the mid-$20s or even more.

So this strikes me as very good pricing. I expect any decrease in price would inevitably mean a drop in quality.

The side serve of spuds and sauerkraurt is OK, but no match for the main event stew.

In a word: Fabulous!

 

 

For another take-home meal, we venture a bit up the road – to Panjali in Sunshine.

This time, I’ve phoned in our order beforehand and the whole procedure is sweet and swish, our food (mostly) awaiting when I turn up.

We get two murtabaks – one lamb ($12.90) and one chicken ($11.90).

It may be thought in some quarters that anything involving flatbreads purchased for later heating up is a recipe for ugh.

But we know from previous experience that is not the case with murtabaks.

Panjali murtabaks, anyway.

 

 

Our Saturday night meal is, well, orgasmic.

Perhaps we’ve been missing a certain level of spice and oil and funkiness?

Anyone else in that bag?

In any case, our Panjali meal of murtabak has us both ooh-ing and ahh-ing an sporting happy grins.

Not only do the murtabaks re-heat very well, but the accompanying gravies – one beef curry and one dal and vegetables – are wonderful.

 

A new Laksa King

2 Comments

 

Laksa King Kitchen, 328 Racecourse Road, Flemington.

A regular sight that bemuses us when where seeking a feed in Flemington is people queuing up for a table at Laksa King.

On the footpath outside on Pin Oak Crescent.

Sometimes in chilly mid-winter.

And sometimes, even, in the rain.

Such is the allure of the Laksa King name.

Sure, the food is good.

But the place’s popularity lends it a somewhat rushed, impersonal vibe – and we’re not alone in thinking that.

Good luck to them, but the CTS ethos usually leads us to going where the crowds aren’t.

And where the food is as good, if not better.

In Flemington and for Malaysian, that invariably means M Yong Tufu – a place we dearly love.

But we are happy and keen to check out the new Laksa King family establishment – Laksa King Kitchen on Racecourse Road.

This is actually the second Laksa King Kitchen – there is another at Westfield Southland Shopping Centre.

 

 

The new Laksa King Kitchen in Flemington boasts a chic-but-small dining area, though there is more seating upstairs.

The staff are keen, happy and all a-bustle.

The menu (see below) is a solid gathering of Malaysian staples divided into small/big bites, noodles, rice dishes, laksas and vegetarian.

There is a nifty twist – laksas are offered in two sizes.

This makes good sense, as regular laksas are always a big meal.

Not that we can envisage a day when we would order the smaller size!

 

 

Selections can be ascertained using the printed menu or on the laptop at each table, but the actual ordering is done via the latter.

 

 

Bennie and I share a starter and have a bigger dish each.

Lobak ($8.60) is less gung-ho on flavour and crinkly beancurd skin than we would like, but it’s a fine beginning that delivers us three porky chunks each.

 

 

In a fine break with boring CTS practice, it is Bennie who orders a laksa – in this case, the bigger version of the angus beef outing ($13.50).

It’s a big an handsome bowl-full.

But he is so-so about the laksa as a whole – perhaps a higher spice level may have won him over?

He does give, however, an enthusiastic 10/10 for the many tender beef chunks.

And I get to try one of the eggplant pieces – it is wonderfully luscious and memorable.

But still … for us, when it comes to laksa hereabouts, M Yong Tofu will remain our go-to.

 

 

That leaves me ordering the Hainan chicken rice $13.50).

The photos of the dish didn’t really inspire and that unease increases when I realise my rice meal will be eaten without the usual bowl of chicken soup on the side.

But all is forgiven from the first mouthful of perfectly ginger-perfumed rice and onwards.

This is a triumph and one of the best of this personal favourite I’ve had for a long time.

There’s a lot of chook – it’s double layered in the photo above – and it’s tender and expertly boned.

The ginger mash, chilli sauce and soy accompaniments are excellent and in generous quantities.

And the wilted bean sprout/veg offering is likewise top notch.

My mouth is doing a high-stepping boogie as we depart.

 

Meal of the week No.43: Dumpling Story

2 Comments

 

CTS has never been much impressed by the food offerings at Pacific Werribee.

As well, one of the few outlets that may be expected to arouse our interest, if not our enthusiasm, is Dumpling Story – and I’ve long carried some baggage in that regard because of an unfortunate meal endured by someone near and dear to us.

So what am I doing here?

Well, it’s parent-teacher night.

I’ve departed Yarraville in plenty of time to allow for whatever the freeway and weather may come my way … so much so that I’ve arrived with heaps of time to grab some dinner before the business part of the evening unfolds.

That’s a lot happier prospect than trying to find something to eat between Werribee and Yarraville about 9pm on a cold Monday night.

Still, as you’d expect, my expectations are pretty much rock bottom.

I order and wait.

A bit less than 10 minutes later, I am presented with my combination laksa ($11.80).

And am duly knocked out.

I’m not about to proclaim this laksa as a champion of its kind, and maybe my happiness is coloured by my low hopes.

But this is really very good.

Commercial laksa gravy?

Maybe – there are no curry leaves that sometimes are a tip-off that the soup part has been tweaked in-house.

But no matter – this tastes fine.

It’s a big serve.

There’s a hefty amount of good, if somewhat bland, chicken.

Better, there are several delectable slivers of excellent eggplant.

And four plump, tasty and peeled prawns.

And more …

I’ll be much more open-minded about this place – and its extensive and interesting menu – when I’m down this way again.

 

Reliable, excellent Malaysian

Leave a comment

 

Chef Lagenda, Shop 9-10/835A Ballarat Road, Deer park. Phone:8358 5389

Consider The Sauce is facing a very busy – but happy – few Saturday hours.

Kung fu class in Carlton from 11am to noon.

A 2pm appointment in Toolern Vale for a frolic at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre with some dingo pups.

Do we have time for a quick bite of lunch in between?

Of course!

Though, mindful that there’s a bit of driving to do in a somewhat hicuppy car, I make sure we get a long way to our rural destination before parking at Deer Park.

There we pass by – for once – our regular Deer Park favourite and head for Chef Lagenda.

CTS reviewed this place way back in 2012 soon after it had opened.

These days there are four in the Chef Lagenda family – the most famous in Flemington, as well as Deer Park, Hawthorn and Richmond.

At the time it opened in Deer Park, there was a good deal of excitement in that neighbourhood.

Since then, the Deer Park strip has bloomed considerably in terms of food – is Chef Lagenda holding its own?

The answer is emphatic: “Yes!”

All we’re after is a quick, simple, affordable and tasty feed – and we succeed admirably.

The place is obviously a popular local stalwart, as it’s doing very brisk trade at 12.30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Nothing much appears to have changed since our earlier visit – the bicycle is still on the wall and the service (cash only) is fine.

Chef Lagenda may be ostensibly Malaysian of food, but it roasts, Chinese-style, its own meats.

But we pass by those options and pragmatically opt for some straightahead Malaysian favourites.

 

 

Achar ($5.80) could do with a bit more spice and vinegary tang, but is fine nonetheless.

We pretty much automatically give a hearty thumbs up to any dish that involves cauliflower.

 

 

Bennie’s koay teow ($11.50) is a superb rendition – significantly less oily than some we’ve had and fully redolent of wok hai.

 

 

My regular curry laksa ($9.80) is, well, regulation.

But it’s also very, very good.

There’s a good handful of tasty, plump prawns in there.

The plentiful chicken meat is way superior to the scraggly chook that sometimes manifests itself in laksa outings.

Best of all is the eggplant.

I always eagerly look forward to the eggplant portion of a curry laksa.

But sometimes it can be bitter and not very attractive to eat at all.

This Chef Lagenda laksa has just a  single piece – to the left of the bowl.

But it’s long, meltingly tender and 100 per cent delicious.

In recent weeks, Bennie and I have discussed how prices have risen since CTS started.

Outside of a couple of banh mi, the days of a meal that covers us both for $20 seem long gone.

Yet, here in Deer Park, we’ve had a grand cheap feast when we weren’t even looking for a blog-worthy meal.

The total bill – including two mains, a side dish and two cans of soda pop – is $34.10.

And we reckon that’s excellent.

 

Real good Malaysian

4 Comments

 

Ya’Salam Restaurant, 2/14 Lavinia Drive, Tarneit. Phone: 9748 6860

We enjoyed our visit to Ya’Salam when the premises was being used to operate a Somalian eatery – though truth be told it was a bit too much of a drive to become a regular haunt.

Now there’s new management in the place.

They’ve retained the name – and even a page of Somalian food at the back of their new menu.

But the rest is all about terrific Malaysian food.

In fact, based on two visits we reckon this is some of the best, cheapest and most authentic Malaysian food you’ll find in all of Melbourne.

And word appears to have gotten out – we note with assured pleasure the happy, hungry tables on our visits.

 

 

Chicken laksa ($10, top photograph) is unlike any I’ve eaten – and as good as any, too.

The chicken is so finely shredded that it’s pretty much subsumed into the gravy, but that’s fine when the soup base is so funky, house-made and delicious.

Protein oomph is provided by two hardboiled egg halves and there’s plenty of cucumber and other veg bits to provide texture and crunch to go with the fat, short udon-style noodles.

 

 

Roti canai ($5) is a wonder.

Accompanying a just-right bowl of runny chicken curry (with a dob of sambal paste) are the two lightest, flakiest and best flatbreads of the Malaysian style we’ve ever eaten.

Simply: Wow.

 

 

Char kuey teow ($10) is a bit like our laksa – unlike any we’ve before tried.

This one comes in a bowl and – appropriately – is more like a hearty, thick soup than the drier dish we’ve been expecting.

No problems, though – because while the wok hei factor is predictably muted, there’s no doubting the flavours and all-round yumminess.

 

 

Given the obvious real-deal vibe of everything served us thus far, we are keen to try the Ya’Salam satays.

They’re unavailable, though, so we happily settle for these two fine curry puffs ($1 each).

Again, these are a far cry from your usual curry puffs.

The rich short pastry is stuffed with an extremely toothsome jumble of chicken mince and vegetables.

They could’ve been a tad hotter, however.

The Ya’Salam food we’ve tried has been really fine.

We’re usually not much concerned about notions of authenticity – but they have heaps of it here.

Next time we’ll be sure to try one of the many nasi goreng variations.

Check out the Ya’Salam menu here.

Lovely Malaysian in Newport

8 Comments

lane3

 

Hawkers Lane, 12 Hall Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 0611

“I’ve never seen so many depressed people in one place!”

That’s the desolate text message I receive from Bennie.

He’s stranded in Laverton and the trains are not running.

Neither he, nor anyone else it seems, knows what is going on.

In the meantime, he’s directed me to Newport for pick-up duties – prematurely as it turns out.

But as we await transport clarification, I get the chance to scope out the Hall Street shops and businesses – including the Malaysian place I’d heard about.

 

lane4

 

It’s small and tidy – not much more than a glorified take-away, really, with one tall and small table and a bunch of counter/window stools.

Still, something about the place feels just right – an exciting impression given ooomph by the surreptitious looks I grab of two different meals I see being eaten.

Our stay-at-home dinner options are happily jettisoned for another night and – once the tricky transport logistics are finally resolved at Footscray Station – it’s back to Newport we head.

The Hawkers Lane menu (see below) covers much familiar territory, from curry puffs (including a sardine option) and rotis through to noodles (wok, wet and soup), one-person rice dishes and full-serve mains such as beef rendang and Nyonya fish curry.

I’ve heard there is a link between this place and Wok Noodle in Seddon, though how deep I do not know. Nor, on this occasion, do I pursue the matter.

 

lane2

 

Rotis can be served plain or with the likes of peanut sauce, beef rendang and chicken curry, or as wraps.

Our fine roti with potato curry ($9) is all good, though the curry is rather more runny than we’d like – a more sticky gravy that sticks to the flat bread would be just the ticket.

 

lane1

 

Bennie makes quick work of his mee goreng ($12.50).

It’s a solid, well-cooked outing.

My chicken kari laksa ($15, top photo) is a variation on your regular chicken laksa.

The curry sauce blends with the laksa soup to create a very flavoursome brew, while the chicken pieces are heftier and much tastier than the diced or shredded chook routinely found in laksas.

For veg, there’s just a single, longish chunk of eggplant – no beans or broccoli or the like.

But that matters not, as the chicken, the tofu, two halves of golden boiled egg and mix of two curry gravies combine with the noodles and bean sprouts to produce a top-notch laksa.

 

lane5

 

Hawkers Lane is a real find.

The locals must be thrilled.

The bare-bones set-up means eating in feels more like just grabbing a quick, unfussy bite and less like going through the whole restaurant ritual.

Yet the service and food quality shine.

Hawkers Lane is a cash-only operation, does not do deliveries and is closed on Sundays.

 

lane7

lane8

lane6

Malaysian gem

Leave a comment

sambal3

 

Sambal Kampung, 38-46 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 7171

Words and photographs: ERIKA JONSSON

I fell in love with Malaysia during my first trip to Kuala Lumpur in 2009.

Being able to choose between great Indian, Chinese or Nyonya cuisine meant loads of variety – classic dishes tasted different but awesome no matter where we went.

Three years later we returned with our first son (then aged two) and found even more to love in Penang, where the laksa was fishy and bitter and the spices were fresh and local.

Since then we’ve struggled to find Malaysian food in the west that lives up to those glorious memories of eating chicken skewers by the side of a road drinking a cold teh tarik.

When we find ourselves in Maribyrnong around lunchtime on a rare lovely day, I remember a tip from a friend to try Sambal Kampung, her preferred Malay restaurant. The other half doesn’t take much convincing.

We are warmly welcomed and grab a high chair for our little guy.

Our waitress brings him over a plastic bowl, cup, fork and spoon – a welcome surprise that no doubt benefits all parties concerned.

The little guy tucks in quickly to some roti canai. The rich, delicious curry sauce is just a bit spicy for him, but we are happy to ensure it isn’t wasted.

 

sambal2

 

The other half orders the chicken laksa with hokkien and vermicelli noodles ($11).

Laksa often takes a little while to fully appreciate – the first mouthful of broth doesn’t always reveal the full richness of flavour that builds as you get further in.

This is certainly the case here. There is a stronger fishiness than most places dare to serve, and the other half is thrilled.

 

sambal1

 

I go for the kung pao chicken with rice from the list of specials ($9).

The sauce is slightly sweeter than I’m used to – it’s a winner in my book.

Roasted cashews add crunch and the dish isn’t overly spicy (until I eat up the whole chillies for some welcome heat).

The other half has to fight with our offspring for the cold teh tarik, which is strong and nicely sweet, while I just grab a soft drink. All up our bill comes to $32 and we can barely finish the roti.

Sambal Kampung is a family gem – like so many Asian restaurants it welcomes kids without needing to cater specifically for them.

The food arrives quickly and the prices are terrific.

We will be back with our older son very soon.

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

Leave a comment

oldtown1

 

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.

 

oldtown2

 

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?

 

oldtown3

Pork ribs you can afford

1 Comment

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.

 

gorilla3

 

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.

 

gorilla4

 

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.

 

gorilla5

 

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

 

gorilla6

 

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.

 

gorilla1

gorilla2

Life goes on at Berkshire Road

6 Comments

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.

 

madam2

 

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.

 

madam4

 

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

 

madam5

 

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.

 

madam3

Very short Road trip

2 Comments
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.

 

roti25

 

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.

 

roti21

 

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.

 

roti23

 

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

 

roti22

 

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

1 Comment

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.

 

makan6

 

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.

 

makan1

 

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!

 

makan4

 

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!

 

makan3

 

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.

 

makan2

 

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.

 

makan5

 

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.

 

makan8

Superior chicken rice in Niddrie

1 Comment

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.

 

lazat32

 

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.)

 

lazat33

Midnight munchies

3 Comments
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.

 

cb1

 

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.

MiHub rocks it again

2 Comments

mihub413

mihub410

 

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.

 

mihub46

 

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!”

 

mihub45

 

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.

 

mihub42

 

I ate well and widely.

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

This time around they included CTS readers …

 

mihub44

 

… Sara and Sharon …

 

mihub47

 

… and Roopi and Jaspreet.

 

mihub412

 

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

 

mihub49

mihub48

mihub43

mihub41mihub411

 

Willy noodle shop

2 Comments
wok4

 

Wok Rite Inn Noodle & Snack Bar, 5 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 4077

Wok Rite Inn has been recommended to us more than once by a regular reader whose opinions we respect very much.

The vibe, we have been told, is one of a neighbourhood noodle shop with a bit more going on than in your average such establishment.

Over two visits, we discover that’s a fair assessment.

The staff seem to be many and are obliging.

There’s basic seating both inside and out.

The menu ranges widely through Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes – something that’s not always a good sign, of course.

The food we are served is adequate in an average sort of way.

If we were any of the locals we see coming and going, we’d be regulars who know exactly which of the many menu boxes get our ticks.

 

wok5

 

Beef rendang with rice ($14.50) is rather good.

It’s on the sweet side and (unsurprisingly) mildly spiced, but there’s a heap of good, well-cooked beef.

And the generous flourish of snow peas and broccoli is appreciated.

 

wok2

 

The basic curry laksa ($13.5) appears to be not made from scratch – but I’m OK with that.

I’ve had worse at supposedly specialist Malaysian places in the west.

I like the tofu and vegetable components.

But the main protein hit comes from far too much roast pork of a thick and rather rubbery variety.

 

wok1

 

There’s plenty of that pork in the kwai teow ($13.50), too, though not so much as to deliver imbalance.

Bennie likes it even if he fails to finish it off – the serves here, it must be said, are of a very generous nature.

 

wok6

 

I’m told the beef curry puffs are made in-house but that my vegetable rendition is not.

I’m fine with that, too.

I suspect that’s the case with the likes of curry puff and samosas at more places across the west than most of us might suspect – especially at the lower end of the price spectrum.

What I am not fine with is the fact my fried parcel is stone cold in the middle.

A perfectly cooked replacement, brought with an apologetic smile, tastes just right.

Check out the Wok Rite Inn website here.

 

wok3

A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas (2)

4 Comments

kitchen22

 

Kitchen Inn, 469 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9328 2562

Appointment in the city, park at Vic Market, left enough for time for a quick lunch – of course!

I have no great plans or destinations in mind.

Indeed, this stretch of Elizabeth Street is so busy at lunch time I’m happy to get a seat just about anywhere.

I have no plans to write or take pictures.

But then I get Kitchen Inn’s Sarawak laksa ($10.90).

CTS has been here before.

I’ve even had the laksa here on another occasion.

But …

I don’t remember it being THIS good!!!

Gravy that looks like a rich chocolate milkshake. Spice/heat levels that are just right and plenty of deep, dusky flavour – quite unlike the more regular laksas around town.

Vermicelli only in terms of noodles, which is real nice for a change.

And the extravagant goodies … oh my!

Shredded chicken, two monster pieces of chewy tofu sucking up that amazing gravy, fish cake, bean sprouts, quite a few very good prawns, noodle-like strips of omelette.

And – best of all – stacks of salty pork belly/crackling that is wonderfully crunchy to begin with but that becomes equally wonderfully soggy as the eating of my meal unfolds.

Wow.

This is a 10/10 laksa – a masterpiece of Melbourne cheap eats.

See earlier Melbourne laksa monarch post here.

 

kitchen21

China Bar 24 hours a day

1 Comment

chin7

chin8

 

China Bar, 257-259 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9639 6988

Because of a pre-fatherhood, pre-western sojourn spent living in the CBD, the Russell Street China Bar became a much-loved and endlessly reliable and enjoyable eating place.

So it’s a little difficult for me to think of China Bar as a franchise chain.

But there it is, right on the group’s website.

They’re everywhere.

And – this I did not know – the group also encompasses Claypot King and Dessert Story.

Not that that should come as any surprise – there is a marked similarity in branding.

And another surprise – according to Urbanspoon, the Russell Street branch (the original?) is “closed temporarily”.

We’re back from our Friday CBD adventure, so have no way of knowing what this means.

Maybe a short-lived closure to enable a no-doubt badly needed tart-up?

No matter … after witnessing the Melbourne Storm down the Brisbane Broncos in an exciting, tough game at AAMI Park, Bennie likes the idea of trying out the newish “24-hour” China Bar.

As we amble up Swanston Street, we seem to be amidst the wind-down of the end-of-working-week crowd, with the night-owl activity soon to be ramping up.

 

chin1

 

Inside China Bar, all is China Bar – even if the physical surroundings themselves are different.

Many people are eating, staff members – some of them with familiar faces – are bustling about.

That bustle and buzz is a big part of the attraction, as it is just about anywhere in Chinatown.

There seems to be more customers than I would normally expect chowing down on dumplings and smaller dishes.

But we go with the familiar.

 

chin5

 

My Hainanese crispy chicken rice costs $12.90 and stacks up thusly …

Rice – good chicken flavour but it’s packed so tightly into the bowl that it has become almost a like a pudding that needs carving.

Soup – warm only but good

Chilli, ginger/garlic/oil and cucumber accessories – oh dear, simply not enough zing.

Chicken – very crispy, very good, with a serving size that (as is so often the case) eats bigger than it appears. I could live without the gooey sauce underneath.

So … a little underwhelming considering the high esteem in which I hold the Russell Street branch, which I last visited late at night just a few months’ back.

Does this meal diminish my warm feelings for China Bar?

Just a little …

 

chin6

 

Bennie is quite smug in his certainty that his “seasoning salt spare ribs with rice” ($12.90) is the superior choice of our two meals.

He may be right.

I don’t try the chicken but the accompanying jumble of onion, capsicum and spices tastes OK.

But when asked if what he’s eating is as good as the same dish at a certain Chinese joint in Sunshine, his answer is: “No!”

 

chin2

chin4

chin3

Superb spicy Chinese

1 Comment

hon4

Hon’s Kitchen, 228 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9041 4680

At first blush it would be easy to conclude the arrival of Hon’s Kitchen on Union Road is merely a case of one nondescript, generic noodle bar replacing another.

But a solo visit by yours truly – during which a rather fine beef noodle soup, a bit like pho but without the more pronounced seasoning in the broth, was enjoyed – has us thinking Hon’s Kitchen has hidden depths and riches.

Specifically, we have hunch that while black bean beef or sweet ‘n’ sour whatever may be the stock in trade here, careful menu selection may result in the sort of wonderful, top-class yet affordable Cantonese tucker we get from Dragon Express.

We love following our hunches – especially when they come good as spectacularly as they do tonight.

hon1

Special combination fried rice ($9) is good. But really, considering the richnes of our other choices, we should have gone with the identically-priced vego version or just plain rice.

hon2

Spicy chicken ($12.90) … truly superb!

Unlike versions we’ve had elsewhere that involve ribbettes and their bones, this dish is built around boneless chicken pieces deep-fried, with the resulting globules being delicious and marvellously crisp and dry.

Of course, the real prize here is the spicy, dry jumble of goodies that accompanies.

This includes three types of onion – crunchy brown fried shallots, green onion discs and slivers of fresh white onion.

It also includes two types of chilli – crunchy crushed numbers and evil-looking black-red bullets.

hon3

Spicy eggplant ($12.90) is every bit as good and equally chilli-hit, albeit in quite a different way.

This number gets there through deep-frying the raw eggplant chunks and then whipping them into a sauce with chilli, vinegar and some tofu bits.

This dish was started from scratch for us – we saw the eggplant being peeled and chopped.

That such a fine dish resulted so quickly is some sort of magic, the eggplant itself displaying a deluxe lusciousness that beats even Japanese-style eggplant with miso or the slippery big pieces found in laksas.

Perhaps there’s been a mono-dimensional aspect to our meal – chillies rampant in both dishes, both of which have been deep-fried.

But the spiciness has been by no means close to our outer limits and both dishes have been ungreasy.

And while we suspect our selections are most likely among the least frequently ordered at Hon’s Kitchen, their outright excellence just adds weight to our belief that when it comes to Chinese food, some smart ordering at a humble suburban eatery can deliver eats every bit as great as anything to be found in your high-priced CBD palaces.

 

hon5

hon6

Bits and pieces

Leave a comment

bits1

So how’s this for an eye-grabbing sign in Racecourse Road, Flemington?

Nope, can’t say I have … tried camel meat, that is.

Right next door, in the Grand Tofu, I ask Suzanne if she has.

Nope.

In fact, she seems surprised there is even such a sign gracing the halal butcher shop right next door.

What the Grand Tofu, Suzanne, Stephen and their crew do do is serve up a sperb chicken laksa.

Look, I’m quite fond of the two more famous Malaysian eateries just around the corner.

But I don’t like queues and they’re always so busy.

The Grand Tofu is frequently busy, too – but the staff always find time for a bit of a chat or at the very least a warm welcome.

Which can’t always be said of the competition.

And then there’s that chicken laksa (oh my!) – and much more besides.

bits2

Providorable is lovely foodie haven in Williamstown – you can read about it here.

Providorable proprietor Kelly recently posted the following on her business’s Fcebook page:

“Good morning everyone, I’m feeling this morning I need to write this post. I think a lot of the local shop keepers this week would say that things are looking brighter for Xmas sales after a very quiet winter. I urge everyone to support local business. Supermarkets are trying to shut down small business, this is where you get the personal service with product knowledge, not in a supermarket. Also, WHY have the council allowed two farmers markets per month in Willy? Do you realise that now there are two it takes business away from your local shops that are the ones that pay the rates & rents to make strip shopping be still available? Have you questioned any of the stall holders at farmers markets about where some of their products come from? There are genuine items being sold but some are not from their own farms being sold direct to public. Yeah, have one a month but why 2 every two weeks … you go and buy fruit and veg, it affects your local fruit shop, same as butcher, dog treats, coffee shop, jams and relishes etc etc. PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. By this market being there every two weeks, you are supporting outsiders who don’t pay the huge rents and rates we pay. OK rant over lol and enjoy your day. Williamstown has wonderful shops and fantastic shopkeepers. Keep us all in willy for years to come please.”

What do you think?

We’re quite fond of visiting farmers markets.

But in truth we rarely buy more than a coffee and maybe a snag or other eat-on-the-spot treat.

Fruit, vegetables and other produce?

Hardly ever.

But we do enthusiastically support and enjoy the hell out of our local shops and delis, be they in Williamstown, Altona, Seddon, Footscray, Sunshine or beyond.