Lovely Malaysian in Newport

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Very short Road trip

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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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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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A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas (2)

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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.

 

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A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas

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M Yong Tofu, 314 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 0168

Driving home from a Saturday night function in Flemington, I do a double take as I tool along Racecourse Road.

What the … ?

What was once our cherished Grand Tofu has a new name and the exterior has a new paint job.

So naturally I make it my urgent business the next day to find out what gives.

 

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I am immediately re-assured upon seeing this sign in the window.

Inside, I find that everything is indeed the same – including the welcome from the ever-smiling Suzanne.

 

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Turns out some alterations in the partnership arrangements of the business have occasioned some superficial tweaking.

“Everything the same,” Suzanne tells me. “Laksa still good!”

“You mean the same angry management and crap service?” I ask.

Much laughter ensues as I await my laksa – because, yes, I just have to make sure.

And it is.

Heady broth packed with flavour, fresh mint brightly contrasting with the cooked curry leaves.

Greens beans, broccoli and two pieces of heavenly eggplant.

Supper sodden tofu, fish cake – and, oh yeah, chicken.

Look, I’m not going to proclaim this as the best laksa in the west or Melbourne.

There’s more than enough outfits and websites and blogs doing that sort of thing when it comes to food “lists” – almost always without having done the incredibly hard yards that would give those sort of claims to be definitive any sort of gravitas.

But I sure do love this laksa.

Regardless of the name change …

The crew here have printed up a new menu with lots of pretty pictures, but I am happy note the price rises have been very tiny indeed.

Such is not always the case when such overhauls take place.

Footscray’s Roti Road

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Roti Road’s “flying roti men” can be observed in action in the kitchen … or (bottom photograph) right out there on the dinging room floor.

 

Roti Road, 189-193 Barkly Street,  Footscray. Phone:9078 8878

Since Consider The Sauce hit the road, a variety of widespread options – in Seddon, Sunshine, Deer Park – have come to offer Malaysian alternatives away from Racecourse Road in Flemington.

Still, the opening of Roti Road in the premises of what was formerly the Yummie yum cha joint has created quite a buzz … and even a week or so after it opened its doors and very early in the week, there’s obviously quite a few people in the house to see how it  stacks up.

Laksa and the like right here in downtown Footscray?

We’re right with them and excited about it, too.

 

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The revamp leaves the place still looking like a cheap ‘n’ cheerful ethnic cafe, but with very real touches of class to go with it – there’s a lot of dark wood and it looks great.

The staff are on the ball, even when Bennie’s main soup/noodle bowl appears to go missing.

Bennie and I are joined by our equally hongry pals Eliza and Josh, so we get to take quite a few of Roti Road’s offerings for a test run.

We have a great time – but there are hits and misses.

 

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We order two serves of the basic roti cani deal for $5.90 apiece.

This is great stuff – super fluffy roti that is much more substantial than first appears to be the case, accompanied by dal, curry gravy, sambal.

What a super and affordable snack meal, with a serve of four different curries available to supplement for $4-5.

 

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Red bean Okinawa ($5.50) and traditional three-colour milk tea ($4.50).

 

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Satay chicken (six pieces for $9) is sweetish, a little smoky and fine.

 

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Eliza goes OK with her char kuay teow ($10.50), but besides not being made with the wide noodles of her mum’s rendition it seems on the undistinguished side.

 

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The reading/eating public wants to know – so I was always going to order a laksa.

Roti Road’s basic chicken model ($11.50) is dull.

All the expected bits and pieces are in place, but it simply lacks the sort of impact and lusty oomph for which I’m hoping.

The curry soup itself is mild and bland. Eliza takes a taste and concurs.

 

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Bennie stuns me by ordering the fish head noodle ($11.90).

Good it is, too, with plenty of fish pieces both bony and fleshy in a lovely, homely, tangy, milky broth.

But there’s simply too much of it for him and it’s also a little too much on the high-maintenance and fiddly side.

 

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In terms of our main selections, Josh is the big winner with his man-size serve of Malaysian-style curry chicken ($16.80), of which he makes lip-smackingly short work.

It has many chook bits bathing in a sticky sauce that has a sweetish, perhaps smoky tang the likes of which I’ve never before come across is a Malaysian curry.

 

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We grab two of the roti tisu desserts ($9.50, $9.90), the crispy bread “lightly coated with condensed milk and dusted with sugar” and the above specimen additionally having cocoa powder thrown into the mix.

Both are served with garishly white ice-cream and are a sticky, moreish treat – sort of like an “impossible to stop” dessert version of potato chips!

Roti Road is a great Footscray addition, but it’ll simply take a short while to find what works … start with the rotis and go from there.

 

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Shopping centre Malaysian – really good

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Nyonya House, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, 300 Point Cook Rd, Point Cook. Phone: 9394 8881

Nyonya House is in Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, so we keep our expectations prudently in check.

No matter the ambitions, we fully expect the necessity of also serving coffee, cake, breakfast and more to compromise – perhaps seriously – the nature of the Malaysian food on offer.

We are dead wrong.

As becomes apparent as we scan the long, illustrated menu (see below), and as is confirmed when we enjoy a fine lunch.

This is some serious stuff going on here, the Malaysian menu seeming to have quite a notable Singaporean influence.

All the expected bases and dishes are covered, but there are a few unusual and intriguing items as well.

But with a couple of exceptions, we stick to standard dishes.

Our choices are served promptly and the service from a handful of different staff members is full of smiles and patience with our many questions.

The decor and ambiance are bog standard shopping centre, but the food vibe is of a much loftier standard.

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Char koay teow ($11.80) is average in a good way.

It’s less greasy than the norm and light on wok hei, but the spice level is a little higher than normal and the $2 extra we pay for inclusion of Chinese sausage is well spent.

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Jala are lace-like crepes – see recipe here.

They’re so delicate – eating them is akin to enjoying a meal of Sri Lankan hoppers.

We have them with chicken curry sauce for $6.80, but they’re also available as a full serve with chicken curry for $12.80. Maybe next time!

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Chicken nasi goreng ($12.80) is OK, but as ever seems to me just glorified fried rice with not much zing. Still, it suffices as a base for all else on our table.

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Achar ($6.80) is fantastic.

All Malaysian restaurants should serve this, but we don’t see it that often.

More to the point, this is a great version – sweet and sour, crunchy, and it’s a good-sized serving, too, with plenty to go round a table of four.

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Beef rendang ($16.80) is another big hit with everyone at our table.

Yet it’s unlike any previous rendang any of us have tried.

There’s no discernible coconut, for starters.

Instead, the rich, smooth gravy is heavy with black pepper, while the large chunks of beef are fat-free, firm and even a little crusty on some of the extremities.

It comes across as curried, Asian-style take on a hearty beef stew from Italy or central Europe.

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For company today we have Courtney and James.

We met them at the Paella Party, where they told me they routinely rely on Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog to know where to go to eat.

My immediate thought on being told that was: “Stuff that! Time to rope these guys into helping us do some of the heavy lifting!”

Turns out they’re definitely not your passive blog readers, are in fact zealous and adventurous in pursuit of mostly cheap but always funky foodiness, and are thoroughly hip to and appreciative of Malaysian food.

Even better, as the four of us chow down it becomes clear that we have more than food in common, with the conversation zooming from science fiction and fantasy writing to anime and manga, various football codes, politics, travel, films, comics and more.

I even come away from our meal with a short but enticing list of books titles to explore.

Meeting them was a gas; having lunch with them has been even better.

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James and I mostly leave the “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over our desserts to Bennie and Courtney.

Sago pudding ($2) is quite firm but very nice, with the caramelised sugar adding a lusty touch.

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Iced kachang ($5.80) is all about Bennie, with no comment from his dad necessary.

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Muar chee ($5.80) are cute, bursty, gnocchi-like dumplings made from glutinous rice and coated with finely chopped peanuts and sugar and sesame seeds.

Courtney loves them; I’ll sit on the fence.

What a find Nyonya House is – it strikes me as easily the equal or better of anything thing in Flemington, or Melbourne generally.

There’s plenty of scope to be more adventurous on future visits.

I’m keen to try out some of the one-for-lunch dishes such as laksa, chicken rice or the aforementioned jala with chicken curry.

And I wonder how crash-hot the $13.80 lobak or the $4.80 wonton soup might be …

 

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