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.

 

Our kind of food

14 Comments

Nat Stockley captured in his natural environment.

 

Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

On the Panjali menu, there’s dosas, vadai, dal and curries.

But you’ll also find roti canai, mee goreng and nasi lemak.

I cannot recall – in what is now many decades of trawling funky eats places all over Melbourne – any other eatery that so thoroughly, wonderfully expresses a particular school of transnational cooking, in this case Indian/Malaysian.

Panjali has been open about three months and is popular – as I discover on a CTS reconnaissance trip for Sunday lunch.

The service is warm and the prices are extremely cheap. It’s closed on Mondays, but other than that it keeps long opening hours.

 

 

House-made curry puffs ($5 for two) are ungreasy and have a thick casing that is nevertheless good; the spud-based vegetable filling does the job.

 

 

On my initial solo visit, I go for the eponymous banana leaf meal.

 

 

When Nat Stockly and I return for a more in-depth exploration of the menu (see below), he does the same.

The basic banana leaf meal costs $9.90 and consists of a generous rice pile anointed with vegetable-studded dal, with various vegetable dishes arranged alongside, along with rasam, yoghurt, pickle and pappadams.

For an extra $6, I top my meal up with a truly excellent and big fried chicken piece. The chicken has been freshly cooked and placed in the bain marie just as I order, so is an obvious choice.

For $8, Nat gets a serve of lamb curry. It’s quite good, but could’ve been a bit hotter.

Nat opines that often the state of pappadams can be taken as a fair indicator of the rest of a restaurant’s food.

Ours are crisp and unoily.

I could eat them all day.

Perhaps it could be said this kind of food is not for everyone – the vegetables (cabbage, beans, pumpkin, okra, broccoli) are cooked down to quite an extent.

But the food and the place that serves it most certainly hit the spot with us, and will do likewise for dedicated CTS readers.

 

 

From the noodle line-up, mamak mee goreng ($10.90) is simple, lovely and surprisingly dry – in a good way.

No meat or seafood here, the dish getting its flavour kicks mostly from just cabbage and egg.

 

 

The many tempting roti variations will have to wait for another visit.

Instead we order chicken murtabak ($10.90).

 

 

It’s tremendous in every way – hot and fresh; and delicate and hearty at the same.

The stuffing is a great mix of onion, egg and shredded chicken.

And I love the lightly pickled fresh onion served on the side for extra crunch.

As we depart after a fine meal, Nat quips: “That’s my kind of food!”

And that, right there, gives me the headline for my story.

 

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

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

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

A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas

1 Comment

m1

 

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.

 

m3

 

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.

 

m2

 

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

21 Comments

roti4

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.

 

roti11

 

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.

 

roti2

 

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.

 

roti3

 

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

 

roti8

 

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

 

roti5

 

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.

 

roti9

 

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.

 

roti10

 

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.

 

roti7

 

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.

 

roti13

 

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.

 

roti14

 

roti12

 

roti1

Shopping centre Malaysian – really good

8 Comments

nyonya11

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.

nyonya1

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.

nyonya3

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!

nyonya4

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.

nyonya5

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.

nyonya6

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.

nyonya10

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.

nyonya8

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.

nyonya9

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

nyonya12

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 …

 

nyonya13

nyonyam1

nyonyam2

nyonyam3

nyonyam4

nyonyam5

nyonyam6

nyonyam7

nyonyam8

nyonyam9

nyonyam10

Feeling the love in Hoppers Crossing

Leave a comment

glory25

Glory We Cafe, 3/76 Old Geelong Rd, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9394 8845

While we enjoyed our first visit to Glory We Cafe, the chances of return visits seemed slim at best, especially given the options we have in the greater western suburbs for the sort of food it serves.

But since that visit, a few things have happened – with the upshot being the Glory We crew have earned our return custom through their goodwill, sincerity and dedication in engaging with their customers.

For one thing, they have made the switch from plastic, disposable implements and receptacles to those of a more re-usuable variety.

We don’t know or care if Consider The Sauce had anything to do with them making that change – we are simply happy that they have.

For another, we couldn’t help but notice the regular updates on their Facebook page in which they have been introducing new, alluring and seemingly authentic dishes of a Singaporean and Malaysian nature.

So off we go for Sunday lunch!

That Glory We remains a rather charmless, utilitarian space is well and truly compensated for by depth of the warm and caring service that is bestowed upon us on our return visit, service way above that we commonly expect from such places.

Combined with reliably good and sometimes very good food and the lack of alternatives in this general neighbourhood, we reckon Glory We fully deserves whatever good reputation it is earning as a westie hotspot.

The same photos that have appeared on the joint’s Facebook page grace the walls of the restaurant, so we take only a few minutes to make our selections.

glory21

Mee goreng ($9.50) looks nothing special – like what might get served in any old shopping centre food court, in fact.

But this wet version tastes a whole lot better than that.

A wonderfully gooey fried egg sits atop lovely al dente egg noodles, with calamari, prawns, egg and tofu complemented by crunchy onion slivers and some greenery.

It’s simple, homely and fine.

glory22

Our second dish is the subject of today’s Glory We Facebook post: “XO Sauce Fried Carrot Cake – Introducing our NEW weekend delicacy which is a common dish in Singapore which Singaporeans eat throughout the day whether at breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper. This dish consist of stir-fried cubes of raddish cake. You can order it fried with or without sweet black sauce. To order one fried with sweet black sauce, you have to tell our friendly staff you want it ‘black’.”

This is a new one on us, so we had sought advice from Ms Baklover, who spent a week or so eating her away around the island state a while back and so whom we consider an oracle of all things Singaporean.

She told us it’s a delicious dish “when made right”, but to be cautious when it comes to the “black” version as she finds it a bit on the cloying side herself.

So we order and don’t ask for dark – and end up with the dark variety ($9.50) anyway.

It’s OK and Bennie likes it but, truthfully, I do find it too rich and oily.

Our bemusement over what we’ve been provided sparks some charming back-and-forth dialogue with the staff, with the chef explaining that the dark version is a Singaporean preference and light a Malaysian one.

“That’s OK – we’re Malaysian,” I proclaim.

(Cue much laughter all ’round …)

So we’re served a plate of the lighter variety of the Glory We Cafe XO Sauce Fried Carrot Cake at no charge.

(It’s important to acknowledge that this generosity and level of customer care would have been afforded us no matter who we were or that the staff members eventually twigged that we were food bloggers or some other sort of busybodies.)

glory23

Ahhh, this is more like it – and much more to both our liking.

There’s a lighter touch going on here and much more textural variety, with the raddish cake pieces having nicely tanned and crisped exteriors.

At this stage of our meal, though, it’s more than we can consume so what’s left goes home with us.

If this dish, no matter how good, is unlikely to become a firm CTS favourite, we’ve had such a fine time at Glory We that this place already is.

Check out the Glory We Cafe Facebook page here.

 

glory24

glory26

Lazat Malaysian Restaurant

3 Comments

lazat28

 

Lazat Malaysian Restaurant, 495 Ballarat Rd, Sunshine. Phone: 9312 7880

Lazat is a new Malaysian eatery in Sunshine, and a very welcome in that it is the suburb’s first of that denomination – AFAIK.

It’s accessed from an always busy and unlovely stretch of Ballarat Rd – miss the turn-off an you’ll be going around the block. Although we’re pleased to learn there is also access from Hampshire Rd – turn off at Chinese restaurant Golf Leaf.

Lazat occupies a building formerly home to a short-lived place called Grills Plus and, before that, a Souvlaki Hut (I think …)

Some of that fast-food vibe lives on in the set-up and decor, but we enjoy a lovely and late (for us) lunch.

lazat211

Moreover, the service is spot on, our food arrives with admirable speed and there is a welcoming presence in the form of manager Francis, who has landed here after helping launch Chef Lagenda in Deer Park.

Perhaps best of all, in an area where late-opening joints are difficult to find, Lazat is open until 10pm every night of the week except Saturdays and Sundays – on which it is open until 11pm!

There’s outdoor seating and a function room available.

lazat26

We enjoy having our pal Carl, a former Geelong Advertiser colleague of mine, along for the ride so can go a bit further than just a bowl of noodles or rice each.

On the other hand, us hungry boys plump for regular Malaysian eatery mainstays that mostly satisfy without really setting our worlds on fire. With one fine exception …

Curry puffs ($5.80), prawn dumplings ($6) and lobak $5.50) – all are average in the good sense of the word and are gobbled up with glee.

lazat23

The star of our show is beef rendang ($16.80).

The is very mildly spiced but the gravy is deep, dark and rich and the meat is fall-apart tender.

Better yet, it’s of a far better quality than we’re mostly familiar with when ordering this dish – there’s no gristle or fat here. At all.

lazat21

Our gado gado is a cause for puzzlement.

The mix of tofu, hard-boiled egg, snow peas, bok choy and broccoli is good mixed with a nice peanutty sauce.

But $14.80 seems a really steep price for such a dish.

No matter – we’ve enjoyed our feed, and Bennie and I suspect we’ll be back soonish to try such Malaysian benchmarks as Hainan chicken rice and/or mee goreng.

We take Carl to La Morenita for coffee before calling it a day.

 Lazat Malaysian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

lazat210

lazat25

lazat24

Penang Road

3 Comments

penang4

Penang Road, 177 Clarendon St, South Melbourne. Phone: 9690 0536

My non-blogging journalism career seems to be mirroring, in its own way, the rapidly changing nature of work in Australia and no doubt elsewhere.

After 15 and more years on the one masthead and pretty much two decades with a single employer, I am on to my third workplace in as many years.

I’m finding myself nimble enough to keep pace with changing circumstances and enjoying the various challenges.

Even better, a far higher number of the stories I am working with are to do with coffee and/or food and/or restaurants than has previously been the case, even if mostly they’re about places I am not viscerally interested in or can afford.

At my new South Melbourne office, home of the The Weekly Review and associated enterprises, there are a few familiar faces from other places and times, but a lot of shared history even with those I have never met before.

Ironically, the one staff member with whom I share a deep and lengthy job history went unnoticed by me, so long had it been since we worked together.

It was only when partaking in a discussion of the local lunch options that he reminded me of all that and the metaphorical penny dropped. Turns out he’s hip to Consider The Sauce, too!

Ben is deeply involved in the business development side of things and is the office wine writer/guru to boot, so not so coincidentally likes a good feed, too.

So when he robustly enthuses about the Malaysian place just around the corner, I take notice for sure.

Still, work continues to be deadline-driven, so opportunities for lunch escapes are not that common.

Finally, though, we escape for a brief but spectacularly fine Malaysian lunch.

Penang Road has a modest facade, so gives little away about what goes on within.

Stepping through the door, though, I am pleasantly surprised to find a cheerfully busy restaurant with quite classy dark wood furniture, a step up from, say, Coconut House.

Penang Road has all he expected bases covered – laksas, rice dishes, noodles and snacks.

The place is quite crowded but we quickly score a table and get down to perusing the menu, placing our orders at the counter and getting our “number”.

Our food arrives with gratifying haste – and it’s brilliant!

penang1

Ben’s chicken rice ($9.60) looks fabulous.

Very good rice and plain soup/broth with what I suspect are chicken balls floating in it – neither of us get around to finding out, so intent are we on the meatier side of things and a wide-ranging conversation.

Best of all, the all-important mix of soy sauce, oil, chicken broth, ginger and garlic in which his boneless chicken resides is way more plentiful than is the norm in Melbourne’s Malaysian cheap eats joints.

And it’s tasty, too.

penang2

My “chicken chop with rice” ($9.90) is superb, though it’s a nutritionist’s nightmare in almost every conceivable and excellent way.

Same fine chicken rice and broth, albeit minus the balls.

Good fried egg atop the rice.

Plenty of chilli sauce of just the right heat levels on the side.

And the chicken?

This is truly “OMG fried chicken” of a kind to make the Colonel blush with shame.

It’s boneless (despite being described as “chop”), crispy, wonderfully chewy, ungreasy and so plentiful that I am unable to devour it all, despite rampant deliciousness.

The garlicky, spicy tang of our lunch lingers with gusto deep into a hard-working afternoon.

I find it thrilling that such a beaut Melbourne cheap eats experience has eventuated through evolving changes in the media landscape.

Than again, it’s not surprising at all … and how about those prices?

Penang Road on Urbanspoon

penang3

Lazat: Malaysian food for Sunshine

6 Comments

SEE REVIEW HERE.

Lazat, 495 Ballarat Rd, Sunshine. Phone: 9312 7880

Once upon a time, not so long ago and outside of Flemington, there was nary a trace of Malaysian food in the western suburbs.

Then arrived Wok Noodle in Seddon.

And then, more recently, Chef Lagenda hung out its shingle in Deer Park to wild applause of most who live in the vicinity.

Now those two are to be joined by another Malaysian joint, on a busy, unlovely bit of Ballarat Rd just up from the Gold Leaf eatery of Chinese persuasion.

When I drop in to get the lowdown, things are in a state of disarray, but management tells me they’ll be up and running in about a week – and even, “hopefully”, by Monday, December 2.

The building they’re taking over was most recently sporting signage that said something along the lines of “Grills Plus”, but it was closed down by the time I noticed it and so have no idea what, if anything, was cooking when it was running.

If it ever was.

The menus the Lazat folk provide me hold little by way of surprises but are reassuringly stacked with familiar faves – the usual noodles about the $11 mark, soft shell crabs two for $12.80, Hainan chicken rice at $9.80, roast meats, lobak for $5 and so on.

One word: Yummy!

Kitchen Inn

6 Comments

Kitchen Inn, 471 Elizabeth St , Melbourne. Phone: 3330 0023

Kitchen Inn – at peak times – is no doubt already as mad busy as Coconut House, just up Elizabeth St about a block.

Evidently, there is significant interest in this newish place’s specialty – the food of Sarawak, a state on Borneo in Malaysia.

That Kitchen Inn has created a buzz among Sarawakian students and expats of various kinds is eloquently and expertly testified to by bloggers Kimba’s Kitchen, Arrow Foodie and Yellow Eggs, whose reviews are no doubt far more authoritative than my own will be.

Nevertheless, it is with a keen sense of adventure that I hit the place for lunch.

In our world, anything that fosters regional specialties has a good chance of going to the top of the “to do” list. It’s not just food but also things like music and languages that are being sorely strained, often to the point of extinction, by the forces of globalisation.

It’s a small eating house with a bottleneck at the cash register, where people paying for their meals dodge staff delivering food to customers yet to eat – or pay.

The longish menu has some familiar names – Hainan chicken rice, Singapore fried vermicelli and nasi lemak.

But I wouldn’t expect them to be routine offerings – the Sarawak laksa, for instance, looks and sounds quite different to the norm.

From what I can gather, if Sarawak was a nation, the national dish might well be kolo mee, so that’s what I order.

The Wikipedia entry for the city of Kuching describes kolo mee as “egg noodles, flash-boiled, then classically served with crushed garlic and shallot, minced pork or beef, white vinegar, either vegetable oil, pork oil or peanut oil, and sliced barbecue pork known as char siu or beef”.

The kolo mee special, at $11, is $2.50 more than the regular, for which extra money you get three plump prawns. “Deal 4” at $15 gets me kolo mee special with a bowl of “Special Soup”.

The soup’s broth has a quite intense and briny bitterness. It’s OK, I slurp it, but I won’t be in hurry to try it again.

The pork balls are tender tending to mushy, and delicious. The other meat is thin-sliced and has the delicacy and texture of lamb’s tongue.

I subsequently discover it’s actually pork liver.

Would I have ordered it had I known pork liver was involved?

No.

Did I like it?

Yes.

The kolo mee is fine – quite mildly seasoned, it’s much more interesting in the flavour department than it appears.

There’s a heap of thin house-made noodles, with just a enough juice/sauce at the bottom of the bowl to make the dish fly.

The prawns are OK but a bit of an irrelevancy.

The pork mince actually adheres quite well to the noodles, but predictably and delightfully the meal gets better as it is ending as there’s more juice, mince and roast pork to go in to every mouthful.

It’s an engaging taste overall – one I’ll inaccurately describe as “slightly smoky” because I can’t think a better way of putting it.

Next time?

Maybe I’ll try No.31 –  Marmite chicken ribs with rice.

Kitchen Inn on Urbanspoon

Vy Vy

8 Comments

Vy Vy, 318 Racecourse Rd, Flemington. Phone: 9372 1426

THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.

The exterior signage says: “Vietnamese, Chinese & Malaysian Cuisine.”

But the internal furniture and fittings give the game – if that’s what it is – away.

This is a Flemington favourite with a Chinese lineage that attempts dishes from other Asian traditions.

And mostly, we’ve found over the years, it does an excellent job – so much so that for us and many regulars, it is preferable for Malaysian food to its far more lauded neighbours around the corner in Pin Oak Crescent or just up the road, or even right next door.

Oddly, for this mid-week dinner, that proves not to be the case – what we get are good plates and bowls that are nonetheless full of food that is only loosely Malaysian as filtered through a Chinese kitchen.

But tonight we care not a whit for authenticity.

It’s cold, we’re hungry, football practice has been long of duration.

Even more auspiciously, just as we’re about to order, a supreme example of humanity enters the restaurant to hand me the $20 note I’d left dangling out of the ATM across the road.

We salute you, Sir!

Our shared lobak ($5) has none of the usual vegetable texture from the likes of carrot.

This is just about all pork of a sublimely chewy kind and, as always, we love the crunchy, crispy tofu outer.

This is a very meaty entree!

Bennie is absolutely adamant – in the face of advice based on infinite wisdom from his dad – that he wants to order the satay fried beef noodles.

Thankfully, our bubbly waitress, Tiffany, talks him out of such a course on the basis of high levels of spiciness.

Instead, he gets hokkien fried noodles ($11.50), which goes down a treat – its array protein keeps the lad happy, while the profusion of greenery mollifies his father.

He rates it a high 8.5 out of 10, but it’s very much a toned-down version of the Malaysian hokkien mee – less dark, less lusty, just less.

Much the same could be said of my beef curry with noodles ($10).

The menu describes the curry as “rendang”, and such has been the case on previous visits.

But not this time – there’s no coconut to speak of and the gravy is soup, and a pretty runny one at that.

The meat is good, but a little on the fatty/gristly side. And I wish I’d gotten hokkien noodles instead of the rather dreary egg noodles I get.

But – surprisingly – the dish as a whole kicks goals.

I love the high chilli levels and plentiful amount of bok choy.

Certainly a curry bowl in which the sum is greater than the parts.

We’ve been here too often to be even slightly deterred by an oddly “un”-Malaysian experience.

As she shows us before and after photographs of her splendid work as a make-up artist, Tiffany tells us that the family business was one of the very first Racecourse Rd eateries.

They’ve been in the current premises for more than 10 years and before that inhabited the building a couple of doors down that still houses Chop Chop and a few others.

Besides, sometimes there’s an awful lot to be said for formica, tiles, smiles and equine artwork.

Vy Vy on Urbanspoon

Chef Lagenda

11 Comments

Chef Lagenda, Shop 9/10, 835A Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5389

Why on earth order a vegetarian laksa?

Well, I can think of a couple of really good reasons, actually.

For one thing, to get more than just the single piece of eggplant that customarily accompanies laksa soup/noodles of the chicken or seafood varieties.

For another, sometimes – and just like most carnivores of various kinds I know – I just feel like vegetables.

My Chef Lagenda vegetarian laksa ($8.90) scores highly in both regards.

My TWO pieces of eggplant are magnificent – larger than is usually the case, slippery, tender, tasty and with a luscious smokiness.

The laksa broth is very creamy and of only mild spiciness, but has fine depth of house-made flavour.

There’s vegetable galore – bok choy, broccoli, bean sprouts, along with plenty of chewy leather-skinned cubes of tofu sopping with gravy juices.

This Chef Lagenda is, of course, a sister restaurant for the establishment of the same name in Flemington, the one that often seems as famous for its symbiotic and/or competitive relationship with its neighbour, Laksa King, as it is for its food.

The Deer Park joint’s menu is mostly the same as the one in Flemo, but there seems to be a whole lot more room here – perhaps because it’s a single room, as opposed to the Crooked House dynamics in Flemington.

When I visit for lunch it’s only the second day of operation.

The manager, Francis, tells me that while this lunchtime is slow, on opening night they were 70 per cent full without any advertising at all.

Meanwhile, whatever tricks I’d played on my mind – if not my digestive system – by ordering a non-meat dish are soon brought undone. 

For by this time, unsurprisingly, Francis and her enthusiastic staff have twigged that I am writer, reviewer, blogger or some other sort of busybody.

So I am presented with a complementary sampler plate of the house-made roast meats.

Now, I may be able to summon a sufficiently straight to face to claim that had I been asked if I wanted this freebie, I would’ve replied in the negative.

But when the goodies are already right in front of me?

No way, Jose!

And I’m ever so glad.

Roast duck, roast pork, crackling pork – all really good, smoky, salty, tender. Better, in fact, than most places that specialise in such meaty goodies.

I gobble it all up yet am unable to finish my huge serve of laksa.

And FWIW, I doubt very much that anything I am served is in any way different from what is served to any other customer.

I see no reason that Chef Lagenda shouldn’t be riotously successful.

For starters, as far as I’m aware it’s the only Malaysian restaurant for 10km in any direction – maybe even 20km.

For another, and based on what I have for lunch, the place comes with the already well-established Chef Lagenda reputation for consistency and quality.

Locals are no doubt wildly happy about this opening.

As for the rest of us, it’s worth the trip.

For the time being, and very much so when compared to Flemington, the car parking is a breeze.

Before hunkering down for lunch, I’d strolled the entire Deer Park strip and was gratified by the potential riches I had noted – including a couple of classy kebab joints, one with a killer-looking lamb shank soup and chilli dip; an interesting and cheap Viet/Chinese  off the main strip; and a fine-looking deli. 

Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Coconut House

2 Comments

Coconut House in Elizabeth St, Melbourne.

Coconut House, 449 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. Phone: 9329 6401

Long before Consider The Sauce became a reality and changed our lives in so many ways, we had been sometime visitors to Coconut House and enjoyed some cracking meals along the way.

About the time we started blogging, though, we had a few meals that weren’t bad but barely passed as average.

It seemed then, and sadly still does now, the place is a victim of its own success.

It seems an obvious foodie magnet – cheap Malaysian dishes delivered in their hundreds and thousands in a place packed at just about all times for a price that, even now, finds just about every dish priced at just under $10.

But we had noticed a diminution in our Coconut House experiences – the already frantic and somewhat haphazard service became a case of furrowed brows all round and the food started becoming sloppy and quite often barely warm.

No one expects fine-dining elan in such a joint, but too many rough edges simply drives down the enjoyment levels until you wonder what you’re doing there in the first place.

All this occurred about the same time as I was starting to spend quite a lot of time checking out other blogs and reviews, so I knew we were not alone.

While there were and are plenty of raves for this popular place, by and large the collective opinion seems to be that it’s a hit-and-miss affair – with the accent on the misses.

So it goes … our Sunday lunch does nothing to improve our opinions.

The opening of a second premises a few doors down – to which meals are ferried – does not seem to have alleviated the cramped, chaotic feel.

And the staff still seem to be working so very, very hard that they almost seem to impart an air of joylessness.

All this would be fine if the food was really first-rate.

But it’s not.

I’d love to be able to say our lunch was super or even just plain old good – but in truth it was average verging on mediocre.

The menu has grown since our earlier visits – there’s a variety of claypots and even some Thai dishes.

But Bennie and I stick with our regular faves, mostly to see how Coconut House is faring these days – one blog discussion I remember stated that management were aware of customers complaints and disenchantment, and were working to fix the causes.

Bennie has his egg noodles with BBQ pork and roast chicken.

The noodles arrive in one big clump and are barely warm. It takes some effort to untangle some of them and toss them around in the soy-based sauce. Drab is the appropriate word.

He likes the pork – but then, he always does.

His chook tastes pretty good to me but he’s not impressed.

He doesn’t touch the egg – not his go even when they’re not dyed dark.

The rice part of my chicken rice is overwhelming in it garlickness.

Is this a normal variation of this great dish?

I’ve never been to Malaysia, nor any other part of South-East Asia where I might order chicken rice, but I’ve enjoyed many, many versions all over Melbourne and I’ve never come across “garlic rice”.

In any case, the garlic flavour is so powerful – in an unappealing way – that it lingers hours after we arrive home.

The chicken is beautifully tender and expertly devoid of bones, but gosh it’s lacking any kind of chooky flavour at all.

Or maybe it’s being shouted down by the “garlic rice”!

In both meals, the chilli mash accompanying is the best of our lunch.

The soup, we both find, is uninspired, with oil slicks and mushy peanuts.

I suspect much of Coconut House’s appeal and rampant popularity can be attributed to its clever variations-on-a-theme menu.

If we return, however, I’ll be sure to order one of the usually reliable laksas.

In the meantime, while they may not have the same innovative menu configuration, there are five places in Flemington where much the same food can be had – of higher quality, at similarly low prices and in a less harried atmosphere.

Coconut House on Urbanspoon