Road trip Nepalese

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Baps Nepalese Restaurant, 589 Gilbert Road, Preston. Phone: 0451 305 779

Calling this outing a Friday night thriller might be a bit of a stretch.

Nonetheless, we are rapt to be heading off to Preston with CTS pals Josh and Eliza.

They dined at Baps a while back and Bennie and I are only too happy to go along for the ride of a second visit as back-seat passengers buoyed by their enthusiasm.

We find – in the form of a lovely meal – that their bubbliness is entirely warranted.

 

 

Baps is located in a smallish shopping precinct with not a lot of Friday night action going on.

I strongly suspect Preston is a foodie haven, but our random and only occasional visits leave us largely unenlightened about the foodiness of the suburb as a whole.

But there’s no doubt about Baps – it is good.

The dining room is bright and cheerful, the menu (see below) features mostly dishes we expect based on our limited contact with Nepalese food, the service is fine and the wait times just right for the food we are served.

 

 

Of course, we have momo!

These vegetarian specimens ($9.95) and …

 

 

… these goat momo ($12.95) are both fine, though the latter are a tad more chewy and an equal tad non-tasty than I’d prefer.

The goat momo photo is one shy of a full serve because Josh snaffled one before I could get there with my camera.

 

 

Another Nepalese staple – I suspect it could even be referred to as the national dish – is chow mein.

This vegetarian version ($9.95) is just right – unoily, light and a treat to eat.

The big hit of the night, for me anyway, is the achaar ($5.95, top photo).

Less vinegary and spicy than we we’re familiar from Malaysian eateries, this is dynamite.

The vegetables are crunchy and the dressing is such that the dish reminds me of the sort of potato salad often served in the southern parts of the US.

 

 

Chilli chicken ($10.95) is more along the lines of an Indo-Chinese dish you might find in West Footscray.

This one is oily – but that goes with this territory.

We all like it anyway!

 

 

The lamb curry ($12.95) is, well, just lamb curry.

But please don’t read that as a flip dismissal – it’s fine and just right when matched with our other selections. It’s of mild spiciness

 

 

Do we have room for dessert?

Yes.

The gulab jamun ($3.95) are lovely.

 

 

The milk-based rasvari ($3.95) are a hit with my friends, but the mealy texture doesn’t work for me.

Still, it’s been a fine dinner with friends.

Check out the Baps website here.

 

Overlooked gem in our midst

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Magic Momo Kafe, 588 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9972 2616

In the rush of the new and the thrill of discoveries, it’s inevitable that we all come to overlook places that have been around for a while, ones we come to take for granted.

We hit Magic Momo Kafe in its early days but have since looked, gone, eaten and written elsewhere.

But on a freezing early-in-the-week night, Bennie and I make an impromptu visit and become very happy we do so.

We bugger up the ordering to some extent – in terms of similar dishes – but end up reflecting that here is a local establishment that offers intriguing, and very affordable, points of difference from the plethora of nearby Indian eateries.

It’s a cosy place, although tonight is such a chiller that the heater near our tables struggles.

And we love the pressed metal ceilings!

 

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We start with entree serves of five of the steamed chicken momo ($5) and …

 

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… chilli vegetable momo ($6.50).

We like them both but the vegetable numbers win the day with their smooth, tasty innards.

The “chilli” component is an OK jumble of vegetables somewhat in the Chinese style.

 

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The same vegetables pop up in the traditional soup thukpa ($11.95).

Our vegetable version is a noddle-based large bowl of niceness that is easily big enough for us to share.

 

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More of that Chinese influence on Nepalese food is displayed in the staple chowmein ($10).

We’ve had this here before – see here – but this is way better.

It’s far less oily than we might expect from a Chinese, Vietnamese on Indo-Chinese dish.

The whole thing has a beaut charred thing going on and the lamb strips are chewy and a bit like jerky.

Very good – and the highlight of our meal.

 

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Grilled sekuwa ($9.90) is described as “meat roasted in a natural wood/log fire in a real traditional Nepalese country style”.

The marinated lamb – cumin is among the ingredients – is served on puffed rice and is quite good, if a little on the chewy side – but I suspect that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s a rather pricey dish, though, for what amounts to not much more than a handful of meat.

 

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On a slightly earlier visit, I’d selected one of several “sets” available at Magic Momo Kafe.

The Nepali khana set  ($17.50) is a tad more expensive than your average Indian-style thali offerings found in the west and across Melbourne but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Joining a very fine chicken curry were a mildly spiced and colourful vegetable mix that came across as something like a Russian salad, a very runny dal made from (I think) aduki beans, a chilli sauce, some salady bits and some steamed greens aside the rice.

Hopefully, we will find time to visit Magic Momo Kafe again soon – the menu is longish and there’s lots to explore.

 

Click to add a blog post for Magic Momo Kafe on Zomato

 

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Burgers out, 100% Nepalese in

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Magic Momo Kafe, 588 Barkly St, West Footscray. Phone: 9972 2616

So we never made it back to Magic Momo Kafe, after our initial momo-focused visit, to assess and enjoy its efforts at a trans-national menu – though we heard the burgers were actually quite good.

Too late for all that now, though, as the place has changed dramatically.

There’s a rather nice fit-out in a more restaurant style and the menu is now hardcore Nepalese.

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We remain bemused that chowmein is part of Nepalese food culture but we have come across it before – at our fondly remembered visits to the now defunct Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar in  Footscray central – and we’re happy to give it another whirl.

Magic Momo’s egg rendition ($7.95), with its egg noodles, cabbage and other vegetables, is satisfying if rather plain.

We’re inclined to say a heavier hand with the salt shaker and higher spice levels are required, but no doubt this dish is exactly the way it’s meant to be.

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Of course, a visit here simply necessitates a momo experience – so we go a fried serve of the pork numbers ($8.95).

They’re good, though rather small.

The casings are pleasantly chewy and mildly spicy innards blazingly hot and juicy.

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From the four-choice fish section of the menu we choose “Nepalese-style gravy fish” ($13.95).

It’s a bigger serve than the above photo suggests.

The gravy appears to be a no-nonsense tomato-and-onion-based number that is mildly spiced and has a heavenly, lemony tang. We’re later told one of the seasoning ingredients is dried oregano!

The flavour of the fish – butterfish, we’re told – is mild but comes through nicely, something quite rare in fish dishes from this broader part of the world.

This is recognisably the same dish as I’d tried a few nights previously, but the earlier portion (see photo below) was a good deal more moist and several degrees more excellent.

We love it that Magic Momo Kafe is providing an alternative on a stretch of Barkly Street that seems destined to reach doubles figures of Indian eateries in the not too distant future.

And we’re interested in trying what appear to be Nepelese-style versions of thalis they offer – chiura sets (with beaten rice as previously experienced at Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar) and khana sets.

See menu below.

On the basis of this meal, though, we suspect homely, simple and satisfying is the go here – rather than whizz-bang.

But often that’s a fine, thing, too.

 

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Momo a-go-go in WeFo

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Magic Momo Kafe, 588 Barkly St, West Footscray. Phone: 9972 2616

“Looks like a work in progress.”

Bennie may be on the unfair side there, but Magic Momo Kafe does have an undeniable vibe of being newly minted and very recently opened.

The double doors are wide open to the world on a cold day and the three staff members in attendance are pumped with nervous energy and eager to pleaseness.

Writing about such a place at such a time in its life almost seems on the cruel side.

But what the hey – we’re only after an after-school snack.

As we’d been promised when we called in while the place was still under construction, there is a lovely looking range of luridly colured Indian sweets, along with some cakes and slices of the brought-in variety.

We know the momos are produced in-house, however, on account of the big tub of ace-looking seasoned pork mince that is being used to fill pastry casings.

OK, so a post-school serve of fried chicken momo (10 for $7.95) it is for us.

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The fried is pan rather deep, with the bottoms nicely tanned and the tops chewy in just the right way.

The innards are peppery, maybe there’s some ginger in there somewhere as well, and have crunch from onion and colouring from coriander.

They go great with the medium-spicy chilli concoction served on the side.

We’re both halfway through our first momo when we immediately acknowledge the pressing need to also order a 10-piece serve of the vegetable dumplings.

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If anything these are even better. Bennie certainly thinks so.

They’re the same price and appear a little bigger, even though I’m sure the same dough cutter has been used for both varieties. As well, the dough used in this batch is a bit darker.

I’ve been expecting a filling packed with crunch and slither from cabbage, mushrooms and the like.

Instead, we get a filling that seems to be potato and carrot-based and that, as my unusually-astute-on-this-day offsider instantly observes, makes these dumplings seem a bit like soft samosas.

Mind you, there is some crunch and texture from onion and cabbage, while – like their chooky colleagues – these are also peppery and scrumptious.

Explorations of the burger, kebab, BLT, French toast, lemon pepper calamari and tomato soup variety at this intriguingly multi-focussed eatery will have to wait for another day and a more suitable occasion.

In the meantime, and based on our two fine serves of momo, we can attest that there is indeed magic in the air here.

 

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UPDATE: Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar

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Metro West Building, 27 Albert St, Footscray. Phone: 0401 328 334

THIS RESTAURANT HAS NOW CLOSED.

Since our earlier story about Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar, we’ve been back a couple of times, so this here is by way of a diary as we pleasurably go about eating our way through their menu.

We got a lot of good feedback about that first review, and things seem to be going well for this joint that in its own way is as singular as Yemeni Restaurant.

But the best thing we can do this time around is emphasise the telephone number – 0401 328 334.

You see, the other interior clients of the Metro West building – Centre Link and the like – are not open at night, so hungry potential customers are strongly advised to give the girls a call if access presents a problem. They’ll happily swing open the back door in Albert St for you.

Now ain’t that SO very Melbourne?

On a visit a few weeks back, Bennie had more of the mo mo (chicken and cheese, steamed), while our buddy Kurt opted for the chowmin.

I had the kukura ko masu ra bhat for $9.95 – a wonderful plate of mild chicken stew/curry with rice, a bowl of beaut black dal and trimmings.


For our most recent foray here, Bennie, too, opted for the chowmin ($9) – he gobbled up every shred of this cheerful stir-fried jumble of egg noodles, vegetables and chicken.

I had the chicken choilla with chura and aloo ka achar – “smoked chicken marinated with Nepalese spices and beaten rice”.

The chicken was served cold, the smokiness matched with the spicing to create a distinctive flavour, with chilli content about as high as I am comfortable with. The beaten rice? Sorry, I found this a little weird – crunchy and not unpleasant, but I didn’t feel it worked that well as a complement to the rest. The potato achar was terrific, however, being a sort of cold curried potato salad.

On both our recent visits our main meals have been preceded by a complementary bowl of clear chicken soup, in the way so familiar to us from the local Vietnamese eateries. We always love this! Our Friday night soups were heavy on the salt, but we slurped up every drop anyhow.

Hey – a few more visits and we’ll have more or less been through the menu!

In the meantime, we’re led to believe there are new additions being pondered and planned.

We’ll keep you posted.

Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo on Urbanspoon

Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar

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Metro West Building, 27 Albert St, Footscray. Phone: 0401 328 334

THIS RESTAURANT HAS NOW CLOSED.

Words – more precisely, combinations of words – can have enormous power.

Poetry and song, of course, can awaken a profound sense of wonder at the world’s charms ranging from the majestic to the mundane, and often both at the same time.

But so, too, can a divinely inspired turn of phrase or even a menu description invoke a sense of awe at the infinite potentialities of the universe.

Check out, for instance, this from the menu of Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar:

“Tass: Boneless marinated pan fried diced goat meat served with rice bubbles, side seasonal veggies, tomato relish & salad $11.”

Goat? Rice bubbles?

I kid you not!

Fusion is tucked away in a corner of the ground floor of the Metro West building, rubbing shoulders with a bulk-billing medical centre, a hairdresser and travel agent of the Asian persuasion, Centrelink and – upstairs – a swag of employment services and the like.

The eatery’s premises used to be home to an African outfit of some description, but every time we dropped by the elderly gent who ran things never had the lunch dishes up and running, so we never got a taste.

When, earlier this year, it took on a Nepalese hue, we had a dish of dumplings – the momo of the name – and another dish that was sufficiently unmemorable to have escaped my memory.

Neither of us had returned until I dropped in for a mid-week lunch at 1pm, only to find the lunch options limited.

So I settled for a chicken burger with chips and salad, which was not only fine but a snip at $4.95.

As I munched, I enjoyed a long and engaging conversation with one of two Nepalese sisters who appear to be the proprietors.


I was informed that their aim was to serve genuine Nepalese food, and not the Indian-derived dishes familiarly provided by Melbourne restaurants labelling themselves as Nepalese.

I learnt that in occupying a premises with a lack of potential walk-by customers, they had nevertheless forged a handy trade in momo with many hungry Nepalese students, who start dropping by about 5pm.

And I learnt their aim and ambition was to serve the very best momo going around in Melbourne.

(Fusion is open until about 8pm on week days, and until about 2pm on Saturdays.)

I promised to return on the Saturday for lunch, hellbent on trying the rice bubbles/goat combo and with my son/colleague in tow.

I ordered the tass. Of course!

Knowing Bennie to be a dumpling freak, I didn’t even think about suggesting he order anything but the momo, which are available steamed or fried, and in pork, vegetable, chicken, and chicken and cheese flavours.

His 10 fried pork dumplings ($10) were sublime – each a little parcel of beautifully tanned and crunchy pastry housing a flavoursome pork mince filling. Bowls of not-too-spicy yet nicely tangy chilli sauce and soy sauce attended.

My tass was really, really good.

The goat meat was nicely flavoured with, I was informed, coriander, cumin, garlic and ginger. It was tender but also splendidly chewy. (I neither expected nor desired fall-apart tender meat – had it been so, I suspect it wouldn’t have been Nepalese …)

No appearance by the tomato relish, but the vegetables amounted to a delicious mound of what could be described as a mix of potato salad, spud curry and achar, without the vinegar. Indeed, I subsequently discovered the same mix is sold here as an extra under the same name as the Malaysian side dish.


I was a bit worried about the lack of any kind of sauce, but the vegetables and serviceable salad between them did the job.

The rice bubbles? They were actually puffed rice, and not the tanned item of breakfast cereal fame.

The mix of the meat, accompanying bits and pieces and puffed rice was a really fine combination of flavours and textures.

A winner!

Other items on the menu include chicken “chowmin” ($9), a handful of chicken dishes (one of which is accompanied by delightfully crunchy “beaten” rice) and a mixed grill of sausages,  chicken wings, chicken skewers, chicken kofta, roasted potatoes, rice, relish and salad ($13). Then there’s a chicken curry with rice and minted yogurt for $7.95, while puris can be had for three for $3.

Joining the hamburger on the Western side of the menu are a BLT for $3.95 and fish and chips ($7.95).

We reckon Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar is beaut, and may get even better.

We’re early dinner diners, so I suspect it’ll become a bit of a standby for us, and we look forward to ticking off the menu choices two by two.

In the meantime, now that I’ve had goat with rice bubbles, my life feels just that bit more complete, enriched and well-rounded.