Turkish cuisine and limousines

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Platinum Cafe, 36 Macaulay Road, North Melbourne. Phone: 0497 849 411

Platinum Taxis has been in residence at Macaulay Road for many years.

From No.36 operates a wide range of vehicular services – not just your humble cabbies but also airport and hotel pick-ups, limos and all the resources that drivers need to do their jobs.

The current Platinum Cafe set-up, however, has been in-house for just a few months.

 

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Bennie Weir practises his psycho stare; Nat Stockley photographs food.

 

After our very good pal Nat Stockely realises things have taken a Turkish turn at Platinum, we waste no time in convening a North Melbourne lunch date.

Bennie and I are hoping for good, cheap fast-food, perhaps something a little more exotic, perhaps an alternative to the Embassy Taxi Cafe in terms of midnight-hour munchie outings.

Sure, the menu (see below) does include burgers, toasties and the like.

But wow – we find a whole bunch more than that!

 

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The joint is being run by Nadia and her friend Ozen (both pictured at top) and also Lev.

Nadia knows her way around Turkish food, having worked for a Deer park eatery of that genre for more than a decade.

But what she and her pals are turning out in North Melbourne is mostly not Turkish restaurant food.

 

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Instead, Platinum Cafe is providing home-style cooking of the kind your favourite Turkish mum prepares.

On the day we visit, we’re told to “forget” the specials board (see below) – I would’ve certainly opted for the lamb roast.

Instead, we three converge on the bain marie and proceed to enjoy a mighty feast.

 

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My plate stacks up thusly …

Very good Turkish rice with orzo.

Patlican kebab (eggplant kebab) – one of the best eggplant dishes it’s ever been my pleasure to devour, the slippery, delicious eggplant mixing it with lovely lamb cubes.

Mucver – fritters of spud, carrot and egg that are wonderfully chewy.

Sulu kofte – Marble-size balls of cracked wheat (quite like gnocchi) and chick peas in a rich soup based on a lamb stock.

The cracked wheat balls are more tender than they appear but along with the chick peas constitute a meal in themselves and would probably be better enjoyed as such.

The soup, however, is great.

 

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The plates of Nat and Bennie are similar save for the addition of a vege-and-chicken dish with cheese sauce of Nadia’s own devising.

 

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Platinum Cafe also boasts a range of dolmas, including stuffed capsicums, and sarma such as vine leaves.

We get a plate of the latter and enjoy them very much.

They’re served how we like ’em – cold.

They’re quite delicate and have a nice smoky flavour. Nat even reckons there may be meat of some sort involved though Nadia tells me that is not the case.

 

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Also provided to our table is a very good salad of finely chopped vegetables, tomato, pickles (both cuke slices and cornichons), olives and fetta – such a shame it barely gets a look in as we explore the rest of our meals.

Our meal deals – including our plates, the stuffed vine leaves, the salad and cans of drink – costs us each an awesomely cheap $17.

 

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Nadia tells me about the 90 per cent of the drivers who come in are of Turkish extraction – sounds very high to me! – but that there are also drivers from Greece, Italy and East Africa. From all over, really …

For all of them, I suspect, the Turkish homecooking served at Platinum Cafe is both welcome and somehow familiar, no matter from where they hail.

Nadia also warns us that when we return, the line-up of home-style dishes will almost certainly not be the same.

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Platinum Cafe is open from 6am-8pm on week days and from 8am-5pm on Saturdays.

 

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Good stuff in a gloomy shack

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Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, Public Bar, 238 Victoria Street, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9888

On our way to Fancy Hank’s BBQ the previous week, Bennie and I had stepped in to Miss Katie’s Crab Shack just for a look-see.

It was  a toss-up in terms of our desire for American-style tucker that night, so we kept on walking to the other.

As we did so, I remarked that the Shack’s aroma reminded me of nothing so much as a typical funky local joint in New Orleans – just that magic blend of frying food and seasonings.

So I am very happy to return with pals Nat and Rob to check the place out in more depth.

As we settle in, place our orders and relax into good company, it occurs to me that also in terms of decor, general all-round vibe and attentive, unfussy service, the Shack is like a Crescent City joint in more ways than just the smell.

It’s a cool place!

 

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Unfortunately, it’s also utterly gloomy in a cheerful way – and a nightmare for “available light” photography. So take these CTS pics as an indication of only the very vaguest kind!

(An adjoining and more brightly-lit room is rapidly filling with a gang of retro-hipsters busily sharpening their minds up for Tuesday night trivia … Rob and I note that the questions are to be of topics on the “fun stuff” such as music, movies and TV, and ponder entering ourselves in the comp at some future date.)

 

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Rob likes his Chesapeake Crab Burger with blue swimmer crab cake, slaw, herb mayo and dill pickle ($15) . I don’t have a taste, but merely note that he says it reminds him of a similar set-up his mum used to produce.

 

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Nat’s jambalaya ($22) is a bit of a puzzle – for it is neither the rice dish of that name nor a gumbo, but something like a mixture of the two, soupy and with lots of rice and a couple of fat prawns among other bits and pieces.

He likes it. And based on the sample taste I grab, it certainly has the right, smoky and deep flavour.

 

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My fried chicken is definitely the big winner.

For $17, I get seven pieces, including a couple of drumsticks, meaning there is more than enough to share some with my friends.

The coating is dark and full of curiously musty, lusty flavour – I endeavour to discover the nature of the seasonings, but quickly give it up when I realise the menu describes them as a “secret blend of herbs and spices”.

I reckon I’ve heard that phrase before … but the chook meat is all good, especially lightly dabbed with the piquant house-made sauce (only one of several sitting on each table).

It’s a fine thing to order and eat beaut fried chicken that is not Korean, Japanese or franchise.

The fries ($5 with the chicken) are merely good. The menu lists them as coming with “Old Bay seasoning” but we find there’s no discernible such flavour. Still, I’m once again happy there’s more than enough for all three of us.

 

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We enjoy a couple of serves of house-baked corn bread ($3), but find its presence and sweetness mostly excess to our requirements.

Like Fancy Hank’s BBQ just up the road, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack does a fine job of providing hands-on southern-style-food. If you’re particularly hongry, it’ll cost ya – but the satisfaction factor is there.

Check out the Miss Katy’s Crab Shack website here.

 

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Neigbourly BBQ

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Hallah, 268 Victoria St, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 4293

Our neighbour and mate Rob may be on the verge of moving to hipster Fitzroy, but he’s been on food adventures with us often enough to know our style.

So it phases him not at all that we park in the vicinity of Vic Market and then set about deciding where to eat.

The night market is rocking and the numbers are big.

Bennie pricks his ears up, but his two companions firmly nix that idea quick smart.

A couple of likely places are closed, so we end up stumbling into Hallah and enjoy a good Korean meal.

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Like everywhere around here on this night, it’s busy.

The staff cope well but the service is a little perfunctory.

That’s OK – we’re happy to eat and split, so the swiftness with which our food appears is appreciated.

As we’re right into catching up, covering a fascinating range of conversational topics and don’t want to pore over the menu, we quickly settle on the least expensive of the three set menus – the Hallah assorted BBQ set for two people ($56), and throw in another dish from the broader menu to make up for the fact we’re a threesome.

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Presumably the pork belly, beef short rib fillets and chicken thigh are meant to be the highlight of our meal.

The meat is fine, juicy and tender, and enjoyable with the three dipping sauces – one soy, one oil-salt-pepper, and another that seems to be a slightly spicy miso mash.

But I, at least, am a little underwhelmed. It’s at this point I’m thinking that ordering some of the more prosaic one-bowl dishes earlier in the menu may have been wiser.

But the bells and whistles that come with our meal impress much more and are much more fun.

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For me there is a breakthrough here.

I’ve always been indifferent or unswayed by the charms of kimchi, so am delighted to find this is the first – ever – I can say I truly enjoyed it.

The shredded cabbage and bean sprouts are plain and perhaps in need of more seasoning, but we all three pounce on the beautifully pickled onion.

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The seafood pancake is a delight – stuffed with seafood and greenery, its texture and flavour is far superior to the dry, starchy version we’ve often had as green onion pancake in Chinese places.

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“Soybean past soup” packs an intense flavour hit and is chockers with vegetableses and baby clams.

Our “extra” dish to complement the set menu is dragon cheese chicken ($16, top photograph).

Listed as spicy, it seems to us hardened chilli warriors anything but.

It IS very cheesy and strikes me as odd verging on weird.

But there you go.

The set menu option has served our purposes for this particular social outing.

But we reckon a closer, more discerning examination of the menu may reap fine dividends – it’s packed with many options.

The $28 plates of fried chicken we see sailing past us look especially hot.

The Hallah website is here.

 

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Soi 38’s Popup Tour of Thai Noodles – get on board!

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Soi 38 Thai Noodle Tour, opening night, Sketch & Tulip Cafe, 364 Victoria Street, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9665

We love Andy.

We love his website, the Thai-centric website Krapow.

And we particularly love the way he and his Soi 38 colleagues are allowing Melbourne to sample superbly delicious “under-represented” Thai dishes.

Especially when they are presented in the imaginative and alluring manner represented by Soi 38’s latest adventure – “A Tour Of Thai Noodles” spread over a succession of Friday nights at a very cool North Melbourne bar/cafe.

The first night of the “tour” sees various friends and pals of Andy and Soi 38 front up to Sketch & Tulip for complementary bowls of noodles as a promotional effort for the upcoming Friday nights.

Tonight’s fare is boat noodles – that doesn’t slow us down any, even if we have written about them before. See here and here.

And who should we clap our peepers on immediately on arrival?

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Two of our favourite people, food-wise or otherwise – Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog and street food obsessive Nat Stockley!

OK, we’re obviously at the right place!

If anything, the boat noodles are even more yummy than before – with a deep, dark and rich broth of just the right amount of chilliness and two kinds of beef.

One is stewed and the other, I’m told, is marinated for a couple of days in soda water and then simply poached.

The latter is pale and pinkish and pulls off one of my favourite food tricks – it’s both tender and marvellously chewy.

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We admire the way the Soi 38 crew are pricing their noodles.

Sure, tonight we’re supping “on the house”.

But even at the regular price of $5, you can go one, two, three or more bowls and still be getting an outright bargain on food you’ll not find anywhere else in Melbourne.

Or probably Australia for that matter.

Here’s the Thai Noodle Tour itinerary:

Week 1: Kuay Teow reua Nua Nahm (Beef boat noodles)

Week 2: Kuay Teow Sukhothai Muu Haeng (Dry sukothai pork noodles)

Week 3: Kuay Teow Tom Yum Muu Nahm (Hot and sour pork noodles)

Week 4: Kuay Teow Bamee Bpuu (Dry crab egg noodles)

Week 5: Kuay Teow Bamee Bped Nahm (Braised duck egg noodles)

Week 6: Kuay Terow Tom Yum Muu Haeng (Dry hot and sour pork noodles)

We plan on making as many of these occasions as we can.

You should, too.

For further details, check out the Soi 38 website and/or Facebook page.

Sketch & Tulip Cafe on Urbanspoon

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A motherhood statement

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Mum Mum Asian Street Food, 67 Flemington Road, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 7106

Mum Mum is a lovely eatery on Flemington Road that’s been open about four weeks.

Given its location opposite great swathes dedicated to the medical industry – where the food options are probably not so hot – and the many offices around here, I reckon this place will go well, especially at lunch time.

But anyone who feels their pulse quickening at the attractive thought of dining at an establishment with the words “Asian Street Food” incorporated into its name had best take a chill pill.

We end up reckoning there is good and maybe even very good food to be had here, even though our lunch is mixed bag.

It’s more that anyone seeking the funky pungency and aromas and spiciness of real-deal street food may be a little disappointed.

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From what the staff tell me, the usage of the street food term is a bid to create a point of difference between Mum Mum and the family-connected straight-up Thai place right next door.

So while the lunch menu from which we order is basically a Thai document, there are items such as taro prawns, seafood gyoza, various dumplings and spring rolls in the “Little Something” section.

The ground floor dining room of the Victorian double-storey building is a very nice, with different kinds of wood in the chairs, tables, stools, floor, stairs to the upstairs and screen creating a warm feel.

I like the idea of a Thai-style curry “free of coconut milk” and I like the idea of a lighter lunch with lots of fresh vegetables – so I order the “jungle veg. curry w. rice” ($11.90).

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This turns out to be a miscalculation on my part, because without coconut milk – or some other thickening agent – what I get, of course, is not curry but soup.

The vegetables are fine and the broth is spicy and highly fragrant with kaffir lime and basil.

But somewhere along the way this misses the mark with me – it fills me up but leaves me feeling empty.

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Bennie does much better with his “fresh basil chick w. fried egg” ($11.90), which is much more sexy than his dad’s lunch.

Piled on top of rice is an oily, garlicky mix of chicken mince, lots of fried onions of the kind that Bennie really loves these days and other vegetables, with a fried egg as head gear.

This, too, is rather spicy but too much so for the boy.

Interestingly, our pal Nat had a rather different experience with this dish at Mum Mum – as you can see by reading his comments at Urbanspoon.

Whether this is because Bennie has been served a very different and much better meal, or whether we are utterly clueless about a food style on which Nat is an internationally renowned expert we know not.

As we depart, I spy another customer tucking into what looks like a marvellous plate of lamb mussaman curry – that’s for me next time!

Check out the Mum Mum website here.

 

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Boat noodles in Errol St

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Soi 38, North Melbourne Spring Fling, Errol St.

Having been out and about the previous day on official Consider The sauce business/fun, we figure this Sunday will be a cruise.

But the perfect visit to Highpoint – sleeping bag, four pairs of socks, in and out in under 20 minutes on a crazy mad busy Sunday – has us running ahead of schedule and in the mood.

Another pleasant surprise comes when, after telling Bennie he can have his choice of any burger joint within easy driving distance, he says: “I want noodles!”

So with much glee it is we head for North Melbourne and the Spring Fling in Errol St.

Andy, from Thaicentric blog Krapow, is using the festival to launch his Soi 38 enterprise and we’re keen for a taste.

Boat noodles are a new one on us – and most likely Most Melburnians, even those with a well-honed love of Thai food.

You can read what Andy and his crew are aiming at this Krapow post and the links at the end.

Their stall – fronted by a real-deal street food cart – is doing a roaring trade, but we wait just a few minutes to get our food.

Our boat noodles are a smallish serve that is just right for us and a fine deal at $5.

Andy may be irked by the comparison, but they come across to us as a drier Thai-style version of pho.

Thin noodles, a fish ball, some beautifully tender meat, all in a richly flavoursome pork broth, garnished with coriander, bean sprouts and crunchy, healthy (ahem …) pork crackling.

While being quite plain in the seasoning department, they’re very good.

Even better, they’re served in real bowls and non-disposable chop sticks.

In our experience with street/festival food in Melbourne, this is a first.

In our opinion, this is a thing of monumental hipness!

And it goes to show that if food sellers are really intent on not using plastic, styrofoam and otherwise throwaway trash cutlery and containers, it can be done.

Quite apart from the environmental aspects, it makes the eating experience so much more enjoyable.

Bravo!

We finish our meal with a serve – from the same crew of – khanom dorayaki ($5 for four).

These little pikelet-like sandwiches – filled with the likes of with custard, pandan Ccustard, sweet taro, sala custard and creaming soda custard – are soooooo good.

After wolfing down these light-as-a-feather pleasure bombs, we head for home having had a super lunch for $15.

Hopefully, this is the start of something big for the Soi 38 crew – we certainly wish them and will be keeping a watch to learn of their next outing.

Beatrix

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Beatrix, 688 Queensberry St, North Melbourne. Phone: 9090 7301

Like so many people, I have mixed feelings about Facebook.

On a macro level, some of the politics, ethics and sneakiness just plain creep me out.

On a micro level, I’d have to say it’s a fabulous tool.

Tool being the operative word.

It’s there to be used, in my book. If you want to use it, that is.

If you don’t … um, then don’t.

And please, let’s have no more lame-o opinion pieces about FB, social media and the end of the world as we know it … written by people, I’m pretty sure, who are as fixated and rude in the use of their mobile devices as those they criticise.

I’m delighted with the way my use of Facebook has evolved into a multi-pronged, life-enhancing … tool.

I’ve “liked” a slew of western suburbs organisations that hip me to all sorts of events, festivals and happenings that I would otherwise be blissfully unaware of.

Likewise, I’m always up to speed on the special events, menu changes, specials, news and sometimes whacko humour (Hi, Adam!) from a wide range of eateries and food suppliers.

Thus, while the initial inspiration for a visit to North Melbourne cafe Beatrix has most certainly been a drool-encrusted post by Ms Bakover at Footscray Food Blog, what gets me in the car and headed that way is the joint’s fabulous Facebook activity.

Each day, the Beatrix folks post details of that day’s goodies, particularly their sandwiches. This is Facebook newsfeed of seriously seductive proportions.

The sandwiches are small in number – just two a day – but packed with allure.

As I joyfully discover, that allure is of real and magnificent substance.

It’s a tiny but chic place, but as I am reliably early, finding a seat at the window counter is no problem. By the time I leave, it’s considerably more crowded.

The day’s heavier, richer offering involves sardines. Tempting for sure, but I go for the lighter, cheaper and unmeated option.

The Ricotta (large $12, small $10.50) is described as “Simply warmed That’s Amore ricotta, caramelised onion, radicicchio and black olive”.

My large sandwich is perfection is every way.

The bread is fresh and warm, yet happily minus the sometimes gum-shredding factor that often comes with ciabatta loaves.

The sweet onions are the perfect foil for the astringency of the sparingly used olives and the bitterness of the leaves.

The ricotta is smooth and creamy – more about texture than flavour, and given the other protagonists, that’s perfection, too.

It’s a super sandwich and experience.

If this is taking the science and craft of sandwich-making, and doing so with a small but rotating list of superb ingredients, and turning them into an artform, then all I can say is: Bravo!

The cakes here looking killing, too. Maybe next time with Bennie for company – he’ll love the place for sure.

And maybe the go here for paired-up dining is what I’ve seen a couple do today – a large sandwich and a slice of cake, shared.

Meanwhile, tomorrow there’ll be another unrelenting Facebook missive from Beatrix; and another one the day after that; and so on.

There is, it seems, no escape.

Except maybe clicking on “unlike”.

As if …

Beatrix on Urbanspoon