Phi Phi 2, 31a Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone 9077 2466
First I heard there was a new Korean place on Alfrieda Street.
Then I heard it was Asian-fusion.
Then I heard it was a new branch of one of our fave St Albans eateries, Phi Phi.
Then I saw the photos on the new place’s Facebook page and … I remained somewhat confused.
But it doesn’t take long after ascending the stairs of Phi Phi 2 for all to become clear to me and Bennie.
Phi Phi 2 serves a limited range of curries and salads. It has a lighter, tighter lunch menu.
But the night-time action is overwhelmingly about cooked-at-table BBQ and hot pots.
And given the hot pot variation is freely available at a couple of nearby joints and more broadly across the west, almost all customers go the BBQ route.
We do, too – with abandon and, ultimately, great joy.
Phi Phi 2 replaces a long-standing Vietnamese eatery.
It’s been done out in dark wood, with most of the seating being in the form of booths that line the long room. There a trio of tall, small tables at the front windows overlooking Alfrieda Street and a couple of bigger tables at back for larger groups.
There’s an army of staff doing great stuff on the night we visit and we find the service to be grand.
Phi Phi 2 has been open about three weeks and is already proving popular – and with good cause.
Our allocated “cooker”, Jensty, tells us some staff members regularly come in here on their rostered days off – just to eat!
The BBQ cooking/food here has its roots very deeply in South Korea but much of the seasoning/sauces/marinades and approach come more directly from Vietnam where, Jentsy tells us, this kind of cooking is very popular.
We seriously consider ordering from the “chef’s special” list (see menu below) the cooked-in-the-kitchen “charcoal chicken feet” but decide that eight foots would skew our meal-for-two too radically in one direction.
Instead, we start with two dishes from the entree list.
Crispy tiger prawns ($12.90) are cocooned in crunchy noodles that shatter upon being chomped. The prawns are very good dipped in the accompanying (cocktail?) sauce.
BBQ lamb ribs ($10.90) look like they’re a very big serve – but they are just four, as they are resting of a fluffy bed of greens.
Still, they’re fine – fatty, as expected, but with great flavour.
We happily munch like carnivorous rabbits on the marinade-seasoned leaves as we await the main BBQ action to unfold.
First we are provided some sides ‘n’ stuff – a green salad and bowls of kimchi and pickled bean sprouts and the like.
It may not be saying a whole helluva lot – but this is the best kimchi Bennie and I have ever had.
Maybe not purebred Korean-style but just marvellous – not very spicy, the cabbage more finely chopped, a strong tang of ginger in every mouthful.
We are provided several more complementary bowls of both the kimchi and the sprouts as our meal progresses.
As well, we are each provided three dipping sauces for the BBQ goodies – soy/miso, a mild chilli with a strong lemongrass component and a tamarind.
Here’s what we order for our sooper-dooper BBQ feast: Pork belly (salt-chilli marinade, $12.90, above photo), ox tongue ($9.90) and chicken thigh (Thai marinade, $11.90).
And we also get a splendid vegetable and mushroom combo ($14).
The glowing coals are brought to our table and then it’s on!
Jensty tells us that staff members are allocated a couple of tables each to handle the cooking.
We appreciate that. We’d rise to the challenge of doing it ourselves, no doubt, but we’d be a bit nervous about it.
It’s all about timing – and she does it with skill that is almost nonchalant.
The vegetables take a good deal longer than the meats, but it’s all fantastic.
The meats are charred nicely and without exception every mouthful is succulent.
Bottom line – this is some kind of nirvana for meat eaters.
Bennie rates the pork belly the highest; I love the ox tongue the most.
The vegetables are all terrific, too – three different kinds of mushroom, okra, pumpkin, eggplant, corn.
The one lapse – and the only quibble of our entire evening – are the chat spud halves. They’ve been partially boiled before hitting the grill, but still present as a little under-cooked and even (perhaps) out of place.
We conclude with a couple of scoops of green tea ice-cream ($6) that has been brought in, is perfectly nice yet is probably excess to requirements.
Take the ice-cream and a couple of lovely mocktails off our bill and the damage for food alone is $72.50.
That strikes me as a bargain for a feast of this quality and quantity.
Certainly, we have paid significantly more for way less impressive meals in regulation Korean eateries.
It’s a lovely thing to see some flash on Alfrieda Street!
(This post has been sponsored by the St Albans Business Group. However, Consider The Sauce chose and paid for the food involved and the STBG neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)