Phi Phi 2 … cool for lunch

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Phi Phi 2, 31a Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone 9077 2466

Following a superb dinner enjoyed by Bennie and myself at the flash, new Phi Phi 2 in St Albans, it’s a pleasure to return for lunch with the Urban Ma.

What a hoot!

It’s almost like experiencing a different restaurant – a matter, well, of day and night.

Mind you, the number of patrons is fewer – word that Phi Phi 2 is offering a welcome point of difference from the rest of the St Albans precinct may be taking a while to get around.

But the staff are many and on the ball.

The menu (see below) is succinct and like nothing I’ve ever before seen.

Asian-fusion?

Maybe – but if so, quite different from that being excellently purveyed by West of Kin in Braybrook.

Some dishes are outright Asian in concept and execution; others have European/Western breeding imbued through with Asian flavours.

We start with a couple of serves of bao ($8 per serve).

 

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They’re both very good, with pungent (wasabi?) dressing.

Though the pork belly duo (above) are a bit tricky to eat on account of the piggy bits being difficult to bite through; cut them up in the kitchen, I reckon.

 

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The duck duo – labelled “Quack Attack” on the menu – is bettter, the duck being moist and perfect.

 

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Jacqui’s “Mother Ducker” ($14) – sliced roast duck risotto with bacon, mushroom and pumpkin cooked in duck broth – is fabulous.

And a prime example of the aforesaid combination of Western themes imbued with Asian flavours.

 

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My fish burger ($12, not on the menu but joining the “Dark Night” beef burger) is fine – though I should’ve asked for the cheese to be omitted.

The fish – hoki, I am informed – is lovely and joined by onion rings and dressing in a black bun.

It is, as you’d expect eyeballing the above photo, a very messy thing to eat.

But is very good.

 

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My understanding is that Phi Phi 2 is serving lunch Mondays through Fridays but that may change because of the day fare’s popularity.

 

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The Urban Ma is enjoying her lunch; her daughter seems a whole lot less impressed with proceedings – particularly with the photographer.

Seriously sexy Asian BBQ

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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.

 

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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.

How popular?

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 

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And we also get a splendid vegetable and mushroom combo ($14).

 

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The glowing coals are brought to our table and then it’s on!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.)

 

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Vietnamese star

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I can still vividly remember discovering Alfrieda Street in St Albans. Bored with the footy game in which Bennie was participating at a nearby oval, I went for a wander, turned a corner and – bam! – there it was: A whole street and neighbourhood of food and fine folks of which I had been utterly unaware. Since those pre-CTS days, St Albans  has become a regular haunt. Now, thanks to sponsorship from the St Albans Business Group (see full disclosure below), I am looking forward to getting to know Alfrieda Street and environs even more intimately. This is the first of a series …

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Trang Tien, 11 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9078 1677

Trang Tien can be easy to miss.

It doesn’t front directly on to Alfrieda Street, being angled away as part of a sort-of courtyard it shares with Cafe U And I.

As well, Trang Tien has a somewhat modest shopfront, though it does sport typical photographs of some of the food offer.

Inside, though, is a menu and eatery that offer a wonderful and bewilderingly long range of dishes from all over Vietnam – some of them rarely seen in Melbourne.

 

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Pho?

Sure, you can get that here – and numerous other Vietnamese staples.

But why would you when there’s a grand opportunity to chance your arm a bit?

Banh canh do bien (S $12 and L $13), for instance (top photograph).

This is fat, slippery udon noodles in a viscous broth (think corn and chicken soup) made with, I’m told, seafood but which the internet tells me can also be pork-based.

The broth is of terrific depth in terms of flavour and nicely peppery.

The seafood component hidden in there comprises nice fish chunks, calamari, a couple of prawns, seafood balls, seafood extender and seafood loaf, with onion slices and other trimmings adding textures of a more strident nature.

This a terrific alternative riff on the more familiar soup noodles we all know so well, be they Vietnamese, Chinese or other.

 

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More prosaic, though also not often seen around Melbourne, is bo bit tet ($15).

More of a breakfast dish, this is your Vietnamese steak and egg – beef steak, fried egg, bread roll, salad.

The roll is crusty and hot and right fine for mopping up the juices and fried onions.

Simple and good, this is.

 

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Beef satay ($8.50) looks, let’s be frank, something of a scraggly mess.

But it works!

The mix of fried, nicely chewy meat, onions slivers, roasted peanuts and sticky sauce is just right and deeply satisfying.

Trang Tien is a gem.

(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.)

 

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Awesome meat, superb pricing

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Euro Cafe & Grill, Shop 26, 1-3 Princess Street, St Albans. Phone 9364 0451

Euro Cafe & Grill is about a block from the Vietnamese-heavy joy of Alfrieda Street.

We’ve been here before – many years ago, for an early CTS post, when similar food was being served under another name.

After that, the place closed.

A new name and new management were put in place a while ago and when we venture in we find it’s being run by Bosinian Steve and his wife, who were customers at the former set-up.

We like their style.

The food is similar to that you’ll find at, say, the Croatian club.

There’s stuffed cabbage, for instance.

 

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But mostly there are grills of many kinds.

There are no chips – unusual for this kind of food.

But we’re not at all put out – if anything, this makes our Sunday lunch more enjoyable and more guilt-free.

Moreover, the food here is not only very fine but also superbly affordable.

Look, it may be a case of comparing apples and oranges … and this may be a low-overhead mom-and-pop operation.

But still – grills and accessories for $14 to $18 certainly shed an interesting comparison light on the many burger and barbecue places that have shot up all over Melbourne in the past couple of years.

 

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Our meal commences with lovely bread – not made in-house but sourced from Jenny Bakery just up the road.

It’s nothing flash but just right for the job and the food at hand.

Chevapi ($14, top photo) are superb.

There’s 10 of them and every one is a chewy, meaty cigar of delicious.

 

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Pleskavica – big patties – come in beef and chicken versions, with or without stuffed with cheese.

Our plain beef number ($14) is just as yummy as the chevapi.

Bennie and I split the meat contents of our two plates and struggle to finish, so generous are the portions.

Served with our meals are diced onion, a simple cuke-and-tomato salad and finely chopped white cabbage.

The latter is austere – we are used to having a little salt, pepper, vinegar and perhaps oil with such cabbage. But there is vinegar at our table and we should’ve made happy with it.

As well, small bowls of capsicum relish are brought to our table – they add dash and color very nicely.

During busier times – dinner at the end of the week, for instance – dishes such as goulash, tripe soup or lamb on the spit may or may not be available.

Just depends; it’s that kind of place.

But Steve is adamant we really, really should return for his ribs.

Count on it!

 

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Hot croc in St Albans

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Phi Phi has become a firm favourite of ours. Here’s a take on it by CTS contributor Erika Jonsson from the point of view of a family lunch and a belated Fathers Day celebration.

Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

My husband is a proud carnivore.

He’s happy to try the most exotic meat on the menu, the things that I would never be brave enough to order myself but am happy to try if they’re his meals rather than mine.

So I knew what he was going to order the second I saw crocodile on the menu at Phi Phi in St Albans.

We were having a belated Fathers Day lunch with our two sons and I’d given him carte blanche to order what he wanted rather than what the boys would be most likely to share.

We’d already ordered some predictable favourites for them so our mains might actually be for us.

 

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Joe wanted chicken on a stick (satay skewers) and spring rolls, while Hugh was happy munching on prawn crackers and little else.

The chicken was fried in an egg white wash, which made an interesting and pleasant change to the more common grilled skewers.

The spring rolls were run of the mill but certainly tasty enough.

Hubby ordered the crocodile with coconut and curry, while I went with something safe as a contrast – salt and pepper squid.

I should’ve been bolder.

 

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The squid was cooked really nicely but lacked oomph.

The fried chilli, onion, garlic and noodle topping was tasty but I really would have loved a fresh chilli sauce to pour over the top.

Our waitress brought some sweet chilli sauce without prompting and that certainly helped but the zing of something fresh would have made a big difference.

My husband was a man far happier with his decision.

I’m told crocodile can be quite oily or fatty but this was far from it – lean, white meat that seemed perfectly cooked to all of us.

“More croc please, more croc please,” Joe chanted as we ate, helping himself to tasty morsels at will.

Eggplant, okra and vermicelli noodles all worked well with the coconut sauce and the dish was flavoursome withou being overly spicy – no doubt that helped the kids’ enjoyment.

The service was excellent and it was a really great atmosphere for family dining.

I love the fact that kids are not just accepted but welcomed and loved at Vietnamese restaurants.

A high chair made life easy and our meal cost around $55 for three and a half very satiated eaters.

We left almost our whole serve of rice as we just didn’t need it with the mains we had ordered so we’ll learn from that.

We enjoyed our meal but next time I’ll either be more adventurous or trust that my boys will enjoy whatever it is I really want rather than what I think they’ll share.

As it was, neither was interested in the squid and I would have been much happier with a plate of chicken with lemongrass and chilli or a bowl of hot and sour soup.

We’ll definitely return to try some more dishes on the extensive and reasonably priced menu.

See earlier story here.

Alfrieda Street eats goss

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So what’s happening on St Albans’ vibrant eats strip?

Well, I’m told a fire event has forced the temporary closure and refurbishment of Sunshine Charcoal Chicken.

Truth is, the place was looking rather tired so hopefully something good will come of their misfortune.

As I said recently to a CTS reader when discussing a similar business in Essendon, one of these days – with a little bit of tweaking and finessing – charcoal chicken shops will become the Next Big Thing.

 

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Alfrieda Street will soon have its own branch of French Baguette Cafe, the Footscray version of which is proving such a multifaceted hit.

 

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What was once home to the short-lived Charitable Vegetarian Restaurant quite recently came to house Sunrise.

In quick order that, too, has closed.

The lovely My from Phi Phi tells me the address is destined to house a new eatery with a broader outlook, one more attuned to the commercial realities of the neighbourhood.

 

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A new Alfrieda banh mi shop appears to have become  hit rather quickly.

 

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Meanwhile, I checked back into Phi Phi – after it all, it has been a long couple of weeks since I was last there – to make sure their roast meats are still superb.

The answer is: Yes!

Definitely my go-to place for this kind of food.

After talking with My, and all going to plan, Consider The Sauce and Phi Phi will co-host a CTS Feast there early in the new year.

 

Yumminess on Alfrieda

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Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

We’ve been here before … 28 Alfrieda Street, that is.

First as Just Good Food, then as Phuong Thao – and there was another incarnation in there along the way as well.

Such is the ebb and flow, the come and go of our foodie precincts.

The latest establishment to grace 28 Alfrieda is Phi Phi – and based on a beaut Sunday dinner, we think that is a fine thing indeed.

There’s a new fit-out and the staff are trying really hard and with much graciousness.

Phi Phi is a Vietnamese/Chinese place with a wide-ranging menu that takes in all you’d expect – seafood-based banquets right through to the most humble noodles and rice dishes.

The big ovens are still out back, so you can count on the roast meats still being the goods.

 

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When we visit, the place is fetchingly busy.

And we can think of no better testament to the place’s worthiness than the way complementary bowls of chicken soup are dispensed.

For two of our mains, we would have been very disappointed had we not got soup.

For another, it’s arrival was a pleasant surprise.

For the fourth, the chook soup addition was a shock and a big plus – now that’s class!

We don’t push any envelopes with what we order, but everything we have is good or much better.

 

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Hot and sour soup ($5) is far from being the hottest or sourest I’ve enjoyed, but it IS among the very best, so chock-full of pork, baby prawns, tofu, mushrooms and other goodies is it.

It’s fantastic!

 

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Soft-shell crab rice paper rolls ($7) and …

 

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… sashimi salmon rice paper rolls ($7) are both lovely, high-quality treats.

The crab taste, the fried-and-fishy tang of which can be off-putting to some, is nicely muted by the other protagonists.

In both cases, the rolls deliver fresh takes on the usual but nevertheless fit right in to the rice paper roll tradition.

 

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Fried won tons ($5) are just so good!

Obviously house-made, they are grease-free and plump with nicely seasoned minced pork.

 

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Hainanese chicken claypot ($11.50) comes with heaps of bok choy.

Its recipient is delighted to find the bottom rice has the desired, browned crunchiness!

 

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Of course, ordering Hainanese chicken rice in a non-Malaysian eatery is always a bit of punt – but can lead to nice twists.

In this case, the Phi Phi version ($10) comes with some non-Malay greenery.

The rice is good, too.

And as with the claypot rendition, the chicken is superb – beautifully cooked and tender, despite some of the pieces being quite dense, and expertly boned with not a deadly shard of nastiness in sight.

That I really, truly appreciate.

 

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Bennie goes for the salt and pepper pork ribs on tomato rice ($11), mainly because the lad is currently in a place where fried = good.

It’s all very nice, though I’ve had versions – be they pork, chicken, tofu, whatever – that have had more arresting zing in the seasoning department.

 

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One of our party goes real old-school by ordering beef with black bean sauce on rice ($12).

And why not?

We’re loving our dinner so much we confidently expect this, too, to be very good.

And so it is.

Like all the aforementioned mains, this comes with a bowl of chicken soup – not a usual move for a black bean-sauced dish and worthy of a “Bravo”!

 

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As we muse on our wonderful dinner, we count ourselves lucky that the food we like most is so affordable.

Our meal – including a can of soft drink and a durian smoothie – clocks in at a stupendously good $74 for four.

And that, in turn, has us reflecting on the fact our newly refurbished Yarraville pub has on its menu Singapore noodles priced at $26.

Yikes!

We’ll take Phi Phi any day.

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On an earlier reconnaissance visit, yours truly also went old-school with a serve of roast duck and soya chicken on rice.

 

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This $12 outing was also most enjoyable.

The meats were tender and expertly chopped, and the presence of not just soup but also ginger/garlic/oil mash and pickles made the dish memorable.

 

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