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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Alfrieda Street gem

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Phuong Thao, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

We first wrote about a restaurant at these premises a long time ago when it was called Just Good Food.

Since then it’s also been branded as Quang Thao but now has settled on Phuong Thao.

I have no idea if there has been or is any continuity between back then and now in terms of management, staff, cooks and so on.

Though the giant roast-meat ovens out back are still very much evidence.

I like the fact that it’s roomy and not as packed as a handful of the other Alfrieda Street hot-spots.

I like, too, that every time I’ve arrived at the place there has been a reassuring number of locals and regulars who obviously know what they’re about when it comes to their tucker.

I like it that for third lunch in a many weeks I am greeted similarly.

Yes, I have grown to like this joint.

(It was here, too, by the way, that I sourced the chicken feet that made Bennie’s thankfully short-lived stay in Sunshine Hospital just that little bit more tasty …)

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You can order pho at Phuong Thao, but why would you when there is so much other fun stuff to ponder?

There’s Chinese roast meats, of course, but the heart of what’s available appears to be Vietnamese.

They have four-person banquets that go from $107 way up to $357 for the bells-and-whistles lobster version.

On a more prosaic level there’s soft shell crab with salted egg yolk (cua lot rang hot vit muoi, $18.50), coleslaws that are surely mammoth serves given they cost $25 a pop, rare cooked beef with lemon (bo tai chanh, $25), fish in clay pot with caramel (ca kho to, no price lised with the photo on the wall) and goat casserole (lau de, $35 and $55).

For my first couple of visits I have the same fine dish – hu tieu nam vang or rice noodle in Cambodian style (top photo, $10).

It’s a super soup blast.

In addition to the rudimentary green onions and coriander, there’s quite a lot julienned celery for extra and delightful crunch.

The prawns have good, strong and fresh flavour and the slices of pork are grand, though I could live without the gooey-centred small eggs.

The broth is hot and fine, and has floating in it minced pork and – the bowl’s primary flavour factor – granulated garlic.

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For today’s lunch I go more basic and familiar with tomato rice with marinated diced beef ($10).

As I have found elsewhere with this dish, looks can be deceiving – what appears to be a smallish serve is more than adequate. Something about cocooning the main players in a lettuce-leaf cup, I reckon.

The beef chunks are a little larger than is usual, beautifully tender and nicely crusty on the outside.

The rice seems more like just plain fried rice with negligible tomato factor and is a little on the dry side.

 

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Street food blow-out in St Albans

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Chinese New Year, Alfrieda Street, St Albans

Ahhh, a lazy Sunday.

One on which we resolve to behave like do-nothing home-bodies.

We’re getting good at this as it’s precisely what we’ve worked resolutely on for the past three weeks.

We’ve even pulled the plug on a cross-town trip to the Astor to see a Marx Brothers double bill.

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Our slacker routine does, however, come with a mandatory self-imposed stipulation of at least a single out-of-the-house excursion and we’re planning on making that a relaxed WeFo cafe lunch.

But then a pal emails us with the riveting information that it’s Chinese New year time in St Albans.

So off we go …

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We’re no strangers to Chinese New Year celebrations but this is our first in St Albans.

It’s a doozy.

The whole of the Alfrieda Street strip is pulsating … with distorted music, laughter, prancing dragons and much more.

And it smells terrific.

While there’s some overlap between the massive number of food stalls, there is a gratifyingly wide number of choices available, much of it on sticks.

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As we amble up and down and back up the street, we make big-time happy with:

  • Deep-fried calamari
  • Mini Vietnamese pancakes
  • Wonderful grilled sweet corn
  • Skewers of beef interspersed with onion and capsicum
  • Beef honey jerky.
  • A wonderfully crunchy, fresh, healthy (!) green papaya salad with jerky and peanuts that almost matches the one we enjoyed at this august occasion.

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As we are leaving, a dude asks if it’s OK for his girlfriend to take a photo of him and I.

As Bennie concludes, it’s probably all over FB or Twitter by now …

Maybe I should start charging for Mythbusters pictorial duties.

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Brimbank Central Multicultural Festival

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Brimbank Central Multicultural Festival, Errington Reserve, St Albans

While there was some firmness about how and what Consider The Sauce would be when it started, it was also always going to be the case that it would evolve.

One of the really neat things that have become a feature – and one Bennie and I really enjoy – is getting out and about to various festivals and community events.

This has led to a regular routine of keeping tabs on social media, the suburban press (on the very odd occasion when it gets delivered) and other sources for info about forthcoming events.

Inevitably, of course, some slip between the gaps.

So we were delighted to get hipped to this lovely festival by another blogger who also keeps pretty good tabs on these sorts of things, Eve from Conversation With Jenny.

We met Eve while on rickshaw duty and we’re happy to enjoy her company again for this Sunday outing.

After walking from Yarraville to Footscray, where we’d wisely left our car after the previous night’s festivities, we hook up with Eve and tootle on up Ballarat Rd.

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The festival takes up a whole lot more space than any of us have been expecting, although much of that is taken up by your regular sideshow alleys attractions and rides.

The stalls – mostly food, but including others such a funeral director from whose staff we get show bags – are arrayed along a strip about 100 metres long.

The food offerings feature some that you’d normally expect to see at such a bash, but there are a few pleasant surprises as well.

Bennie and Eve are both lusting after those Dutch-style mini-pancakes, so off they go.

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He gets his from a regular-looking fast-food caravan establishment; she gets hers from the faux castle outlet.

Seems like a tie to me, though Bennie claims bragging rights in terms of quantity.

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I go for a serve of fish tikka – it’s mildly spiced, delicate and nice.

Next up for me is a $10 Polish platter from the folks from Eastern Bloc Catering.

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This is a delight … three pierogi stuffed with potato, cheese and onion, and topped with crumbled bacon and sour cream. I’m told the cheese is “farmhouse first hanging”.

Cabbage that looks like it may be sauerkraut but isn’t; it’s more of a slaw, lightly pickled and including both red and white cabbage.

Slices of Polish sausage topped with dill pickle and a mix of beetroot and horseradish.

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Eve shouts Bennie one of those potato tornado thingies.

He opts for the salt and vinegar version.

Looks pretty much like potato cake on a stick to me.

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Eve snags a small bucket of Taiwanese popcorn chicken but us boys to get to try it, too.

It’s fresh, hot and wonderful … not to mention stupendously healthy.

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That’s about it for us in terms of food, though I do wrap things up with a serve of chewy loukaomades and an excellent cafe latte.

We take in the sights and sounds a while more before heading home, beating the afternoon downpour and leaving the festival to roll on well into the night.

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