Pizza d’Asporto is coming to Yarraville.
A full-on fit-out is in progress.
This lovely old brick building has been the location of several unsuccessful businesses in recent years, most recently – in the space to be inhabited by Pizza d’Asporto – by a frozen yogurt joint.
But I reckon this new venture will rock, especially given the big, inviting raised patio area.
Cafe Fidama is no more.
After being bought by the crew from Seddon Japanese gem Ajitoya a few months back, the new owners have decided it’s time to move on.
A fit-out is under way that will see the premises become what is described on the Ajitoya FB page as “Japanese Bar Dining”.
More details as they come to hand but expect a launch in about a month with a spring/summer menu.
The Anderson Street venue that was home for many years to the boutique Marita’s is becoming Yarraville’s first dedicated kebab shop.
OK, this is at the fast-food end of the spectrum, but we reckon it’s welcome news nevertheless – rounding out the village’s eating options in the same way the arrival of two very good Vietnamese restaurants has done.
I understand those behind the new business have Greek roots.
Meanwhile, we can now officially stop speculating about what kind of cafe and/or eatery is eventually going to move into the ground-floor premises of the St George Theatre apartment complex.
That space is now home to a pilates outfit.
BlueStone Thai, 58 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 0110
It seems like a lifetime ago …
Pre-blog, and before taking up our now long-time residency in Yarraville.
I recall visiting the venerable bluestone building in Ballarat Street when it was still a pub and had something of a name for steak and chips.
After that it became Dig A Pony, which we never got around to before it folded a few months back.
Now it houses BlueStone Thai and we’re up for it.
Having scoped out the menu online, I have no expectations of anything too adventurous or regionally based or unusual, like we might find up the road apiece at Yim Yam.
But that’s OK – just some nice, straight-up orthodox Thai will do us fine.
That’s exactly what we get.
The dining room is all dark-wooded niceness and warmed up on a chilly night.
The service is very good.
Chicken satay ($9.90) is excellent, four sticks bearing thigh meat perfectly cooked and served with a runny peanut sauce.
Mildly spicy green curry ($14.90) is a good-sized serve stuffed with plenty of meat pieces and vegetables.
Basil chilli stir fry with pork ($14.90) is likewise mild, by our standards, and also rather good.
Two bowls of rice cost us $5 and the total bill is an excellent $44.70.
BlueStone Thai seems likely to have found a nifty niche – serving the kind of Thai food in which many punters delight and away from the frequently nutty crush and madness of the Ballarat/Anderson streets nexus.
On the way home on this Friday night, we witness Anderson Street absurdly gridlocked for blocks in both directions either side of train tracks – and with not a train in sight.
Hoa Sen, 8 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9078 5448
Well, that was certainly quick …
Consider The Sauce has become used to new eateries taking an eternity to reach fruition – stop-and-start fit-outs, the legal need for more loos, booze licence problems, proprietors doing it all themselves; there are any number of reasons.
Hoa Sen has gone about things very differently.
One day Yarraville had a Nando’s shop, the next day it didn’t; then – just a few weeks later – this second Vietnamese restaurant for our suburb had opened.
Hoa Sen is a whole different thing from Friend or Pho, its Viet cousin around the corner in Ballarat Street.
Where the latter is all about groovy cafe-style, Hoa Sen is straight-up Vietnamese eatery – sit inside and you could be sitting in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.
But they both have excellent food.
Hoa Sen’s front area is all about seating, including some larger tables and street-gazing seats at the window.
Past the serving/staff area, the kitchen takes up much of what is left of the premise’s space, so the rest of the customer seating is effectively in a long corridor with many tables for four.
We’re told the menu (see below) will gradually expand but in the meantime there four starter and four main dishes available.
And that’s fine by us – taking a new Vietnamese place for a spin is always going to be about trying the fundamentals, both by choice and because it’s the food blogger thing to do.
Bennie loves his com ga rang mui ($13.80, rice with salt and pepper chicken spare ribs).
The chooks bits are big, fat and delicious, with a whiff of garlic – they seem more like whole wings rather than the abbreviated version.
The trimmings are all good and the tomato rice better than that.
Ahh, that first, all-important slurp of pho ($12.80) broth – yes, this is very good, a little sweet and with bucketloads of lusty flavour.
Instead of brisket I get beef ball chunks; and the sliced beef is cooked through when it arrives rather the advertised rare and still cooking in the broth.
But I care not – this is excellent; a 9/10 pho.
Be warned, though: This serve is huge – no way I can eat it all.
This could pass muster as a sharing meal for two, especially if combined with one of the entrees.
Is there room for both these fine Vietnamese restaurants in Yarraville?
Yes, very much so.
It almost seems like the people behind both have intuitively chosen different yet complementary styles.
Yet the important things are common to both – terrific food and happy, smiling staff.
We’ve been quipping for years that we love living in Yarraville but dig eating everywhere else.
The arrival of these two Vietnamese joints changes that equation considerably.
They’re scratching a profound itch of which we’ve paradoxically been largely unaware.
The premises that housed the now-closed Nando’s outlet on Anderson Street in Yarraville is to be a Vietnamese eatery.
The windows remain papered over but the signage is up!
Around the corner on Ballarat Street, the wonderful Friend or Pho has extended its opening hours.
It’s now open for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, with Wednesday the only non-opening day.
Over in Brooklyn, Dosa Palace is open at 28A Millers Road.
I dropped in on opening day for a very nice masala dosa – the potato stuffing was particularly memorable.
Unlike its WeFo sister restaurant, Hyderabad Inn, it’s a low-key cafe-style place but will, I’m sure, do the locals just fine.
Friend or Pho, 3 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9042 4431
A Vietnamese eatery for Yarraville?
A dose cynicism is warranted, I reckon.
For starters, Yarraville is a very mixed bag when it comes to Asian food – some good, some lacklustre, some already forgotten.
And then there’s the syndrome of funky Asian food moving into pretty places in trendy suburbs.
Isn’t it often the case that doing so results in higher prices, smaller portions and a diminuation of the heart – spicy soul, edgy flavours, call it what you will – that makes such food so very attractive?
What chance a really fabulous bowl of pho in downtown Yarraville?
And away from Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans – where numbers and competition ensure a very high standard?
In the case of Friend or Pho, the punny name is even based on mispronunciation.
A good sign is the gorgeous, larger-than-life, hand-written menu we have spied on the joint’s Facebook page – it’s all in Vietnamese.
But even then – banh mi is listed at $9.
That’s twice the going rate in Footscray.
Happily, things take a delightful turn towards dispelling our skepticism as soon as we enter and broach the price of that banh mi.
The answers we get run variously along the lines of …
“It’s just really good!”
“We make our own pickles and it’s got our own pork crackling!”
Even better, we soon learn that the sisters behind Friend or Pho – Anna (out front) and Chelsea (in the kitchen) – are lifelong, born-and-bred Yarravillians.
Indeed, about 15 years ago their parents ran a bakery on Anderson Street (corner of Buninyong Street, where the fancy cake makers now live).
Friend or Pho IS done out in very cool cafe style.
There’s seating inside, in the hallway and outside on the verandah.
The menu (see below in both English AND Vietnamese) runs through a tight line-up of mostly familiar dishes.
So how do we go on our first visit?
Oh my – it’s difficult to contain my enthusiasm.
This is simply great Vietnamese food – as good as any going around in the western suburbs and way better than most.
The wait times are appropriate for such great food and prices – banh mi aside – are in the regular ball park.
Beef pho ($12) is wonderful – and about medium size when compared to Footscray places that do the small-medium-large routine.
The broth is terrific and a bit salty (just as I like it).
And there’s a lot of beef in that bowl – sliced but cooked through and brisket.
All the accessories are fresh and top rate.
Bennie’s com tam ($13) is similarly excellent.
All the porky bits display in-house care and handiwork.
The meat loaf is peppery perfection and the pork chop is the most tender and beautifully cooked we have had with this dish.
He cleans his plate of the lot – including those gorgeous sweet pickle strands.
So fine is our Saturday lunch that we have no hesitation about returning on the Sunday to continue the joyful process of working our way through the Friend or Pho menu.
Bennie’s go ran of six fried chicken ribs costs ostensibly $9 but can be padded out with rice for $4 to make a more complete meal.
As with everything else we try at Friend or Pho, the ribs are state of the art – crisp, hot and delicious.
For $13, a few slices of cucumber or segments of tomato would bring this dish more into line with its fellow menu items in terms of portion size and value.
Just for the sake of variety and journalism, I choose the vegetarian pho ($12).
This is unlike any dish you’ll get at Footscray’s sole dedicated Vietnamese vegetarian eatery or at the Vietnamese temple in Brabrook – there’s little by way starch here and no mock meat.
Instead, the heft and texture is delivered by tofu and a super range of mushrooms – delightfully meaty in their own way.
The broth is so flavoursome that I feel obliged to make sure it’s not made with chicken bones or some such.
It’s made with the usual vegetables and shitake mushrooms.
Again – simply wonderful!
I reckon this will become known as one of Melbourne’s great vegetarian dishes.
Another prediction – friend or Pho is destined to be hit.
If it’s not already.
Friend or Pho is open for dinner every night of the week except Wednesday and Thursday. It is open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
And breakfasts are coming.
The very idea of being able to imbibe a bowl of steaming hot world-class pho on a Monday night without getting in the car fills me with glee.
Check out the Friend or Pho Facebook page here.
George from Andrew’s Choice is always smiling.
That’ll never change.
Even though he tells me that after quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with council officialdom, the prospects of the much-loved Saturday snag stall outside Andrew’s on Anderson Street getting a new life are … well, not good.
Not good at all.
Around the corner on Ballarat Street, the Younger Sun bookshop has moved to 26 Murray Street, almost looking straight down Ballarat towards Francis.
The former Younger Sun premises on Ballarat will, I’ve been told, be taken over by the Cornershop for expansion purposes of some kind.
Jasmine Inn, on the corner of Ballarat and Anderson, has been closed since late October.
The sign in the window says “for renovations” … but the place does not look anything like being in reno mode, with an unloved look and mail unattended.
The long-running but never wildly popular Nando’s branch on Anderson Street has closed.
Two village sources tell me that franchisee/management team was there one day and literally all gone the next.
One of my sources tells me the place has been leased with a view to opening a Vietnamese or Korean restaurant.
If the former is the case, the new tenants will certainly want to be aware that a new pho/coffee joint will soon be opening at 3 Ballarat Street, right opposite the old, brick post office.