Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roti Road, Footscray by Big Fil

Located in Footscray Roti Road was somewhere I'd heard about through the bloggers grapevine and was keen to try.  After all, good roti is one of my favourite things and while Footscray isn't the first place that would come to mind when thinking of a Malaysian style meal, the sheer competition of all the other good eateries in the area would mean that it would have to be good to last.


Situated on Barkly Street maybe ten minutes from the train station, Roti Road is just that bit nicer place to eat than most of the Malaysian eateries around town.  Nicer than most neighbourhood places in Malaysia too, with its painted mural on the wall, dark wooden tables and industrial style lighting. 


On entering service is friendly but what is surprising is that for a place called Roti Road the selection of rotis was a bit restricted, the range of other styles of dishes wider than I'd expected.


First thing I always have to have in a Malaysian cafĂ© is the nasi lemak, ordered with the chicken berempah (fried chicken) and sambal sotong (spicy squid).  On the plus side the serve was generous, and the rice had some fragrance to it although I would have liked more.  I wasn't such a fan of the sambal though, which was more liquid and less punchy in flavour than I like.  The chicken, which initially looked overdone, was nicely moist and the squid tender, but the ikan bilis felt slightly stingy.  Fair enough to say that that it left me with mixed feelings.


Fortunately though all the rotis were better.  The roti chanai was nicely fluffy, the accompanying sauces flavoursome with the chilli packing an acceptable level of heat (I generally prefer it quite spicy). 


When the accompanying beef rending came out my initial thought was the serve was small, but the flavour was rich and good.


There are a few sweet dessert style rotis on the menu, including a roti pisang (banana) and a roti tissue.  The roti pisang looked very cute, served with a scoop of ice cream on the side and Roti Road spelt out in chocolate syrup.  Nicely sweet and crispy, I would have preferred a bit more banana but it's fairly common for this dish to be a bit light on here because of the cost.


I liked the look of the roti tissue when it hit the table, mainly because it reminded me of the sorting hat from Harry Potter!  Sweet and slightly sticky as I like, the reason it's called roti tissue is because the roti should be tissue paper thin.  This was a bit thick in places, not badly so just not quite what it should have been.  Tasty and with a snappy texture in some parts, but closer to regular roti in others.

Overall
Nice place to eat and if it's not as good or as cheap as your favourite mamak place in KL or Penang, it's perfectly fine for Melbourne. 

Verdict
Food - 7
Service - 7
Ambience - 8
Price - 7

Address
189-193 Barkly Street
Footscray VIC 3011
Tel: (03) 9078 8878

Roti Road on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chin Chin, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

Arriving fashionably late (after 8pm) for a mid-week dinner with Ms N, there was a palpable buzz in the air at Chin Chin.  My button-down humdrum suburban sensibilities were surprised to see the presence of many school kiddies out for a late dinner with their parents during a school week among the roomful of bright young things shouting to each other about their fabulous lives while taking in dinner.


The restaurant was packed out (with more people milling about hoping for a table to become available).  It's squishy and you're almost rubbing elbows with the next table.  But somehow this sort of squishiness is part of the experience - that is, you ought to feel very special to have gotten a table in such a popular restaurant that you'd more than gladly give up a sense of personal space to be seen here and to eat the food.

The service is mixed.  The staff who were dealing with the bookings and managing the tables have a bit of an attitude to them, while the ones that look after you during your meal are definitely more friendly, responsive and a little bit flirtatious with you.

As both Ms N and I had already had some pre-dinner nibbles, we settled on sharing two small plates and one larger plate.


While it was tasty, the two small mouthfuls of Miang - betel leaf on braised lamb neck w smoked eggplant and mint relish - was a tad pricey at $12.  The lamb was tender and had a nice smoky flavour to it, while the roasted nuts and betel leaf added some crunch and texture to the dish.


The chilli salt chicken wings w coriander and lemon ($14) wasn't too spicy and the sauce had a nice sour twang to it.


The caramelised sticky pork w sour herb salad and chilli vinegar ($26) was definitely the best dish of the night.  Meaty slabs of tender pork which had a nice crunchy-ish and sticky crust.  It was unapologetically punchy with the sour citrus and vinegar flavours.  The freshness from the beanshoots, coriander and Thai basil cut through and otherwise rich dish.  A great balance of sweet, sour, salty and hot.


Ms N also got a drink which I forgot to note down (it was non-alcoholic).

Verdict
Food – 8
Ambiance – 7
Service – 7.5
Price – 7

Overall
Chin Chin is obviously popular among the punters.  It has that too-cool-for-school vibe, interesting menu, good looking staff that are responsive and the food is pretty tasty. 

While I have nothing against the place, it's just not for me - the place is squishy, noisy and a bit pricey for my liking.

Also have a gander at Ruby Grapefruit's review back in April 2012.

Address
Chin Chin
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne
Telephone: 8663 2000

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mr Brownstone, Ashburton by Bureaucrat

The Ashburton shopping strip has a nice village-y vibe to it.  I like how there are quite a lot of shops that are doing well along High Street Road (almost a rarity these days with the monolithic shopping centres taking business away from local shops), and it gives me warm and fuzzy inside when I see lots of locals out and about and supporting these local businesses.  High Street Road seems to be predominately visited by golden oldies who've lived in the area since black and white television first came to Australia and a burgeoning population of young families raising their kiddies in middle suburbia.

Once in a while, I like having a wander around Ashburton.  I particularly like fossicking around the collection of op shops, local bakeries and, boy, I used to really like the Cheesecake Shop when it was there (sadly, in recent times it had closed).  

A few weekends ago, we found ourselves here and spotted a cafe that was new to us - a rather dapper looking Mr Brownstone.  The top hat caught my eye, as did the sort of hole-in-the-wall coffee counter it had.  Located right opposite the train station, it seemed that Mr Brownstone had picked a strategic location to hawk its caffeinated wares.

With a few tables out front, inside has a few more tables, but the place isn't big and seems to be geared towards the takeaway crowd.  The usual drinks are on offer, as are a few food items.

My soy chai was reasonable - a good depth of flavour, frothy foam and a reasonable garnish of cinnamon.  

The Lawyer opted for a latte.

And, as I hadn't had breakfast, I got a ham and cheese croissant.  Nicely toasted, good amount of gooey cheese and ham.  It was reasonable for a local neighbourhood cafe, but nothing particularly memorable about it. 

Verdict
Food – 7
Ambiance – 7
Service – 7
Price – 7

Overall
A nice local cafe.  If I lived near by, it'd probably be my local coffee shop.  Certainly, it seems popular among the locals who were coming in to get their caffeine fix - many of them seemed to be regulars.

Address
Mr Brownstone
1a Welfare Parade
Ashburton 3147
Telephone: 9885 3030

Mr Brownstone on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Xuan Banh Cuon, Sunshine by Big Fil

Prior to visiting Xuan Banh Cuon I’d never been to Sunshine before.  Footscray many times, and St Albans a handful of times, but the intermediate Sunshine never. 

So there were two good reasons for our early morning visit, to sample the generally hard to find Banh Cuon somewhere that specialised in them and to spread our wings and see what a new and unfamiliar part of Melbourne was about.

So what are banh cuon?  Well most about everyone who has been for yum cha would have tried the Cantonese version of steamed rice noodles, thin packets normally filled with either pork or prawns.  Imagine them much thinner and a bit stickier.  And change the accompanying sweet soy sauce for fish sauce.  For me the rice noodles themselves don’t contain much flavour but they provide an interesting contrasting texture to go with the crispy fried shallots served on top.  The rolls contain a small amount of filling (prawn, pork and mushroom I think) and are accompanied by a very nice pork loaf. 

We decided to go for the version with an accompanying shrimp hash brown, something I’ve tried in Thailand but not seen in a Vietnamese restaurant before (maybe I need to get out more).  It’s crispy, it’s crunchy and has a flavour that reminded me a little of pretzels, but I would have liked a couple more shrimp on top.

Second dish was a rice noodle soup, the bun rieu cua cha ca.  This is a slightly tangy vermicelli noodle soup with tofu, crab pattie and homemade fish cakes.  The slight tang comes from the tomato and it tastes very different to the more familiar (to me anyway) pho.  Nice broth though and I did like the homemade fish cakes touch.

We finished off with a serve of the spring rolls.  Again these are quite different to the more normal Chinese restaurant version.  The skin is more brittle, the flavours not as fresh but with good strength and depth.  I liked these a lot, Snooze who is generally not really a fan of fried food not so much.

Overall
In addition to the food, what I liked most about here was the friendly (family?) staff.  When you enter it looks like your typical western suburbs Vietnamese eatery, bright and light and clean.  However, service was cheerful and seemed genuinely concerned about whether we enjoyed our food, rather than just going through the motions.  Interesting food and somewhere that was just very comfortable to eat, it’s promise of less common Vietnamese dishes makes a return visit at some stage very likely.

Verdict
Food – 8
Ambience – 7
Service – 8
Price – 7.5

Address
232 Hampshire Road
Sunshine VIC 3020
Tel: (04) 2281 0075

Xuan Banh Cuon on Urbanspoon
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