Walking to Gurney Drive past window after window of happy people eating Korean BBQ, resist the temptation to text your friends "want beef ribs instead?" This small Penang-style hawker restaurant is worth holding out for.
Gurney Drive is apparently the name of a famous hawker centre in Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia, somewhat near the Thai border. Penang is most famous for its Assam laksa which is a non-coconut-based laksa, dark and tangy with tamarind.
Penang Char Kuey Teow, $9.80
THIS HAS COCKLES. I repeat... COCKLES. Here in Melbourne, it seems these tiny molluscs are the most elusive feature of authentic char kuey teow. This version was unlike the Singaporean style which is much darker and richer from the dark soy used. This was lightly seasoned, had good chilli heat and really tasted fresh and lively. It was simply the sum of its parts, which were all good quality and so tasty. Thanks Wendy for the tip a while ago!
Combination hor fun, $9.50
This is a new favourite of mine even though at first glance it looks so unappealing with so much wet sauce on a small amount of noodles. The noodles here were the classic wide rice noodles, licked with wok hei and then buried beneath lots of thick, delicious, mild gravy. Very fresh prawns, calamari and fish cake featured and were divine with a little soy and fresh chilli.
Nyonya fish, $16.80
A heaping plate of rice flour-dusted, thin fish fillets, curled and crispy, doused in "Nyonya-style" sauce which was tangy with tamarind, ginger and tomato. This was well executed and tasty but I would try something else next time. I always think deep frying is wasted on things that then have a sauce over the top!
Sambal kang kong, $13.80
I must have been a water insect in another life as I can't get enough of this aquatic plant, kang kong or water spianch. It grows like a weed across Southeast Asia and has intriguing, tender, hollow stems. You can see huge bunches of it in the markets in Footscray under its Vietnamese name, rau muong. This was so fantastic - cooked with sweeter Malaysian-style sambal, heady with belacan and dried shrimp and with plenty of well-fried garlic. I loved it - I could eat this every day!
Gurney Drive was packed when we left with not a spare seat in the house, and for good reason. Two big thumbs up!
284 Victoria Street, West Melbourne (map)
Phone: 9329 6649
No Wheelchair access
No Wheelchair access