Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunshine Charcoal Chicken


Sometimes love takes you to the strangest places.  Where else but Sunshine Marketplace than to indulge my tawdry and shameful love affair with charcoal chicken and chicken salt?


This is Sunshine Charcoal Chicken, originally (I believe) and also still of St Albans, famous for its "Spanish chicken".  It's marinated, butterflied, sandwiched between two metal grills and rotisserie'd slowly over smouldering charcoal.


When they say Spanish, it's Madrid via Manila.  This is Filipino-style charcoal chicken and it's some of the best BBQ chook I've tasted.  It's marinated in what tastes like sweet soy, and it's incredibly juicy and luscious.  I know it looks burnt but it's not, that's just the caramelised colour of the fabulous marinade.

1/4 chicken and chips, $6.50 (BARGAIN)

When the Israelites wandered in the desert and woke to discover a crumbly substance on the leaves of desert plants, which they then ate and called manna, I'm convinced that was chicken salt.  Sunshine Charcoal Chicken shake it on top of their fabulous crunchy chips to order, and won't mind if you ask for extra (guilty as charged).  Oh, and the plastic knife and fork supplied are useless.  Just get into it and use your fingers.


Someone once told me of love, "It doesn't matter what the teacup looks like - it matters how the tea tastes".  Don't be put off by the lush surrounds of Sunshine Marketplace - it's what's on the plate that counts, and it rocks.

Thank you Adrian of Food Rehab for the tip - Adrian surveyed 13 western suburbs charcoal chicken joints (tough gig but someone had to do it!) and Sunshine Charcoal Chicken came up tops.

Sunshine Charcoal Chicken on Urbanspoon

Sunshine Charcoal Chicken
Food court (shop 4), Sunshine Marketplace, 80 Harvester Road, Sunshine (also at 3 Alfrieda Street, St Albans)
Phone:  9312 5588
Hours:  Not open for dinner

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pho Ta

So my friend M has a hot date coming up.  We were discussing what he should do.  Not a movie, I said - the most overrated first date, having to sit in the dark for two hours wondering if you're sitting weird or crunching your popcorn too loud, and god forbid a sex scene comes on.  How about a restaurant, we mused?  Avoid anything with spinach, we decided, and avoid pho.  That "I have a squid hanging out of my mouth" dangling noodle look is so not attractive, and the "bite off and let splash back into bowl" even less so.

So pho eating is for relationships that are like stretched-out old trackies - life partners and besties.  Thinking about it, I tend to eat at pho places on my lonesome.  In truth, I'll eat anywhere alone, but pho is the place I feel least like I'm on a clapped-out old nag, riding into Loserville, population me.  If eating yum cha by yourself is the dining equivalent of having your fly undone in front of a packed lecture theatre, pho is like a safe zone for solitary diners.  No one would ever think you're odd for eating beef soup alone, and you don't need to subject anyone else to dangling noodle squid mouth.


Pho Ta have fairly recently opened in the lower part of Nicholson Street.  They have the classic menu on the wall thing going on, but the kitchen is totally open.  There you can see the bubbling pots of stock and all the fixings, ready to come to life as generous bowls of soup.


The couple who run Pho Ta are gregarious and just gorgeous.  I got an impromptu Vietnamese lesson and a plastic bag to hold all my Savers finds (I was too cheap to buy their reusable bag, so was rocking the "have run away from home with only my best clothes and mismatched Tupperware" look).  Everyone who came in for a bowl of soup seemed to know them, and there were quite a few (and, may I say, that every one of them on their lonesome).


Wow, such rich broth.  I prefer mine a little lighter and more aromatic-y in flavour, but it was very good nonetheless.  What struck me was the quality of the beef - extremely tasty and tender.  The noodles were fresh and perfectly al dente.  Big points for lime, not lemon.


Pho Ta do Vietnamese coffee and have an espresso machine too.  So bring your first date for a coffee.  Or put it this way - if you go the pho and despite the soup splatters and perilously dangling noodles, you still think your date's cute - then you know it's love at first sight!

Pho Ta
131 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Hours:  TBA

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A little community announcement for you.  There's a huge undercurrent of permaculture and green things going on in the western suburbs - regular "Fermentation Fridays", vegie swaps, food co-ops, permablitzes and more.  I'm working on a post about it, but if you're interested in plugging in, check out the fundraiser for our local CSA (community-supported agriculture), 40k Farm in Melton.  I get my eggs through them and they have redefined how I think an egg tastes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guzman Y Gomez

The burrito is the American souvlaki.  Antidote when the late-night munchies strike...seedy stomach settler, full of glorious grease and sauce.  A knight in shining silver foil armour.  When Mr Baklover moved here from Chicago, he began the transition from burrito cravings in the wee hours to settling for a souvla instead.  Of course, that was before the Mexican and American food craze swept across Melbourne, and now in Swan Street, Richmond alone - right near where we first lived - there are two new authentico Mexican joints where he could have found hangover salve in the form of burritos and tacos.


In a coup of sorts, Highpoint is the location of Victoria's first Guzman Y Gomez store - a chain that first started in Sydney, specialising in burritos, tacos and quesadillas.


It's an upmarket fast food setup similar to Nandos.  You order at the counter but take a table number and in a few minutes your grub is delivered to your table.

Thank you Ms A!

That day Mother needed a Bex and a good lie down after one Chardy turned into three.  Perfect, I thought, a big greasy burrito oozing with cheese for lunch - that will cure what ails me!  So off to Guzman Y Gomez we went.


The condiment station is extremely generous - you can load your burrito up with jalapenos and test your manliness with three different grades of Tabasco for nada.  


There are two burrito sizes - the adult mini and the kids version are the same size, as shown here.  If this is mini, the large must be the size of a small dog.  They are quite satisfyingly heavy and warm when clutched with two fists.

Two beef guerrero tacos, $8.50

These tacos were yummy.  The beef is super slow cooked and shredded in a rich, earthy sauce.  I'm pretty sure the cheese is proper Monterey Jack cheese.  The big surprise was authentic, healthy (and hard to find in Australia) black beans.  Pretty good.

"Little Guy" burrito with chicken, $5

This kids' burrito was packed with chunks of marinated chicken, smoky from the grill, white rice and a smattering of cheese.  The tortillas are delicious, really toothsome and tender.

Pork chipotle 'mini B' burrito, $6.50

This grown-up spicy chipotle pork burrito also had meltingly tender, pull-apart meat.  Those lovely black beans appeared again along with a pico de gallo chunky-type salsa, with all the juices running into soft white rice.  Out of the three meat fillings, I think the chicken was my fave.  They also do barramundi and an all-veg version.

Now hang on - where is the gloop, the mountains of yellow cheese and fatty, cheap meat?  It's clear that these were not the fast food burritos that I had been expecting.  Guzman Y Gomez don't appear to be perpetuating the Taco Bill-style cheese and sour cream fest that we have come to expect from el cheapo Mexican.  This lunch was fresh and relatively nutritious.  It's still a chain and it's still fast food, but it's a better option when you're marooned at Highpoint - although I wish they had real crockery for eat in like Nandos do, instead of everything being throw away.

So Guzman Y Gomez didn't cure my hangover.  In the long run, though, that's a good thing.  However, they do serve Coronas and margaritas, so maybe next time they can help me start a new one!

Guzman Y Gomez Mexican Taqueria Highpoint on Urbanspoon

Guzman Y Gomez
Lower level, Highpoint Shopping Centre
Hours:  Sun-Wed 11am-10pm, Thurs-Sat 11am-11pm

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pancake Dessert House


Pancake dessert house - OK, it must serve pancakes and desserts!

Hmm, not entirely.


Oh, I see - steak and chips!  Spaghetti too.  OK, it serves straight Aussie food then!

Hmm, not quite!


Pancake Dessert House is a frenetic Hong Kong-style eatery that serves Hong Kong-style Western food along with a voluminous pan-Asian menu.  The "winter special" of baked spaghetti caught the eyes of Mum and me in the city one day and we decided to take a punt on this crazy combo.

Spaghetti with smoked salmon with pepper in creamy sauce, $12

Sometimes there's a lot of lip curling and suspicious poking of food that goes on when we're eating somewhere that's not Vietnamese or Italian.  The kids were suss of Pancake Dessert House, sure they were going to be forced to eat some experimental (for us) fish-stuffed vegetable thingy, until they got the baked spaghetti.  Watching their faces was like seeing someone find a vintage Chanel dress among a mangled pile at Camberwell Market.  This was really crazy - oiled spaghetti topped with a thick, condensed-soup style sauce with mushroom and chunks of smoky salmon.  It was tasty though!

Chicken fillet with tomato and Portuguese sauces, $11.80

Similarly, the baked rice arrived as fried rice topped with a juicy chicken thigh and covered in a bubbling layer of our choices of tomato and "Portuguese" sauce.  The tomato tasted just like Heinz Big Red soup (which I file in my shameful secret love food stash, along with frozen spicy wedges and taco kits) while the Portuguese was actually quite yummy, creamy with a hint of curry.

Stir-fry round bean with mince chicken on rice, $9.30

This variation on the classic pork dish had minced chicken with well-fried green beans.  Serious wok hei was going on - the smoky, charred "breath of the wok" taste that is so sought after.  This was a great dish - I'm very keen to try their other wok-fried dishes, as it's rare to find such proper, big-flame flavour here in Melbourne. 

Back entrance on Little Bourke Street

I did some research and found out that Hong Kong actually has a Western-style canon of food.  British colonisation between 1864 and 1997 has infused Hong Kong's cuisine with Western flavours, and touches of other European nations have also been absorbed into the island's food culture.  Some particular favourites are Hong Kong-style toast (deep fried and served with melting pats of butter) and scrambled eggs, as experienced by Thang of Cabramatta's Noodlies.

"Pappa Fish and Chips" - from PappaRich, a chain in Malaysia.

Having Western food as interpreted by another culture when you're a Westerner yourself is fraught with difficulty.  I know Bryan (originally of Singapore) finds it harder to have anything "Asian-esque" here as it never quite hits the mark of what's back home.  I guess you have to ignore that voice in your head which jumps up and down saying "But!  But!  That's not how you make pasta/noodles/chilli crab!", close your eyes and judge a dish on taste alone...and with that guideline, Dessert House was great.

teenagefoodie, originally from HK, rates Dessert House too for authentic HK food.

Pancake Dessert House Eatery on Urbanspoon

Pancake Dessert House
Mid City Arcade, 200 Bourke Street
Phone:  9663 1400
Hours:  Lunch and dinner 7 days

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moroccan-style fare at Shebelle


Aren't we just utterly spoilt for choice when it comes to Ethiopian food in Footscray?  Each restaurant has its own special edge - African Town do amazing lega tibs with lamb and green chillies cooked in butter, while Mulu at Dinknesh Lucy makes all her injera in house.  Shebelle has struck out by offering not only Ethiopian dishes but a selection of Moroccan-inspired plates too!

Harissa chicken, $15

This Moroccan-style harissa chicken was delicious.  Chicken breast, usually hard to get right, was perfectly cooked in a rich, spicy gravy with chilli, slow-cooked, melty red onion, thyme and parsley.

Gomen, $12

This gomen (spinach/silverbeet) was good, with garlic, onion and cooked green chilli.  The menu is much more diverse then your average Ethiopian place, with traditional yet unusual dishes like Ethiopian pumpkin augmented by North African tastes, like Moroccan-style guacamole with avocado and tahini.  Recommended for next time was the Musacca, a "combination of vegetables cooked with different herbs", and the Moroccan fish.


The bread was really good, delicate yet pliable.  If you look closely, you can see the "rings" that are a hallmark of how injera is made - poured onto a griddle in a gentle snail-shell pattern.  See how it's made at Kenny of Consider the Sauce's wonderful post about Footscray's Lemat Injera Bakery.


It's very casual here - the bar is incredibly well stocked, but there wasn't any change for a $42 bill out of a $50 note.  However, they take card which is an enormous plus.  It may not seem very restaurant-y when you walk in, as there aren't napkin holders or salt and pepper on the tables, and the service is really family style.  If that won't bother you though, you're in for a pan-northern African treat.

Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

241 Barkly Street, Footscray
Phone:  9689 8188
Hours:  Lunch and dinner 7 days

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Thursday, May 10, 2012


I have a confession to make.  I am a Facebook stalker.  All day I refresh my page, waiting for her updates.  I scour her profile, looking for clues about her weekend plans.  When she posts a photo, I pounce, then stare it at for an age, deciding my next move.

Whoa - I think I just creeped myself out!  Of course I'm not obsessed with an actual person, but I am with Beatrix - a gorgeous cafe in North Melbourne with a vibrant social media presence, and a daily-changing menu of incredible sandwiches with totes adorbs names.


I think their approach is brilliant.  There's not enough room in this miniature 11-seater, decorated with vintage egg beaters, to do a full menu properly, so they rotate sandwiches on a daily basis.  You might find yourself in the ring with the Rocky, with smoky ham and buffalo mozz, or falling in love with the Banh Bea - coriander and lemongrass chicken with "quickled" carrot, coriander and peanuts.


Their Facebook page and Twitter steam are really active with lots of reader participation and engagement.  As a customer, you feel directly connected, appreciated and part of a little community.  It's an approach lots of cafes could benefit from.


I've been stalking Beatrix because I've been waiting for the stars to align, for a lunchtime I'm blissfully sans enfants (or at least have a reduced amount in my possession) AND there's a sandwich that really grabs me.  The Rachael is it!

Reubens are a fabulous New York-style sandwich that involve corned beef, sauerkraut and gooey cheese on dark bread.  They are utterly fabulous, especially when served by a gum-popping, bitchy waitress who regularly comes by to fill up the cup o' joe at your elbow.  Rachels are a variant, I always thought with turkey but they can involve pastrami and coleslaw instead of the corned beef and sauerkraut.

The Rachael (large), $14

But whatever its name, I just love the marriage of rich cured beef, tangy Euro-style cabbage salad, melty cheese and good bread.  Beatrix's version delivered in spades.  They do two sizes of sandwich and the large (above) is really plenty for two if you chop it in half.


As well as the daily special, there's a Bea-L-T and Shakshuka (an Israeli-style tomato and pepper braise with a fried egg) which are permanent menu fixtures.  I love Beatrix's firm and proud commitment to its suppliers, with a focus on quality - and, it seems, a passion for their work that Beatrix shares.


Coffee from Allpress is dependably good, with a 50 cent discount for bike riders.


Ginger hoops and the most sublime yoyo biscuit with ethereal mandarin-scented creme.  Incredible.


The sweets also change regularly with lots of American-influenced favourites like red velvet cake, banana cream pies, whoopie pies and ELVIS CUPCAKES - banana cupcakes with peanut butter icing and bacon praline, as seen on Melbourne Gastronome and the the subject of intense Facebook stalking by me.  Early each morning, you can see me rocking back and forth in front of the computer, praying, "Elvis...Elvis...please let today be the day..."

I'm not the only one taking Beatrix's rotating menu extremely seriously.

sydney rd

Trust me - the sandwiches are that good.

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

Beatrix (Facebook)
688 Queensberry Street (cnr Lothian Street), North Melbourne
Phone:  9090 7301
Hours:  9am-4pm (closed Tuesdays)

Something exciting is brewing at "Bruce", the funny little shop near Sweet Grass Bonsai Cafe on Barkly Street.  From their Pozible page:

Bruce dreams of being an affordable exhibition space looking to support local artists, hold life-drawing sessions, arthouse film nights and even the odd afternoon gig. Bruce will be an exhibition space for emerging and established artists with a focus on installation, sculptural and mixed media work. Bruce also aims to host a series of afternoon gigs featuring local Melbourne and visiting interstate bands.

Read more on, or you could consider supporting this bold plan via or the widget in the sidebar above.  There's 9 meagre days to go until their deadline to raise funds for a spruce up, public liability insurance and council permits including a LIQUOR LICENCE (woo hoo!)

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Monday, May 7, 2012

PappaRich, new Malaysian at QV


Is there anything Melbourne loves more than a new Malaysian restaurant?  PappaRich is at the old site of Old Kopitiam Mamak at QV, and despite its somewhat secluded location, it's already jumping.


This is a big chain in Malaysia.  The ordering is really streamlined (see below) and there's a big open grill where you can spy your satays and roti coming to life.


It's a big menu with loads of glossy pictures, which I love.  There's a big section of things with super-soft Asian-style bread, which is very interesting!


To order, write your numbers on this funny little pad that feels like something out of a board game and press the buzzer.  A staff member whizzes past to grab the docket, before returning with your bill stapled to the order form.  It sounds impersonal but all the staff were very friendly.

Char kway teoh, $11.90

Unfortunately this char kway teoh was a confoundingly huge BA-BOWWW fail.  The thin noodles were wrong (someone correct me if I'm wrong about this), there was no wok hei and the sauce was incorrect, being too sweet - it tasted almost like pad Thai.  The whole thing tended towards glugginess.  Such an odd thing to stuff up!

Roti, $5.50

This roti plate was excellent though - the roti is made in house on a big flat plate and is super delicate inside with gorgeous crispy edges.  Included in the price are tastes of wonderul yellow split dea dal, full of earthy popped mustard seeds; a little chicken curry-style gravy, full of warming cardamom and sweetly cooked onion without a hint of bitterness; and jammy, spicy sambal.  Total bargain light lunch at only $5.50!

Teh, $3.90 and barley drink, $3.50

The tea wasn't quite right - it wasn't tannic enough, as good teh should be.  The barley drink was new for me and surprisingly good, warm, sweet and almost viscous.  Apparently they do organic soy milk drinks too (they were out that day).  Don't bother with this anchovy sambal if you already have sambal in your meal - the anchovies were almost nonexistent anyway.


The roti win outweighed the CKT fail, and I'm keen to try more at PappaRich.  They have a vegetarian section with mock meat dishes (including a few yum cha-style items) that definitely looks worth trying.  Satays look good too.  Check out Urbanspoon for a staggering amount of user reviews - it's certainly captured Melbourne's attention.

PappaRich QV on Urbanspoon

NOTE!  Gurney Drive in West Melbourne was previously highly recommended on these fair pages.  It's now turned into Kari Leaf and from two separate reports from trusted sources, it's very disappointing.  Proceed at your own risk!

PappaRich (Facebook)
Shop 11, QV Square, QVB - cnr Lonsdale and Swanston (one level up from the food court)
Hours:  Lunch and dinner 7 days

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Two great bloggers I know, Bryan (@fatbooo) and Winston (@winceeee), are stepping up and doing "Live Below the Line", a challenge in which they live on a meagre $2 worth of food per day for 5 days, to raise awareness of extreme poverty and raise funds for the Oaktree Foundation.  Have a read about it on their blogs and perhaps even consider sponsoring them.  Bryan's even going to take it up a notch, giving up an extra western-world luxury like hot water or electronic gadgets for each day of the challenge - culminating in no food at all on the final day.  I'm really looking forward to reading how their experiences went.
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