Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Footscray Food Blog's first-ever video!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chef Lagenda


I don't know about you, but often when I enter a Malaysian restaurant, the first thing that comes to mind is bingo.  See, you walk in and everybody is just head down, eyes on the prize (be it that slippery last prawn in the laksa or that elusive "legs eleven").  When you finally surface, it may be with a big contented sigh, not a shout of "bingo!" - but the buzz afterwards is just as good.


At least that's what we were chasing when we popped into Chef Lagenda for a quick and tasty lunch.  This skinny-fronted restaurant is neighbours with Laksa King, probably Melbourne's most famous Malaysian restaurant.  There's a lot of mythology about the relationship between the two, with stories about chefs or staff decamping between the two, but let's just say Flemington is spoilt when it comes to Malaysian options.


It's a funny, slightly poky setup inside - almost like a skinny Victorian has had all its walls pulled out and been converted into a restaurant.  From memory there's a semi-enclosed courtyard upstairs.


Warm, slightly astringent Chinese tea comes standard.  Lagenda's got a mammoth menu, but if you want something really authentic, skip the chicken and cashews and flip to the stir-fried noodle and noodle soup sections for hawker classics.

Fried noodles with egg sauce, $11.20

This is one of my favourite Malaysian dishes.  It's usually called "wat tan hor".  Wide flat rice noodles are tossed with a little soy in a searing wok, given them a special smoky taste.  Next, rather peculiarly, they're completely covered with a very thick, starchy gravy mixed with beaten egg in which hovers prawns, fish cake, a few bits of veg, maybe some chicken and other good things.  I'll be the first to admit it looks like a dog's breakfast, but the taste is hot diggity dog.  The secret is getting the noodles infused with LOTS of smoky "wok hei" (the special hot work taste), otherwise it all just tastes gluggy and awful.  Maybe a touch more wok hei in Lagenda's version wouldn't have gone astray, and some of the egg pieces were a bit chunky, but it was a pretty good rendition nonetheless.

Sambal kangkung, $14.50

This sambal kangkung was disappointing, though.  Maybe it's a seasonal thing but the kangkung (a spinach-like aquatic vegetable) was slightly tough and woody.  The sambal was a bit flat in flavour, rather than being its usual slightly sweet and hot self.  Oh well.

I've had quite a few really good meals at Lagenda.  Their laksa is delicious, as is their salted fish and chicken fried rice, and I've had a good smoky char kway teow there too.  Next time you're lining up to pay your respects to the King, consider giving Lagenda a shot instead.

Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Chef Lagenda
16 Pin Oak Cr, Flemington (9376 2668)
Second store at Shop 9/10, 835A Ballarat Rd, Deer Park (8358 5389)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tasty tidbits, from fish and chips to duck parfait at IDES

Time for another blog amnesty post!  I wanted to share with you some westside and city dining highlights from the last couple of months.  First up:  IDES.


IDES is a pop-up dinner put together by mates and passionate chefs Peter Gunn and Lindsay Fush (second and third from the left above respectively), who met while working at the Royal Mail in Dunkeld.  Peter is now junior sous chef at Attica, while Lindsay is working at a local pub in Hamilton.  Late last year they formed their own catering business and then began to explore the idea of using their days off to host a pop-up tasting menu here in Melbourne.  You know how they say if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life?  These guys have obviously nailed it.


The menu is six courses of intricate yet playful food, a steal at $90.  It's at Tonik in Kensington, who provide drinks for purchase.  Sure, the space isn't nearly as classy as the food, but Peter and "Fushie" bring in all their own crockery and cutlery to enhance the experience of what's on the plate.


One thing I love is that with the exception of Raffaele Mastrovincenzo (front of house at Attica and wearing black in the photo above), the chefs do all the service, bringing out plates and chatting with you about their ingredients, technique and so on.


One of my faves was this exquisite duck liver parfait served with smoked salt, toasted black pepper and chervil, gorgeous heaped onto toasted bread.  I also loved a starter of an amazing, rich broth that was apparently only made with turnip, onion and mustard oil.


As of today, there are a mere 10 spots left for the next dinner on Monday, 23 September.  Book via the details above, and you can also check out the IDES Facebook page here.


Well, from the sensational to the...somewhat disappointing.  I was pretty stoked to hear that Dumplings Plus were opening a new branch at Highpoint.  If I'm stuck and starving, I'd prefer to have a choice like this rather than the usual food court suspects.


This wonton soup was spoiled, though, by absolute buckets of MSG.  Interesting exchange I had with a Chinese restaurateur recently, though - I said in my opinion restaurant X used too much MSG and he said, quite surprised, "You can taste MSG?"  I think it's like boar taint.  Some find it overpowering; others can't taste it at all.  Anyway, do try Dumplings Plus yourself - I'd go for the plain panfried dumplings next time.


What DOESN'T have a lot of MSG is this quite delicious beef pho from Green Leaf, Moonee Ponds.  We were so struck by its rich flavour yet lack of that particular "kapow" MSG denotes that we checked with the owner and there is only the tiniest pinch in a 20-litre stockpot.


Trying to convince a Footscray resident to go elsewhere for Vietnamese is like selling coal to Newcastle, but if Moonee Ponds is close to you, give Green Leaf a try.  Their prices are a bit dearer than Footscray or Sunshine but they have a lovely little story behind their business and their food is obviously made with care.  Their Facebook page is here.


Rockfish has changed owners and the word on the street is it's not the Rockfish we knew and loved.  I've been quite liking fish and chips from the very awesomely old-school Charles Street Fish and Chips in Seddon (67 Charles Street).


They have a really big range of fish, with ten choices including flathead, whiting, snapper, flounder and more.  Beer care of Seddon Wine Store.


With summer coming up, you could go and explore Point Cook Homestead.  It's quite odd to drive there, getting to the end of the glossy housing estates in Point Cook and suddenly being surrounded by fields and the odd horse, with the city hovering in the distance like a mirage.  The kids kept asking, "Are we in the country now?"  I didn't really know the answer.


You get the feeling they could do so much more with the space - there's a small but lovely old home that I think is mainly used for wedding photos, some empty stables, a herd of geese behind a gate and old farm machinery for the kids to play on.  The restaurant there is called Scrumpy Brown's and they do food that is not mindblowing but nice all the same.


Viz. this nice Caesar salad.  Lattes were pretty good too.


It's not far to scramble down to this lonely, lovely stretch of beach...


...and do some beachcombing.  (We put these back, of course.)  But do heed the warning signs of snakes - we nearly trod on a baby tiger!

Dumplings Plus on Urbanspoon

The Green Leaf on Urbanspoon
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