Footscray

Asian Cheap Eats

Let’s admit it, there will always be a time when you crave cheap Asian food. I recently got to meet Kenny from the popular Western suburbs’ blog, Consider the Sauce, and we discussed how many people review the same popular places in the CBD etc, whilst he tends to go for the ‘ghetto’ places.

He makes a good point, and I enjoy weaving in and out of both worlds, or simply anywhere. My love of roadtrips leads me all over Melbourne and I love being able to have readers say, “That’s just near me, I’ll drop by and give it a try” whether it’s in the western or south-eastern suburbs (neither of which are my areas)!

So, here’s a few cheap Asian finds that I’ve stopped by in the various suburbs of Melbourne in the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Basil House: 461 High St, Preston
A mix of Vietnamese and Thai food, Basil House likes to provide a bit of variety. Due to the offering of both cuisines though, I feel like they lose a bit of authenticity in both areas.20140610_191050

But it satisfies the tummy and the craving, so most of the time it will do. The table settings are like any other Asian restaurant with cutlery and condiments on the table ready to go.

Decor is nothing special but at least this place isn’t cramped like some fast restaurants. It’s a little less hectic and more relaxed, but your food still comes out quickly.

20140610_191959High St is the busy, fast-ethnic-food-place-to-be in Preston. With a few other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants on the little strip, you might pass by Basil House due to its split between two cuisines, which usually indicates it is catering too much to Western crowds by serving Asian dishes in general.
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We ordered some Vietnamese entrees including nem nuong (grilled pork, top picture) and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaf, above) to start. The serves are suitable for sharing but I found the meat in both dishes a little dry.

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I think when you go to a cheap Asian restaurant, it’s all about ordering that one, complete, cheap meal and leaving satisfied. Com tam or broken rice (above) is a popular Vietnamese meal with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, egg and a sort of meatloaf with egg. It’s not pretty, but it is a staple meal at Vietnamese restaurants.

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We also ordered a large tom yum soup, although a little oily, it was surprisingly not bad. It was pretty warming and spicy for a winter night’s meal.

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My friend ordered one of the stir-fried chicken dishes, but I’m not sure which one. The chicken had a nice, light sauce whilst the vegies were cut in large chunks like most Asian restaurants.

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I chose the pad thai, which was better than my expectations and quite filling. I think they went a little overboard with the peanuts and towards the end, the flavour does feel a bit repetitive and bland, but I still managed to down it all.

Basil House is open everyday 10.30am-10.30pm. You can find an old version of their menu here as their website seems to be expired.

Basil House on Urbanspoon

Tra Vinh: 70 Nicholson St, Footscray
There are plenty of places to eat in the west, so a lot of people tend to overlook Tra Vinh. This visit actually made us realise that they don’t even have pho on the menu.

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But that’s not what this place is good for! To start off we ordered some classic Vietnamese drinks, a Vietnamese iced coffee and an avocado smoothie ($3 each). My iced coffee was a little small, but considering how strong Vietnamese coffees are, it was probably for the better at night time!

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What my friend loves this place for is their hu tieu mi kho dac biet, special dry Vietnamese pork noodles (apologies for blurry photo above). The noodles and various fillings are hiding underneath those beanshoots, which you can mix altogether with the sweet chilli sauce throughout to help flavour the dry noodles. It was so addictive, my friend ordered another bowl – and why not when it’s only $9.50.

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Hu tieu can also come in a soup base, so I went with the same dish but in a soup version. It has both clear noodles and egg noodles. The broth was welcoming, tasting like a great homemade soup. They have plenty of other dishes too, but they seem to mostly be known for their hu tieu dishes.

Tra Vinh is open daily 9am-8pm. Check out their menu on Urbanspoon.

Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

Hoa Tran: 246A Springvale Rd, Springvale
This place is always busy and boasts a large menu. Another bustling Vietnamese suburban area, Springvale is home to many restaurants and shops to embrace your inner Asian. It has everything from bubble tea to pho, so whilst you’re there, don’t forget to check out Hoa Tran. Click the picture below for full article.

Hoa Tran is open daily from 9am-9pm. Check out their menu here.

Hoa Tran on Urbanspoon

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Station Hotel

After asking around about other people’s experiences, I chose to try Station Hotel over The Meat and Wine Co at Crown. I guess I was a little bit skeptical about places that automatically get a thumbs up from being located at Crown and decided not to risk it.

In contrast, Station Hotel is located in the Western suburb of Footscray, perhaps unexpected for a French-inspired gastropub. Its old and dingy exterior doesn’t hint at the bustling activity on the inside. On entry you find yourself in the casual pub section, but walk around the corner and you find yourself in the dining area.

Still during the Christmas break, the place was packed and the employees running around like crazy. The annoying thing is that each staff member seems to have a role, so if the one to seat you isn’t free, then you must wait. After being seated with menus and bread, our orders were taken but I noted our drinks (a coke and a cocktail) took a tad too long, although they did arrive with an apology.

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But onto the food – for entree, we went with the crumbed mussels with olives and chorizo ($15). I liked the crumbed exterior and it was actually quite soft and enjoyable to eat. It had about the amount of chorizo I expected and you even get butter to dip it into and indulge that much further.

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As the earlier description may indicate, the decor is quite bare and straightforward. There were some paintings on the walls and a little bunch of flowers next to us (first picture), but I felt a little cramped as my chair was very close to the table behind me. It was even more awkward when staff members tried to shimmy their way through that area.

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But like most people who visit, the purpose of the trip was to try their much-talked-about steak. My friend even noticed everyone ordering the steak, so we followed suit. The waitress was absolutely no help when we asked for recommendations, and since it was busy, seemed like she was anxious to get us over and done with.

Thus I went with what I knew and ordered a scotch fillet, the 300g Kilcoy (QLD) 120 day grain fed Black Angus scotch fillet ($38, above) to be exact. The waitress was at least helpful in telling me that the Bernaise sauce was like hollendaise. I found it to be a touch sweeter than your hollendaise and more fragrant with the herbs mixed in.

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My friend went for something on the specials (above), so I don’t quite remember what it was called. I do recall it was served a la bordelaise, which means with a classic French sauce, usually made with red wine. I’m not sure if it was definitely made this way, as there are other versions of the sauce but I did definitely enjoy it. It was rich and dark and a bit sweet. I also enjoyed how her potatoes were served, much more interesting than my plain chips, but perhaps mine was served this way as my sauce was already fragrant and bold.

Our steaks were cooked medium rare as requested and I found this was done perfectly. I find steak a bit of a risk to eat out as they really have to cook it right, but I had no complaints. Although after trying my friend’s salad, I realised they did put different dressings and her’s was a bit too citrusy and sour compared to my light and subtle one!

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My friend also ordered a cocktail, an Aperol Sour (or something along those lines), as we aren’t really wine drinkers. It did sound like the most appetising cocktail out of all of them but she found it too sour to even down half. So perhaps stick to the usual pub beverages or have some wine if it’s your thing!

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And of course we had room for dessert, and debated between the sticky date and bread and butter pudding. Once again our waitress nonchalantly said she couldn’t help us because she hadn’t tried the pudding…so making up our own minds, we chose the pudding ($14). The top was jellylike and the usual dried fruits hidden in/underneath this gelatinous layer. The bread part was very soft, and the layers eaten all together proved tasty and a refreshing change to other desserts. We enjoyed it but for once, I can’t say we finished it, as our steaks really filled us up!

I wasn’t impressed by the service – granted it was busy, but a place like Station Hotel would be busy a lot of the time right? So if they can’t handle that and provide good service, then that’s a bit disappointing. However, the food was pretty good and I can see why people enjoy the steaks at this spot. Now if anyone would like tell me what they think of The Meat and Wine Co and why I should try it, please feel free!

Station Hotel is open seven days a week, 11am until late. 

Station Hotel on Urbanspoon