Tag Archives: Western suburbs

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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Crowded House

It’s always nice to have an excuse to explore a different area. As we were on our way to Altona Dog Beach, this gave me a reason to explore the cafes along Melbourne’s inner west coast.

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It was a nice day, or as nice as Melbourne would get whilst approaching winter, so the pictures of Crowded House’s outdoor area enticed me to this particular cafe. You can go through the cafe, or as it’s located on the corner, enter from the back.

The back looks almost like a shed, but as you swing the grungy door open, you’ll find yourself in a pleasant and open area.

20140524_131409The other requirement was a dog-friendly area. The area is spacious for a dog, and as it was the pup’s first brunch we were able to keep him in a corner with the dog bowl.

Unfortunately, after we were given the menus no one seemed bothered to tell us that the breakfast special was sold out. Disappointing, because it sounds amazing! I would have liked to try sweet potato rosti and judge the difference to normal rosti.

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We started off with some coffees, and I often like to indulge with an iced coffee (above). It was presented perfectly with scattered coffee beans on top, but the drink itself was standard. In my mind iced coffees from Brother Alec and Green Eggs and Ham are still leading the way.
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My friend ordered the Black Angus steak sandwich (below) with fried egg, toasted corn bread, relish and mature aged cheddar ($18). She also ordered extra mushrooms for about $3. It wasn’t really a sandwich, thus the dish seemed a bit small for the description. Consequently, it wasn’t anything to rave about.20140524_133857

I ordered the Shanklish poached eggs with spinach and tomato on toast (below, $14). This didn’t sound like enough to me, so I also ordered extra chorizo ($4) and mushrooms ($3)!

Shanklish refers to the cheese on top of my eggs, originating from Lebanon/Egypt. It didn’t seem to make a big difference to your usual poached eggs. The chorizo was also cut very thickly, which I found a bit strange as I prefer to eat it in smaller pieces.

20140524_133839Service was quite accommodating and friendly, but being seated outside you really have to grab their attention before they disappear inside again. There were some louder and more demanding customers near our table, but the staff seemed to handle them quite well.

I do like their outdoor seating area, and don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much indoors. I might have had a different experience if I got to try that breakfast special – but maybe not. I’ll probably never know! Unfortunately the other dishes on the menu weren’t as exotic and exciting as they sounded.

Crowded House is located 48 Ferguson St, Williamstown. They are open 7am-3pm weekdays and 8am-3pm weekends. For their menu, you can see some of it in my picture above or check out Consider The Sauce’s old review here with a similar menu.

Crowded House on Urbanspoon

Spot on Kebab Station

My friend recently recommended a burger place to me in the Western suburbs. Unexpectedly, it’s actually one of your late-night kebab places but with a more extensive menu.

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To be specific, they recommended the bomba burger, a mighty burger 30g bigger than a quarter pounder. It includes halal beef patty, cheese, tomato, onion, fries, a lamb doner (kebab meat) and their special Spot on sauce (bottom on the menu below).

20140516_211520As you see, they also serve kebabs and plenty of other options. They had another menu (below) with coffee, sweets and family combo options.

It’s great that they can serve such a variety, but it seems they are well known for their burgers, strangely enough for a kebab station! I must admit their haka burger looks amazing as well (click here), so I’ll definitely have to come back some time for it.

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For a Friday night, it was fairly busy but not packed. You will have to wait a while to order and a bit of time for your burger, but this should be expected from food trucks that cook your food fresh. It’s about $10.50 for a bomba burger combo with chips and drink, whilst I think the burger by itself may have been around $8 or so. Of course, when you weigh it up, you think I might as well get a combo.

The burgers are served in convenient takeaway containers. They also have a cosy seating area next to the truck complete with a television, which was playing some AFL, for entertainment.

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You can see my combo below – the burger is massive, the bread lengthy and the mild sauce adds an exciting flavour. Due to its size, it’s very difficult to hold without making a mess. They don’t have plastic cutlery so it’s all about getting down and dirty.

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It seems it’s also all the rage now to have chips inside your food, but I’m glad I ordered a combo because the extra chips on the side helped fill me up. It’s a little strange that they don’t offer you sauce for your chips, so we had to go back and ask for a container to share.

With the two different types of meat (beef and lamb), you can’t complain about any lack of filling, but I think I preferred the juicy beef patty.

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It’s unexpected gems like these that are a great surprise and make it feel worth it. I feel like I would choose this place over the overrated Huxtaburger any day. This food is going to fill me up for a similar price, but it’s also different from your typical, classic burger.

Spot on Kebab Station is located at 263 Ballarat Road, Braybrook and is open 5pm until late every night. Their Facebook indicates they close at 5am Mon-Thurs and 6am Fri-Sun.

Spot On Kebab Station on Urbanspoon

Caroline Thai Restaurant

A day in the western suburbs, resulted in us looking for a quick but quality place to eat before we had to catch a movie. My friend suggested Caroline Thai Restaurant, a moderately priced restaurant with delicious food and cutlery with elephants shaped on the ends.

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As it was a day featuring the last tastes of summer weather, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to order a classic Thai iced milk tea ($3.90, above.) It tasted sweet and authentic but not overly sweetened like some places. With four of us we all chose a dish each.

Under the Thai grilled section I chose the Moo Yang BBQ, which was grilled marinated pork with Thai herbs ($16.90, above). It tasted lightly barbecued but the sauce added the burst of flavour needed, and the flower added a nice touch to the presentation.

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We debated over whether to get a large or small serving of tom yum soup. The waiter was quite helpful, so in the end we chose to have two small serves of the soup. I think we got the vegetable tom yum so it was $6.90 for each, but when they came out we were quite happy with the decision because it seemed like just enough. This was probably my favourite dish of the night, as it wasn’t too spicy and seemed to have a depth to its flavour that made you keep coming back for more.

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In contrast, my friend insisted that the curry wasn’t that spicy last time so we asked for a bit of extra spice for our red curry with chicken ($16.90, above). However, when it came out he said it was a lot spicier this time – but for my weaker friends and I it wasn’t unbearable. It was definitely a bit on the strong side but if you had a lot of it, all it took was a sip of water.

What I like about the menu, is that for the appropriate dishes, it provides you with the different options of meat and fillings. For example, you can have red curry with beef, chicken, vegetables, prawns or seafood. It’s very straightforward and means they are quite flexible.

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Last of all was the seafood pad thai ($16.90, above). The noodles seemed quite thin, but this seems consistent with what people agree should be used in pad thai. It was good and what was to be expected, nothing too special.

With four meals all up, and not a lot of time, we didn’t manage to finish it all but I felt like we had a good selection. If we had more time, I would have probably demolished the tom yum soup! The place seemed to be starting to get busy early in the evening, and the food seemed fairly authentic. The waiters and waitresses also seemed attentive and helpful, able to help with any advice.

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Caroline Thai Restaurant is located at Shop 9/218-222 Caroline Springs Blvd, Caroline Springs. You can view the dine-in menu here. You will also find their drinks and take-away menu.

Caroline Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cafe Casuarina

On a rare venture to the Western suburbs, we found our selves at a cute and spacious cafe called Cafe Casuarina in Williamstown. Looking like an everyday, local cafe with a teal sign, we were pleasantly surprised to find quite a large and open interior to enjoy a sitdown and late brunch.

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Having just played sport on a Sunday, it was understandably quiet as it was after 2pm and close to closing. But we had just enough time to undo all our exercise, with cappuccinos, iced chocolates and iced coffees (below).

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Of course, I found myself with a tall and devilishly sweet iced chocolate, something you can’t really go wrong with, especially when it has a generous scoop of ice-cream. Quickly after this, we made our decisions as the kitchen was only open for another half an hour.

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As I felt the chocolate and ice-cream already satisfying my thirst and hunger, I didn’t feel in the mood for a large meal, so went with the Casuarina Omelette ($16.50, above) with cheese, ham, avocado, bread and an extra hash brown on the side ($3). It doesn’t look amazing but that’s because everything’s hidden on the inside, and together the ingredients provided a nice and light meal, with the crusty bread helping to fill me up.

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But what also helped to fill me up, was a taste of my friends’ Braised Mushrooms ($14.50, above) with 5 types of mushrooms braised with red onion and ciabatta, served with poached eggs, goat’s cheese and paris butter. One of my friend’s ordered extra bacon with the dish, and another with smoked salmon below ($3 each).

The mushrooms were really a standout, each bite of each mushroom seemed so juicy that you just wanted more. Consequently, the mushrooms’ flavour also seemed to be able to stand alone without any sides, as my friend started finding it difficult to finish off the extra bacon.

20140309_142749The mushrooms were an excellent recommendation and both my friends who ordered it said they’d definitely be willing to come back for that dish alone. My other friend had a standard steak sandwich (above), which she downed fairly quickly along with an iced chocolate.

It’s a great-looking and spacious cafe with friendly service, and I’d love to feel the atmosphere when it’s during their busier hours, which I just may experience one day when we return for the mushrooms.

Cafe Casuarina is located at 4/77 Douglas Parade and is open Mon-Fri 6.30-4pm, Saturday 7-4pm and Sunday 8am-3pm. Check out a glimpse of their menu on Food for My Belly’s blog here.

Cafe Casuarina on Urbanspoon

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