Author Archives: ryan

the man likes his meat

You’ll scoff when I tell you this but I was never a fan of steak. On a menu and a chalkboard filled with exotic sounding dishes like ricotta cannelloni, seafood curry and eggplant parmagiana, the humble piece of cooked red meat seems… well, boring.

But last year, that all changed.

On a cold, dreary winter’s evening, I popped my steak-cherry one serendipitous trip to Russell Street’s European Bier Café. It was a finely looking slab of grain-fed scotch fillet that did it. Served with a tarragon-spiked hollandaise sauce, on a bed of mash and a side of Asian greens, it was an orgasmic experience. And then for my birthday last year, a religious experience at Footscray’s The Station Hotel cemented the love affair. Over half a dozen varieties of cuts of meats, a half a dozen ways fed, cooked and garnished, the arduous decision was made finally on a 450-day grain-fed wagyu rostbiff. Heaven.

So, it was with some gustatory delight when friends Scott, Ingmar, Andrew and I headed to Williamstown for a midweek dinner at a local pub.

I’m not too familiar with the history of the Morning Star Hotel though I’ve been once before. Sure, it looks to have seen its fair share of patrons and diners over the years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has a reputation for serving good grub and has been recommended by friends.


The vintage feel of the Star’s front bar gives the local that laid back ambiance; perfect for easy, cruisey drinking sessions on a warm summer’s evening. This same vibe is carried through to its dining room, in spite of the dichotomic white linen table cloths and fine silver cutleries. Dusty old wine bottles line the tops of the walls and curious sepia photography hang from the picture railings. The wait staff – once (in)famous for being cheeky, sometimes bordering on obnoxious – are friendly, polite and unobtrusive.

The menu at the Star carries regular pub grub – steak, fish and chips, pasta, etc – with gourmet-leanings peppered throughout. Although rather suspiciously, the humble parmagiana is absent from the menu. But this might have been more to do with my zealousness to see their steak offerings rather than a dining oversight.

So, about the steak. Two different choices are offered on the menu: a 350 gram T-bone and a 250 gram rib eye, each sub $30. I chose the rib eye, done medium with pepper sauce, while Ingmar chose the same but with mushroom. Andrew, meanwhile, decided on the T-bone, done medium rare, served with mushroom sauce. And Scott, well, he chose the fish.


All meals came served on a bed of “pub cut” chips and a small side of salad with a creamy brown vinaigrette sauce. Mine was drenched with a handful of peppercorns liberally added. The steak was soft and cooked to my liking, while Andrew commented that his was more medium than rare. I noticed that Ingmar had trimmed a good portion of fat from his, which I wouldn’t find a problem but others conscious of such things might. Overall, the food was nice, though perhaps not as good as it used to be. Certainly, the steak didn’t bring about that same kind of post-nom titillation as it did at previous venues.

Strangely, the place seemed quiet on the weeknight we visited, in spite of the evening being a nice, summery one. It’s probably a different story during the weekends. Still, the question has to be asked in an almost empty dining room… where the bloody hell are the locals?

Morning Star Hotel is located at 3 Electra Street, Williamstown. Ph (03) 9397 6082.


Morning Star Hotel on Urbanspoon

four gracious plants, fourteen gracious plates

Still in Sydney, and L was insisting I try out one of her Japanese sushi recommendations out Chatswood way. I wasn’t going to argue – I love Japanese food, and it’d been a long time since I got my sushi or sashimi fix.

Sagunja placemat

We had the choice of two places, but I decided that Sagunja would be more than adequate for me. On the placemat, it says sagunja ‘means the four gracious plants (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo – that captured the hearts of the noble intellectuals) which are the foundation and true nature of the Eastern fine arts. I found that very poetic but the sushi chef kitty is also pretty cute.

Sagunja is a sushi train restaurant, and for this reason, I was initially worried only because the morsels passing by on the conveyor belt were very likely to induce me to commit the gustatory sin that is indulgence. In fact, L and I amassed fourteen empty plates at the end of our sitting and somewhere around the very tail end of the lunch rush, we were politely asked to vacate! Here are some of the highlights we were able to nom on. Flame-grilled salmon sushi. I liked how small their sushi was generally, as sometimes the glutinous rice is a little too filling for me. The chefs used actual butane cans for flame grilling each piece of sushi before placing them on the belt for consumption.

flame-grilled salmon sushi

I couldn’t go past some of the more traditional items like tuna sushi, salmon sashimi and some intricate variations of California rolls. Again, not too stodgy as they used very small amounts of rice. Kept them light and flavoursome. Next photograph has an example of standard sashimi, but look at the seaweed gently spliced into the sushi, and the colourful take on the California rolls coated in roe.

more Sagunja sushi train items

Lastly, some glazed flame-grilled salmon sushi, flame-grilled scallop sushi, and maki roll topped with seaweed and glass noodles. The texture of the latter was just divine!

Sagunja sushi train

I found the prices very reasonable here and there seemed to be lots of Japanese folks coming in and arranging their own takeaway lunchboxes straight off the train. Despite there being so much staff, it wasn’t always easy to find out what a particular dish was – we did eat a couple that looked good or interesting, but we weren’t fully sure what they were exactly. However, this place easily kicks arse over any sushi train place I’ve ever been to in Melbourne. Everything is so delicately prepared. If you’d like to see more photos of what was eaten, you can find them in my Sydney Flickr set.

Sagunja on Urbanspoon

bring your mother

I find myself strangely alone in the hallowed halls of EDS this past week as the rest of the staffers spend some time north of the border for a mini-getaway. This would explain the lack of posts of late, as well as the moaning and groaning that’s common around these parts; all food-related, of course.

So while Gem and Tris are out galavanting and sampling the myriad of tastes that Sydney has to offer, and which you’ll no doubt read about soon, I’m here holding the fort in Melbourne and slaving away for another review.

And what better way to do that than to head to a venue that is as far removed from the glamour of the Sin City as possible: my local Thai takeaway restaurant.

Suburban eateries are like your long-time fuck buddies: handy, comfortable, filling and reliable. They’re a guilty pleasure; something that fulfils the need when effort proves too much. A standard that you come back time and again to but not necessarily bring back home to meet mother. And while you may extol their virtues to others, there’s the greedy hope that you’ll one day keep him for yourself and maybe settle down and have two dogs and a cat, and maybe a baby because he has such beautiful eyes and a cute smile and… Wait, I’m getting my metaphors mixed up.

Anyway, suburban eateries.

In the heart of Laverton’s shopping strip, you will find an unassuming, nondescript-looking shop front that leads into one of the southwest’s newest hidden gems. Fresh Chilli Thai Restaurant is your traditional suburban eatery with a twist. Here you’ll find an extensive menu including the usual Thai fares of curries, rice and noodle classics. However, instead of cheap laminex tables, scratchy metal chairs and dust-covered Asian decorations on the walls, you’ll discover a nicely appointed modern interior with homely ambiance. It’s your local Thai, all grown up.

On my Saturday night visit for dinner, our group of four ordered, along with several entrees, a selection of dishes that included red prawn curry, cashew beef, sweet and sour chicken, and prawn and calamari in oyster sauce. All were reasonably portioned with generous helpings of vegetables and meat. A person in the group was surprised to see so much cashews with his beef, being a fan of the bent nut.

My red curry came out in a medium-sized bowl filled with a soup of mildly spicy flavours and slivers of soft bamboo shoots along with plump pieces of prawns. Served over a heap of steaming jasmine rice and it was nomilicious. In fact, everyone commented at how tender the meats and how light the sauces were; a stark difference to the usual toughness and thick sickliness found in other lesser eateries. Certainly, from my previous visit, I found the green chicken curry and red duck to be the same. Even the oft-popular Pad Thai had a lighter and fresher (*groan*) flavour at Fresh Chilli.


Pad Med
Pad Med – lots of cashews and beef


Red Curry
Red prawn curry – the bamboo shoots were delicious


Fresh Chilli is popular with the locals, both as a dine-in and takeaway, and so the place can be a little noisy when filled to capacity. But still, the food will win you over every time. The bar is stocked with several wine listings, both red and white, with a few available by the glass. They also offer a number of imported Asian beers, along with the local brews. My tip, however: make use of the free BYO (that’s right, no corkage!) and bring in your favourite tipple. Whilst not recommended, the table next to ours brought a whole esky along, giving a whole new meaning to the term. That’s the west for ya!

Aptly named, Fresh Chilli Thai Restaurant proves to be a fresh addition to an otherwise lacklustre strip out in the suburbs, and one that you will certainly come back time and again to. Even with your mum.

Fresh Chilli Thai Restaurant is located at Shop 1, 1-5 Aviation Road, Laverton. Ph (03) 9369 3796. Bookings recommended.

More photos over at my Flickr page.


Fresh Chilli Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon