As my couple of months in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs comes to a close, it’s time to award my Top 3 eating experiences in this neck of the woods. I will preface this by saying – none are worth travelling across town for, but if you find yourself at Chadstone at dinnertime, leave the confines of the shopping centre and check out these local eateries.
Thai and Japanese
3A Station St, Oakleigh
Though it is good advice to be suspicious of a restaurant that combines 2 disparate cuisines, it is a literal marriage of these two cultures that lead the owners do so. No doubt because of its heritage, it works.
If you want some soup – there is miso, tom yum or a tom kha to choose from. Spring rolls or gyoza (and much more) for entree. Strangely the pairings kind of work. The sushi and sashimi is averagely good but it is the stir fries (“Wok Toss” dishes) that appeal to me the most. For a healthy meal, I can’t go past the beancurd and vegetables with fresh ginger and light soy.
There is also a good choice of Thai curries, salads, noodle and rice dishes. Food is of a uniformly good standard and the breadth of choice means there is something for everyone.
The restaurant is comfortable, service prompt and also offers takeaways.
2. Gasi Busi
80 Poath Rd Hughesdale
I spied this restaurant one day while checking out the organic grocery opposite. It was closed at the time but the menu looked interesting and cheap, yet the glimpses I got of the interior looked enticing.
We rocked up without a booking on a Saturday night and lucked the last table. The décor was more of a good Japanese restaurant, than the utilitarian Korean joints in this part of the world.
For a fussy eater like me, there was a pleasant amount of choices. Hard to decide whether to go for a sizzling plate, be tempted by the deep friend fish with cabbage salad or opt for a traditional hot pot. The dumplings for entrée were delicious, with an oddly meaty texture despite being vegetarian. We were hungry and service was slow. When mains arrived we descended like starving wolves.
The benchmark of Korean food, for me is the hot pot. I love the little bowls of pickles that come with it. My soft tofu and seafood came bubbling in its little vessel (sadly not made at the table). The flavour was great, but the seafood was scanty – tiny little shrimps and miniature mussels. His kimchi hot pot with pork had a hotter, sweeter sauce with a greater depth of flavour. The side dishes were pleasing, except for the broccoli covered with the special bbq sauce – I just didn’t like the flavour.
It was a pleasant experience with great flavours, nice surroundings but slightly marred by the slow (though very friendly) service and small servings.
3. Nights of Kabul
Afghan and Persian
39 Portman St, Oakleigh
Try not to let the tacky décor and vastness of this too often under populated establishment put you off. What they lack in decorating taste, they make up for in efficient service in this family run restaurant. The food really is worth checking out.
I love the pastries and the rice dishes here. For a non-meat eater the menu gets a bit repetitive with many of the mains mimicking the entrees, but it is a good, cheap, tasty meal. Carnivores have a wider selection. The lovers of ridiculously inexpensive wine will marvel at the prices, but connoisseurs should bring their own.
I haven’t made it on the nights of special entertainment – with traditional music or dancing, but I’d choose it over the vast Greek one across the road any day.Honourable mention
The gourmet pizza at the little Italian café on Atherton Rd is delicious. Lecco Pizzaria, is a cozy little eatery with red checked tablecloths and a couple of tables on the pavement. I've never eaten anything else here but the pizza was so good I came back for more – and I don’t even like pizza!
Shihans Chilli Bar, 137 Koornang Rd, Carnegie - a small shop selling Sri Lankan groceries and homemade delights from the bain marie and freezer. Great dhal. Worth stocking up on a couple of curries to keep on hand at home.Final word
All of the restaurants would qualify for being a "cheap eat" - with mains all under $20, most between $10-15. None a foody mecca but still satisfying enough to palate and wallet.