Thursday, 6 September 2012

Places of Culinary Excellence

Yesterday I said my next blog will be about copyright.  It has since become apparent that this was a lie, most callous and vile.  Turns out writing a finished essay on copyright takes some doing, whereas writing about food does not and thus procrastination.
In the mean time.  Bacon!

What began as a hunt for the perfect French toast and the perfect waffles ended with neither sadly, but did result in a fine list of awesome eateries.  We'll go through the basics first:

Pete's Charcoal Shop - 562 Mt. Alexander Rd. Ascot Vale
They have a kebab with chips, egg and cheese in it.  That's right, chips in the kebab.  Sold!

Crazy Kebabs - Mt. Alexander Rd. Ascot Vale (At some servo near Pizza Hut)
They open at 6:30pm and close at 3:30am (5:30am on Friday and Saturday) = awesome!  The kebabs aren't bad either.

Luke's Eatery - Highpoint Shopping Centre
This place makes me weep a single tear each time I think of it.  We've all been to that place that had awesome food, you go there for years, never failing and then one day you show up and there's a goat testicle on your soufflé.  Or it just isn't as it used to be.  Both can happen.

Luke's Eatery can be found opposite Target at Highpoint and does have some very nice food and some of the best waffles I've had but just a few weeks ago they made an utterly offensive change to their menu.  They removed their "Plowman's Plate" and their fancy breakfast stuff and basically genericified their menu.

The food is still good, but $16 for a massive plate of meat, cheese and pickled vegetables made it one of my favourite places for breakfast.  Now it's just my waffle joint.  Coffee is quite serviceable too.  And you can get a massage at ZHONG'S! opposite after (I can't say the name without yelling).

UPDATE 21/11/2012:
I happened to be at Highpoint and hungry a few weeks ago and tried their new steak sandwich, which replaced the Plowman's Plate.  It's actually very good, so I partially forgive the menu change in light of that.

Luke's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Frankies Pizza - 152a Epsom Rd. Ascot Vale
I'm waiting for my pizza as I type this.  Open after 4:30pm, this has become my goto place for last minute dinners and late night pizza's for some time.  The veal/chicken parma is good and the pizzas are some of the best I've had from a place that home delivers.  The stand-out feature of this place is the $1 fee for home delivery in the area.

$14.5 I get a nice veal parma with chips and salad at my door in half an hour, hot, tasty, without fail.  Pizza the same.


Little Byrd - 160 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
Now we are moving up a notch in the world.  The higher class of dining.  I am indeed a big fan of this cafe.  It's situated opposite Video Ezy on Union Rd. and is quite small with mostly group table seating.  The menu is small too, with only 8 or so items on it.  But all the food is excellent and cooked out in plain site, which I always like.

The owner is there every day and seems to know every customer and their order on sight, in fact it seems almost every customer knows every other customer there with all the greetings going on.  It's a good environment to wake up in the morning.

Predictably their coffee is excellent and they cook some mean bacon.

Highly recommended to one and all.

Little Byrd's Facebook

Little Byrd on Urbanspoon

Reverence Specialty Coffee and Tea - 155 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
Just down the road from Little Byrd is another great cafe!  The name is so long I actually get bored trying to say it and occasionally fall asleep mid sentence when recommending it to someone.  It is however a great cafe and I'm struggling to choose a preference between the two.

The coffee at this place is truly outstanding and they have a variety of teas and coffees to choose from.  Their burger is good, as are their pot pies and French toast (my favorite of the ones I've had lately), but their true standout is their breakfast.

Oh their breakfast took me by surprise.  I had their other meals first and liked them, but the coffee is what mainly brought me back... Until their breakfast.  Good Lord.

It's not cheap I'm afraid, $21 for the plate I normally get but it is worth every cent.  Eggs on bread with bacon, beans, tomato and relish.  But to say this was mere eggs on toast would be irresponsible.  This was art, and maybe even a little bit of God.

The eggs were scrambled, but to perfection, with green stuff in them (I know about eating, not cooking) and were fluffy and full of flavour.  The beans weren't just from a can but some epic pot of sauce and spices.  The bacon, oh the bacon.  I asked for it crispy and they delivered the goods.  The fat was perfectly cooked and it just falls apart in your mouth as you take a moment to breath deeply and embrace the sensation of joy filling you with each bite.

The bread I can only assume was baked in house with a circle of butter on top.  Yes, butter, not margarine, not "I Can't Believe It's Not Congealed 'Gentleman Juice'" but proper, fatty butter and the relish made a perfect topping.  This is the kind of breakfast Thor eats before smashing his goblet and demanding more!

And there is one final thing that applies to both Little Byrd and Reverence.  This little fact makes me swell with joy just a little each time I see it.  It shows that the world is not entirely doomed, that there is hope for humanity and that there is still a sense of pride and aesthetics left in the world.

When you sit at your table in either cafe, you have condiments.  These are salt, pepper and sugar.  Sounds normal so far, but it is not.  Because it is cracked salt, cracked pepper and a tub of raw sugar!  Now I don't know when it was decided that saving 5 cents a year by providing ground rubbish was a good idea, but these places will have none of that!  There is no situation where ground salt and pepper is better than cracked and these cafes know you are there to enjoy food, not merely fuel your meat sack for another day's work!

And most importantly, the raw sugar.  Now most places have raw sugar, but understand this.  These cafes have only raw sugar.  There is no "white sugar" option.  There is no Splenda or Equal or Cyanide or whatever else the peasants are snorting these days.  There is raw sugar and only that.  I'd like to one day actually ask a waiter at either cafe for some Splenda just to see what happens.  In my mind I picture myself being thrown out and blacklisted forever.  I'm not going to ask so I can keep that picture real.

What these cafes are saying is that they know you are there to enjoy food, to enjoy the aesthetics of taste and the environment.  If you are there worrying about your body, you are doing it wrong.

Reverence's Facebook

Reverence Specialty Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

Laksa King and Chef Lagenda - Pin Oak Crescent, Ascot Vale (near the corner of Racecourse rd.)
For some reason I don't consider Asian food in the same category as other foods.  For example I'd never want to have breakfast in a cramped room filled with a hundred people, but I'd feel like something is wrong if I'm eating a Laksa in a room any less full.

But I digress.  These two places are right next to each other and are the same.  They appear to consider themselves separate restaurants but I think they are just confused.  I like to think that the guy who runs one used to work at the other until his family was dishonored or something and so he decided to open his own identical place next door to avenge his father's death... Or his dishonor... Or some other Asian movie trope that is fitting.  Perhaps none of this is true, but it makes me feel like some kind of covert operative when I alternate between the two on a regular basic.

In short, the food is great.  They both have excellent laksa, their other stuff is all quite nice and they are crazy cheap.  About $10 for a meal and tea and because they are both so busy it only takes about a minute or two between ordering and getting popular dishes.  Chef Lagenda seems to be about 50 cents cheaper on everything, which lends credence to my bitter feud belief.

As for differences, I prefer the laksa sauce at Chef Lagenda, but they don't offer a beef laksa which is my favorite.  Chef Lagenda also has a kind of meal deal with meat and soup which I don't think Laksa King has, they also have a Nasi Lamak Special (item 100, probably spelt entirely differently) which is rather interesting.

Overall I go to Laksa King when I want a beef laksa and Chef Lagenda for anything else.  Not for any particular reason, it just happened that way.  One thing I do love about Chef Lagenda though is the outdoor eating area with fire in the middle.  Because there is fire in the middle.  Okay it's just a gas heater, but it contains fire and in winter that is awesome.

And so there we have my review of awesome places to eat in the Western suburbs.  I expect I'll follow with my favourites in other areas at a later date but as I'm living and working in the West at the moment it seemed the best place to start.

Now, to see if I can confront finishing my essay on copyright.  Tentatively titled "Copyright, George Lucas and Mind Control."

It appears I have done a great disservice to humanity, as I neglected one of my favorite places to eat.  In my defence I was preoccupied with my regular haunts and didn't think about a place I frequent less often, but for special occasions.

Arcadia Gastronomique - 152 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
When I first saw the name of this place I got an image of a fantasy kingdom and an astronomical bowel movement.  It turns out that Gastronomy however is "the art or science of food eating."  I'm not even kidding, there is actually a word for that.  God I love the English language.  On top of that, I assume the use of "Arcadia" they intended refers to the Greek utopia.  So this place is the "Utopia of the art of food eating."  If that isn't in your top 5 most awesome things ever, you need a new list!

This place is mainly open for dinner (I think on either Saturday or Sunday they do breakfast), and it is a place worth going to.

Their crispy skinned salmon I assume is how they derived their name.  Their lamb is cooked to perfection.  But their dessert.

You will go here and you will order a sticky date pudding or your life will never be complete.  You are welcome.

Arcadia's Facebook

And that officially ends this series of reviews!


  1. Hi Jason,

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  3. Top reviews of places I would normally walk past or be too hesitant to step into. Thanks Bacon man.