Hao Phong, Footscray

Hao Phong left me speechless with the generous portion sizes. It was mammoth. Myself and friends started off the new year checking out Footscray Market and headed along to Hao Phong for lunch. It offers a blend of Vietnamese-Chinese cuisine in a casual setting, not unlike many of the other eateries on Hopkins Street. The tea on table and DIY cutlery and all too familiar and you can also expect the same friendliness, speed and value as well. I veered from the group in ordering my own dish as well as getting away with a steal of some of the other plates. Imagine great tasting food, interesting flavours and an authentic experience.

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There is over 189 options on the menu here at Hao Phong. And you know what? It might be good enough to warrant working your way through a chunk of that. I went with a reliably strong choice in the grilled pork with fine rice vermicelli ($12). You get so much pork, so much salad, so much noodle. This was a rare occasion in which I couldn’t finish the bowl and that’s to say the dish was tasty as well.

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The other three were feeling more team-spirited and shared a number of choices amonst themselves. Stir fried fish with vegetables (as above) and some water spinach with garlic sauce (as below).

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I stole a chunk of their deep fried chicken ribs with salted egg yolk ($15.80) and these were good, though I think we agreed it could have done with more salt. Again, a lot of chicken is here for the price.

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As with many other places in Footscray, Hao Phong offers truly impressive value-for-money dishes with so many options for diners. I found the more Vietnamese, traditional options on this occasion more successful.

8/10

Hao Phong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roti Road, Footscray

The modern and sleek fit-out of Roti Road is highly eye catching, and one that stands out on the eating-crowded streets of Footscray. Matt, Jamie and I headed in for an Asian food fix post a busy afternoon, with this venue specialising in a Malaysian-Chinese mix. This is a good mix, and I don’t say that simply as a person that is Malaysian-Chinese himself. Food seemingly arrived in a random order and first up was the char kuay teow ($11.90), with prawn, fish cake, egg, chives and bean shoot that was a mostly traditional take and one that Matt was happy with.

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For some odd reason I ordered two mains, and despite being warned of a potential twenty minute wait for BBQ items, the next dish to arrive was my Ayam percik (Spicy BBQ) flame grilled chicken ($9.90) served with peanut sauce. Despite the description being spicy (something I don’t normally handle well) there was no discernible spice in the chicken itself (unless they meant the sauce), which was a good thing. I really dug the black char on the meat here, it came out devilishly crispy and went fantastically well with the peanut sauce and salad. Great value to boot.

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The beef rendang ($17.80) was one of my favourite executions of this dry sauce around these parts, with a perfect mix of spice, sweetness, texture and consistency. The beef was tender and melty but was a bit too in small chunks for a fully perfect score from me. Jamie was also a huge fan and cleaned up most of the dish.

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My other main was the Roti canai ($5.90) which I thought was an important inclusion given the name of the venue. This came with the optional beef rendang side ($5) and sambal, curry and dhal lentil. I’m not a huge fan of the sambal so can’t comment on that, but the roti was light, fluffy and very freshly made. We were seated right next to the window so could take watch in the spectacle that is authentic roti flipping. Perhaps not quite as dreamy as the ones over at Mamak which seem a touch more airy.

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Continuing the random order, the final dishes to arrive were the (starter?) sides of BBQ chicken bun ($6.50) and the chicken sui mai ($5.50). The chicken sui mai was a bit more alright, but wasn’t a huge fan of either as chicken really doesn’t seem like an appropriate substitute for these classically pork-dishes. They both benefit from that saltiness that comes with pig meat.

Service was okay for the first part, but the staff member was way too eager to clear plates when we were still grazing on the remains and his hands were distractingly shaky. Despite this, I was rather impressed with the offering from Roti Road and there are some gems here for sure,that would make me pick it over Papparich on any day.

8/10

Roti Road Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Okami, Footscray

I was rather hesitant to be dining at Okami, as all you can eat restaurants aren’t usually my kind of thing, as I generally minimise displays of excess. The restaurant has a few branches all over the ‘burbs and for $29.80 stuff-yourself-until-you-can’t-breathe, it’s pretty appealing and was one of the more pumping places on Hampton Street, Footscray.

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Eat me

The service person wasn’t particularly warm, with an air of suspicion that we were trying to game the system every time we ordered. We didn’t eat that much for the record, at least compared to the pro man date couple next door. All items came quick and good portions with a serve of salad. They weren’t overbearing with leaving salad there which was nice, we were worried by the warnings of not eating everything and being fined on signs. This ain’t the tram.

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See? Weed

Most of the food items were good not great, but we didn’t really enjoy the miso steak as the quality of the cut wasn’t there. The chicken karage didn’t taste quite right in the coating and the fried rice was ridiculously portioned. The beef carpaccio and eggplant salad were my picks outside of the black sesame ice cream (limited to a single scoop, so cruel). Overall the experience at Okami took our breath away, mainly as we stuffed our faces too much to breathe.

6.5/10

Okami Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fox in the Corn, Footscray

Over in Footscray town, lots of new little food places are popping up. Not sure how long this one has been around, but Fox in the Corn looks pretty new, bringing the combo of craft beer, pizzas and pastas to the scene. Premises are quite swanky. I had a look at the current menu online and it seems to have expanded since I visited, which is great. I felt the narrow menu at the time made it a less complete experience.

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Spaghetti carbonara

Seating was easy enough and service throughout the night was component. I ordered a spaghetti carbonara and it seemed to take a touch while to come (wasn’t a heap of kitchen staff on (i.e. one) but it was a solid dish. Pasta was fresh and the sauce and seasonings definitely put it a pedestal above anything I could make at home. My fellow diner went with the pesto and cream sauce with ravioli which was of the same standard. We went for the bread side, but it really wasn’t needed in the end and didn’t exactly come with anything to properly eat it with either.

Pro tip: portions are big so worth sharing

7.5/10

Fox In The Corn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vy Coffee Bubble Tea & Sugar Cane, Footscray

The best little spot for fresh sugar cane juice in Melbourne. Here, theres a little orange ball that’s kumquat that keeps the drink taste quite light and zesty. Natural flavours and made to order. It’s perfectly refreshing for any hot day, much like it was when I checked out Footscray Market for the first time. I do find sugar cane a little intoxicating after a bit too much with the sweetness and all, but at such great value prices ($3 for a small, $4 for a medium blah) it’s easy to get carried away. Good for sharing and a good quencher for when in the area.

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6.5/10

Vy Coffee Bubble Tea & Sugar Cane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Up in Smoke, Footscray

A group of us were keen to check out the American BBQ stylings of Up in Smoke in Footscray, so much so that we even caught a bus for the first time to head westwards. The experience was positive and mostly worth the tap on. Our Canadian server on the night was fantastic and funny, we felt well looked after the entire night as we made our way through the menu stylings of Up in Smoke.

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Chief of the food options here is the smoker. I think we caught a glimpse of it around the corner and she’s a mighty beast indeed. We went with the sharing platter of “The Big Tray” ($46) including brisket, pulled pork, sausage, sides with milk bun and pickles. For the sides we went with the outrageously rich mac and cheese as well as the solid BBQ rub fries. The meat here was delicious with a high melt-in-your-mouth quality and you could taste the hours spent in the smoker. Kinda wish there was a little more for the cost, mainly.

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We had a dish of the fried chicken wings with ranch dressing, this reminded me of the ones I did have in the states. Not quite as to die for but was sufficient to give us a fuller meat fix and helps to round out the Americanness of the menu here. The sandwiches also look worthy of a try.

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We ended our night with two desserts, one of the banana cream pie and the other of the donut ice-cream sandwich. Both didn’t quite do it for us, felt a bit more tacked on than shining examples of the kitchen. On a repeat visit I’d get a bit more in the meat department and maybe not so much for a sweet end. Overall we liked our trip into Footscray for the food at Up in Smoke and the venue has a great vibe and I hope it encourages more places like this to pop up in the area.

7.5/10

Up in Smoke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

T Cavallaro & Sons Pasticceria, Footscray

For the best cannoli around, do head over westwards to T Cavallaro & Sons. I happened to be in the neighbourhood and enticed a friend to join in for some ricotta and chocolate cannoli here. It definitely lives up to it’s reputation and at $3.50 for a gigantic serve, it reflects great value to boot. Despite being mega fried the cannoli never has an oily aftertaste and the filling is max’d out and oh so luscious. Sweet and not too sweet, and a fantastic contrast of textures and flavours that’s easy to eat. A definite place to hit for some outstanding Sicilian pastry.

9/10

T Cavallaro & Sons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato