As the title suggests, The Angmoh has guest-blogged this post to propose some of his favourite lunch haunts in Richmond and Hawthorn. They are unsurprisingly Asian, and I have given my thumbs up to a couple of the meals I’ve had with him. iSpicy is my favourite amongst the list and I will advise to bring along a carton of milk for those who can’t bear the heat.
Having worked near Hawthorn for almost 5 years, I’ve had ample opportunity to explore the suburb and several nearby areas for high-quality, low-cost lunches. Herewith are 4 that I highly recommend. In making this list, each place had to meet some of the stringiest criteria ever to be dreamt up by members of the local white-collar workforce:
- The food had to taste great
- It had to be cheap. Real cheap. No more than $10 could be spent, and a hearty meal and something to drink were both mandatory.
(some of these places unfortunately now slightly exceed this limit, but all met this rule at the time of discovery)
- It had to be close to our workplace
- The service had to be fast and reliable
This is by no means an exclusive list of venues in and around the area that fulfill these requirements, but all of these places have comfortably and deservedly assumed a position in my honour roll of lunchtime eateries and will hopefully keep going strong for many moons to come.
iSpicy is proof if ever there need be proof that location is not everything in finding a place to eat. It’s a tiny hole in the wall that sits inside a clotted, musty shopping arcade and looks toward a supermarket. A casual onlooker could be forgiven for passing by and jumping to the conclusion that it’s nothing more than a cheap and nasty takeaway venue. But looks can be deceiving, as the meals at iSpicy are full of flavour, colour, and in keeping with the moniker, spice.
I’m a sucker for the Crispy Pork with Kang Kung, and I always order it hot. The Kang Kung is delicious having absorbed the sauce and the heat from the chilli, and the pork is always of good quality. Sometimes The Hangry Bitch is able to meet me there, and she is a big fan of the spicy noodles, also with crispy pork.
One of the great aspects of iSpicy is how it caters for chilli-lovers such as myself. There’s no watering-down going on here, ‘hot’ means hot, and if you order your meal hot at iSpicy you better be able to walk the talk.
Location may not be everything but it can sometimes help. Certain places have a deep association with a particular culture and associated type of cuisine. For instance, Box Hill is known for Chinese food, North Melbourne has a host of Korean offerings, and Chapel St. is a safe bet for drunk twentysomethings looking for a hangover cure in the form of a giant lamb souvlaki. Likewise, Victoria St., Abbottsford is a longstanding Vietnamese hub, especially for places specialising in pho, selling to the ever-growing cult of Melbourne pho lovers.
You’ve probably heard of I Love Pho 264, arguably the most famous pho joint in Melbourne, especially in the last 2 years or so. But maybe 200 metres or so away from 264, at 208 to be precise, is another pho gem that I’ll happily swear by. It predates 264 and consistently provides a terrific bowl of pho.
There are some quaint things about Pho Dzung that are fun to lookout for. The entrance is one – it features a sign with a smiling chicken on one corner and a smiling cow on the other. It’s caused the place to be lovingly known amongst colleagues as the “Cow and Rooster”.
The next is the bowl-shaped menu, occupying a commanding presence on each wall and offering a vast array of ingredients for diners to mix and match as they wish.
Finally, two televisions hover over the diners, inexplicably screening Vietnamese music videos and serials.
The best thing about Pho Dzung though, of course, is the pho. The soup is rich and fragrant, the servings are very generous and the meat is pretty good. I like to add a handful of basil leaves and a heap of freshly cut chilli to every bowl.
Next time you are headed to Victoria St, give Pho Dzung a try if you haven’t already. It’s a long-standing and quietly-achieving stalwart of the business.
Glenferrie Rd., Hawthorn has its fair share of Japanese places, and all of them have their merits. Samurai is a littleish place but with a sense of fun and a knack for consistently good simple meals. It is frequented by hungry uni students (RMIT is nearby) and AFL Football stars alike (I once spotted Hawthorn player Sam Mitchell here).
The menu is relatively small, like the place itself, but still features plenty of tasty options. These days I don’t go past the Chicken Katsudon. The crumbed chicken is delish and made juicer by the surrounding soy sauce. It is accompanied by egg fragments that also soak up the soy sauce and pack plenty of flavour, make for a satisfying and filling dish.
A favourite amongst those who are frequent visitors to Samurai is the green tea milkshake. I had it once on a winter’s day and it was a guilty pleasure. It’s super thick and super cold, so I look forward to having it again when summer comes around.
Samurai is great value and especially enjoyable on a weekday when the rowdy students craving their Japanese fix make for a busy but bright atmosphere.
Kim Chi Lunchbox
650-652 Glenferrie Road
+61 3 9818 1233
Ever have one of those mornings where you don’t wake up particularly hungry, eat light, proceed to your place of employment and after sinking your teeth into a few hours of work find yourself regretting not starting the day off with a bit more sustenance?
I have. Lots of times.
But fortunately for me, Kim Chi Lunchbox has the answer in such scenarios. Their Spicy Beef Bibimbap is packed with a combination of tasty fried vegetables, good quality beef and a nice bed of rice that sits at the bottom of the clay pot and continues the cook away the whole time you’re eating. It’s a jam-packed lunch and hits the spot perfectly.
They also provide a good selection of hot plates if what you feel like is simply a nice heap of beef, pork or chicken neatly piled onto a bed of rice, so you can tear at it and have it sizzle on the hot plate at the same time. The Korean pancakes are also a good option, though probably not as appetite-smashing.
I haven’t actually been to KimChi in a little while, and just writing this has made me want to go back as soon as I can! I look forward to doing so very soon.
This wraps my lunch list for now. I hope you’ll enjoy these places and remember, all you’ll need is a Blue Heeler and some change and you’re set to go.