There is some mathematical rule which controls all transactions at Camy Shanghai, and it is this: no matter what you order, no matter how many people you dine with, your total bill will be between six and seven dollars a head.*Camy’s makes many dishes, but I can speak of almost none of them with authority. This is because we always order the same things (which may, of course, be a variable in the mathematical rule mentioned above). Fried pork dumplings. Pork mini buns. Mushroom and vegetable dumplings (occasionally swapped out with ‘plate of greens with oyster sauce’). Fried pork dumplings do just what it says on the label – they’re fried and they’re pork and they’re damn delicious. Pork mini buns are steamed, packed with ginger and contain a vindictively hot liquid of unknown origin which will scald the hell out of your mouth if you’re not careful. Mushroom and vegetable dumplings may be vegetarian. Don’t quote me on that. Either way, they are delicious and appear to contain actual vegetables.Many people will tell you you’re taking your life in your hands by eating at Camy’s. Turn up at a busy time, send your food back if it’s not hot and I reckon you’re at no more risk than you would be at a Mumbai McDonalds outlet. Anyway, risk is all part of the fun.Details:Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant23-25 Tattersalls La (btw Lonsdale & Little Bourke), MelbournePh: 9663 8555 (not sure what you’d use this for…)
*unless you drink something other than free tea. If you have a beer you could pay up to TWELVE DOLLARS a head
Good news from the proprietors at Pho Dzung
What’s even better than Broken Social Scene at the Laneway Festival? Skipping Broken Social Scene for a bowl of $7 pho at Pho Dzung.Even the hardiest festival-goer needs a breather, and the Laneway Festival was notable for its lack of ‘sit down and take a break’ spots. Thank goodness for pass-outs, and for Pho Dzung’s fast service, cheap prices and reanimating broth.Dzung’s mainstay is pho, the Vietnamese rice noodle soup traditionally served for breakfast or lunch. Dzung serves the soup in small ($7), medium ($8) and the unfeasible large ($9). Varities include the popular-with-westerners rare beef or sliced chicken, as well as the more ‘authentic’ brisket fat, tripe or beef pizzle. All come with a decent helping of toppings including Thai basil, chopped chilli, lemon and bean sprouts: some other city pho outlets are notable for the paucity of their toppings.You can also try the Hue spicy noodle soup, a range of vermicelli salads (‘bun’) including grilled lemongrass chicken or spring roll (both $8), or one of a small selection of ‘mains’, such as grill pork chop with rice ($7.50). Sides include rice paper ($7) or spring rolls ($8).Like most pho joints, Dzung is an arid wasteland for vegetarians. There is one vegetable noodle soup on the menu, but when you know the principle of pho is adding bits and pieces to the one great big bubbling pot of aromatic beef stock out the back, chances are the soup is not technically vegetarian. Desperados could pick up an order of vegetarian rice paper rolls.Verdict: cheap, fast, delicious and with a probably unearned aura of healthiness, Dzung’s pho had us back on our feet and back at the Lonsdale St stage in time for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. (This is a food blog and not a music blog, but halfway into their set I kind of wished we’d stayed at Dzung for a serve of spring rolls…)Details:Pho Dzung234b Russell St (corner Lonsdale), Melbourne9663 8885
(also with outlets in Barkly St, Footscray and Victoria St, Richmond)
There was a point I dropped off buying the Fairfax food bibles. “The Good Food Guide” segued to cover-to-cover advertising and “Cheap Eats” seemed to reinvent the definition of “cheap”. Sure things have changed since I moved to Melbourne 20 years ago. But for many years I really did have no spare cash and all dining beyond the home or someone else’s house aimed at the $5-10 mark. I’d scour the guide for a little bit of lux parading as cheap but I soon discovered that inclusion fell more into the cost of a single dish, rather than what it took to constitute a meal. Yu Yu for example, technically, has some incredibly cheap dishes all served in an exclusive setting but a serving the size of child’s hand tends to leave one a tad hungry.
Looking at the write up for this years winners of the cheapie crowns I am not entirely sure if much has changed.
“The Moroccan Soup Bar” gets a mention in the fast disappearing vegetarian section and absolutely hits the monetary goals. You can eat to the gills, with mint tea, thick coffee and dessert as well, with significant change out of a $20 note. You can do most things there except book a table for 2, eat meat or imbibe in liquor. I am not entirely sure you could fill up as easily at Bar Lourinha, Cafe Zum Zum or Mecca Bah for twice the price. Sure there will always be cheap items on the menu but rarely are they enough to satisfy. Of course, in such establishments we are just talking about food, when adding a bar tab to the bill – cheap is long gone.True cheap grub, is the string of Lebanese restaurants on Sydney Road rather than the sanitized (but certainly tasty) reinterpretations of the genre that get the gongs. Cheap is any place in Footscray where English is not the language of choice. In Northcote the most delicious feast you can have with the most stunning array of foods is the banquet nights (Friday and Saturday) at Sigri, where there is flavoursome Sri Lankan food on offer for a mere $25. I’m not the kind of person who’d usually frequent a bain marie, serve yourself style establishment but the food here is some of the best in it’s class.A cheap eat is a falafel, with freshly cooked balls of broad beans or chickpeas, crunchy salad, tangy tahini dressing, in fluffy Turkish bread (the Halal place 2 doors up from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick is a standout). An inexpensive feast is a trip to the market for bread and deli items, sun ripened tomatoes and grapes, for a picnic. A belly filling delight is the seafood laksa at Chin Chins, in North Carlton.
But the crown of cheapness has to go to “Lentil as Anything” the collection of pay as you wish eateries (once more vegetarian and alcohol-free) – where if you so chose, you really could sing for your supper.
So what is your idea of a cheap eat?
(Originally posted by Another Outspoken Female at Confessions of a Food Nazi)
This blog has been established because the Melbourne Cheap Eats has lost its way. Sure a $40pp meal (without wine) is good value. But it is hardly cheap.
Confessions of a Food Nazi, who inspired this blog, made the observation on the Moroccan Soup Bar:
“You can do most things there except book a table for 2, eat meat or imbibe in liquor. I am not entirely sure you could fill up as easily at Bar Lourinha, Cafe Zum Zum or Mecca Bah for twice the price. Sure there will always be cheap items on the menu but rarely are they enough to satisfy. Of course, in such establishments we are just talking about food, when adding a bar tab to the bill – cheap is long gone.”
The rule is that here th emeal must be under $20 in total per person.
This blog is open to anybody to join. Email me at gastrotom AT gmail DOT com and start posting.