Category Archives : Very Cheap Eat

Grain Asian, Hong Kong Cafe in Box Hill Round 2 {Melbourne Review}


I previously wrote about Grain Asian in the Box Hill Central shopping centre. Not much has changed rather than the updated funky dining room with vintage Chinese theme and a very minor price increase on some of the menu items.

For those who haven’t read my old post about Grain Asian, it is a Hong Kong style cafe that serves the typical drinks associated with Hong Kong cafes: Hong Kong tea and coffee, lemon tea, soy milk and their all-day dishes which include fried rice, noodles, Hong Kong style roast meats (duck, char siu, crispy pork belly, soy sauce chickens), won tons and yong tau fu.


(Tables outside in the food court area)

Be warned that most of the staff speak very little or no English at all (when I try to order something complicated, I usually flag one of the guys there whom I know speaks English well) so you will need to be pointing to the Chinese version of the menu. If I’m there with lots of people, I always make sure that they repeat the menu back to me.


(Newly-ish renovated dining room)

I will concentrate on their breakfast menu in this post as I wrote about their all-day menu in my last post. Grain Asian has ‘breakfast sets’ – usually a selection of congee with a breakfast dim sum side dish.


(Dried shrimp rice vermicelli rolls – around $5.XX)

My favourite breakfast dish at Grain Asian is their freshly made rice noodle rolls with fillings of choice. This is only available during breakfast hours (until 10:30am everyday except Sunday 11:00am) – they call this ‘vermicelli rolls’ even though there is nothing vermicelli like about it. The filling choices include prawns, shrimp (dried shrimps), beef, barbecued pork (char siu), vegetarian, and more.

Pictured above are dried shrimp vermicelli rolls as a result of ordering a vegetarian vermicelli rolls (!) But they were delicious nonetheless. Luckily, I’m not a vegetarian.


(Combination congee – $5)

Their congees are alright. To be perfectly honest, it’s nothing like the beautiful, thick congee with quality meats that you get in Hong Kong. They even tasted burnt a couple of times. But as they work really well as a part of the set breakfast, I always end up ordering them. In fact, if you really want congee, Mr Kitchen up a bit does better congee (though still not great.)

My favourite congee is the combination congee which has fish cake strips, tiny beef meat balls, preserved squid and peanuts. This is also known as sampan congee. I am going to guess that it’s the Chinese sailor’s version of  pantry dishes like pasta alla puttanesca. Their pork and century egg congee seriously could do with more eggs.


(Braised beef brisket $5)

One of the highlights I mentioned in the previous post was the beef brisket noodles. I am happy to say that they do a side dish version of this for $5. So I have been getting this as an additional side. I never finish it all at the same time, of course, but the leftover makes a great take away to have with rice and greens for lunch later. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

instagram-grain-asian(See my Instagram feed)

A few other things that I have ordered and enjoyed: sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf (lo mai gai), barbecued pork buns, Spam & egg sandwich (Mini’s favourite), iced Ovaltine, corned beef and egg sandwich and their whole fish dishes which gives you a whole fish with rice and soup for $13. Ridiculously cheap feed!

As I’ve visited a few times, my Instagram feed has a bigger collection of photos from there.

Grain Asian (in Box Hill Central)
Address: Cnr Main & Market Streets, Box Hill VIC 3128 (opposite to Platform 3 cafe)
Phone: 03 9899 6533
Getting there by Public Transport: Train to Box Hill Station (Belgrave/Lilydale line). The cafe is in the same building as the train station.

Grain Asian Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Paco’s Tacos, CBD {Melbourne Food Review} 3

Chorizo taco from Paco's Tacos

Hoorah for date nights! Since they are a bit hard to come by, Josh and I decided to really party it up big… by going to the theatre. I know. Old age happens when you least expects it – with a young child. So to be able to fit in dinner and a show, I was tossing up between a pre-theatre menu somewhere nice or a tapas bar and by chance had a look on the MoVida website which happens to also house Paco’s Tacos

And since Mexican is, you know, in (how very 2012 of me) – I drew Josh’s attention to the MoVida Group’s new(ish) taqueria. The man I married, unfortunately, had a childish streak that even a marriage to a mature, no non-sense woman like me cannot cure. Okay, I may have encouraged this one by saying ‘Paco’s Tacos’ in my silliest Mexican accent possible but once the man got an idea into his head and especially that idea is Paco’s Tacos (say it with me in the lamest Mexican accent possible), it couldn’t be scrubbed out.

Pimm's fruit cup

(Pimm’s Fruit Cup – $10)

So off to Paco’s Tacos, we went straight from work on a sweltering hot day. It was a very pleasant day – being an under cover, outdoors venue, it was a perfect day. Luckily for us, it was perfect. It was hot but the cool change was just beginning to come in, hot enough to still enjoy their Pimm’s Fruit Cup but cool enough to be comfortable. What can I say? I love me cheap, fruity cocktails.

Nevermind that it was 5.45pm and the after-work drink crowd was still going in full force, we proceeded to get into the tacos (did I mention we’re old?) since we wanted to take a leisurely stroll to the State Theatre to pick up our tickers and catch the 7.30pm Warhorse.* So after I went through my drink, we started ordering tacos – two at a time.

carne asada and pescada tacos at Paco's tacos

(L: carne asada, R: pascado – all tacos $6.00)

First up were Carne Asada and Pescado – i.e. a meat taco and a fish taco. The meat was quite nice and tender and the spicy sauce (described as ‘Braised Beef, Pica de Gallo, pickled Cactus and Chipotle sauce‘ on the menu) worked well. The fish, on the other hand, were a little bit on the disappointing side. Slightly bland and underwhelming. (more…)

Grain Asian, Box Hill {Melbourne Food Review} 4

won ton noodle @ Asian Grain, Box Hill

I am incredibly excited to have to inform you – that I may have found the best won tons in Melbourne. Of course this is an anecdotal evidence only. No scientific research has been conducted into the availability of won tons in Melbourne. But having had way too many won tons (Cantonese-style prawn and pork dumplings), I’m going to call this as being one of the best I have had.

Grain Asian is one of the many available Chinese cafes situated in the Centro Shopping Centre in Box Hill. It seems to start as a cafe on its own and become so popular that most of its tables spill out into the shopping centre area in the middle. As with the rest of Chinese cafes in Box Hill, it’s noisy and cluttered but damn, have I mentioned how good their won tons are?

Won ton noodles at Asian Grain

(‘Dry’ won ton noodles – $9.80)

The menu seems rather short compared to your typical Chinese cafe menu – a few noodles and rice dishes They also seem to have all-day Hong Kong style breakfast set – including congee (savoury rice porridge) served with Chinese doughnuts (yau ja gwai), hot soy milk drink, steamed rice noodle rolls with prawns (chee chong fun), steamed buns (bao) and lotus sticky rice (lor mai gai). I have tried any of the above as the won tons just kept getting in the way, but one day. I just absolutely love the menu – it feels like being Hong Kong again (except no-one yells at you for failing to understand basic Cantonese or read the Chinese menu.) They also have luncheon meat and scrambled eggs sandwiches (no thanks!) and Hong Kong style tea and coffee. It seems like this is the only place in Melbourne where you can get a breakfast set for $4.50!

I ordered the ‘dry’ won ton noodles – i.e. the noodles were tossed with a soy sauce mixture and with soup served on the side. The won tons were massive (I would say it’s cricket ball size but that will be an exaggeration)  and bursting with prawns and fatty porkiness. So good! The noodles itself had a firm bite to it, which I think makes it perfect. It also came with generous amount of bok choy. I recommend you get there very very hungry and plan to skip the next meal because the serving of this noodle is massive. Having said that I do have to pay what I come to think of as the ‘Mini Me Tax’ – which means giving up a portion of whatever I’m eating to Mini Me (who is now 2 and will eat demand to eat anything I’m eating) who will easily polish off about two of these massive won tons and a bit of the noodles. So it works out well.

Braised beef and won ton noodle soup

(Braised beef and won ton noodle soup – $9.80)

Josh decided to go for the braised beef won ton noodle soup – which is very similar to mine – same noodles, same won tons and same bok choy saved for the addition of tender, braised beef cubes. So fatty, so tender and oh-so-delicious. The braising liquid was mild with just a touch of the five spice flavour (as opposed to the strong Taiwanese braised beef I have had at a few other places) but the over all dish was quite good. As mentioned earlier, we have been back twice and we both ended up ordering the same things twice.

Will have to give the other items on the menu a go. But oh the won tons!

Grain Asian (in Box Hill Centro)
Address:Cnr Main & Market Streets, Box Hill VIC 3128 (opposite to the Reject Shop)
Phone: 03 9899 6533
Getting there by Public Transport: Train to Box Hill Station (Belgrave/Lilydale line). The cafe is in the same building as the train station.

Grain Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ajisen Ramen, Burwood Rd., Hawthorn { Melbourne Food Review } 3

(Chasyu ramen at Ajisen Ramen in Hawthorn)

It is a fact of life that all good things must come to an end. And so my year of maternity leave is over and I am now back at work. As much as I really enjoy working, I have no time to even eat out as much, let alone keeping this blog updated.

But try, I must. And happily, I would like to welcome 2012 with an annoucement that I have found The Best Ramen In Melbourne. So far anyway.

Now I know what you think. Ajisen? Chain ramen? Pah! But really, this Ajisen is so different from all the Ajisen ramen I have had (and I have had them in four different countries including the one in Melbourne CBD).

(Ajisen Hawthorn menu)

We went to Ajisen Ramen in Hawthorn because it is basically the closest ramen joint to us and one weeknight when I have a craving for ramen (I do that), I decided that we should give this new(ish) joint a go. It was rather quiet with only one or two patrons. I suspect that, being near Swinburne University and right at the lobby of UniLodge, it does a bit more roaring trade during the lunch hours.

Ajisen does their ramen Kumamoto style – that is, with tonkotsu broth (rich, white, pork bone broth) that has been cut with a little bit of chicken stock. The result is a lovely well balance broth that, while fairly rich and fragrant with its pork fat glory (yes, I said pork fat glory, get over it), is not so stickly fatty and rich that you feel ill after two spoonfuls (though admittedly I have absolutely no issue putting away a large bowl of one.)

Josh went for the Chasyu ramen ($11) which turned out to be the absolutely correct choice. The broth was delicious. Excellent balance between great flavours and not too salty or rich. The noodle was bitey and firm. The roast pork, or chashu, was so meltingly tender and just so damn perfect. The crunchy wood ear strips provided a great balance of texture. The egg was just a touch too well done for my liking but I’m happy to report that I have been back twice since and the egg is now perfectly soft boiled.

What a great bowl of ramen.

(Volcano ramen – $12?)

Unfortunately for me though, on our first trip, because I was in a mood for spicy ramen, I ordered their Volcano ramen. It was a mistake. The Ajisen volcano sauce in this instance was so overpoweringly spicy and bitter than it completely ruined the dish. (more…)

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