Melbourne’s Mega Cheap Eats

Now that I’m with ‘the bee’, coordinating our meals has become a little trickier. And it doesn’t help that we’ve been vegetating a lot in front of the TV after a long day at work. For a person who used to hardly ever watch TV at all, my lifestyle has certainly changed. I find myself quite easily hooked to shows like Four Corners, Aircrash Investigations, QI, Travels with Simon Reeve and just last night… Ninja Warriors!

Minang Nasi Padang Carlton 1415Minang Nasi Padang, Carlton

Me… cook a meal? Nooo… too leh cheh… got TV shows to watch!!

So more often than not, we’ve opted to have cheap eats in and around the city instead. After all, it’s but a very short drive from Fatbee’s place (yes… we’re THAT lazy that we won’t even walk into town). This is probably why I’ve recently had to give away half of my work pants… too tight!! Oh dear…

But today’s post will cover what I’d affectionately term as Melbourne’s MEGA Cheap Eats, where most of the dishes are below $8.

Norsiahs Kitchen Carlton 1362

Norsiah’s Kitchen

604 Swanston St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 7079
Norsiah's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Let us begin with a Malaysian spot that I’d last been to more than a decade ago… as a student. It’s still the same-looking place now, except that heaps of student apartments have sprung up around it over the years. Perfect location… no?

Norsiahs Kitchen Carlton 1360

Driving into the city can be pricey with parking unless you get in exactly at 7.30pm to nab one of the few Loading Zone spots that have gone off the grid. So Carlton comes up as a good alternative for our nightly cheap eats hunt.

It’s completely self-serve here… order and collect your food at the counter, then grab your own cutlery, napkins and water.

Norsiahs Kitchen Carlton 1358

Norsiah’s Kitchen offers a platter of rice with a choice of two meats plus one veg for $7. For an extra dollar you can choose an extra item. The quality of the selections is pretty good as well, the turmeric dusted ayam goreng (deep fried chicken) was especially good for that price point.

Norsiahs Kitchen Carlton 1359

This satisfying meal happened one night when we’d worked late and were just too lazy to cook… and at $14 for two persons, it almost makes the effort of cooking a meal and washing up after just not worth it. I’m sure another lazy night will happen in the near future and we’d be back here!

Minang Nasi Padang Carlton 1413

Minang Nasi Padang

104 Pelham St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9639 5977
Minang Nasi Padang on Urbanspoon

A week or so later, we found ourselves just around the corner from Norsiah’s. But instead of Malaysian fare, Minang serves up Indonesian Nasi Padang.

Minang Nasi Padang Carlton 1417

But the concept is similar. Rice is heaped on a plate, and then pick three accompanying dishes and pay $7. If you want beef rendang, it’ll be $8.

Minang Nasi Padang Carlton 1418

I know Indonesian Nasi Padang isn’t exactly the same thing as Malaysian fare, but Fatbee and I both prefer the dish selections at Norsiah’s, where the dishes somehow seemed to suit a bain marie situation better. Also, Minang doesn’t offer deep fried chicken.

Don Tojo Carlton 1262

Don Tojo

164 Cardigan St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 5041
Don Tojo on Urbanspoon

Still in Carlton, our next cheap feed had me finally exploring one of Don Don’s sister branches: Don Tojo.

Don Tojo Carlton 1264

For such an affordable place, the interior’s actually very comfy, with high ceilings and an intimate bricky-woody fitout. Order at the counter, then wait and collect your food (it comes very quickly), and help yourself to water at the self serve station next to the coffee machine.

Don Tojo Carlton 1267donjon box 8.7 – teriyaki, sukiyaki, salad and rice box

This bento box is one of the pricier dish on the menu, yet it still comes in at below $10. It’s a generous sized meal complete with fruit. The teriyaki chicken is especially wonderful here, succulent with an excellent chargrilled flavour.

Don Tojo Carlton 1269chicken curry don 6.9 – curry with teriyaki chicken on rice

My taste palate has changed lately and I’ve found myself enjoying Japanese style curries. Don Tojo’s version is pretty awesome, with good depth of flavour and more of the oh-so-lovely chargrilled teriyaki chicken! At such a good price tag too!!

Don Don 1439

Don Don

198 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 7113
Don Don on Urbanspoon

Of course our nightly hunt for cheap eats also extends into the CBD. And this time, we visited DonDon’s original shop in the CBD.

Don Don 1451

It’s a busier place than the Carlton branch and the interior isn’t quite as comfy. But the menu and pricing in both places is exactly the same. And I swear to you, the food comes out in less than a minute. Makes me think of this as the McDonald’s equivalent of the Japanese bento world, except it’s yummier.

Don Don 1449Sukiyaki Don 6.3 – Slice beef cooked in sake sauce on rice

This time I tried out the cheapest item on the menu, beef cooked in soy sauce, sake and sugar with rice. While not the best version of sukiyaki don (the beef slices were a bit clumped together), I was satisfied enough.

Don Don 1450Sashi don 9.0 – Salmon/ocean trout sashimi on rice

And here is Don Don’s priciest menu item – salmon sashimi on rice. This particular dish I’m not that big a fan of… the salad seasoning was quite Westernised and the lack of gravy/sauce made the dish quite dry.

Overall, I prefer Don Tojo in Carlton because of its quieter ambience. And if I’m visiting any of Don Don’s branches again, I’ll definitely be having the teriyaki chicken again and again!

Embassy Cafe West Melbourne 1466

Embassy Cafe

547 Spencer St
West Melbourne, VIC 3003
03 9328 1830
Embassy Taxi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Now that autumn has well and truly settled in like an insistent but affectionate stray cat, Fatbee and I spent one of our laziest Friday evenings ever… walking down the road to the nearest burger joint we could find (it was a windy & wet kind of evening, perfect for burgers).

Embassy Cafe West Melbourne 1464

It’s definitely one of those joints that us foodies are less likely to venture into… it’s open 24 hours and so frequented by cab drivers that Urbanspoon calls it “Embassy Taxi Cafe”. However, I noticed that The Burger Adventure actually gave this place high accolades. So it’s worth a shot… no?

Embassy Cafe West MelbourneBag of Chips $6.00 | Hamburger With The Lot $7.80

Lazy and hungry, we ordered two burgers with the lot and a massive box of hot chips and ran home in the rain. Fatbee then proceeded to orchestrate the cutest food-styling exercise ever… plonking the burger into a deep clay dish meant for oven baking tapas-style and then scattering a few chips on the side. It was absolutely impractical to eat out of that, but still looked delicious!

Unfortunately, as good as it looked, the burger didn’t quite hit the mark for me as the patty was firm, salty with quite a gamy beefiness to it. I devoured it all the same though. =D

Embassy Cafe West Melbourne 0900

Gone are those student days more than a decade ago where I could grab a mountainous plate of Roast Duck on Rice at Rose Garden BBQ Shop for $5.50 (it’s now $9). But I’m glad that cheap eats in the region of $6-$9 still exists in Melbourne.