Jack’s Satay Bar – a worthwhile stop on Melbourne’s food map
Moonee Ponds – it’s a wonderfully Australian name for a suburb, made famous as the ‘home’ of that great Australian comedic export to the world, Dame Edna Everage.
While dear old Edna put Moonee Ponds on the map, the area should also be well-regarded by foodies, particularly the strip of Mount Alexander Road between Puckle Street and Brunswick Road. There’s a lot to like there – tapas, Greek, Thai and Malaysian Chinese being the standouts.
For well over 20 years, John Ho and his team have been serving up fresh, spicy modern Malaysian food. It’s a winning formula, with a lot of dishes on the menu that haven’t changed an iota over that time.
Jack’s Satay Bar caters well to big groups and is a very comfortable, and comforting pit stop for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband who enjoy their favourite dishes so much, it’s rare for them to deviate from the script. It’s also a preferred venue for family birthday get togethers.
Last night, it was gluttonous husband’s dear mother, 89 years young, who was the guest of honour. The starting point, invariably, is the roti roll (pictured above) and curry puffs. The curry puffs, a rather retro item, are enjoyed by the seniors at the table who love the subtle spice and crisp, light pastry. The rest of us hoe into the roti roll, filled with succulent cubes of chicken, cucumber, tomato and one of the yummiest satay sauces Greedy Girl has ever tasted. The bread is served hot, but the filling remains cool. It’s a triumph of flavours and textures.
Next up is fried siu mai. These are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. Ordinarily, Greedy Girl would always order her pork dumplings steamed but these are so delicious, she could happily hoover up the lot. They’re served with a generous saucer of sweet chilli sauce but Greedy Girl is a philistine and asks for soy.
And, so to mains – a few to share. There’s an emphasis at Jack’s Satay for simply-cooked, quite traditional fare when it comes to the large dishes, with a few twists. A dish of lightly crumbed chicken fillets served with a sweet plum sauce owes more to Japanese influences, served on a bed of cabbage and bean shoots.
Then there are the iron platters that arrive sizzling from the kitchen – we choose strips of beef and plump prawns, both served with an array of vegetables and spicy sauces.
These dishes can vary a fair bit in terms of their level of heat. Generally they’re on the milder side so if you like more spice, you should ask for it. The vegetables are seasonal but you can rely on peppers, onion, baby corn, mushrooms and broccoli.
And last, but by no means least is the unique ducksi goreng. Greedy Girl has never seen a dish like this anywhere else on her travels. Strips of duck meat and skin are wok-tossed through Malaysian-style fried rice. The rice is salty and spicy with just a touch of sweetness. There’s crunch from bean shoots and fried shallots and softness from an omelette folded through. It is an absolute standout and worth the trip to the suburbs for on its own.
Moonee Ponds is a high traffic area – it’s on a key route from the city to the northern suburbs, it has a lot of significant businesses nearby, not to mention a major race track (horses, not cars). It’s also a very easy stop off point on your way into the city from Melbourne airport – a very happy meeting point for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband after business trips away.
There’s a reason why Jack’s Satay Bar has been in business so long, with minimal renovation of either the menu or the restaurant itself – it’s just a great place to stop for a bite, the drinks menu is extremely good and the service is great. Greedy Girl hopes they’re around for at least another 20 years.
Jack’s Satay Bar
571 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds