Essendon A1 – FAR OUT!

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A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

Bowling up to the brand, spanking new branch of the A1 Bakery chain, I am fully expecting a duplicate of its slightly older Werribee sibling.

I could hardly be more wrong – the Essendon joint is very, very different, and brilliantly so.

Here there’s a vibe that is 50/50 Middle Eastern and hipster cafe, and seems staffed somewhat along the same lines.

There’s exposed brick and old wood. The place is bustling with happy customers just a few days after opening.

 

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The food?

Oh my, happy days for Kenny!

There’s the expected full complement of pies and pizzas, including zaatar ($2), lamb ($3) and spinach/fetta ($4.50).

But there’s way more of just the kinds of things I like to see in such a place – stuffed vine leaves (three for $2.50) and kibbeh ($2), for instance.

There’s gorgeous-looking mountains of salad, including fattoush, tabouli and “zest salad”.

And for those looking for more than pies ‘n’pizzas or a tight line-up of eggy breakfast dishes, there’s platters – yippee!

 

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These include chicken (shish tawook), a rice and chicken dish called jaj a riz – and even one, samke hara, that features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

As I am only of moderate appetite, I opt for the lighter touch of the falafel platter ($11, top photograph).

It’s simply wonderful.

The plentiful tabouli is as good and fresh and super as any I’ve had – anywhere, anytime.

The hommus is creamy smooth but packed with lemon-infused flavour.

The felafels themselves may have been sourced from the display cabinet and reheated, but are still fine – featherlight, crisp on the outer, fluffy in the inner.

 

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After my lunch, I talk with one of the proprietors, Robert.

He confirms what I suspected – that the proliferating A1 chain is basically a matter of franchising.

So while the Essendon joint may share fully in the A1 ethos and badging, the food is individual – and in this case, strongly guided by an angel I will call The Hand Of Mum.

And that, of course, is a very excellent thing!

I expect to return here in a matter of days and am excited about the prospect of doing so.

I just love a place that offers more substantial Lebanese fare in a cafe setting.

 

A1 Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

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Cool Mecedonian in the west

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Korzo Grill House,12/106 Gourlay Rd, Caroline Springs. Phone: 9449 9219

After picking up Nat from his place of employ in Moonee Ponds, we are tootling up the Calder towards the northern part of Caroline Springs.

It’s a sweet drive so we have mucho time for a catch-up.

Inevitably, given the foodie talk of the town in recent days, we eventually turn to the concept of paying $500+ – excluding drinks – for a restaurant meal.

In many ways for me, it’s a matter of noting with detached interest, shrugging and going about my business.

I do, however, think it posits food in the same terrain as a Maserati, a $50,000 watch or queuing up for a week in order to get a new phone.

It’s about snob value and exclusiveness.

Nat nails it:

“I’d much rather be heading into the unknown with you on an adventure such as this!”

Amen to that!

This particular adventure turns out to be an all-round winner, even if we have a pretty good idea of what awaits on account of an earlier visit to a similar establishment in Thomastown.

For me personally, and having come to regard Caroline Springs and neighbouring environs as something of a wasteland, heading this way to find a hot eating place is a thrill.

 

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There’s some uniquely Balkan/Macedonian specialties on the menu … such as two kinds of pleskavia (meat patties with cheese) and selso meso (village hot pot).

But even if it is somewhat predictable, we head for the mixed grill ($55 for two, $28 for one) to speedily get a handle on what the place is about.

It’s very, very good and quite the bargain.

Best are the kebapi (skinless sausages, brought in) and the skinned snags (house-made).

The former are juicy and seasoned just bright; the latter are tightly packed and tangy.

The chicken is good and flavoursome, but a tad dry even when caressed by bacon. That’s what you often get with breast meat.

The rib meat of the pork chops is great, but again the hearts are dry. And again, we know this is difficult, we don’t mind at all and we keep on eating.

The chips are truly memorable and the cabbage salad the perfect foil, as always, for this kind of food.

 

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The capsicum dip works well, but as this food is basically without suaces and gravies – and that’s not a complaint – we get a side of pecini piperki ($$8) to help sluice things along.

Korzo is done out in crisp, casual eatery style.

Incredibly, there’s another place right next door that also does a few Balkan-style dishes, although it also covers bases such as pasta.

We’ve enjoyed the service provided my Melissa; and afterwards we enjoy talking with the boss and cook, Jim.

He tells us that there’s a significant Macedonian community in the Caroline Springs/Hillside/Taylors Lakes area, enough for a foundation for his restaurant.

He’s hoping for a broader audience than that of course, and is billing his food as more generally Balkan rather than specifically Macedonian.

In any case, we’re glad he’s doing his thing.

When we mention the arid chicken and pork, he sighs wearily – he’s heard it all before.

He’s tried thigh meat, but there’s customers who demand breast.

Likewise, his customers are mad for the pork chops.

 

Korzo Grill House on Urbanspoon

 

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West Welcome Wagon – the auction

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For further information on this event, go here.

In addition to the fine food and company to be had at the fund-raiser for West Welcome Wagon – co-hosted by Consider The Sauce and The Plough Hotel – we will be auctioning some goodies generously donated by three fine Yarraville business as follows …

( … and get those hands in the air, people!)

1. Chris and Andrew of Techville (above) have provided a Brother MFC-J4510DW printer with wireless networking, FAX and A3 capacity.

Value: $300.

 

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2.Simone from inviteme has provided beautiful glassware.

Value: $80.

 

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3. The Sun Bookshop has donated the lovely cookbook Streat.

Value: $45.

***

To book for this event, go here.

Yarraville pub – back to the future

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It’s something of a surreal hoot to stand amid the gutted rubble of the Yarraville boozer as it undergoes a drastic refurbishment.

Consider The Sauce gets it that there is some sadness around about the demise of inner-west old-school blue-collar pubs.

But CTS has no doubt the Yarraville pub has been in need of a new look and a fresh direction for some time.

And talking to Jason (pictured above), spokesman for the new all-westie owners, I rather think there are grounds for optimism.

There will be no pokies and not even pizzas – or “not at this stage”, in terms of the latter.

He says the reopened pub – the mooted date is mid-October – will be “a traditional pub with a twist”.

 

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And it is surely a good sign that the joint will revert to being called the Railway Hotel – vestiges of which remain.

The menu is in the process of being formulated, so everything Jason tells me comes with an “approximately” qualification.

But and just for instance … chicken parma for $21.50, unless you buy one on $15 parma night (Mondays).

There’ll be bar food/tapas.

And there’ll be a Sunday winter roast deal.

As well as an all-new wine list couple, there will a selection of boutique beers, including Two Birds.

 

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Wow – great offer

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Consider The Sauce has not been in the habit of talking up specific offers by particular restaurants – so far as I can recall this is a first.

I am happy to do so not on the basis of giving yet another plug for a favoured eating place but because I genuinely think CTS readers will appreciate knowing about the beaut offer I came across during the course of a Monday night “can’t be bothered cooking” quick bite in West Footscray.

Regular readers will know that Hyderabad Inn, at 551 Barkly Street, is among our faves among the bustling West Footscray Indian contingent – indeed, it was the venue of the first-ever Consider The Sauce Feast!

The joint’s “spring special offer” is currently available Mondays through to Thursdays and between 6pm and 7pm.

Heck – that’s eating hour for Team CTS! And I suspect most all families, too …

Here’s how it works …

Get any regular dosa and a can of soft drink for $3.95.

Insane!

The dosa lineup numbers 30 and ranges from masala, lamb and chicken dosas through to chicken tikka and tandoori vegetable.

They’re normally priced at up to $13.50.

Or you can choose from the smaller range of 70mm dosas, grab a can of drink and pay $6.95.

The 70mm dosas usually sell for up to $16.50.

The biryani deal of which I partook is just about as good.

My chicken version (pictured above) was its usual excellent self, with all the bits and pieces present and in working order – moist rice, high spice levels, fried and raw onion, peanutty gravy, raita, hard-boiled egg, two good-sized chook bits.

For this, and a can of soft drink, I paid $9.95.

Normal price for the rice alone is $15.

Get it while you can!

 

 

 

Persian in Footscray

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Kebab Surra, 241 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 0432 064 280

Meet Maria, Mohammad and Ali, the fine folks who have brought Persian food to Footscray.

Having watched with excitement the development and fit-out of their Barkly Street shop, after I was tipped to the news by CTS pal Juz, I jumped – once I laid eyes on the menu – to what came to seem like a wrong conclusion.

“Afghani,” thought I, seeing as there were so many similarities with a much-loved Sunshine joint of the Afghanistan persuasion.

But then the signage went up and … Persian it is!

Of course, it’s somewhat immaterial … our table of three erases our ignorance while awaiting our lunch by ascertaining that, in geographical terms at least, what was once Persia is very much today’s Iran and Afghanistan.

Whichever way you slice it, this is very good news for the neighbourhood … we three enjoy our lunch and vow to work our way through the menu on subsequent visits.

 

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Special kebab surra ($14.90) has superb meat. The minced lamb skewers are both juicy and a little crunchy thanks to diced onion. The chicken is succulent and very tasty.

(The cubed lamb that would normally also come with this dish is not ready on the day we visit …)

The freshly made bread that accompanies all our dishes is classic flatbread, warm and chewy.

Our salads are fresh and nice enough, although I would prefer to go without the sliced black olives. The strong flavour seems wrong somehow.

 

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Ghormeh sabzi ($13.99) is a big hit with all of us – it really is lovely.

It looks like an Indian saag/spinach dish.

But it tastes very different. There’s lamb, yes, but the key here is the use of dried limes, which give the gravy a wonderful yet low-key citrus feel.

There’s red beans in there, too, adding to the textural mix.

 

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The lamb shank that comes with my baghali polo ($14.99) is much meatier than appears may be the case, and the meat itself has that pungent lambness that I covet but not everyone does!

I’ve never had rice such as this before … it’s very mild. It is heavily flecked with dill yet there is just the merest whisper of dill flavour. And throughout there are broad beans, which help make for a different kind of texture and feel.

 

Kebab Surra on Urbanspoon

 

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Down at the oval

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Gorilla Grill. Phone: 0401 830 800
Kalamaki Greek Street Food. Phone: 9602 4444

 

Maybe it’s spring … but I’ve come full circle in how I feel about the food truck scene as it happens in the inner west.

After harbouring doubts pricing and comfort levels, I have come out the other side a keen fan.

I know this …

Every time Bennie and I drive past Yarraville Gardens, even if we don’t stop, we eagerly count of the truck turn-out and discuss those we have yet to try.

And on recent truck outings, we have unabashedly enjoyed the social atmosphere involved, invariably meeting friends old and new and loving the all of it.

The trucks and their operators seem to have fitted right in.

They’re a happy crew and we enjoy talking with them.

 

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That the food truck scene has become such a complementary part of our western food scene is a credit, I reckon, to all involved – from the operators and the council right through to the punters, their kids and dogs.

So mid-week we are happy and relaxed as we head to the smaller truck gathering point at Western Oval.

We wave hello to Remi at Happy Camper and Conan and Raymond at Big Cook Little Cook and head for the two untried by us … and make happy in a way that highlights one of the strengths of the food truck scene: We order our dinners from different trucks.

 

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From Gorilla Grill, Bennie grabs the Gorilla “Thriller” Pork Ribs ($13, see menu below).

I don’t try, but gee it all looks good and my partner is very happy.

 

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At Kalamaki Greek Street Food, I pass on the “souva” line-up and head straight for one of two platters available (menu below).

The Kara has a skewer apiece of chicken and lamb, a rustic grilled pita bread, fine chips and tzatziki.

It’s all good or better and just the dinner I have been seeking.

The dip is thick and great for chip dipping and meat slathering.

I make butties with the chips and pita.

Yum.

 

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Just as we are getting down to chowing down, we cheerfully greet CTS pal and food truck aficionado Nat Stockley.

It’s an unplanned food truck moment.

 

Gorilla Grill on Urbanspoon

Kalamaki Greek Street Food on Urbanspoon

 

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