422 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9391 0563
Mediterranean tucker may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of western suburbs food, but we are nevertheless blessed with some gems of that persuasion.
Specifically, there is a magnificent Turkish joint right in the heart of Footscray, and another almost as good in Flemington.
There’s Greek places as far apart as Williamstown and Moonee Ponds we have yet to explore.
And there’s the Lebanese hub of The Circle in Altona, including a great bakery sure to be the subject of its own CTS write-up before too long.
For all we know, there could be dozens of old-school Italian doings going on behind the facades of pizza shops all over the place.
Still, Mediterranean food – and that of the Middle Eastern kind, in particular – is thin enough on the ground that any possibility is worth exploring.
So it was that we concluded Cedar Grill was worth checking out, an earlier visit by Kenny dating back to the very early days of our decade-long western adventure.
Cedar Grill is like Footscray Best Kebab House, in that its public face as a kebab joint disguises some much more tasty and righteous food proceedings.
In this case, the disguise is even more profound, as Cedar Grill also sells burgers and your typical Aussie pizzas.
Being the reprobate he is, Bennie waves away the far more alluring, tempting, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, nutritious and flavoursome Middle Eastern fare and opts for the $9 combo of burger, chips and a can of soft drink.
Oh well – I guess there’s a degree of hipness in being able to do BOTH. Although he ruined even that silver lining by choosing creaming soda …
He pronounced the burger – with onion, tomato, cheese, bacon – as fine and more than sufficiently filling.
We both thought the chips were very good. Freshly made and crisp, they were salted just right and tasted very fine dipped in the kebab-style garlic and chilli sauces that accompanied my meat/salad/dip platter.
I liked my $11 platter a lot.
The lamb was off the spit, and suitably crunchy and salty.
The pickled turnip – turshi – was earthy, crunchy and redolent of the beetroot used in its production. It was far cry from the recently purchased jar of turshii – a dull, sad pink, and mushy on the fang – that recently found its way into our home and thence into the garbage bin. Fresh turshi only seems like a rule for life.
For my dip, I wish I’d chosen the humus or something with a little more substance than the yogurt/cucumber number, which tasted fine but was too runny to eat easily with the bread.
I opted for the pita bread over the Turkish option, hoping for the very flat, very dry Lebanese-style pita. Instead, I got the more doughy pita routinely used in making kebabs. Which means it was OK, but either of the other options would have been preferable.
The tabouli was sensational and just the way I like it – moist to the point of wetness, a jolly mix of finely chopped tomato, cucumber, bulgur, parsley and lemon.
I reckon Cedar Grill is worth cultivating. On an earlier visit, I’d seen the vegies for the salads being patiently chopped by hand – as I suspect just about everything here is.
And as we leave, the waitress hinted very strongly that with a bit of luck and an expression of interest, the boss might even come through with some kibbeh and foul.
From Chinese and Greek citizens selling fish and chips in earlier decades through to the present day – just because a shop or cafe or takeaway outlet is selling one kind of food, doesn’t mean the folk concerned are not fully capable of producing something altogether more interesting or funky.
Nor does it mean that they’d not leap at the chance to do so.
Maybe sometimes all it takes is some interest.
For that reason alone, we’ll be returning to Cedar Grill.
That the commercial radio, aircon and traffic whizzing by outside make a racket that makes the experience about as far from fine dining as is possible matters not a bit.
Bennie gets a photography lesson in Newport.
Um, yeah, right: Truth in advertising spotted by Bennie at 7/ll in Newport.