VU Halal Kitchen, Building M, Level 0, Victoria University, Footscray. Phone: 9919 4300
Given the radiant brilliance of some of our Middle Eastern adventures lately – particularly at Coburg’s Abbout Falafel House and Al-Alamy – the surprise isn’t that the newish VU Halal Kitchen doesn’t quite match them but that it delivers a good and worthy shot at it with very similar prices.
I’d first stumbled across VU Halal Kitchen after trying out Cafe Noodle House, which is situated in a nearby campus building.
Subsequent attempts to try the campus Middle Eastern fare were thwarted by the festive season, catering commitments and the end of the academic year.
Now, in early March, Team Consider The Sauce is on the job and mighty hungry.
While we understand the business requirements that dictate the food cater to a broad base of students, you’ll be unsurprised to learn we ignore completely such fodder as the burgers, parmas, pastas and the like … although those seem to be the choices of the few other customers there are.
After being told several times the dips came with “Turkish bread” only, what turns up is a pleasant surprise.
The trimmings aren’t quite as substantial or sparkling as we get in Coburg, but they’re much appreciated anyway. Both kinds of pickles are commercial but lovely and crunchy.
The terrific bread is made on the premises.
I subsequently am told by VU Halal Kitchen proprietor George that it’s oil-free, which helps give it a nice chewiness when fresh and not unpalatable crunchiness when an ancient half-hour or so old.
The “baba-ghanouj” plate ($7) is the star of our lunch, the dip itself being redolent of smokiness, lemon and garlic in about equal measures. Very good!
The “hommus” plate, at the same price, is not as impressive, with the dip sporting a blandness that makes it seem like a wallflower.
We order the spicy potato curry pie ($4) out of sheer curiosity and are a little disappointed. As you’d expect, it’s quite a lot like an elongated samosa – except that the curry potato stuffing is very much at the outer extremes of mildness. It’s OK.
The dressed zaatar pizza ($4.80), too, suffers by comparison with the superior equivalents available at our usual local haunts – but not by much.
After lamenting that our otherwise incredibly vibrant westie food situation lacks an Al-Alamy or an Abbout Falafel House, I am gratified to learn from George, who is of Egyptian background, that VU Halal Kitchen in fact boasts an Al-Alamy connection.
That operation’s Ahmed is overseeing the kitchen affairs here in a supervisory role, which hopefully augurs mightily well for the future.
Falafels are in the near future, as will be – I fully expect – a degree of tweaking and improving.
A western suburbs place serving Middle Eastern food that goes beyond pizzas and kebabs needs to be encouraged.
George, by the way, highly recommends the awarma (minced meat cooked with scrambled eggs, $10) and shak-shooka (scrambled eggs mixed with tomato, onion and cheese, $10) – both served with aforementioned bread and pickles.
Two more points …
Given the possibility the bar set-up of which the kitchen is part may be otherwise needed for a function, we strongly suggest phoning an hour or so before your planned lunch … just to make sure.
And the drinks situation is far from ideal – extremely small bottles of soda pop and Mount Franklin water all clock in at $3. But then again, this is a bar – rather than a campus cafeteria.