Kitchen Inn

4 Comments

Kitchen Inn, 471 Elizabeth St , Melbourne. Phone: 3330 0023

Kitchen Inn – at peak times – is no doubt already as mad busy as Coconut House, just up Elizabeth St about a block.

Evidently, there is significant interest in this newish place’s specialty – the food of Sarawak, a state on Borneo in Malaysia.

That Kitchen Inn has created a buzz among Sarawakian students and expats of various kinds is eloquently and expertly testified to by bloggers Kimba’s Kitchen, Arrow Foodie and Yellow Eggs, whose reviews are no doubt far more authoritative than my own will be.

Nevertheless, it is with a keen sense of adventure that I hit the place for lunch.

In our world, anything that fosters regional specialties has a good chance of going to the top of the “to do” list. It’s not just food but also things like music and languages that are being sorely strained, often to the point of extinction, by the forces of globalisation.

It’s a small eating house with a bottleneck at the cash register, where people paying for their meals dodge staff delivering food to customers yet to eat – or pay.

The longish menu has some familiar names – Hainan chicken rice, Singapore fried vermicelli and nasi lemak.

But I wouldn’t expect them to be routine offerings – the Sarawak laksa, for instance, looks and sounds quite different to the norm.

From what I can gather, if Sarawak was a nation, the national dish might well be kolo mee, so that’s what I order.

The Wikipedia entry for the city of Kuching describes kolo mee as “egg noodles, flash-boiled, then classically served with crushed garlic and shallot, minced pork or beef, white vinegar, either vegetable oil, pork oil or peanut oil, and sliced barbecue pork known as char siu or beef”.

The kolo mee special, at $11, is $2.50 more than the regular, for which extra money you get three plump prawns. “Deal 4″ at $15 gets me kolo mee special with a bowl of “Special Soup”.

The soup’s broth has a quite intense and briny bitterness. It’s OK, I slurp it, but I won’t be in hurry to try it again.

The pork balls are tender tending to mushy, and delicious. The other meat is thin-sliced and has the delicacy and texture of lamb’s tongue.

I subsequently discover it’s actually pork liver.

Would I have ordered it had I known pork liver was involved?

No.

Did I like it?

Yes.

The kolo mee is fine – quite mildly seasoned, it’s much more interesting in the flavour department than it appears.

There’s a heap of thin house-made noodles, with just a enough juice/sauce at the bottom of the bowl to make the dish fly.

The prawns are OK but a bit of an irrelevancy.

The pork mince actually adheres quite well to the noodles, but predictably and delightfully the meal gets better as it is ending as there’s more juice, mince and roast pork to go in to every mouthful.

It’s an engaging taste overall – one I’ll inaccurately describe as “slightly smoky” because I can’t think a better way of putting it.

Next time?

Maybe I’ll try No.31 –  Marmite chicken ribs with rice.

Kitchen Inn on Urbanspoon

Bulsho Cafe

3 Comments

Bulsho Cafe, 303 Racecourse Road,  Kensington. Phone: 9372 3557

In this case, the food and – presumably – the clientele is Somalian.

But individual differences and quirks aside, Bulsho Cafe could be Italian.

Or Polish or Croatian or Chinese or other African or Turkish or Vietnamese.

In its own way, it epitomises what I think of as “working men’s cafes”.

Or, more accurately, community hubs, hang-out joints and coffee stops for men, whether they be working or not.

You’ll rarely see women in such places.

You’ll rarely see them blogged or on Urbanspoon, either.

If they serve food – and it’s a big if – there’ll likely be no printed menu; just a hand-scrawled list, if that.

You’re mostly required to ask.

Such places can be quite daunting, but I’ve found often enough that perseverance and friendly inquiries can lead to fine food done dirt cheap and served with a welcoming smile.

My Sunday lunchtime experience at Bulsho, right next door to Flemington Kebab House, mirrors those experiences – and I’m eventually glad I hang in there.

Upon I entering, I see just a single customer, who is eventually joined by a mate, and no staff anywhere.

I hear sounds of activity emanating from the rear of the premises, but there’s no bell or other way of alerting the staff to the presence of willing customer.

I wait a few minutes and a few minutes more before deciding to split. That’s the way it goes at these sorts of places sometimes.

But as I am in the process of departing, I actually cop an eyeful of what the solitary customer is eating.

“Gosh,” methinks. “That looks good.”

So good, in fact, that I summon up some more perseverance by directing a robust, “Hello!” to the so-far unseen staff.

I am rewarded by a smiling young chap who is only happy to help ease my lunchtime fervour.

From there the process is easy …

“I want what he’s having,” I declare, gesturing towards the other customer.

It’s lamb curry with rice ($13).

Except, it’s not a curry at all. Or not in the way it’s generally understood.

Instead, it’s a lamb pieces on the bone – mostly shank, I think – in a clear broth of the same fashion as served by Safari in Ascot Vale or Ras Dashen in Footscray.

If the soup isn’t quite of the same spicy, piquant succulence as found in those two fine establishments, it’s good enough nonetheless.

Somewhat unexpectedly, given the nature of the meal and my previous experiences with similar feeds, the meat itself is quite different from the fall-from-the-bone kind I am expecting.

The meat is pleasantly chewy, comes from the bones easily enough with just a little effort and is ace in its own way. And there’s plenty of it.

A small pot of mild curry gravy is brought to my table after the rest of my meal, lubricating things nicely.

But the monarch of my meal is the plentiful rice – done in a way I am familiar with from other Somalian eateries, but here strongly perfumed with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Not for the first time, I have been handed a lesson – that good food in the west can sometimes require a bit more chutzpah than merely walking in, grabbing a  menu and ordering.

And I think that’s a fine thing.

I would really love to hear other food hounds’ experiences – good, bad, indifferent, puzzling, frustrating, whatever – at such places as Bulsho.

There’s plenty of them, that’s for sure.

Yet they’re a part of our cultural and food landscape that goes largely unremarked.

As for women being rarely seen in them, I reckon that’s just an entrenched tradition – one I’d like to think is not based on any religious or cultural dogmas or taboos, such is the surprised delight I’ve invariably come across whenever I’ve chosen to make the effort.

Bulsho Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bruno’s Coffee Lounge

2 Comments

Bruno’s Coffee Lounge, 39 Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 0349

Bruno’s Coffee Lounge is an old-school cafe in an old-school, narrow arcade/mall off Puckle St.

It’d long ago registered in my mind as somewhere worth checking out, but it took a nudge from Consider The Sauce pal Nat Stockley to get me stepping through the door.

But I’m so glad I have.

I’ll cover the food I have on my initial visit shortly.

But what rally wows me about this place is the warmth and gentleness of the welcome – it’s like a soothing balm.

The blankie-blankie of eateries, if you like.

Many and Mick, originally from Shanghai, have been in residence at Bruno’s for about 13 years.

Before them, it was under the sway of Greek influences for eight years, and before that – and starting in 1961 – it was run by eponymous Bruno, he being of Italian extraction.

How about that?

A 50-year-old Moonee Ponds institution serving honest, delicious food across generations and cultural backgrounds! 

The couple tell me that they’ve pretty much stuck with food routines and menu they inherited, though I’m sure there’s been some tweaking along the way.

Besides – and based on my superb lunch – why would they change anything of substance?

The last thing I expect to be having is a full-on roast, but I let Mandy sweet talk me into it.

There’s salads, sandwiches and rolls and breakfasts – and more.

But maybe I’m roast pushover because of rather wonderful meals I’ve enjoyed lately at the Famous Blue Rain Coat and the Footscray Club.

The Bruno’s roast deal ($12.90) is every bit as good, maybe even better.

Really, really fine, in fact.

Sliced potatoes – roasted with salt, pepper, onion and oil; drained of the oil and then grilled; melt-in-your-mouth sensational.

Roast beef equally fantastic and moist – sliced thinly; cooked wrapped snugly in foil to keep the juices in; topped with heaps of lovely gravy.

The vegetables go pretty good, too; hand-cut carrot, cauliflower, broccoli; well-cooked but nowhere near mushy. And definitely not frozen!

Gosh, I wonder after a knockout lunch, how good might the roast pork be? Or the chicken parma or the rissole dinner?

And how incredible if the coffee’s as good as the food I’ve tried?

Bruno's Coffee Lounge on Urbanspoon

Biryani House

5 Comments

Biryani House, 61 Gordon St, Footscray. Phone: 9318 8007

No prizes for guessing this new Gordon St venture is a sister restaurant for the well-known King St, CBD, place of the same name.

It joins two other restaurants and a grocery in fostering a mini-Indian precinct on this stretch of Gordon St.

The new Biryani House is a nice room but very plain – wooden tables and chairs, some swirly wallpaper that looks like an optical illusion on one side and not much more.

We’re told that in the meantime aside from all-week dinner hours, lunch is served Thursday through to Sunday.  More week-day lunch hours may eventuate next year when the students – and there’s heaps of them hereabouts – return for a new academic year.

We’re tickled to find the menu starts with a list of “Aussie Favourites” – butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, lamb vindaloo and lamb madras.

Righto, now we’ve got them out of the way, let’s see what points of difference there are in the rest of the menu … and we find some crackers, ensuring an interesting meal and a hasty return.

Just for instance …

Khichdi – “traditional Hyderabad rice with lentils”.

Nehari – “a spicy soup made with tender lamb shanks garnished with fried onions and fresh grown herbs”.

Marag soup – “a fine soup delicacy made from tender chunks of lamb”.

Kahtti dal – “a lentil stew in tangy juice of tamarind”.

And so on … but we start with gobi 65 ($8.50, top picture).

It’s more austere than the same-titled dish we’ve had elsewhere – just some curry leaves and battered cauliflower, but golly it’s very good.

The thin batter is a crispy treat and the vegetable pieces totally moreish.

And we really, really appreciate it when the natural flavours of a dish come through despite high levels of seasoning, especially with a mild flavour such as cauliflower.

We squabble over who’s going to get the biggest pieces.

Another big plus at this place – almost all the chicken and lamb dishes are available in half-serves, $5.90 instead of $9.

This enables us to have a broader meal than would otherwise be the case, and we find our two half serves none too shabby in the size department at all.

Hariyali chicken is described as “a popular festive dish of chicken simmered in a unique blend of fresh green herbs and peppercorns”.

What appear to be juicy chunks of thigh meat swim in a rich sauce that has the green of the herbs and a wonderful slow burn of heat that glows from the use of much pepper.

Lamb aloo methi, “cooked with potatoes and touch of fenugreek leaves”, is good, too, with tender lamb and a colour splash from the fenugreek leaves, though it seems to us it’s not as distinctive as our chicken dish.

The potato element is awesome.

Both of these dishes are at the outer limit of spiciness that Bennie finds tolerable.

For bread, we choose lacha paratha (2.50), which we are told is just plain dough that is folded very many times.

Our lovely buttery bread does indeed have a croissant-like flakiness, and it goes real well at its main task – mopping up the last of our curry gravies.

Check out the full menu at the Biryani House website.

Biryani House on Urbanspoon

Picnic time

8 Comments

So the big day of the Consider The Sauce/Footscray Food Blog Spring Picnic finally arrived … would anyone turn up? Or would too many?

Neither, of course – just a really nice crew of friends, loyal blog followers, food fans and a fellow blogger, too.

The rain stayed away, but it was cool – though not to the point of discomfort.

Bennie and I loved meeting folks.

Ms Baklover brought some criminally delicious pastries from the South American Bakery in Sunshine.

Yours truly fronted with a beetroot salad and another of eggplant and tomato.

Best of all, Andy from Krapow fame rocked up with a big pot of Thai-style chicken rice and a tangy condiment.

Count on another Spring Picnic next year – almost certainly later in the year, but not too close to the festive season.

Thanks for coming!

Fast food/food court etiquette

12 Comments

Just out of curiosity …

When eating at a fast food joint, be it a franchise or otherwise, or a shopping centre food court, do you:

1. Gather up all your food scraps and packaging yourself, and put them in one of the rubbish receptacles?

Or …

2. Treat it like a normal restaurant experience, and leave it all for restaurant employees to clean up?

If you leave your mess for employees to clean-up, are you:

1. Inflicting more pain and drudgery on staff who are already over-worked and under-paid?

Or …

2. Creating job opportunities by refusing to be guilt-tripped by the business into doing work that should be done by staff members.

Just Sweets

1 Comment

Just Sweets, 26 Upton St, Altona. Phone: 9315 0553

You could go to the Just Sweets website to order their super rocky road, gingerbread houses and more online.

But to a large and loving degree, that would be missing the point.

Watching Enzo Amato preside over the 9am mummy rush hour for coffees and chats, in which he seemingly knows the names of each and every customer, it’s clear that this is a hands-on, community-based business full of passion and enthusiasm.

Like his wife and business partner, Maria, Enzo is Italian-born but was raised in Switzerland before coming to Australia.

His family background is very much of the shoemaker tradition, but here he found himself in the food industry, specialising in fruit and vegetables.

But he’s always had a sweet tooth, and eventually friends started suggesting that if produced his famed rocky road in salable quantities it would be a big hit.

He was very skeptical, but gave it a go – and after that first, and successful, outing at a Healesville market, they haven’t looked back.

Just Sweet sells a variety of sweet treats and candy from outside sources, but the prides and joys are the likes of the rocky road – 17 varieties! – and the gingerbread houses.

Nougat and individual chocolates are also made in-house.

I ask Enzo about the history of rock road.

He reckons it has its roots in the Great depression as a sort-of  “poor man’s food”.

Back home and online, I find some unsubstantiated information along those lines.

Yet an equally unverified entry on Wikipedia would have it that rocky road is very much a product of Australia’s 1850’s goldfields.

A mystery!

Just Sweets has been running for about three years at its Altona location, an old corner store that’s not actually on a corner, but is right across the road from Altona Primary School.

I suggest that such intimate proximity of a sugary shop and a school must surely be the principal’s worst nightmare.

Enzo laughs, saying Just Sweets and the school have a beaut relationship that stays on the right side of healthy eating habits.

Just Sweets even provides the supplied school lunches, including sandwiches and the like.

Enzo and Maria never envisaged their enterprise becoming a coffee stop and community hub, but after watching the business at work, their accountant advised to make precisely that move.

Yet the coffee machine has seen Just Sweets even more firmly embedded in the neighbourhood.

Rezah

4 Comments

Rezah, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

Meet my new favourite things.

They’re aushak, they’re Afghani dumplings and they’re incredible.

I’ve ordered a half serve of them ($15), instead of one of the $20+ kebab mains, so I can get a taste of other bits of the menu at this lovely Afghani restaurant.

It’s a tactic to which I often resort when eating by myself, one that can often go wrong and worse.

But tonight I feel like a bleeding genius of ordering.

Encased in silky pillow casings, each of the dumplings is stuffed with splendidly vivid green sliced spring onion.

The distinctive bitter flavour of the onions goes absolutely divinely with the slightly sweet, slightly but just rightly chilli glow of the meat sauce and the minted yogurt around the fringes.

I can’t remember the last time I deliberately slowed my eating to linger over every mouthful.

But by the time I’m down to my last dumpling, it’s stone cold.

Yes, that good.

Accompanying my meal is a serve of toorshi ($3.50), described as “pickled vegetables in vinegar”.

These watery pickles, too, are just plain fantastic – mouth-puckering sour, there’s onion, cabbage, potato, chilli, cauliflower, cucumber, all of it soft to the point of mushiness but so fine.

Watery, sour and excellent, too, is the dip/chutney of “fresh tomato, coriander, garlic, fresh crushed green hot pepper” ($3.50) I order, which is joined by a regulation mint/yogurt raita, which I haven’t.

The aushak sauces, the dips and the pickles are all gleefully mopped up by nicely chewy fresh flat bread, which is like a cross between the Turkish and Lebanese varieties.

Rezah is decorated with Afghani artwork and photos, the service has been lovely and the food delivery as prompt as can be expected.

Frankly, I’m drooling at the thought of returning.

There’s plenty of meat on the menu (see below), including familiars such as tandoori chicken and various biryanis.

But there’s some points of difference, too, such as asheh lubia – homemade noodles with red kidney bean sauce and yogurt.  Sounds pricey at $25, but you never know …

Rezah Afghan Kebab on Urbanspoon

Truckies Drive In Cafe

1 Comment

Truckies Drive In Cafe, 90-92 Boundary Rd, Laverton North. Phone: 9325 1553

There are hundreds of fast-food outfits spread across the industrial wild west, servicing myriad operations big and small, lubricating the wheels of commerce and feeding a mix of blue-collar workers of many kinds and their support colleagues.

I’ve always assumed that they’re pretty much interchangeable and that the food involved is not much good and even less good for one’s health.

So why try this one?

Well, I’ve driven past it many times, so it has become an itch to be scratched.

It’s got the sort of name and something of the appearance of a genuine ‘Merican-style truck stop.

Still, my hopes are appropriately modest.

A good burger would be good.

A very good burger with fresh, hot, crunchy chips would be a bonus.

My more extreme fantasies run to a wise-cracking waitress named Loretta or Rhonda, a jukebox stuffed with prime Merle Haggard and a slice of house-made apple pie a la mode.

And fantasies they are, as I discover when I enter what looks like a routine fast-food place.

But the welcome from proprietor Elias and his crew is warm and welcoming.

They’ve been here for almost the all the eight years an eatery has operated here.

Even better, my dismay at the line-up of already-made and wilting burgers and kebabs is immediately dispelled upon being told that, yes indeed, a burger can be made fresh to my specifications.

My burger is better than good.

The flattened patty is rather lightweight but tastes OK.

The other components – lettuce, tomato, bacon, some raw onion, sauce – are fine.

But the ace in the hole is the top-quality bun – fresh, big and delicious.

The chips are hot, well-done and inhalable.

Even better, there’s HP Sauce on hand in which to dunk them.

Burger and a can of soft drink $6.90, chips $2.

Bargain!

And at that sort of price, requesting an extra patty is quite viable should you want a more meaty feed.

And now some wise words from two of my fellow western suburbs food fans:

Boat noodles in Errol St

1 Comment

Soi 38, North Melbourne Spring Fling, Errol St.

Having been out and about the previous day on official Consider The sauce business/fun, we figure this Sunday will be a cruise.

But the perfect visit to Highpoint – sleeping bag, four pairs of socks, in and out in under 20 minutes on a crazy mad busy Sunday – has us running ahead of schedule and in the mood.

Another pleasant surprise comes when, after telling Bennie he can have his choice of any burger joint within easy driving distance, he says: “I want noodles!”

So with much glee it is we head for North Melbourne and the Spring Fling in Errol St.

Andy, from Thaicentric blog Krapow, is using the festival to launch his Soi 38 enterprise and we’re keen for a taste.

Boat noodles are a new one on us – and most likely Most Melburnians, even those with a well-honed love of Thai food.

You can read what Andy and his crew are aiming at this Krapow post and the links at the end.

Their stall – fronted by a real-deal street food cart – is doing a roaring trade, but we wait just a few minutes to get our food.

Our boat noodles are a smallish serve that is just right for us and a fine deal at $5.

Andy may be irked by the comparison, but they come across to us as a drier Thai-style version of pho.

Thin noodles, a fish ball, some beautifully tender meat, all in a richly flavoursome pork broth, garnished with coriander, bean sprouts and crunchy, healthy (ahem …) pork crackling.

While being quite plain in the seasoning department, they’re very good.

Even better, they’re served in real bowls and non-disposable chop sticks.

In our experience with street/festival food in Melbourne, this is a first.

In our opinion, this is a thing of monumental hipness!

And it goes to show that if food sellers are really intent on not using plastic, styrofoam and otherwise throwaway trash cutlery and containers, it can be done.

Quite apart from the environmental aspects, it makes the eating experience so much more enjoyable.

Bravo!

We finish our meal with a serve – from the same crew of – khanom dorayaki ($5 for four).

These little pikelet-like sandwiches – filled with the likes of with custard, pandan Ccustard, sweet taro, sala custard and creaming soda custard – are soooooo good.

After wolfing down these light-as-a-feather pleasure bombs, we head for home having had a super lunch for $15.

Hopefully, this is the start of something big for the Soi 38 crew – we certainly wish them and will be keeping a watch to learn of their next outing.

The flip side of Yarraville

35 Comments

See review here.

Coming soon to the site of the former post office, on the corner of Anderson and Ballarat …

Hey, even as fans of Grill’d, we’re not sure how we feel about having a branch right in the heart of our neighbourhood.

Of course, there’s a Nando’s just up the street, but it’s not in a so prominent postion.

What do you think?

CROktoberfest

2 Comments

CROktoberfest, Somers Street, North Sunshine.

It is an unexpected musical epiphany, though one that is perhaps at least a little predictable.

As we are enjoying our time – and the sights, sounds and aromas – at CROktoberfest, being held in the ground adjacent to the Melbourne Knights football ground, the music is being provided by a group led by event organiser Dom.

Now, European music is at the very fringes of my musical interests.

But this stuff makes me feel right at home – the lilt and swing is akin to the vintage downhome American music I love so much, and also very much of the Spanish-language music of the US south-west and Mexico, of which I am also a fan.

But what is it with Croatians and volume?

Even with this band and its acoustic instruments, the volume is at a full-tilt, ear-attacking, chest-thumping level – just as the music was at our previous engagement with Croatian music and food.

And all this even before the DJs and rocker get things really cranking later in the night.

Presumably, the geese digging the music from the very front of the stage are used to such things …

But of course, while we have come here to enjoy the party vibe in general, it is the food that is the main drawcard – and especially the bull on the spit.

And there’s do doubt it is a very impressive sight.

As it revolves and roasts, meat is carved from the fragrant beast and passed to crew members who dice it for stuffing into rolls awaited by eager customers.

Like all the food we have, it is dressed simply with shredded lettuce.

But on the evidence of my $10 roll, nothing more is needed.

The plain appearance disguises the quality within – this is as fine beef as I’ve ever had: Juicy, tender, slightly salty, magnificent!

Bennie goes first-up for a similarly priced schnitzel roll, after which we go our separate ways to explore the fun.

The festival area is quite compact, with kids activities off to one side and many more people inside the clubrooms, where there is more music and similar food on offer.

Even here there is music that reverberates with my past – although it, too, is at extreme volume.

There are very many happy people.

There is very much beer being consumed.

So I go with that flow and have one with my second offering of the day – pork cubes in a similar roll for the same price.

The meat here is also tender juicy and flavoursome, but has nowhere near the “wow” factor of the bull.

Bennie has a bull roll then, too.

Some more music and then we’re done – leaving the party masses to work on the rest of the night.

And morning.

Waffee Waffles + Coffee

Leave a comment

Waffee Waffle + Coffee, 25 Harrington Square, Altona. Phone: 9398 1689

We do breakfast out less than a handful of times a year, so are quite happy to really indulge when we do.

As in lashings of rashers or, as in this case, wonderfully sticky and chewy waffles.

There’s another reason to check out Waffee at breakfast time – out first effort to do so quickly resulted in us learning there’s no Saturday lunch to be had.

That’s fair enough, as there’s no savoury element to be found here at all.

Waffee is a small and seemingly often busy and much-cherished cafe in Altona’s Harrington Square.

There’s a communal table for about six people, a couple of tables for two and some stools at the window bench, where set up shop.

We go for the “half dozen assorted” for $15, including blueberry, cinnamon, chocolate glazed, raspberry white chocolate and hot cross.

Each waffle is served tucked neatly into its own “open” brown paper bag.

They’re semi-crispy on the outside, with a lot more substance than your usual waffle. In fact, they’re quite dense and chewy. And filling …

These waffles are made, I am told, in the style of Belgian city of Liege and are fully meant to be heavier and chewier.

Whatever the girth dynamics, they’re delicious … and, unsurprisingly, where dad prefers the more austere cinnamon, Bennie fully loves the likes of the chocolate glazed.

The waffles go super fine with our very good cafe latte and hot chocolate.

Quite apart from the cool waffles and coffee, the service here is a strong reason to return – it’s very much of the smiling, friendly and door-opening variety.

Much obliged!

Waffee Waffle+Coffee on Urbanspoon

Rose of Australia Hotel

4 Comments

Rose of Australia Hotel, 54 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Photo: 9397 6259

Exterior that emits classy vintage vibes, a narrow hallway leading to the dining room and even more narrow hallways leading elsewhere, friendly service – the Rose is doing its bit to maintain and preserve the tradition of old-school pubs in the western suburbs.

We’d eaten here once before our mid-week visit on a typically wintry Melbourne spring evening, but that’s just a hazy memory from when Bennie was a fractious toddler.

He was often a Very Naughty Boy in those days. Well, extremely trying anyway …

The classic exterior appears to have not changed at all; not so with the bistro.

We’re told the current management has been in place for about five years and the current dining room fit-out for about five months.

It’s still old-school, mind you, and we love the comfy booths arrayed along on side of the room.

So we grab one.

The menu is straight-up pub tucker, though in this instance Bennie is going to have survive without the burger he desires.

My chicken parmagiana ($18.50) is real fine – a thickish slab of flavoursome, juicy chicken topped with the regulation cheese and ham, with the biggest flavour hit coming from a fine tomato sauce.

It’s a much more substantial parma than is conveyed by the above photo.

The chips are fine, too, but I wish there was whole bunch more of them. The salad component is OK but struggles to avoid being labelled “garnish”.

Bennie has never before ordered a mixed grill.

This proves to be not the best place for him to break that particular duck.

At $19.50, it’s described to us as various meats, other bits and “warm potato salad and onion gravy”.

It’s fair to say Bennie’s never seen anything like it.

Nor have I, for that matter.

There’s heaps of smallish but delicious pieces of steak, bacon rashers, a fried egg and a goodly sausage, all smothered in dark gravy. And none of the lamb chop or cutlet we have been expecting.

The salad in the middle has a serious case of caper overkill. I’d imagined spud salad and mixed grill to be quite a workable combo, but what with the gravy and all … it just looks wrong.

Bennie’s a bit overwhelmed, and even resorts to asking for his barely warm meal to be heated up, not that it makes much difference to him.

Despite the unhappy, blameless mishap with the mixed grill – we did, after all get, exactly what was described – we like the Rose.

The Tuesday curry night – choice of one of two, with raita, house-made roti, rice, pickle and papadam for $15 – appears to be particularly worthy of future investigations.

Rose of Australia Hotel on Urbanspoon

CROkoberfest: Win tickets!

9 Comments

CROktoberfest is an all day – and most of the night! – celebration of Croatian culture, including much lip-smackingly good food.

It’s being held next Saturday, October 20, right in our own backyard in Sunshine North.

Thanks to event organiser Dom, we have two tickets – worth $25 each – to give away.

Simply comment on this post, telling us in a few words why you want to go.

Team CTS will choose the winner on Wednesday night and arrange to get you tickets to you before the event.

Featured at the festival will be the CROktoberfest Cup Soccer finals, six DJs, traditional German and Croatian folk dancers, a boulder-throwing competition, cup and saucer rides, face painting and heaps more.

And, of course, lots of food.

Says Dom: “It’s the only place you will ever see a bull on the spit – that’s right a bull. The only place you will ever have cevapcici and pretzels at the same time.”

CROktoberfest is on October 20 from noon until 4am at the Melbourne Croatia Social Club, 2 Somers St, North Sunshine. Details: Dom Dedic on 0431 167 294.

Children under 12 get in for free.

CROktoberfest website.

Kingsville Primary School Fete

4 Comments

Kingsville Primary School, Somerville Rd, Kingsville

What a winning school fair this was – plenty of room to move, well run, heaps of food, a spinning wheel raffle, happy people everywhere.

I had a hot dog and a brilliant coffee, and bought some real-deal homemade coconut ice.

Deniz Kebab House

4 Comments

Deniz Kebab House, 829 Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 9363 1188

Here’s a Turkish eats place that sells a lot of the sandwiches otherwise known as kebabs, but which deserves to be considered so much more than a kebab shack.

With its homely formica tables, tiled floor, very friendly service and extensive menu, Deniz Kebab House is very much a family-style full-on Turkish restaurant.

Talking with owners Tuncel and Inci is very cool, as it always when the people concerned are so full of enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing.

Everything is made in-house, they proudly tell me.

And that “everything” is a lot – not just the various meats, dips and salads but also all the sweets, bread, pides, boreks, pizzas and more.

My single dolma is good, with tomatoey rice that is so al dente it’s almost crunchy. I like it that way when it comes my way!

There’s three meat genres going around and around on spits – lamb doner, chicken and one called “slice lamb kebab”.

Seizing with glee on a point of difference, I order the latter.

It’s unlike any kebab meat dish I’ve ever experienced – nicely, gently chewy with a distinctive flavour that makes me almost think there’s some kind of cheese been used in its preparation.

I subsequently discover from Tuncel that the lamb is softened with milk and onion and cooked with salt, pepper, chilli, oregano and paprika. 

I’ve requested some of the house chilli dip so get that and none at all of the customary yogurt-based accompaniments for such a meal, but I’m cool with that and up for some heat.

The chilli dip is fiery hot and piquant, and goes great with not just the meat but also the bread, which arrives at my table so hot and fresh it’s steaming.

Dolma, meat plate with dip and salad, can of soft drink and a pide stuffed with lamb and herbs for the next day’s work lunch – and I’ve still got change from $20.

Tuncel tells me the opening of Chef Lagenda a few doors up a few months back is good for business in terms of helping the Deer Park strip foster a reputation for foodiness.

Deniz Kebab House on Urbanspoon

Zaatar

Leave a comment

Zaatar, 365 Sydney Rd, Coburg. Phone: 9939 9494

On my regular forays to the Middle-Eastern riches of Coburg in recent years, I have sometimes gazed at the boxy building on the corner of Sydney Rd and Albert St and wondered about its foodiness heritage.

The architectural style suggests a Chinese eatery and/or a chicken franchise, at the least, have been part of its history.

The Google maps pic has it named as Zorba’s Family Restaurant, but somewhere, sometime on my adventures, I recall seeing faded signage that declared it had once been home for some type of European cuisine.

Croatian? Hungarian? Czech?

It’s gone from my mind, and then just a few months back I noticed renovations going on.

So, of course, I stuck my nose to find out what the story was.

Middle Eastern on the way, I was told, by a crew with family connections to the venerated A1 Bakery much further south on Sydney Rd that is looking to serve cheap and great food of the kind already available in the neighbourhood but with a degree of cafe swishness.

By the time I visit, Zaatar has been open a while and appears to be going gangbusters, winning some Urbanspoon raves and even a review in the Age.

Nice going!

It’s big, roomy and cheerful, with some plain tables and many others of the tiled variety, with a big communal one in the middle of the room.

Any fears about cafe trendiness upping the dollar ask on food available at rock-bottom prices just a few blocks away are dispelled by a quick scan of the menu on the place’s website.

Plain zaatar for $1, cheese and spinach pies for $3.50, salads $4.50 and $6.50, regular cafe latte for $3.

Sounds just fine, but will all count for not too much if the quality isn’t there.

On the basis solely of my “three mezza with dip and salad” for $8.50, that would seem to be a case of yes-no-maybe.

Maybe the pies and pizzas I see being gleefully consumed around me are the go here, and it’s apparent adding some cafe-style decor and vibe is proving a winner.

But my lunch is merely OK-to-good instead of scaling the heights.

In the event, I actually get four “mezza” …

A cheese and herb “sambousik” – light and fresh.

A fat kibbe ball with a juicy lamb filling.

Two good falafel balls.

Two kafta cigars that are on the dry side.

The fattoush is better than them all – a finely-diced jamboree of tomato, red onion, cucumber, parsley and radish topped with crunchy pita flakes. It’s a big serve, but – and it amazes me to say this, as I’m something of a lemon freak – the dressing is actually too acidic in a mouth-puckering way.

The hummus is a tad tasteless, there’s only a little pot of it, and I am bemused that I have been not been provided pita bread. It goes good, mind you, slathered on the various “mezza”, some of which can do with its moisturising effect.

Love the vibe and the idea, but the execution of it in the form of my lunch means Zaatar, so far, is no threat to my affection for nearby alternatives.

I’d be happy to pay more for more zing and bells and whistles such as pickles of various kinds.

Zaatar on Urbanspoon

Chilli con carne

7 Comments

After enjoying a good bowl of chilli con carne at Liquid Yarraville, I resolve to make some myself.

I may have done so some time in the faded past, but if so I cannot recall.

My only Mexican recipe book has no recipe for same, but that’s no surprise as it’s not exactly a top-shelf publication, if you get my drift.

As well, I suspect there’s very little Mexican about chilli con carne in terms of how most of us think of it – it’s more like your south-west US thing.

This recipe is the result of scanning a half-dozen or so versions found in Louisiana community cookbooks River Road Recipes and Talk About Good!

For such an easy, “knock together” recipe, the result is surprisingly, gratifyingly delicious and deep of flavour.

I reckon I can do better, though, in terms of tweaking the seasoning, and I know Bennie’ll love it.

We hardly ever use mince in our joint, but that could change …

Maybe a little less sugar, more chilli and some oregano? Maybe more cumin, roasted and ground?

Smoked paprika?

Any tips?

(I used red capsicum instead of green, because I had a good one in the fridge; and I used red onion because of ditto …)

INGREDIENTS

olive or other oil

1 can red beans

1 can tomato puree

1/2 red capsicum, chopped

1 onion, chopped

450g minced beef

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon chill powder

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup water

METHOD

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat.

2. When hot, cook meat, capsicum and onion for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add seasonings and tomato puree.

4. Cook over medium heart for about 10 minutes.

5. Add drained beans and cook on Very Low Heat for at least an hour and a half.

Footscray Club

15 Comments

Footscray Club, 43 Paisley St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2059

The Footscray Club started life in 1894, dedicated to cycling, making it one of Footscray’s oldest institutions and quite possibly its oldest “business”.

The club’s first 10 years saw it based in Nicholson St, before moving to its current premises in Paisley St. 

A few years ago, the club sold the building … to the bloke who runs the bread shop on the ground floor.

As one member quipped to me: “He used to pay us rent, now we pay him rent!”

I am told the club’s future is assured for many years to come through a lease on favourable terms – and no doubt the Bread Shop Bloke is happy to have the space tenanted by some very nice folk.

I’d passed the Footcray Club many times, always found the street-level door closed, assumed the club was a private affair and moved on.

A few weeks back, however, I found the door unlocked, so up the stairs I went, eventually to be greeted by the week-day manager, Gary, a man whose moustache is even more preposterous than that of yours truly.

After getting the lowdown on how the club operates, and ascertaining positively that I’m very welcome, I vowed to return on another day.

Sadly, income requirements mean the lunches on Thursday and Fridays will have to wait.

On those days, the club serves a range of up to 10 different meals – $7, or $10 with a pot of beer.

Read about them here.

I am however, able to visit one of the Sunday Sipper sessions, run and catered for by the members themselves, with a more concise choice of fodder.

Finding the door locked, I press the intercom button, hear some muffled words and then a series of clicks as I continue to wiggle and waggle the door handle.

Eventually, I am let in by Lance, the club member who seems to be presiding over this particular Sunday Sipper outing.

Turns out, I should be pulling the door open …

I find a nice room done out in typical club style, with about a dozen members relaxing and enjoying, some of them, the flat-screen horse racing action or the flat-screen Bathurst action.

Meal of the day is roast beef with onion gravy and vegies – $5 for members, $7 for non-members but everyone pays the member price. Well, I did!

It’s a fine meal – and a ridiculous bargain for $5.

The spuds, carrots and gravy are tops, the beef is nicely chewy and flavoursome.

The club’s standard price for a pot is a remarkable-for-these-days $3 – $2.20 on Sundays!

The club also runs a Christmas in July bash for $15.

And a Christmas at Christmas bash – also for $15.

Club membership costs $22 a year – bargain!

As I depart a happy man, a bunch of recently arrived members are merrily setting up for that afternoon’s presentation function to wrap up another year of footy tipping.

You won’t get a bowl of pho or a cafe latte at the Footscray, but you will get a heaping serve of Footscray soul.

Check out the club’s website or Facebook page.