Looks like Maccas, does real deal Lebanese

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sheesh2
Sheesh Grill, 255 Mickleham Road, Tullamarine/Westmeadows. Phone: 9330 3050

When I first visited Sheesh Grill a few weeks back, my heart sank at the very appearance of the place – it looks like any old franchise fast-food hole.

My heart sank and so, too, did my expectations of a fine feed.

So I was surprised and delighted to enjoy a lovely platter of Lebanese food that defied the setting by being very good.

This was genuine Lebanese food – fresh, tasty and excellent value.

Even better, all the baked goods are, I was told, baked on the premises.

I was keen to return with more eager hands and mouths around which to base an official CTS post.

Sheesh Grill does do hamburgers, and I reckon there’s enough going on in the menu to please just about anyone.

And I also reckon the fast-food ambiance could win over youngsters who otherwise might have nothing but contempt for the more wholesome and tasty goodies at hand.

 

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There’s starters such as filo pastries, kibbeh, stuffed vine leaves and falafels.

There’s dips and salads.

And there’s a heap of meat – shawarma and on skewers.

All of the above are available in a wide variety of configurations.

The member of our trio who orders the above-pictured Sheesh Feast ($18.95) does so on the basis of being “very hungry”.

But it beats her, with Bennie and I happy to help out as she winds down.

The platter has a skewer each of chicken and kafta, a sambouusek (sort of like a curry puff), a kibbeh, falafels, stuffed vine leaves, chips, rice (real Middle Eastern rice), tabouli, pickles and hummus.

I know on the basis of my inaugural visit how good are the stuffed vine leaves and tabouli.

The is a great value meal and would actually do two reasonably hungry people quite easily.

 

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I’ve been happy for Bennie to order a burger just to see how this place goes with that.

But I feel sorry for him when his meal arrives.

He reports that his Ultimate Burger ($10.95) is OK but nothing special. He gets a small chips and a soft drink as add-ons for $2 each.

I hope for a certain level of excellence in chips served at Middle Eastern eateries. These don’t quite qualify; the ones I had on my initial visit did.

It’s not that Bennie’s burger is any way bad or sub-standard – it’s just that the regular Lebanese fare aces it.

The lesson is simple – this place may actually do burgers but the more traditional Lebanese food is where it’s at.

 

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My “regular” sheesh lamb plate ($13.95) is excellent. The larger plates of lamb, chicken or kafta cost $17.95.

All is good or better – a tangy eggplant dip, fattoush, pickles, the same chips and rice as above, and two skewers of succulent lamb insterspersed with onion and capsicum.

Sheesh Grill is well worth a short jaunt up the Ring Road.

 

Sheesh Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Salute to a foodie

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The above photograph was published in Consider The Sauce on September 23, 2010.

That review of Laksa King was our blog’s eighth story and the first in which a photo of Bennie appeared.

IIRC, the laksa into which he is somewhat less than zealously tucking was a little on the spicy side for him.

That bowl would present no such problems for him these days!

Back then, he was bemused about this blogging business.

As, it can be said, was I myself.

Sometimes, back then, as we were nutting out where to go to eat, ponder and take notes and photographs, he would whine: “Dad, can’t we just go out for dinner!?!”

Gosh, how things have changed!

Nowadays, Bennie automatically scans menus seeking out the unusual, the weird and the challenging.

Nowadays, he will ring me to eagerly pronounce: “Dad, dad – I’ve found a new bakery!!!”

As many CTS Feast attendees and others of our foodie pals with whom we regularly meet to eat now know, Bennie is a wonderful table companion.

He revels not just in the many, varied eating places we discover and visit but also in the festivals and markets and all the wonderful people we meet along the way.

And these days, my incredible, beautiful young man is quite grown-up enough to spend a school holiday day at home while his dad is at work.

He did so yesterday.

And what did he do?

He took the $20 I had left him, got on the train to Footscray and headed straight to a well-known pho joint … where he happily supped on a medium-size sliced beef bowl of wonderfulness.

He did this instead of splurging on an Olympic doughnut or a burger or a kebab or whatever else.

He did so not to suck up to his dad.

He went pho for the simple reason he really, really likes pho. And he really, really likes the idea of dining solo in a pho shop.

And why wouldn’t he? It’s a Very Cool Thing To Do.

Bennie Minter Weir – the World’s Coolest Son.

 

salute1

Cheap, quick Thai

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deli6

Thai Deli, 195 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. Phone: 9696 6895

We spotted Thai Deli while ambling along Clarendon Street destined for Shakahari.

We liked the look of it – small, busy, cheap and with an abundance of that lived-in look that Consider The Sauce finds so alluring.

In the weeks following, Bennie spoke of the place a couple of times – I like it that such a business registered in his mind.

He even compared it with a much-missed Carlton institution. There’s big differences between the two, but I get where he’s coming from.

So soon we are back to take Thai Deli for a run.

Myself, Bennie, Che meet up with Thai expert Andy from Krapow and get busy.

Perhaps I’ve been a little naive in hoping that a cheap Thai joint in the guts of South Melbourne would offer at least a couple of stand-out or unusual dishes.

It doesn’t.

But what we have is certainly enjoyable, very affordable and – I estimate – at least a little better than your average suburban Thai offerings.

 

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Chicken pad siu ($10.90) is perhaps the best of our four dishes. It’s oily, yes, but has some wok hei and is tasty and popular at our table.

 

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Chilli basil chicken ($10.90 with rice) is a single-person serve and just OK.

 

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Lamb salad ($11.50) has heaps of good, fresh greens and other veg bits. Thankfully, the sweet chilli sauce is abetted by something with a little more tangy – tamarind maybe?

 

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Beef panang curry $11.90) is good but very mild. Like the chilli basil chicken, I like the chunky (unprocessed) vegetables, including potato.

Andy reckons there’s bottled or canned sauce used to make this and other dishes the place does. Just about all Thai restaurants do so, he maintains.

I don’t mind that.

And if I lived or worked around here, I would no doubt be at least a semi-regular at Thai Deli.

But the truth is that within a couple of blocks there are three other places that do stuff that is lustier and more hardcore – see here, here and here.

 

Thai Deli on Urbanspoon

 

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New burger/chook joint for Footscray

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Meet Dinesh (he’s the one on the right).

In about six weeks, he’ll be opening O’Grill on Geelong Road, right next to Sneddons and just up the road from the Plough Hotel and Home Timber & Hardware.

The signage sub-tiutle reads “Flame grilled chicken & burgers”.

Diniesh has a background in Indian restaurants and Indian sweets, though that was all some time ago.

His new establishment will not, however, have an Indian flavour – that will be, he tells me, along the lines of Mexican.

And by comparison with other such businesses, his will be “very economical”.

I’ll post the menu when I get my hands on one!

 

 

 

Footy food as it should be

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cup8

 

Melbourne Croatia Clubrooms, Somers St, Sunshine North. Phone: 9310 1842

The St Albans Saints aren’t exactly the smallest of minnows in the Australian soccer world – they play in the Victorian National Premier League, after all.

But that they have made it to the last 16 of the inaugural FFA Cup knockout competition is pretty cool.

Mind you, they have done so so far without having to come against the professional might of any of the A-League clubs.

Tonight they do.

And for almost all the first half it looks like a miracle – and a quarter-final berth – are on the cards.

Eventually, they succumb 4-1 to Perth Glory – but Bennie and I love a taste of grassroots football.

For lighting and other reasons, the game is held at Knights Stadium in Sunshine, the powerhouse Melbourne Knights being another club – like the Saints – with a Croatian heritage.

So, of course, food is on the agenda.

We’ve been this way before – for CROktoberfest – but this is our first time checking out what the regular Melbourne Croatian Clubrooms fare is all about on a regular game day/night.

 

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There are a number of platters available ranging in price from $20 for cevapi and raznjici (cubed pork pieces) up to the upper $20s for steaks, seafood, parmas and the like.

That all seems fair enough – and the meals being consumed around us look the goods – but we opt instead for more footy-minded tucker.

So shared rolls of cevapi and raznjici ($7) plus chips ($4) it is.

We’re very happy with what we get.

The chips are only so-so, but there’s plenty of them, we’re hungry and they taste pretty good.

The rolls, with their contrasting meaty fillings, are fine.

The meats are juicy and cabbage salad – something of a leading theme at CTS in recent weeks – are fab.

Wow, what a character-filled contrast – so simple, so obvious, so good – to the over-priced crap available at Melbourne’s major sports venues.

 

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Upon entering Knights Stadium itself, we’re impressed to discover the same cevapi and raznjici rolls are available at the grandstand “food court” kiosk!

 

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And how about this?

The open-air bar right out in front of the grandstand is serving scotch and bourbon – without resorting to the tacky by selling pre-mixed cans.

Classy!

Bennie is in digital game mode as I wander around taking in the sights and sounds. Everyone is friendly and happy, and I love the vibe.

 

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The folks from The Stray Cafe whip us up a fine cafe latte and hot chocolate.

The St Albans Saints are out of the FFA Cup.

But personally, I have really enjoyed being out and about for some grassroots community sport.

My interest has been tweaked by editing so many stories – covering all sorts of sports – for the Star Weekly newspapers, and I’m glad we’ve made the effort.

 

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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

 

a1ess4

Cool Macedonian in the west

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korzo4
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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