This place gives me the schnitz

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Schnitz, Highpoint.

Oh dear – there go our lunch plans.

We’re dropping off some garments for alteration at Highpoint.

I know there’s places to get this work done that aren’t at Highpoint but I’ll be darned if I can recall where they are.

So here we are.

The wait time is an hour – and the idea of leaving and then returning to the shopping centre has no appeal at all.

So we better make the most of Highpoint time, as best we’re able.

Sox top-up from Harris Scarfe.

Routine eye furniture maintenance and screw-tightening at Specsavers.

Lunch.

We’re faced with the same choices as ever; some we even like but none appeal muchly today.

So we try one of the newer places, Schnitz, which is situated on the lower level and not far from the cinemas.

It may specialise in schnitzels and parmas but the vibe is all cheerful franchise fast-food, and the lineup of wraps, rolls and plates fits right in with that.

 

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Bennie goes for the No.4 – American Dream – in roll form with a schnitzel with regular crumbs ($11.50), with the combo deal ($5.50) adding a small chips and a small fizzy drink.

Even while I’m still photographing my own meal, he’s enthusing: “The chips are really good, dad!”

He reckons his filled roll is good, with a nice chunk of nicely cooked chook, but he would’ve preferred the roll to be better toasted.

 

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I get the same chips with my schnitzel and coleslaw ($14.50 all up).

I disagree, very much so, on the chips front.

Look, I can handle some chicken salt.

BUT NOT THIS MUCH.

This is chicken salt overkill and renders my chips inedible.

My plain and modestly proportioned schnitzel is rather good, with lovely crumbs and surprisingly tasty and juicy meat.

The coleslaw is fantastic, especially for a fast-food joint in a shopping centre.

Context is everything, I guess.

It’s finely chopped winner, fresh and not dressed to the point of gloopiness.

There are worse places to tuck in at Highpoint; but there’s better ones, too.

Our vote for the best remains with Dumplings Plus and Guzman y Gomez.

 

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Killer Korean BBQ

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tobagi3Consider The Sauce is enjoying a splendid year – but it’s not one that is turning out as expected. At its start, I envisaged much activity of the CTS Feast variety. To date, however, there has been a single Feast event. Attempts to get others up and running have failed to come to fruition. I’m OK with that – if such things are not to be, pushing harder doesn’t seem to help. In the meantime, Bennie and I – with help from a variety of very fine foodie pals – have simply continued to explore the western suburbs with glee. That relaxed approach seems to engender it own rewards in terms of interesting approaches that lob into the CTS email inbox. One such a few months back came from Moonee Valley Council – regarding a project in which CTS is very happy to have become involved. So … this post is the first of six that will appear in the next half-year or so sponsored by Moonee Valley Council. Long-time readers will know by now – and new readers can be assured – that our participation has only been made possible by being free to choose freely the six eateries to be written about and by having complete freedom to say whatever we please, good or bad. In other words … it’s business as usual here at CTS.

 

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Tobagi BBQ, 726 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 8870

The stretch of Mount Alexander Road heading uphill to Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds can come across as a closed shop by day.

By night, by contrast and strictly thinking of food, it becomes a good deal more appealing.

As Bennie and I wander down one side of the road and up the other, we ponder quite a nice range of restaurants and cuisines before ending up pretty much where we started, thence to enter Tobagi BBQ, a Korean joint we’ve had on our “to do” list for a long time.

We end up being ever so happy we step through the Tobagi door, as we enjoy good Korean food of a homespun sort we’ve not come across before, cooked and served with panache.

The place is rather plain, if you look closely, but the clever use of many browns creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.

At first, on a mid-week night, we’re the only customers so enjoy the exclusive and friendly attention of both Elle and Jiweon, while the latter’s dad, Gerry, is in the kitchen.

 

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Our first dish, vegetable dumplings ($8), doesn’t augur well for a fulfilling or filling evening.

The dumplings are OK, with mushy fillings that are very garlicky, but the serve size seems on the parsimonious side.

 

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The arrival of “denjang soup” ($10) is much reassuring.

A big, very fine bowl of basic miso soup is studded with heaps of tofu and enoki mushrooms.

There’s plenty enough for Bennie and I to share, though as with our mains the mix of white/black rise seems superfluous to our mutual mindset and appetite.

Even if such grains are the Korean way …

 

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I have friends for whom the idea of paying for kimchi is anathema.

Me, I’ve got no problem with it in an Australian setting, particularly when $4 gets us this lovely, generous bowl of fresh, zingy and only-lightly-pickled cucumber.

 

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Then it’s on to our mains – for which we throw caution, both food and financial, to the wind by going big on meat with beef bulgogi ($25), of thinly sliced and marinated beef with enoki mushies, and pork galbi ($29), of free-range pork ribs marinated in chilli paste and sesame oil.

 

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To go with our mains, we are provided with three sauces – sesame oil/salt, miso paste and chilli paste, along with lettuce leaves and two serve of the same rice ($3 each).

 

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It’s at this point in our evening that Jiweon really comes into her own by deftly barbecuing our meats at our table.

Good job!

 

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We start in on the beef and enokis at the medium-rare stage – and it tastes very, very nice, with great texture and BBQ flavour.

We eat some with the nearby sauces.

We eat some rolled up in the butter lettuce leaves, as instructed.

We eat some just making it up as we go.

 

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The pork proves even more demanding of Jiweon’s time.

She barbecues the big, handsome chunk of meat whole for a while before cutting the meat from the bones with scissors and continuing the cooking.

In the end, we are left with heaps of smaller chunks each and a nice, meaty bone to gnaw on at the end.

The meat is an interesting contrast to all the US-style barbecue we’ve indulged in this year.

Here, the pork rib meat is quite chewy, very tasty and not as spicy as seems might be the case.

We’ve had a beaut meal and love the people here.

It’s a meal, though, that has stretched the definition of “cheap eats”.

But we’re happy with the quality and quantity of what we’ve been served. We reckon it’s all been good value for money.

Truth is, we could’ve got away with paying less by the simple, prudent moves of not ordering rice we didn’t need and two cans of soft drink where water would do!

Maybe a hotpot for us next time …

(This post has been sponsored by Moonee Valley Council.)

 

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Carlton ‘que

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Bluebonnet Barbecue @ The John Curtain, 29 Lygon Street, Carlton. Phone: 9972 1815

Driving to Carlton for an impromptu feed, Bennie and I talk about our barbecue adventures.

We love the food genre but generally tend to get gleefully lost among the many other offerings in the west, some of which often have elements that are barbecue of a sort by nationalities other than American.

Nevertheless, over the past year or so – and without having agenda to do so – we’ve knocked off, and overwhelmingly enjoyed, many of Melbourne’s BBQ hot spots.

See posts here, here, here, here and here.

Tonight it’s our turn at Bluebonnet Barbecue, which is operating out of Carlton’s John Curtain pub on account of fire damage to the BBQ business’ Collingwood digs.

 

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The trade union history of the pub seems to have been wholly overtaken by inner-city hipster grungedom in the form of posters spruiking upstairs gigs, gloom, old floorboards and carpet that is metaphorically sticky even if it isn’t physically so.

We grab a seat near the kitchen – we’re super impressed that there’s a paper towel roll on each table!

We splurge a bit, eat well but don’t push it to gluttony levels.

We find the pricing and food quality akin to several of the other Melbourne BBQ places we’ve tried.

In another words, it’s a darn good feed.

 

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Pork baby back ribs (200 grams, $19) and Riverina black angus brisket (200 grams, $22) are both quite fatty but very well cooked and delicious with great flavour.

Our order provides us both a hefty slab of each of the meats.

We ignore the hot sauces on hand and make happy with judicious dabbings of the very good house BBQ sauce.

If anything, though, it’s the sides that are the real stars of our meal.

Too often we’ve found the obligatory slaw at Melbourne’s BBQ places too tricky and trying way too hard.

The Bluebonnet slaw ($8) does wonderful by keeping it simple.

In fact, the mustard seeds in the dressing aside, this could almost pass for the sort of east European cabbage salad served at places such as this one.

Greens in the southern style ($6) – cooked down with chunks of ham hock – are just as fine and have lip-smacking flavour.

We love the fact we’ve been able to have an effortless in-and-out feed here – BBQ should be so casual.

We even got a park right outside the pub!

Check out the Bluebonnet Barbecue website, including menu, here.

 

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Santorini/West Welcome Wagon/CTS benefit – the wrap

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The fundraiser night for West Welcome Wagon hosted by Santorini Greek restaurant in Williamstown and Consider The Sauce was a hoot and a wonderful success.

Many, many thanks to Craig and the Santorini crew for making us so welcome and filling us up with so much fantastic food!

After subtracting booking fees and a very generous per person fee for food, West Welcome Wagon will be getting just a tad under $1000.

 

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Some very generous bidders on our three auction lots put another $500 or so in the kitty.

So all up, West Welcome Wagon will get more than $1400 to help continue its amazing work with asylum seekers in the western suburbs.

 

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So thanks, too, to Santorini (again!), La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines and Brother Nancy for their generosity in terms of auction goodies.

 

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And a final big “thank you” to all who supported this event!

We’re already discussing the next one.

 

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Real Italian – $12

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Riverside Kitchen & Events, 55 Newsom Street, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9326 0525

The longer Consider The Sauce lives in the west, the more delightful are surprises we stumble upon of people and places that have been there all along.

Like Medway Golf Club, Riverside Golf and Tennis Club is tucked away beside the Maribyrnong River in a way that seems almost designed to evade casual discovery.

Even better – much, much better – the catering and food affairs at Riverside go way beyond what may be expected at a golf club.

I’m told that for at least a couple of years, Riverside Kitchen & Events has been running here, delivering the food and service of a traditional, old-school Italian restaurant.

You can check out the full Riverside menu here but tonight the four of us are here to take the place for a spin in the form of the Tuesday’s $12 pizza and pasta specials (see menu below).

 

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The place does has an attractive clubbishness that is not unexpected – it’s a cool place to spend some time and must be a true delight for a sunny summer lunch or early evening weekend dinner.

On a “research” visit a few days previously, I’d spied house-made zippoli, tiramisu and canoli!

The $12 Tuesday menu is a restricted selection of the menu proper’s pizza and pasta line-up – no surprise the five of each evince no presence of seafood, but that’s fine by us.

The food we enjoy is the real deal and of much better quality than we’d find at a similarly priced theme night at, say, a pokie venue or the like.

 

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Only one of we four goes for a pizza.

The Frank Special has mushies, bacon, basil, tomato and mozzarella.

At first we cynically start to think the pie is adorned with the dreaded “pizza ham” – but no, this is real bacon and it makes all the difference.

This is a good pizza, period.

For $12, it’s terrific.

 

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My fettuccine alla bolognese is simple but very enjoyable.

The rich sauce appears to have been made with real meat rather than brought-in mince and the noodles have the sort of suppleness that speaks of made-in-the-kitchen pasta.

We’re assured that all the Riverside pasta is created thusly!

 

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The pasta that comes with the spaghetti al cartoccio is likewise of fine quality.

The parcel’s contents are alive with the flavours of capers, garlic and olives.

This dish tastes and eats a whole lot better than it photographs.

And, as with all three of our pasta choices, the portion size is big.

 

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Bennie’s gnocchi piccanti has good but quite heavy pasta pillows bathing in a rich tomato sauce with chilli and hot salami.

He’s a little underwhelmed but it tastes fine to me and is quite spicy.

 

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Meal of the week No.15: Phat Milk

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CTS checks out the new F&C place in Moonee Ponds.

It’s lunch-time packed.

Worse, there is no provision for communal seating or solo diners – pure folly.

Nothing else in the Ponds appeals so I head on down to Phat Milk (208 Mt Alexander Road) – my first visit since a very enjoyable CTS Feast.

Returning here proves to be a masterstroke of luck.

I’ve a hankering for the burger I’m told they’re now doing but Sean tells me the last one is being eaten as we speak.

This, too, proves fortunate for me – as I now dive into on the Middle Eastern aspects of the menu and emerge an outright winner.

Lamb fatteh ($14) is outstanding.

There’s eggplant there in that lamb mince but it’s overwhelmed.

And the dish is on the monochrome side.

But gosh it eats like a dream and I mop every last bit.

Importantly for such a dish, the proportion of minted yogurt and wonderful pita chips to lamb is bang-on perfect.

Phat Milk is such a cool place – a cafe that always has surprising Middle Eastern slants on a menu that appears to be refreshed regularly.

And the coffee is always perfect.

See earlier story here.

West Welcome Wagon party – auction goodies

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The Brother Nancy team gives a cheery thumbs-up to being part of the fun!

 

There’s about a week and half until the West Welcome Wagon/Santorini/CTS Greek fundraising feast in Williamstown.

We have about 10 tickets left – if you’re thinking about attending, and we really, really want you to, I suggest you get your skates on.

For booking information, go here.

In the meantime, a couple of generous businesses have donated goodies for a simple, two-pronged auction on the night I hope will raise even more moolah for West Welcome Wagon.

Brother Nancy in West Footscray – see Erika’s story here and mine here – has donated lunch for two to the value of $50.

We reckon that should see a pair of you right for a cool drink, a main meal and a hot drink.

 

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As well, Maria and Marco of La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines have donated a lovely half-dozen bottle of primo South American wine.