Nuevo flavours hit spot

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Nuevo Latino, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0419 589 739

The aroma of new paint tells us Nuevo Latino – in the premises that previously housed the West Footscray video shop – is a fresh enterprise.

But what we see about us conveys a different impression – it’s a fit-out full of bits and pieces, and great vintage furniture, that gives off a happy, relaxed lived-in vibe.

We enjoy our dinner very much.

But the real stars of the night are the staff.

 

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Salvador and Yoko, out front, and Juan and Clarita in the kitchen take care of us in a way that is warm and caring yet never overbearing.

They’re very good and we eventually leave very happy.

And as we walk away, all four of tonight’s Team CTS of four express the hope their new eatery succeeds and prospers.

We try a handful of the tapas and “rations”, and have one each of four of the five mains.

It’s pretty much all good or much better.

 

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Croquettes of bacalao ($3) with what I think is a creamy dill sauce are light, delicate  and tasty.

 

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Yuka chips ($7) with “piquant dipping salsa” are wonderful and unlike anything any of us have eaten previously.

They’re crisp/crunchy on the outer; almost powdery and/or molten on the inner.

 

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Grilled corn kernels ($6) have the “wow” factor, too.

According to the menu (see below), they’re dressed in a chilli lime aioli – but the dish tastes to me like there’s more than that going on.

 

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The papa rellena ($4) – “rock salt baked au gratin potato skins, filled with cheese” – are the single dish we order I find less than memorable.

Nothing bad about them; they simply come and go without leaving an impression.

And now the mains …

 

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The most impressive looking of our mains is carne asada ($21).

The beef strip, threaded on to a wicked-looking dagger/sword, is nice and salty, chewy in a good way and all sorts of wonderful.

It’s not my main so I’m grateful the companion whose it is spares me some nice chunks.

That’s for me next time!

As with all our mains, the accessories – in this case corn tortillas, pico d’gallo and salad – are fine.

 

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“Pupusaw” $16 have that required full-on corn flavour and are gooey with cheese.

They’re served with pickled vegetables and refried beans.

 

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Tamales ($18) are plain but satisfying, also having that corn thing going on.

 

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“Quinoa envoltini” ($28) is a treat of chicken stuffed with spinach, pepitas and quinoa.

It’s mild of flavour but well done and enjoyable.

We have been kind of hoping for desserts along the lines of a flan or creme caramel.

We’re told such is on the way, but we’re happy with our meal and choose to pass on the churros that are available.

After all, the place has been open only a week.

 

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But then Juan presents us with a couple of  complementary cups of blood orange gelati (sorbet?).

They’re terrific – sweet, rich and sourish – and a perfect way to end our dinner.

See another Melbourne blogger’s take on Nuevo Latino here.

 

Nuevo Latino on Urbanspoon

 

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Random thoughts

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The post about my prostate cancer diagnosis was written and saved for several weeks before it was eventually published.

No harm done – but it was a mistake.

Whatever the reasons for my prevarication, when I eventually clicked on the “publish” button, the relief was immediate and substantial.

The responses from friends and readers – often they’re both! – was truly moving.

But beyond that, the act of writing and blogging and telling my story through Consider The Sauce has long been a big part of what makes this blog tick.

And – duh! – doing all of those thing should and will be important in helping me deal with the challenges of the now and the challenges ahead.

Of course, starting and then persevering with a blog or website is an act of outing, of making oneself a public figure.

But there are countless degrees of how much and how far individual bloggers are prepared or comfortable to go.

I hope we haven’t overdone the “selfie” aspect of blogging.

Nevertheless, I am entirely comfortable with how CTS has become – on top of everything else – a sort-of family album for Bennie and myself.

Earlier this year, while attending a media event involving other bloggers and journalists of various kinds, I was rather brusquely instructed by another Melbourne food blogger: “No photos!”

Fair enough; it was a request with which I was happy to comply.

Once a blogger steps out beyond strictly online realms, the ability to retain such control and oversight lessens.

In the early days of the CTS Feasts – when the food was free, numbers were restricted and applications were by email – I could have vetted the applicants and discarded anyone with whom I was uncomfortable.

No that I ever did!

These days, the Feasts are commercial enterprises or – in the case of fund-raisers – effectively so.

There may be some way of vetoing applicants through the trybooking website.

But again, I’ve never felt the need to discover if that is the case.

I count myself lucky that I’ve had only a couple of readers who have wished to leave comments I was not prepared to have published.

In those cases, a bit of email argy bargy ensued but that was as far as it went.

Long may such a profound absence of ill-will and trolling continue!

Since its earliest days, CTS has patiently, slowly built up a significant base of email subscribers and Facebook “likes”.

I don’t take such commitments by readers lightly – in fact, I treasure them immensely!

So when, as inevitably happens, people choose to pull the plug – so to speak – on CTS, it hurts.

No that there’s ever massed unsubscribings or anything like that.

It’s more a matter of four or five steps forward then one step backwards.

And I understand.

Like everyone else, I regularly find myself “unsubscribing” or “unliking” blogs or pages that no longer serve my purposes.

But one thing I have noticed is this:

The number of email subscribers or Facebook “likes” regularly takes a small dip when I post about something like a community festival.

Or post a think piece or rumination about – oh, I don’t know – paid parking in Yarraville or mobile phone hassles.

So I understand why people expecting a Melbourne food blog to concern itself only with reviews of restaurants and cafes do, sometimes, eventually say “seeya later, CTS!”

I hope the many for whom CTS is a “keeper” come what may will be happy to know those departures will never, ever alter the CTS approach.

It’s taken me a long time to learn that the raw numbers data provided by WordPress – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly tallies of page views and visitors – tells only part of the story.

Likewise with the comments that I love so much and to which I so avidly reply.

For starters, no doubt many of my email subscribers choose to read new posts as emails without clicking through to CTS itself, thus not showing up on the WordPress stats.

And just because readers choose not to comment doesn’t mean they are not engaging with – and moved by – CTS in their own way.

I love them anyway!

Can anyone guess the famed late-night Melbourne diner at which the photo at top was taken? Hint: It’s not in the west!

Racecourse Road eats goss

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Chinese Spicy And Barbie Kitchen – far, far better known these days as I Love Dumplings – is one of the most popular eateries in the Racecourse Road neighbourhood.

It’s also one of the few that has a reputation and some cachet outside the west.

So it makes sense that the whole operation is on the move.

 

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The business will be moving into the refurbished former bank building a few doors along.

I’m pretty sure it was an ANZ, but there’s a NAB badge right there.

The fit-out looks to be well advanced and I’m told moving day will be in a couple of weeks.

The new venue will have a seating capacity of 120.

The existing ILD place will be stay “in the family”, to become in due course another eatery.

 

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Sitting adjacent to the bank building, the premises that once housed Chilli Padi Mamak Kopittam is now vacant.

But works are underway inside.

In due course, expect a branch of the popular Pacific Seafood BBQ House chain that is a star of Lonsdale Street, South Yarra and Richmond to be opening up.

 

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Meanwhile, Veggie Villa – which took over a shopfront what for many years housed a pretty decent Indian restaurant – seems to have found a handy niche on Racecourse Road, judging by the number of customers I see in there.

They’re not huge, numbers mind you, but seem enough to be going on with.

I’m prepared to give the joint another go.

But my sole visit came about because I really liked the sound of their smoked eggplant curry, which had no smoky flavour at all and in which the eggplant was cooked down to such an extent that it was basically just … gravy!

Reports, anyone?

Laughter amid the gloom in Altona

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Greek Orthodox Parish & Community – The Dormition of Our Lady, North Altona – launch day of their new church

It’s the launch party of the new Greek church on Millers Road and there’s a lot of people about.

A lot of happy, animated people.

It’s not raining – but it has been.

Leaden skies and sunshine are in an arm wrestle that ends in a draw.

 

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There is, however, a lot of dainty stepping around mud and puddles by people in high heels.

And even low heels.

 

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Antonio from Werribee and I bond immediately.

 

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I’m a bit bemused but not disturbed by the food on offer – corn, prawn skewers, falafel, fish and chips.

And lots of sweet treats.

Where’s the kebabs?

 

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The queue for the F&C looks way too long and tiresome.

So after a beaut corn cob I go for a $5 falafel sandwich. With tahini sauce and turshi, it’s excellent.

 

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I am unsurprised to run into emissaries of another western suburbs spiritual establishment.

 

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Anna, Vicki, Pat and Pam are manning the sweets stand with great aplomb and gaiety.

It’s from Pam that I learn the reason for the food – the church’s big day just happens to coincide with a Greek Orthodox fast day that dictates the non-consumption of meat or dairy products.

Yet there is beer on sale!

I buy a $10 tray of homemade, syrupy goodness to take home, with Pam throwing is a handful of Turkish delight cubes for good measure.

It’s my lucky day!

 

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After witnessing a punch-up in the queue for loukoumades – I take a $5 bunch of them home, too, and boy are they amazing! – I notice the crowd is thinning out and realise it’s time for me to do likewise.

Alfrieda Street eats goss

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So what’s happening on St Albans’ vibrant eats strip?

Well, I’m told a fire event has forced the temporary closure and refurbishment of Sunshine Charcoal Chicken.

Truth is, the place was looking rather tired so hopefully something good will come of their misfortune.

As I said recently to a CTS reader when discussing a similar business in Essendon, one of these days – with a little bit of tweaking and finessing – charcoal chicken shops will become the Next Big Thing.

 

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Alfrieda Street will soon have its own branch of French Baguette Cafe, the Footscray version of which is proving such a multifaceted hit.

 

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What was once home to the short-lived Charitable Vegetarian Restaurant quite recently came to house Sunrise.

In quick order that, too, has closed.

The lovely My from Phi Phi tells me the address is destined to house a new eatery with a broader outlook, one more attuned to the commercial realities of the neighbourhood.

 

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A new Alfrieda banh mi shop appears to have become  hit rather quickly.

 

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Meanwhile, I checked back into Phi Phi – after it all, it has been a long couple of weeks since I was last there – to make sure their roast meats are still superb.

The answer is: Yes!

Definitely my go-to place for this kind of food.

After talking with My, and all going to plan, Consider The Sauce and Phi Phi will co-host a CTS Feast there early in the new year.

 

Actually, better than A1

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a1ess21
 A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

After an initial visit – covered here – Consider The Sauce has been eager for a return adventure at A1 in Essendon.

Primarily to partake of one of the more unusual and intriguing options among the more substantial meal platters they offer – samke hara, which features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

Today, it being that time of year when my very good mate Penny is making her annual visit to Melbourne from Wellington, is the day.

Truth is, on previous visits Penny and I have had some really fine face-to-face catch-ups – we talk by phone at least once a fortnight about everything under the sun – but rarely have we enjoyed a really fabulous meal.

I put the blame for that squarely on my own shoulders in the category of “trying too hard”.

Anyway, we rectify that today – and in spectacular fashion.

As it turns out, the samke hara is unavailable.

So boss man Gabby offers to put together for me (and Penny!) a combo set of shish tawook (chicken) and kafta skewers with all the bits and pieces.

The above spread costs us $24; not pictured are an extra salad and a basket containing plenty of zaatar, olives and a couple each of small rice-stuffed peppers and puff-style kibbeh.

The single-meat deals are priced at $14.50, so I’m not sure our price accurately reflects what it would cost to buy all items involved separately.

And Gaby is perfectly aware there’s a blogger in the house …

But add another $10 or even $20 and it would STILL be a bargain.

I know there’s a handful of places around town that do Lebanese food in more formal settings (and at significantly higher prices), but I find it extremely difficult to imagine their food could be any finer.

As I once said of another Lebanese establishment, in the world of Consider The Sauce, this is as good as food gets – at any price.

As our meal arrives at our table, our day gets even better …

 

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Placing bowls full of wonderful before us, Gaby sighs as he says: “This is when I miss being in Lebanon – all the small dishes!”

Then he introduces us to his mum, Sandra, she being responsible for much of the food we are about to inhale.

And, I’m sure, almost all its heart and soul!

For CTS – which has been known on occasion to mutter, “We revere cooks but chefs don’t impress us that much!” – this is akin to meeting royalty!

Everything we eat rocks our world …

Stuffed vine leaves with a lemony tang and rice still displaying a nice, nutty al dente feel.

Fresh, luscious dips, with the ultra-smoky eggplant number a taste sensation.

Tabouli and fattoush, fresh and zingy.

Two kinds of splendidly crunchy and salty green olives.

And the meat skewers – served at room temperature, juicy, tender, packed with flavour and having the killer chargrilled tang in abundance.

All of the above, of course, can have only one outcome – yes, some time early in the new year and all going as planned, A1 Essendon and Consider The Sauce will co-host the first CTS Feast for 2015.

 

A1 Bakery Essendon on Urbanspoon

 

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Not your average chicken shop

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Essendon Charcoal Chicken, 6 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9078 3270

Consider The Sauce is told that business at Essendon Charcoal Chicken is way down ever since a certain AFL club uprooted and moved its training activities elsewhere.

That’s a shame, as right here on Napier Street and around the corner on Fletcher there’s a number eating establishment that look well worthy of exploration.

As is it is, I’m waylaid by Essendon Charcoal Chicken as I’m ostensibly on my way to lunch at an A1 place right across the road.

At first glance, this looks very much like just another charcoal chicken shop, right down to potato cakes in the bain marie.

Look just a little closer, though … and it’s clear there’s much more going on.

Lilydale free range chooks, for starters.

 

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A salad lineup that a whole heap more attractive than the gloopy coleslaw usually found in chicken shops.

 

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Roast spuds looking gorgeous and scented with rosemary and salt.

 

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Some great looking lamb going round and round above the charcoal, sharing that space with the poultry.

 

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And – finally – the chooks themselves, looking sensational and crusted with herbs.

My superb-looking lunch (pictured at top) of half a chicken, roast spuds and salad costs a very fine $12.90.

The chicken tastes just as good as it looks, though in truth the guts of the breast meat is dry.

Some gravy or condiments are needed here.

If anything, my sides are the highlight.

The spud chunks and divine and fall-apart tender.

The fresh, crunchy salad of all sorts of things is wonderfully dressed.

Chicken shop?

Salad?

Beautifully dressed?

Yes.

 

Essendon Charcoal Chicken on Urbanspoon

 

 

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