Hot lunch and free soup

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Pacific Seafood BBQ House, 295 Racecourse Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 6688

Let’s hear a big cheer for places that serve soup – soup unordered, soup served simply as part of the dining experience, soup that is a tradition and not added to the bill at the end of the meal.

Safari, the brilliant Consider The Sauce Somalian fave in Ascot Vale, serves sublime bowls of broth almost as soon as you are seated.

On several visits to Kebab Surra in Footscray I have been provided a marvellous lamb-and-vege-and-barley soup – though it seems to depend on just which main is ordered.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, the newish Chinese place on Racecourse Road that is a sibling to older establishments in the CBD, Richmond and South Yarra, follows the same tradition when a frequent CTS dining pal and I visit for lunch.

Our soup seems to have a what I regard as a rather robust corn flavour, even though there are no corn kernels in evidence, and has what I at first take to be spud chunks.

My companion reckons, no, it’s winter melon.

She’s right.

We also subsequently discover the gratis soup is indeed corn-infused and is a pork broth.

Whatever the details, we love it.

We also love the enthusiasm with which our curiosity about the soup’s contents is greeted by the bloke manning the soup ladle.

 

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From there, ignoring the many specials detailed on wall paper that seem more suitable to night dining and larger groups, we head straight to the quickie lunch list.

We are very happy we do so.

We both order roast meat dishes that cost $11.50.

We rank them as being at the highest end of what is expected from such dishes.

 

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My soya chicken and BBQ roast pork with rice is wonderful.

The meats are moist and, as is almost always the case, more generous of proportion than eyeball or photographic impressions may convey.

The crackling is a crunchy, sinful delight.

The rice has enough soya cooking juices to do the job and the bok choy is fine.

The oil/green onion/ginger mash is very, very welcome though I wish there was more of it.

 

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My friend goes the roast duck with noodles.

The noodles glisten atop a bed of soya juices and bok choy – she fails in the mission of consuming them, as I do with my rice.

The roast duck is expertly done.

The meat comes from the bones more easily than is often the case and the skin is a dark brown and, yes, another sinful delight.

We love Racecourse Road – and now we love it more.

 

Pacific Seafood BBQ House on Urbanspoon

 

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Meal of the week No.11: Saudagar

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Saudagar has been a Footscray fixture for years.

I’ve had their cholle bhatura and tried some of their sweets.

But it’s never appealed as an obvious or attractive place in which to obtain a nice, cheap feed of Indian tucker.

 

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So I am delighted – thrilled even! – to discover the place has been spruced up a bit with some new furniture and a much more welcoming look that says, “Come and eat here!”

Aside from the sweets, the prices – AFAIK – are the cheapest in the inner west: Vegetarian main courses all about $8, meat mains about $10, chicken biryanai $9.

 

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I enjoy a vegetarian thali priced at $8.

Unbuttered naan – and that’s fine by me.

Excellent, uncreamy daal that has a nice hit of ginger and appears to be made of aduki beans.

Malai kofta – wonderfully delicate and toothsome potato and cheese balls in a creamy cashew nut sauce.

Fluffy rice, pickles, onion slices.

I love my Saudagar lunch but I’m not about to tell you that it’s exceptional in any way – and that’s a profound testament to just how rich we are in the west of terrific Indian food.

 

Saudagar Sweet Shop & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Sunday pub roasts? We have a winner.

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Railway Hotel, 35 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 2034

Sunday roast lunches at pubs – $10, $15, $20, $25?

Do you get what you pay for?

As far as we know, the Spottiswoode Hotel continues to offer a grand $10 deal on Sundays.

Others we know of in the inner deliver offer $20+ offerings.

This Sunday, Bennie gives up on his desire for Vietnamese tomato rice in the face of his dad’s determination to go roast.

We first head for a certain Williamstown pub we believe now has $15 roast lunches on the menu, but on arrival we discover they will not start until the following weekend.

Plan B is return home, park the car and walk to our local, the Railway Hotel, which has been advertising $18.50 Sunday roasts – sort of a middle ground price-wise , with two kinds of meat on offer.

Will it be worth the extra dollars?

We pay, get our number and wait.

 

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Bennie chooses the pork.

I try a mouthful.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s dry but – good stuff – tender enough.

But it IS full of strong, good piggy flavour.

The crackling is a tad salty but all of it is crisp and a joy to eat.

One pub manager has told me it’s simply impossible in regards to power bills to serve roast veggies at these sorts of prices.

That I don’t mind.

The spud is roasted and herbed and very good.

The beans, broccoli and beans may be steamed but they are wonderful – cooked more than al dente and perfect.

 

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I select the roast beef (top photograph).

It’s fabulous.

It appears to be smothered in good gravy.

But as it turns out there is just enough gravy – and only just enough – to support the meat.

I am served three slices that are just shy of half an inch thick.

The meat is tender and tastes grand.

It breaks apart in strands that I more familiar with from dining on brisket at BBQ joints.

This is new and wonderful territory for me when it comes to roast beef.

There is so much of it, I keep offering Bennie hefty chunks even as I close in on the final slice.

“I can’t eat it all, mate!”

“That’s because you aren’t manly enough …”

I am on a serious food high as we skip down the street for some sugar and spice from our fave ice-cream joint.

The Railway Hotel Sunday roasts have convinced me that sometimes, at least, you do get what you pay for.

And it’s still a bargain.

 

Railway Hotel on Urbanspoon

 

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Back at Pandu’s

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Pandu’s, 351 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0789

We haven’t eaten at Pandu’s for a good long while and we’re excited to be back.

Even more so because among our group of six are two people who have pretty much eaten the inner west dry but have yet to dine at this Footscray Indo-Chinese institution.

And there’s two others have never tried Indo-Chinese at all!

After we enter and a get a table, I realise there have been changes at Pandu’s.

There’s more people in the kitchen.

The prices have crept up – but not too much.

And there’s a new menu that considerably broadens Pandu’s previously hardcore Indo-Chinese line-up.

There’s biryanis, dosas and – oh yes! – cholle bhatrua and pooris with potato maslala.

Most of those will have to wait for another day, however, as we stick – with one exception – to Indo-Chinese.

 

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One member of our group is quite taken with idea of nachos salad as spied on the online menu – as am I.

So we order two.

What we get is, well, weird.

Doritos drizzled with some yogurt and sprinkled with not a lot of cheese, onion and greenery.

It’s OK to nibble on before our more fully cooked goodies arrive.

But Doritos?

Ugh!

In quick time, arriving at our table are …

 

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… vegetable manchurian …

 

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… cauliflower 65 and …

 

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… pepper fish.

By unanimous acclaim, the fish is our meal’s big winner.

Encased in a delicious but not particularly peppery coating are gorgeously tender and tasty chunks of white fish.

As Josh says: “I could eat these all night!”

The gobi and vegetable ball dishes – standard orders for Bennie and I at Pandu’s – are good, too, though a little wetter than we’ve had on previous occasions.

We bulk up our meal by ordering another standard for us …

 

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… veggie hakka noodles as well as …

 

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… veggie Singapore fried rice.

Both are simple but very good in that trans-national way that we usually expect more of the food from Malaysia or Singapore but which is right at home with Indo-Chinese.

Finally, we also enjoy a fine chicken biryani – which I forget to photograph!

 

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Bennie and I reckon the portion sizes of non-carb Indo-Chinese selections may have been a bit smaller than on previous visits – but that could be because there’s so many pals with us tonight and the food disappears quickly.

As well, we note that the shredded cabbage is of a rougher cut that makes it less appealing to incorporate into our meal, and that the gobi, fish and vegetable balls are not adorned with the usual jumble of chillis, curry leaves, onion and capsicum.

But still, these are minor quibbles – Pandu’s remains our go-to place for Indo-Chinese.

I have not kept track of prices as I expect to just call up the Pandu’s website when I get home.

But now I discover the prices there are not up to date!

But here’s the biz – for all of the above food, and a fine meal, the six of us pay a few bucks over $90.

That is, about $15 each!

Fantastic!

 

Pandu's on Urbanspoon

Meal of the week No.10: Footscray Milking Station

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Footscray Milking Station has been around for about three years now but never before covered in any way by Consider The Sauce.

We’ve dropped in for coffee or sanger on a few occasions but …

Recently it’s become a regular for me when seeking a nice place to have a quick lunch on one of my mid-week days off, after I have taken care of blogging and associated tasks at home.

I like it – a lot – that there always seems to be ample parking.

The place is always warm and inviting.

And the coffee is grand.

A few weeks back, I had – from the specials board – a fine panini of house-smoked salmon, creamed cheese, rocket and pickled shallots.

That board is always worth checking out – one of these days, I’ll have the soup.

Today I go for the salad bowl ($12).

Normally, roast vegetable salads are no-go territory for me as they invariably number pumpkin among the ingredients.

Not today – so I’m in.

Instead, there’s big, beefy chunks of succulent fennel, chick peas, lots of parsley and even – unadvertised! – pistachio nuts, all of them dressed with a masterful touch.

I mind not in the least the other salad also includes fennel.

In this case, it’s shaved so there’s a very cool contrast with the roast version.

In my second salad, there’s also cucumber, baby tomatoes, rocket, dill and black sesame seeds.

Again, the dressing is amazing –  tangy and with just right amount of moisture to ensure ease of eating without sodden-ness.

It’s a superb, knockout lunch.

 

Footscray Milking Station on Urbanspoon

A good thing on Nelson Place

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General Food Co, 117 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8239

General Food Co is on Nelson Place but not really of it.

It’s down towards the shipyard area of Williamstown and separated from Nelson Place’s hit-and-mostly-miss range of eateries by Thompson Street with its Greek restaurant on the corner.

This is a good thing!

Instead of having a Willy food hub vibe about it, General Food Co has a friendly, we-love-locals thing going on.

 

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The interior is small but cosy; there’s an outside area that must be simply great on nice days and there’s more tables on the footpath.

The service is fine, kids are greeted on a first-name basis and the coffee is outstanding.

The two dishes CTS tries – one smaller, one larger – are lovely to eat and behold, and are cooked and presented with skill.

But they are of modest proportions.

They’re perfectly fine for a light lunch but we advise against bringing a rampant appetite here – or perhaps, if that is the case, heading towards the breakfast list, several selections of which I spy as being more generous.

 

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I’m told the “dakos” in my smashed beetroot dakos ($12.50) is a kind of Greek rusk.

Atop the pleasantly chewy bases is a cool, luscious and tangy mix of beetroot and fetta.

The balsamic reduction seems a little out place and is too sticky.

 

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Lamb keftethes ($19) are three plump, generously sized lamb meatballs, deliciously chewy and well-seasoned, with a fine tzatsiki, pita bread that is both crisp and chewy and good salad components.

Some more yogurt/cucumber and a few more slices of pita would’ve been appreciated.

It is genuine regret that I have included some critical comments in this story – General Food Co is a lovely place and, as already stated, the coffee is fab.

 

General Food Co on Urbanspoon

 

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Cross-town Georgian joy

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Aragvi Georgian Cuisine, 318 Centre Road, Bentleigh. Phone: 9557 2893

By Erika Jonsson

Dumplings are one of my ultimate comfort foods.

Whether they are filled with beef, lamb or vegetables, small or large, I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like.

Crisp-based gyoza, wontons in broth, slurpy xiao long bao, Mongolian buuz – they are like friends who have never met; they share important traits but are beautiful for their differences.

My dumpling-making days petered out when my kids were born – it’s not easy to respond to a crying child when my hands are covered in raw meat and my dough is in danger of drying out.

So if I’m out for lunch and can enjoy an expert’s touch, I don’t think twice.

We found ourselves on the other side of town recently after a foray to the Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre recently to apply a fundamental tenet of parenting – if you want happy kids, just add water.

And water slides if possible.

Mission accomplished, it was time to add food.

“What kind of food are we having for lunch?” Joe asked from the back seat.

“I’ll give you a clue,” my husband replied. “The capital city is Tbilisi.”

Georgian!

My tastebuds were tingling at the thought of lots of bread, meat – and dumplings.

Aragvi in Bentleigh did not disappoint in any way – in fact, we are already considering a return trip.

 

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Delicious hunks of warm bread with a side of unsalted butter started to fill the void ahead of the arrival of a bowl of borlotti bean stew, or lobio.

I was surprised when Joe wasn’t interested, but Hugh loved it, as did my husband and I.

Walnuts and coriander were the dominant flavours in a dish that was somehow both simple and complex.

Next out were the dumplings – Joe chose chicken over pork and beef.

Our waitress gave us a quick tutorial on how to eat Georgian-style dumplings, which were quite large and shaped almost like mushrooms.

Use the stem of the dumpling like a handle to allow you to bite the side then suck out the broth.

Continue until you are left with just the dough handle, which is traditionally left behind.

The flavour was quite mild and the seasonings delicate. They were a hit for our hungry family, especially covered in black pepper.

 

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Our next dish was grilled chicken kababi rolls with adjika chilli sauce, salad and housemade chips.

This turned out to be my favourite dish of the day – the colours were vibrant; the chilli sauce sang with heat; the skinless sausages were perfectly cooked; the salad was zingy and fresh; and the chips were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Not yet sated, we shared some delicious cakes, including a walnut sponge and a pastry filled with almond-flavoured custard.

My latte could’ve been a bit stronger, but that’s a small criticism in the context of a really memorable meal.

Aragvi was quiet during our weekday lunchtime visit – I’m not sure why.

We don’t usually travel far beyond Footscray for food, but this gem is worth the drive.

 

Aragvi Georgian Cuisine on Urbanspoon