BBQ blast in the west

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Smokehouse 101, 101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone. Phone: 9972 2622

The shopping strip on Rosamond Rd near the bowling club and approaching Highpoint has never particularly drawn the attention of Consider The Sauce – even when a couple of cafes opened up there about a year ago.

That all changes upon us learning that one of those joints is now operating as a BBQ place – we’re there within hours.

Mind you, as always with American-style food in Melbourne we keep our hopes and expectations in check.

Our optimism is hardly given a boost upon entering, perusing the menu and ordering.

Smokehouse 101 may be operating as a BBQ purveyor but to a significant degree it still looks and feel like a cafe, with only a single person – the boss – on the job.

Is this for real, we wonder?

Will the meat be any good?

Will the sides?

Are we on a fools’ errand?

 

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Bennie is impressed that the walls are widely plastered with covers and pages from vintage Phantom comics.

His dad hears on the sound system, among others, the Memphis Jug Band and Howlin’ Wolf.

As ever, we are a little wary of high prices for ribs (three kinds ranging in price from $28 to $35), so go for the brisket and pulled pork, $25 each with chips and salad.

When our meals arrive – and we have our first taste of the Smokehouse 101 goodies – we relax, enjoy and realise we’ve done real good.

 

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The plentiful chips are fine.

The meat is way better – as good as any we’ve had around town.

The brisket has its share of fat but is beaut – smoky and a mix a fall-apart tender and chewy.

The serve size is generous and good for the price.

The housemade sauce is not particularly spicy but has a nice tang to it that has a citrus feel and maybe even an Asian touch.

 

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Pulled pork is such a cliched part of the BBQ tradition, but we’ve found quite a few versions we’ve tried in Melbourne to be insipid and tasteless.

This one has porky flavour aplenty, though it does benefit from the addition of that same sauce.

It, too, is a good-sized serve – something the above photograph disguises somewhat.

 

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“Baked chilli beans” ($2.50, from the breakfast menu) do suitable duty as an accompaniment even if we’re pretty sure they come from a can, while two extra large commercial pickles ($2) are excellent.

We’ve been surprised and delighted by our dinner.

Smokehouse 101 is still in the transition from cafe to BBQ joint.

We’re told the menus we photograph (see below) will within days be replaced by new versions offering more depth and diversity of BBQ choices.

We like that this place has a casual vibe a long way removed from some of the trendier, ostensibly hipper BBQ places around town.

Ironically, in some ways that makes it more like the regular blue-collar BBQ places you might find in burgs throughout the US south.

We would, however, suggest replacing the non-memorable salad with coleslaw.

 

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As we very happily depart, we spy one of the only other two customers in the place getting to grips with a serve of ribs – though we don’t know what kind they are.

Oh boy, there’s a LOT of ribs on his plate!

And the gentleman concerned confesses he’ll be struggling to finish the job at hand.

 

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As we walk to the car, Bennie opines that the ribs deal we’ve just seen looks like it could do for two.

How about that?

That’s for us next time … which we suspect will be soonish.

Smokehouse 101 is still finding its feet, but we totally dig the idea of having a friendly, casual BBQ place right in our own neighbourhood.

This is one of those very rare times we are tempted to keep our mouths shut and not post on CTS in case the word gets out too quickly.

 

Smokehouse 101 on Urbanspoon

 

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Good Vietnamese in an arid area

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an1

 

An Phat Pho Restaurant, 65a Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9077 7984

Where do all the newly arrived residents of West Footscray’s Bunbury Village do their shopping?

Sims doesn’t seem to be all that much busier – and we visit there often.

Nor do they appear to be hitting Braybrook’s Central West Plaza shopping centre, which appears to have had the same moribund vibe for years.

As well, food-wise Central West has never kicked any goals for us.

So that makes the arrival of An Dat Pho well worth celebrating.

 

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It’s situated on the other side of the car-park from Central West central, sharing a smaller business precinct with a fish and chippery, a charcoal chicken shop, a kebab/pizza place, a noodle shop, a TAB and a Subway.

I’ve tried them all except the latter two – nothing disastrous eventuated but nor did anything that inspired me to post on CTS.

So An Dat Pho is good news for locals – Vietnamese food in an area about midway between the riches of Footscray and Sunshine.

This is especially true as the very good Quan Viet, just up the road a bit on South Road, has closed, seemingly to be replaced in due course by some sort of noodle cafe.

On our visit, Bennie and I enjoy some good, solid if not spectacular Vietnamese food.

 

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Grilled pork skewers (nem nuon, $7) are yummy wrapped in lettuce leaves with herbs and dunked in dipping sauce.

 

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Com ga nuong (grilled chicken with tomato rice, $10) is a hit, with nicely flavoursome chook and fine chicken broth to accompany.

 

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Combination stir-fried thick rice noodles ($12) lets the meal down somewhat.

It’s OK but almost swimmingly wet – in fact, you could just about call it soup!

No problem – we like An Dat Pho and where it’s at, and the service has been grand.

We suspect gravitating towards the vermicelli, pho and rice dishes is the go here.

 

An Dat Pho Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Guest post – Yarraville Japanese

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Kenny says: Laura is a long-time CTS reader and commenter. We have yet to meet face-to-face – but she’s promised to attend a CTS Feast next year! We discovered early on there’s way less than one degree of separation between us – her sister was a wonderful colleague of mine at the Geelong Advertiser. Alison is still there! In the meantime, our inter-action has lately become a little more chatty, culminating in her asking if I had a recent menu from Kawa-Sake. I told her, no; in fact, we haven’t been to that Yarraville eatery for more than two years. Laura made her own arrangements – and reported back. My next question was obvious: “Did you take pics?” From there, it was easy to tempt her into writing her very own CTS post. Thank you! We love a guest post …

Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar, 3 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 8690

Words and photographs: Laura Esperanza

Being my birthday week, the choice for takeout dinner was mine.

My good old, faithful of choice is always Japanese – in fact, sashimi and sushi were on the menu for lunch that day – and Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar was featured top of the list based on past experience and close proximity.

I did, however, email Kenny to get his opinion on something local and I considered Ajitoya in Charles Street, Seddon, but it was not an option – being a Monday, they were closed.

As we wanted takeout, the plan was to get my hands on a copy of their menu, dial ahead and the partner N would collect on the way home from work.

 

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I couldn’t locate a menu online and was messaged a copy of their menu on my phone after a call and follow-up reminder a few hours later (I had actually given up having Japanese until I got the text sometime after 6pm).

The plan was for collection at 7.40pm. N was running 10 minutes late and I called ahead to change the pick up time to 8.10pm (always try to have contingency plan!) so that the food wouldn’t be cold.

By 7.50pm, N called to say that the meeting had run late and we would be lucky to collect the food by 8.20pm.  I didn’t worry about calling back and resolved not to be stressed as it was out of my control.

Arriving home with dinner, Japanese beer and a bottle of vino, we were back on track to tuck into the meal.

We drank the beer out of champagne glasses (celebratory birthday week, after all) and started on our feast.

 

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I ordered us a grilled beef with teriyaki sauce skewer for the partner ($3.90), the old favourite, seaweed salad ($4.50), and the Kawa-Sake sushi platter ($49.80).

Yes, total treat territory – but, again, birthday week.

The sushi platter consisted of three different raw fishes, four nigri, ebi tempura (crispy large prawns in tempura and darn good), salmon age rolls (fried roll with salmon, avocado, eel) , chicken tempura inside out, and prawn avo sushi.

I’m told the teriayki beef skewer tasted like sesame with a light sauce – not too heavy and very tasty.

Next choice was the prawn tempura – always a past winner. It had a cripsy, light batter, was tasty and we enjoyed the extra mayo to dip in.

It had a nice, crunchy texture and was a winner all round. Even though I’m not into fried foods, it was very light.

The salmon age roll with chili mayo was very tasty and was combined with eel. The rice was a little dry but it was picked up 20 minutes late, second call around.

The prawn avo sushi was fresh and enjoyable.

 

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My two least enjoyable dishes were the fried salmon, eel and avo as it had a crispy, thicker batter (too heavy for my liking) and seaweed salad, which was quite tasty and zesty but too runny to be enjoyed it without dropping liquid in the journey from chopsticks to mouth.

Overall I find Kawa-Sake a safe and winning option whenever we have it, either in the restaurant or take out.

While it’s not the most amazing Japanese I’ve had, it has so far had a 100 per cent pass rate and is a fresh and convenient option.

Is it the cheapest?

No.

Have I had better?

Yes.

Would I go back again?

Absolutely.

See earlier reviews here and here.

 

Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar on Urbanspoon

Inhaling BBQ

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Meatmaiden, Basement, 195 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9078 77

This all seems a little odd – lunching in the CBD on a Saturday.

I’ve taken the car on account of having a handful of funky new CDs to listen to, and as I leave the parking building and hit Flinders Lane I realise – with a momentary sense of panic – that I’ve left my phone at home.

No problem, surely?

Surely I can survive without it, and be out of the loop, for a few hours?

Sure I can!

But Nat has told me Meatmaiden is one of those typically Melbourne joints that doesn’t make itself obvious from the street.

If I can’t locate it, I’ll be unable to contact him.

As it turns out, the street frontage of Meatmaiden is out there in plain sight – but it still takes me a while to nail it.

What IS very Melbourne is the twisty metal-staircase meander from the street through to the restaurant itself.

 

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Cool!

 

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And the scene of the Meatmaiden action is also very Melbourne – underground, dark, cosy in a clubbish sort of way.

We’re meating here for lunch on account of a visit a few weeks before – impromptu because the place Nat, Bennie and I initially pencilled in for a midweek dinner had turned out to be unsuitable – to Fancy Hank’s.

Bennie and I love that place and actually find it hard to credit that there may be other places in Melbourne that do BBQ just as well, let along with the sort of funky rustic vibe so perfect for a such food.

Nat insisted then that there other good places and it’s high time I tried some of them.

So here we are.

At Meatmaiden, the sibling of Richmond’s Meatmother.

 

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Nat is right – the lunch we have is very, very fabulous, even if the sophisticated surrounds are a long, long way removed from the likes of Fancy Hank’s or the equally downhome charms of its nearby Americanophile neighbour.

We pass by the lunch menu and head straight to the main list – the meat of the matter, so to speak.

Given our mutual love for this food genre, Nat and I order with unusual – for us – restraint.

I’d love to hit here with Bennie and go the whole hog, for instance, by going the $49 per person Maiden’s Mood spread of two small/share dishes, three from the smoker/grill and two sides.

But, no, not this time – we get one from the smoker, one from the grill and two sides.

They’re all fabulous and priced right – not cheap eats exactly, but about where it’s at for similar fare around town.

 

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O’Connor pasture-fed flat iron 2220-gram steak ($24).

 

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And … 200 grams of 20-hour Rangers Valley wagyu brisket with native Tassie pepper berry rub ($22).

We consume with both our meat choices in quick time without even pausing to contemplate the use of the various condiments at our table.

 

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Spring onion mash ($8) is great though the spring onion tastes to me as being restricted to the garnish.

 

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Red slaw ($8) is rather blandly dressed but otherwise just right – I like it that the vegetables are chopped finely enough to make fork-loading easy. Such is not always the case.

The service has been spot on.

And given this place is no doubt mad busy at other times of the week, we’ve done real good by dropping in for Saturday lunch – there’s only four other tables occupied.

Saturday lunch – definitely the best bet at Meatmaiden.

Check out the Meatmaiden website here.

 

Meatmaiden on Urbanspoon

 

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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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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.