Croatian comfort food oozes soul



Restaurant Katarina Zrinski, 72 Whitehall Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 5866

It is a wonderfully improvised approach that takes us to Footscray’s Croatian Club this chilly Friday night.

It’s the usual drill – get in the car and seek food with a handful of only vague locations rattling around in our minds.

We’ve enjoyed the food at Restaurant Katarina Zrinski several times but it’s been at least a couple of years since we visited.

(Katarina Zrinski is apparently considered “one of the greatest women in Croatian history” – see wikipedia entry here.)

It’s good to be back in this big, cheerful room.

As expected on a Friday night, the place is pretty much fully booked – not full yet but working on it.

But we’re early enough to snag one of the undressed table, joining another pair of walk-in non-Croatian types.

On previous visits here we’ve mostly loved the grills – things such as cevapcici and raznjici (grilled pork pieces), served with chips and utterly brilliant cabbage salad of the kind so often found in cuisines of eastern Europe.

Tonight, though, and perhaps feeling the onset of winter in our bones, we go big on old-school Croatian comfort food.




But not before tucking into a massive bowl of girice ($11) as found on the specials blackboard.

“You have got to be joking!” proclaims Bennie as our whitebait arrive at our table.

In New Zealand, I grew up regularly eating whitebait of a much smaller kind, usually mixed in a gloopy batter and fried as fritters.

These whitebait are much, much different – bigger, deep-fried, salty, crunchy and very fishy.

Despite his eye-popping surprise at being presented with so many fishes, Bennie likes them as much as I do.

There’s way too many of them for us, though – we don’t even eat half.

They come across to me as an ideal sort of snacky bar food along the same lines as beer nuts, though the staff tell me that is certainly not the intention.

From there we head into much more familiar and heart-warming territory …

Mains here hover around $18 for smaller serves and $25 for larger portions – more if you’re inclined to seafood.

But we’ve learnt from previous visits that the larger deals – especially of the non-grill meals – are humongously big.

So we get smart by ordering $17.50 serves of sarma (cabbage rolls) and “gulas”.

We do good as this turns out, on top of the whitebait, to be just right for two moderately hungry boys.




The cabbage rolls are both different from any I’ve enjoyed before and as good as any I’ve eaten.

The point of different comes from the filling being less rice and more meat, in this case a tangy mix of both pork and beef.

The dollop of mash belies its plain appearance by being an excellent foil for the meaty rolls.

Until recently, Bennie and his mum enjoyed both our mains as cooked by a now former neighbour of theirs named Draga.

Bennie announces with a lofty voice of authority: “There’s no doubt that Draga’s cabbage rolls are better than these!”

Man, Draga’s cabbage rolls must be to-die-for!




The gulas is a stunner – and very generous for a so-called smaller serve.

Atop gorgeously smooth mash, the beefy stew is rich and has heaps of tender meat.

As far as I can tell, it’s cooked with not much more than onion and seasoned with little more than salt and pepper – but that means it’s sublime in its simplicity and packed with earthy soul.

Free advice: Don’t order the large gulas unless you’re sharing!




I suspect that, for ourselves and many other inner-west residents, Restaurant Katarina Zrinski falls off the radar a little.

That’s a shame as the food is great, it’s a very family-friendly place and the service is fine.

Check out the Restaurant Katarina Zrinski here.


Restaurant Katarina Zrinski on Urbanspoon



Dancing Dog Diary No.6

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It’s auction day!

Bennie and I find ourselves in the rather melancholy position of heading for the big day via a funeral in Werribee.

Our pal Viki is crook so we pick up her son, Bennie’s ace mate Che, on the way through so at least she’ll be with us in spirit!

We arrive about half an hour before the auction.




There’s already a lot of people about and there’s more and more as the minutes tick by.

There’s a lot of media types in attendance, too.

Though these days, with the internet and all, it’s impossible to tell the print folks from the TV folks.




Many of my friends and colleagues from #letsbuythedog are on hand.

Then it’s on!

Given our own valuation had put the estimated value of the building to developers at about $3 million, I am surprised that’s precisely where the bidding starts.




Auctioneer Tristan Tomasino fields a couple of bids from one gent standing away from the crowd, but then it comes down to competing bids from two blokes standing right in front of him.

The property is passed in at $1,575,000 and we eventually find out it has been sold to the highest bidder at an undisclosed price.

Even better – the buyer is an investor who intends to keep the existing tenants, leases and uses of building as is.


Oh yes!

There is a fine account of what unfolded in the story at Domain – read it here.




Apparently, in the end there were factors mitigating against developer interest so we ended up with three investor bidders.

Just how much the #letsbuysthedog campaign has been a factor in all this is hard to quantify.

The campaign fell well short of reaching its $1.5 million pledge target.

But getting to almost $60,000 in just a few weeks is an amazing result.

In every other way, it seems to me, the campaign has been an outstanding success.




The harnessing of so much robust community spirit and the generation of so much media coverage has been wonderful.

As well, the project has connected many dozens of like-minded people, groups and businesses in a gratifying and profound way.

These friendships are a fine outcome all on their own – but who knows where some of them may lead?

Do I hope to fraternise and even work with any or all of my new friends on similar or other projects in the future?

For sure!

Stay tuned for future announcements.

It’s fair to say, though, that CTS Dancing Dog Diary entries will be thinner on the ground than they have been in recent weeks!

A prize-winning lunch

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Erika won our guest post contest with a wonderful piece of writing that touched people – read it here.

Now she’s done it again, finding that taking her family to Woven to enjoy their prize lunch evokes all sorts of fabulous family foodie memories.

She’s a star!




By Erika Jonsson

When my sisters and I were young, Mum used to let us choose the menu for our birthday dinners.

The options were endless. Would it be pasta, Sichuan-style chicken, oyster beef or tacos?

Roast pork with crackling, chicken with lemongrass or wonton soup?

My mouth still waters thinking about it.

Funnily enough, my younger sister and I always chose the same dish, albeit with different sides.

Trish picked steamed vegetables (which I still find odd) while I chose corn and twice-cooked chips.

The meat was schnitzel – usually veal – that was succulent and tender, crumbed to perfection and fried

just long enough to cook through.

It was heaven.

Year after year our menu remained unchanged.

When I was 14 and nine months old, I started working at a toyshop on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

My family lived out of town, so my little part-time job meant spending the night at my grandparents’ place.

They had immigrated to Australia from England when my mum was a child, and

Grandma’s cooking was Britain’s finest.

Pork pie, battered fish, Yorkshire pud, roast anything.

The only herbs I remember in her kitchen cupboard were salt, pepper and season-all.

Everything she cooked was simple but so tasty.

On Fridays before I started work, Grandma would cook big fat pork schnitzels with chips and corn – my favourite meal.

While the meat was the star of the show, the chips were really my favourite.

Potato in any form was welcome on my plate – with a combination of English and Swedish heritage, that’s probably no surprise.

My love for potatoes led to disaster when I left home and headed to the big smoke to study.

I’d been led to believe a fast metabolism was the reason for my then slim figure.

Well, my metabolism and I both got lazy at uni – and I put on about a dozen kilos by eating twice-cooked chips for dinner around five nights a week.

The day my knee-high boots wouldn’t zip up properly, I swore off chips, lost most of my potato weight and gave away my deep fryer.

Since then, chips have only been an occasional indulgence – a special return to my youthful addiction.

Last week I came as close as I ever have to ordering chips as a main when my family went to Woven in Yarraville for lunch.

And that was after I had already eaten my main.

My meal was a perfectly modern re-imagining of my favourite childhood dish.

The pork tonkatsu burger was made up of a juicy pork loin crumbed in panko inside a brioche bun with house-pickled daikon, Kewpie mayo sauce and a cabbage and fennel slaw.

Right next door to the burger was a generous serve of hand-cut chips, still in their skins – just like I like them.

Those chips transported me to Friday nights at Grandma’s, to special birthday dinners and to university over-indulgence.

Normally, I share my meals with my kids but not this day.

My husband, who had the bang-up burger with chips, also found his plate was under attack – but I protected my potatoes with a ferocity I didn’t know I possessed.

“Please, Mama? Could I please share your chips?” my son Joe pleaded after he had finished with his crumpets with honey, caramelised pear and mascarpone.

I feigned deafness and kept eating with greedy abandon, using my chips to mop up tasty drips of Kewpie sauce.

There is magic in food.

Smells and tastes can evoke stronger memories than pictures – such was the case for me at Woven.

It was a magical meal – I definitely plan to go back soon, though I’ll have to watch my waist.

Thank you to Dan, Dave and their team for a great meal and a great experience.

Thanks also to Consider The Sauce for offering such a special prize – I’ve never won anything so tasty!

Big Yarraville excitement



Little Advi, 16 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 0004

For a lot of people, particularly those who live and work in the village, their Yarraville eatery has arrived.

As you’d expect, the food line-up at Little Advi, which has slotted into the premises of a former boutique on Ballarat Street, closely resembles that of the mothership, Cafe Advieh, on Gamon Street.

Equally as expected, though, there is no diminuation in terms of quality, freshness, affordability and service.




The place looks gorgeous, with a lot of old wood, brick and tiling.

The staff area really on the ball in every way.

The menu (see below) has brekky, wraps, focaccias and a longish list of really appealing plates with fritter, falafels, skewers, dips and salads.




I go for the large dips plate.

I pay $13.50 but it’s so generous that the small at $10.50 may have been a wiser choice.

The dips – eggplant, yogurt ‘n’ cucumber and eggplant – are so fresh they sing with flavour.

Even better, they are personalised in the Advieh fashion, making them delightfully original in texture and taste, especially when sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped pistachio nuts.

With them – and olives and two very nice stuffed vine leaves – come two Lebanese pita breads, brought in, warmed and more than enough to go with the dips.

Little Advi is s breakfast-and-lunch establishment.


Little Advi on Urbanspoon






Dancing Dog Diary No.5

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Let’s Buy The Dancing Dog Pozible campaign – click here.

Let’s Buy The Dancing Dog Facebook group – click here.

Let’s Buy The Dancing Dog website – click here.

Real estate listing – click here.



Another meeting and more new faces.

This time we’re at the Dancing Dog itself.




There’s a nice social vibe going with drinkies downstairs before we troop upstairs to discuss the campaign.

Many people – by no means are all of them in attendance tonight – have done a great deal of work in the past few weeks.

The progress is summed up in relatively brisk fashion.

Truth is, a lot of the angles and leads that have been followed have ended in a sort of no-man’s land because of the tight timeframe – even if the goodwill that has greeted the team’s inquiries and feelers has been near universal.




For the first time, I hear the suggestion that, in fact, the building may go to a residential buyer.

“Plan B” options are discussed.

What do we do if the property is passed in?

Is there a life or a purpose beyond this auction, this building for this group of people who have come together so magnificently?

I think: Yes.




Then it’s down to plans for the auction itself.

We’re all hoping for a strong community turnout to show our collective affection for the Dancing Dog Building.

But … much more of a warm celebration than a demonstration.




Sandwich culture in the west

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Thanks to Jill Rowe of Spice Bazaar for letting us publish her entry in our guest post contest – it may not have won but we love it anyway!

Check out the Spice Bazaar website – and their wonderful cooking courses – here.

BTW, Consider The Sauce is also a big fan of the Sourdough Kitchen sangers – they’ve regular work lunch fare this tear.


I remember my school lunch sandwiches with disdain.

My evil step mum would work her magic on creating something that couldn’t be eaten.

By the time lunchtime arrived, the filling of warm plastic cheese, wilted lettuce, congealed chicken slice and soggy tomatoes had turned the white bread into jelly – nobody was surprised to see it in the bin.

Oh mum, you tried!

Sometimes I would buy a bread roll and a packet of chips from the canteen – definitely no discernible health benefits but at least it was crunchy.

More satisfying were the after school versions we made ourselves.

Fresh white bread, with exactly the right amount of butter and Vegemite

It was a science.




Food is memory and I bet many South Americans remember their version with mother love.

It’s fresh white bread, a single slice of cheese with a slathering of mayonnaise – I’m sure this is their version of our Vegemite variety.

This humble looking, but tasty, sandwich was enjoyed at La Morenita and it did remind me of those Vegemite days.




Nuevo Latino’s “midnight sandwich” is full of delicious pulled pork, crunchy pickled vegetables and mustard – totally addictive.

Think – delicious weekend roast leftovers, and after watching the soccer on a Sunday evening you start to get peckish.

Of course, you want  a midnight sandwich. It’s enough to carry you through to the next morning.




Then there are the “sandwich-like” papusas, also served at Nuevo Latino.

These crafted corn discs ooze the meltingly delicious cheeses that make up the filling.

Peel one apart (it’s how you tell a good one), fill with a little curtido and sauce, fold together and eat like a Salvadoran.

Forget that diet for today!




Inside Little Saigon market hides a Vietnamese treasure (well there are lots of treasures here but here we are talking about bread and sandwiches).

IMHO this is the best version of banh mi.

At Nhu Ngoc bakery, ask for the “combination on a tiger roll” and you’ll know what I’m talking about.




So I was searching for the “perfect sandwich” – and I found it at the Sourdough Kitchen in Seddon.

One made with fresh sliced sourdough bread, highest quality sliced ham, perfect pickles, bitter fresh rocket and a home-made chutney.


If my mum could have made me a sandwich like this, I would have eaten lunch every day.

Meal of the week No.7: Kebab Surra

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There are three – THREE! – new restaurants of the Afghani/Iranian/Persian persuasion CTS is keen to get cracking on …

In the meantime, Footscray’s own, Kebab Surra, has become a regular since our initial write-up.

I’ve become used to getting a most welcome bowls of lamb/barley soup with my meals here.

That isn’t forthcoming when I order chela kebab ($14) – but that’s OK because what I do get is terrific.

Nice rice.

Two sublimely juicy, meaty skewers of marinated chicken; no such thing as too-dry chook breast meat here!

Tangy yogurt with cucumber and dried mint.

Most excellent fresh bread – like a cross between Turkish bread and naan.

Chewy and excellent.

And – instead of the usual mixed salad – a much more finely diced effort in the Indian style.

No wonder Kebab Surra has become a very firm favourite of Joe.