Meal of the week No.22: Dad & Dave’s

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For several years, our inner Yarraville lives involved me doing the train commute to the CBD.

It seems like a long time ago – and certainly the food and coffee situation in the village has changed considerably since then.

Wanting, along with hundreds and thousands of my fellow commuters, roadie coffees to enjoy, I was often disappointed by the available options.

Perfunctory service and mediocre brews seemed all the go.

In more recent years, Dad & Dave’s (27-29 Birmingham Street, 9314 3038) has undergone a makeover and has become a very nice cafe.

The staff members are on the go – very efficiently so – from the early hours, there’s a range of nicely presented food on offer and the coffee is fine.

I have grown very fond of the beef rasher and egg roll, either grabbed for lunch later on or eaten in-house for a lazy, quick breakfast.

Between the covers of a brioche bun are sandwiched a fried egg, a slice of good cheese, tomato relish and a beef rasher.

Beef rasher?

Maybe they come from this place.

They’re chewy, salty and delicious.

Better than regular bacon?

That’s a maybe!

Essendon yum cha – very good

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Andy’s Yum Cha House, 13 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9370 9888

One member of today’s Team CTS grew up with yum cha.

She’s very open to all sorts of food experiences and has a cracking sense of humor.

But she reckons Andy’s – which has long been on the CTS “to do” list – is not really a real yum cha joint.




I know what she means.

It comes across as your average humble suburban Chinese eatery.

And certainly there are no yum cha trolleys whizzing every which-away.




But – and it seems I am somewhat alone in this assessment among our Sunday lunch table of four – I find the terrific meal we have at this Essendon yum cha outpost to be very good indeed.




My worst case scenario had been that the dumplings offered here would display the telltale signs of mass production and have come from plastic bags, frozen and then steamed.




But what we are served I find to be excellent.




For this meal I become a somewhat slothful food blogger so don’t keep track of what we have and how much each serve costs us.




Suffice to say that our dumplings – containing all the expected ingredients such as prawns, pork, coriander and more – evince a range of textures and flavours that I really adore.




A high point is the greens with oyster sauce – it’s expertly done and easy to eat.




We eat very well and the price ends up being a most excellent $15 each.

(This story has been sponsored by Moonee Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)




Class in Seddon



Moda Kitchen and Bar, 1/140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9078 4310

Indian Palette closed quite a while ago – we hope Francis and Sue pop up somewhere new!

The same Victoria Street premises is now occupied by Moda Kitchen and Bar.

The contrast could hardly be greater – and a delight it is, too.

The Moda fitout is heavy on white – white walls, white tablecoths, white (real linen) napkins.

There’s a heap of space and the whole deal reeks of casual elegance.



Goat’s cheese and pistachio-stuffed piquillo peppers, romesco dip and eggplant crisps ($12).


The presence of a tapas list on the menu (see the full, regular menu at the Moda website here) might lead to expectations of pronounced Spanish flavours – and, indeed, there is also Jamon among the fare.

But Moda roams more widely than a single country, with a result that could be loosely described Euro-Mediterranean.

Team CTS missed the opening weekend three-course set-up but we’re happy to be here a little more than a week later to the tune of a table for seven.



Slow-roasted crispy skin pork belly, plum glaze, apple compote and chipotle aioli ($12).


For our mid-week visit something more than half of the tables are occupied – and so they should be, as Moda seemingly offers top-notch tucker at very affordable prices.

Only one main crosses the $30 barrier and I like the fact that there are no sides offered to bulk up the bill.

The mains come with sufficient vegetables and accompaniments to constitute a good meal though the serves aren’t ginormous or anything like that.

But OTOH, when meat mains are in the mid-$20s mark, a complete three-course meal at Moda will not cause credit card vertigo.




The specials board is joined by one offering wines and other beverages to match various food courses.

The impression is strongly given that these folks know what they’re about.

There’s some overlap in our ordering but even then I do not taste everything our group enjoys and have just a nibble of some dishes – readers will no doubt be able to ascertain which is which in this post.




From the specials list, caprese salad ($16) is a magic mix of flavours in harmony – so simple, such fine ingredients: Terrific buffalo mozzarella, basil, peeled toms and roast peppers, olive oil, seasonings.




Bennie loves his hot-seared spicy lamb shank terrine with red onion and shaved fennel salad and coriander labneh ($16).

Cool trick – it really does taste of lamb shank rather than just merely lamb.



Salt and pepper calamari with herb salad and caper aoili ($14).




How is this for a pasta dish?

It’s squid-ink gnocchi with prawns, asparagus and crayfish bisque ($28).

Thanks to the generosity of its orderer, we all get a taste of the pasta parcels – soft, delicate and tasting of the sea and fresh air.




Bennie is developing a taste for game and non-chook poultry and also is fostering a liking for the pricier items on any given menu.

So he likes, without being really impressed by, his pan-seared partridge with roasted purple congos, cider braised pork belly, roasted apple and pan jus ($32) – Moda’s most expensive dish.

The bird tastes plenty good to me.




Several of us order, from the specials board, the chargrilled veal cutlet with parsnip puree, roasted root vegetables and red wine jus.

It’s a superb chop.

I’ve had bigger – but then again, this one costs $24, making it an outright bargain.

The bits and pieces are fine, though the fact the parsnip puree is not hot, not even luke warm, but instead stone cold is, at first, a bit of a bracing shock.

We call it quits after entrees and mains.

Meaning the tempting desserts – Catalane cream with pear, crackers and berries; warm chocolate fondant, candied chilli and ice-cream; and panna cotta with pistachio – will have to wait for another day.

Or night.



Meal of the week No.21: Tre Bicchieri




A sizable chunk of my working life was spent working on a metropolitan Sunday newspaper.

That meant 12-hour slogs on Saturdays and perpetual irregular weekends of Sundays and Mondays.

So my current working regime – hard yakka with Star Weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays, two days “off”, Fridays back at Keilor Park, then the weekend – seems like a miracle.





Not, mind you, that I am idle on those mid-week days.

Far from it – I get out and about, usually cramming so much living and blogging and food stuff into two days that it always seems a surprise when I return to my regular gig.

It can be a bit disconcerting but I do love it all.

This week’s Wednesday, for example, involved a morning blog post followed by a journey to Camberwell to meet and talk with a cafe owner disgruntled and dismayed by approaches being made to him by Zomato (and by the nature of those approaches), followed by a haul to Royal Melbourne Hospital for a blood test and then a visit to Williamstown for more food business.




Post-Camberwell and pre-test, I pull into Rathdowne Street looking for somewhere to have a quick lunch.

Upon stepping in Tre Bicchieri (623 Rathdowne Street), I grin with delight as the memories flood in.

This was a frequent lunch spot for me when a regular part of another weekly routine involved a weekly radio show on PBS.

Gosh, it’s a sweet place.

The staff are happy and fully into their work.

Even better, it manages to be oh-so-classy yet at the same time relaxed, welcoming and absolutely non-hipster.

I wish it was in the west.

The general vibe – and much of the produce stocked on the shelves – seems to be Italian.

But the menu (see below) is broader than that.




From the specials board, I choose corn fritters with spinach, avocado, poached egg and zaatar ($18.50).

As with most such constructions, it eats bigger than it suggests upon visual appraisal.

It’s all top quality, though I’m not persuaded that the zaatar – denoting, in this case, the Middle Eastern seasoning mix of  sesame seeds, oregano and more, rather than pita bread baked with the mix on top – is a good match for the salmon.

But the smoked fish does go beaut with the wilted spinach underneath the extremely corny fritters.

I’m eager to be back on the road and taking care of business so don’t linger over a coffee.

But the cafe latte roadie I depart with is perfect.





Little fishes


Not all food bloggers have the same aims or motives. Yet I am sometimes surprised by the happy delight so many take in creating and crafting posts and stories about their overseas jaunts. I’m sure many blog readers are prepared to grant a fair bit of leeway to their favourite bloggers in this regard. But nonetheless, blithely assuming that loyal readers who follow on the basis of regular reviews and stories about eats doings in and around Melbourne are therefore interested in one’s holiday snaps strikes me as a somewhat dodgy proposition. Of course, we’ve gone there on occasion ourselves. And here we do so again. I’m putting this up just as a matter of record and because the establishment concerned was such a singularly Kiwi experience. If you’re at all interested or if you’ve followed our whole story – which has seen Bennie graduate from being not much more than a toddler to a these-days rather hulking young man – then please enjoy. If not, simply ignore what follows …





Whitebait Inn, 55 North Street, Mokau, Taranaki, New Zealand.

We’re in New Plymouth for a week of quality Grandma Time.

Nothing special planned – just a simple matter of family and chilling.

But we do head north in our hire care for a feed of whitebait and an evocative reminder of my younger days.




Mokau, about 90 kilometres north of New Plymouth and pretty much on the border of provinces Taranaki and Waikato, is a small coastal town.

It has a year-round population of about 400 that swells to several thousand in peak summer times.




It’s a pretty place and there are Maori fishermen trying their luck on the black-sanded beaches.

Whitebait were a regular part of my childhood diet.

But Kiwi whitebait are quite different kettle of, well, fish from the salt water whitebait we sometimes have a dabble at in Melbourne – such as the chubby, rich ones enjoyed not so long ago at the Croatian Club in Footscray.




New Zealand whitebait are the babes of a handful of native freshwater fish varieties and for obvious reasons the netting of them is tightly regulated.

There may be other ways of preparing them but I only have ever known them as ingredients for fritters and omelettes.




And that’s what we get at Mokau’s famous Whitebait Inn.




Whitebait Inn is done out in classic roadhouse fashion and does double duty as the local post office.




Right next to the coffee machine is a container full of another Kiwi staple – chocolate fish!

As they’re from fresh water and so very small, the flavour of New Zealand whitebait is very, very mild.

Indeed, it could be argued that the flavour of the batter and/or eggs completely overwhelms them.

But there IS something there by way of flavour – tantalising, delicious – and I love what we have.




Bennie goes the fritter sandwich – though he does bulk up with the addition of a corn dog.




I have the fritter meal and love this venerable taste of Kiwiland, even if the chips and salad are just OK.




Grandma Pauline chooses the whitebait omelette.

I suspect the only difference between the fritter and the omelette is about half a cup of flour!




Pub finery in Footscray




Station Hotel, 59 Napier Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2913

Just back from a week in Kiwiland and feeling like a lazy weekend feed – so we head to the pub.

But not just any pub.

The Station Hotel in Footscray.

It’s not Bennie’s first visit here but it is for his dad.

In all the years this place has been running, I’ve built up this mental image of it being a swish-o gastro pub of the “special occasion” variety.




So I am delighted to discover that, in the bar area anyway, it’s pretty much the same vibe as any of the local pubs we are known to visit, with prices mostly to match – unless you’re inclined to venture into the upper reaches of the Station’s meaty fare.

Except that here, the food we have is without blemish and very, very good.




It starts with a nice serve of beautifully fresh and crisp bread with olive oil.

We’re asked a little later if we’d like more.

We like that even if our answer is in the negative.




We had a bunch of burgers while on the other side of the ditch so Bennie gets a flat “no” when it comes to the matter of the Station’s version.

Instead, he goes for the pork schnitzel with coleslaw with mustard fruit dressing and beurre noisette and is a very happy chappy ($32).

The slaw is dreamy in its excellence – crisp yet tender and easy eating, something that is not always the slaw case.

The pork rests mostly on a bed of capers but is superb.

It’s thick and crisp and a real-deal meat meal – and significantly more hefty than it appears to be in the above photo.

It’s stuffed with a mix of the same cheese as is crispped on top. Inside it’s gooey and creamy and dances with chopped prosciutto.

Wonderful stuff!




I’m not so ambitious or meat-minded so choose one of the lighter dishes on the menu – penne with spicy Bolognaise, peas and fresh ricotta.

It’s fabulous in every way.

OK, so it’s only constructed on a base of commercial tubed pasta and is not so different, at a fundamental level, from the sort of things we sometimes prepare at home.

But this is peak pasta!

The fine, mildly-seasoned meat sauce has plenty of pop from the peas and creaminess from the ricotta.

But the crowning glory here are the rocket and radicchio leaves, the bitterness of which perfectly complement a perfect dish.

And at $18 for such a big serve, it’s marvellous value.

We leave happy and smiling, only to have the moment soured somewhat by having scored a $91 parking ticket in Hyde Street.

We have no cause for complaint, really, as we have been caught to rights parking in a permit-only zone.

But just why there is a permit-only zone in this part of Footscray, when the nearby flats appear to have ample parking and the town hall is right across the road, is an interesting question.

Given the Station Hotel is a famous eating place and that doubtless most of its customers do not come from the surrounding handful of blocks, we think we are safe in assuming that we are just the latest in a long line of Station customers who have thus been caught out.

Altona’s new burger joint




Between 2 Buns, 26 Pier Street, Altona.

A new burger place?

Another new burger place?

Truth is, I am suffering burger fatigue – after all, there is much more wonderful and affordable food in the world, particularly in Melbourne’s west.

Same goes for pulled pork – probably more so, actually.

But then, within days of Between 2 Buns opening on Pier Street in Altona, I start to see some feedback on social media – and it’s all good.

So off I go for a Saturday lunch.

Even early lunchtime, the place is building up a head of steam of curious and eager punters.

They all leave happy.

As do I.




The place is done out nicely in hip burger joint style with an accent on black and white.

But unlike some of the franchise places, this one hums with a family-run vibe and high pride in the what is being done and the food that is being prepared.

The menu (see below) doesn’t  explore any outer reaches of innovation or experimentation, but that’s fine, too.

There’s six burgers, six varieties of fries, hot dogs, “donut sundaes” and shakes.

How about dirty fries of a large fries, chilli beef, cheese sauce, bacon, M2B sauce and spring onion?

An $11 meal all on its own.

My ambitions are more modest, for this visit at least.




I get a classic burger ($9.50) with beef, cheese lettuce, tomato, red onion, mustard and B2B sauce, with bacon for $1 extra.

And a regular of the beer-battered fries.

Initially, my hearts sinks when I see the fries – they appear to have been doused in chicken salt.

Another thing of which I’ve had my fill!

But to my surprise, they don’t taste of chicken salt – they taste simply like good, hot fries.

The burger, as suggested by its name, is a classic burger.

Nothing fancy – just top-notch, fresh ingredients stuffed between the covers of a nicely soft bun, all making for a very enjoyable two handfuls.

The slightly chewy, slightly crisp bacon pushes things from good to very good very nicely.




What I’d like to see in such burger joints:

Hand-cut real-spud chips of the kind found at Woven, Dough! and Zigzag  – blemishes and all. As opposed to the reconstituted “beer-battered” variety – the potato equivalent of chicken nuggets.

At least one non-meat burger or sandwich – perhaps a nice, juicy, well-seasoned mushie burger? Vegetarians will never be a real important part of a set-up such as Between 2 Buns but offering at least one non-meat option would surely be a winning strategy for those families and groups with diverse eating habits.

(And I know of one Altona local – a vegetarian – who has already become an inevitable non-customer.)

Finally, if you’re going to offer hot dogs I most certainly consider it’s worth paying a bit more – and pricing accordingly – for a fine smoked frankfurter such as those sold by Andrew’s Choice in Yarraville.

Others mileage may vary.

We’ll revisit so Bennie can make his expert call on Between 2 Buns.

He’ll certainly go for one of the more grandiose burgers.

And, most likely, those sinful and seductive dirty fries.