Cool cafe in a great ‘hood

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Mr Ed, 285 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 6444

Consider The Sauce loves Racecourse Road, but coffee and cafes aren’t what come to mind when we head that way.

There is coffee to be had there, including a couple of longstanding businesses that may get the CTS treatment at some stage.

Mr Ed, though is a new place that inhabits what was formerly the premises of an undertaker.

It’s been open since February, and based on the jam-packed crowd on a recent Sunday when is stuck my nose inside for a look-see, it’s doing quite well, thank you very much.

At first blush, it appears Mr Ed could be yet another westie hipster haven.

Cool black-and-white artwork?

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Tick!

Cutting-edge design stools?

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Tick!

But the proof is in the pudding – or, in this case, the pies.

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Take a look at these beauties, which sell for $9.50. (They’re a lot bigger than they appear in the photograph.)

After my lunch, I take one of the veal, bacon and portolbello mushroom specimens home for dinner.

Like everything else in the place, as far as I can tell, they’re made in-house.

For a week-day lunch, I find the staff friendly and obliging.

In addition to breakfasts, Mr Ed does a nice line in creative sandwiches that all cost around the $10 mark.

There’s blackboard lists of specials such as a risotto, pulled chicken sliders and beer-battered flathead with purple congo wedges.

The adjacent list of “usual suspects” includes a “beef and basil burger”, and beyond that are offered about a handful of salads.

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I choose one of the more expensive dishes – smoked trout and warm egg salad with celeriac remoulade with salmon pearls on rye toast ($16.50).

This is way more “plated” and pretty than is normal for CTS, but it’s truly a lovely thing.

It’s mildly flavoured and falls into the light lunch category.

But all the components work together beautifully, celeriac strands almost like noodles and the trout given some added richness thanks to the egg and some just-right poppy texture thanks to the pearls.

Mr. Ed on Urbanspoon

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Gigante – Melbourne’s best hot dog?

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How sweet has our Easter Sunday been?

Long sleep-ins, especially for Bennie.

Healthy breakfast followed by several hours chillaxing – music, reading, games and more.

As we’re topping and tailing on the sofa, my now teenaged son – who is showing signs of the transition from boy to man – reaches out from under the doona we are sharing, places his right hand in my left, then promptly goes back to sleep.

I find it near impossible to believe that this caring, sweet-natured and happy human being is destined – according to widely held legend – to become, at least, some of the time, a surly monster.

Then it’s out and about for some frisbee-tossing before lunch.

We head for one of our fave places – La Morenita in Sunshine – with a view to maybe trying out one of the new menu items.

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I go for one of the long-listed sandwiches.

Bennie goes for the new super hot dog – the gigante ($15) of smoked chorizo, ham, onion, cheese and mayo with chips.

Holy moly – it’s a classic!

And going by my token mouthful, it’s delicious in every way, the goodies all housed in a house-baked long roll.

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So big is it that we request a staff member to cut it half for ease of eating.

Really, it seems to me, this is a two-person meal. Although Bennie eats all but some of the ham and couple of loaf stubs.

Indeed, La Morenita’s Maria tells me that the previous day she sold one to a bloke who got his cut in half before saying: “There – one half for lunch and one half for dinner!”

Talk of the gigante’s portion size occasions the following laughing conversation between Maria and myself:

Maria: “I can eat a whole one!”

Me: “But you’re a pig!”

Maria: “I am!”

La Morenita, is of course, the venue for not just one but two forthcoming CTS Feasts – the gigante isn’t on the menu but plenty of other good stuff is.

The first is sold-out but a handful of tickets remain available for the second.

For information and booking details, go here.

Maximum hot pot

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Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Xiang Yang Cheng is a brand new Moonee Ponds food emporium that sells – and sells only – a singular brand of Sichuan-style hot pot.

It’s been open about a week, and as usual CTS pal Nat has done a super sleuthing job and promptly notified us of its existence, finishing with the simple plea: “When are we going?”

The answer – the only answer – of course is: “As soon as possible!”

Thus it is that Bennie and I join Nat for a most spectacular, enjoyable and tasty Good Friday dinner.

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The place itself is utterly gorgeous.

The upper beams and stonework of the original building are matched below by beautiful wooden furnishings and decorations.

Each table – and there are many, including a couple in semi-private booths – is equipped with a stovetop heater for the soups.

We’ll call what we have Sichuan-style, but the truth is we don’t quite know where the Xiang Yang Chenghuo guo” fit in terms of this apparently well-researched article at Wikipedia.

The young staff are eager to please if a little bemused with our antics, questions and rampant curiosity. But some things remain unexplained.

Including, for instance, the exact ingredients of our “double flavours” brew of “stock soup” and “spicy soup”. We can see the obvious – spring onions, garlic and so on. But there many mysterious Chinese herbs and others bits and pieces about which we’re only guessing.

No matter!

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Our twin-soup base costs $15. We find the slow-grow fire of the spicy soup is perfectly matched with the nicely salty and astringent plain stock.

From there we tick off a number of ingredients – most of which go for about $5 – for dipping into the soups of our choice.

We avoid the more confronting and peculiar (see full menu below), but take a couple of punts as well.

It takes us a little while to find the best cooking times for individual ingredients but it’s all good fun.

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Here’s how our many mixed ingredients stack up for me – the mileage of Bennie and Nat no doubt differs at least a little and maybe by a whole lot!

Frozen beef, frozen lamb: Both arrive at our table pretty as a picture and are very good – though truth to tell, I struggle to tell them apart once they have been briefly submerged and cooked.

Prawns: Average.

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Spinach, Chinese cabbage: The best of our vegetable choices, these seem to really soak up the broths superbly. Even the bigger, whiter stems of the Chinese cabbage are luscious when given enough time in the soups.

Garden chrysantheum: A fail for me – I find the stems too tough even after prolonged bathing. Bennie likes these, though.

Oyster mushroom: Quite nice, with a similar aptitude for flavour retention as the cabbage and spinach.

Potato slices: Another fail for me, though this turns out to be mostly because we don’t allow them nearly enough time. Dropped into the soups and forgotten about for a while, they shape up pretty well – a bit like the spuds in Malaysian or Vietnamese curries.

Bread sticks: Just OK for me, But – again – Bennie likes.

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For $1 or $2, we have been provided three dipping sauces – sesame oil and garlic, chopped coriander and BBQ. The first two are what they are, but the second is a puzzle – a BBQ sauce that just seems a little odd or off.

But the winner is a house sauce, provided without being requested, of fermented soy and broad  beans, chilli, garlic, spring onion, ginger, oil and peanuts.

It tastes strongly of miso to me, is granular and a little crunchy, and we all love it to bits.

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What an absolute ball we have!

Given the hit and miss aspect of our ordering, we figure we’ve done really well.

Next time, we’d probably order a little less in terms of quantity, and some more of that and less of this.

All up, our feast – including a long, tall can of papaya drink for Bennie – costs about $25 each, which we think is an outright bargain.

Even better, the very nature of the ritual involved makes for a relaxed, chatty and deeply engaged dinner experience.

We take about an hour to get ourselves full.

This could hardly be a greater contrast to Bennie’s burger experience of the previous night, in which case – for almost exactly the same admission fee – he had a meal that lasted way less than five minutes.

There may be other eateries doing this style of dining in greater Melbourne, but it’s a rarity in the west.

So we hope they do well.

It’s a unique experience that’s packed with affordable, high-quality ingredients – and it’s great for groups.

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

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Yarraville’s new foodie pub

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Hyde Street Hotel, 188 Hyde St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2163

As Victoria On Hyde and in our now many years in Yarraville, we’ve had close to no use for these premises.

Sure, an occasional quick-stop for beer and/or wine … but the only time I ever stuck my head inside the pub proper, I promptly fled.

Now, though, oh boy!

The place has been re-branded as The Hyde Street Hotel and given a radical makeover – and we’re very happy to be taking it for a whirl on Easter Eve, about a week after it has opened.

There’s a rather spartan public bar where a limited choice of menu items is available at significantly lowers prices than in the dining room.

There’s a couple of cruisey lounge areas.

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And there’s the dining room itself – airy, bright and attractive. It almost has an outdoor feel about.

It has booths, widely separated tables and lots of room.

The menu starters are in the $10 to $20 range and display the most diversity of the kitchen’s output, with influences from Asia and the Middle East.

From there the menu diverts to regular pub fare, including “classics”, mains including roasted lamb rump and “bbq’d” kangaroo loin, pizzas and steaks – including a kilogram rib eye for two at $75.

Overall, the prices seem less than at the Mona Castle and more in line with the Plough.

We are served well by young staff dressed uniformly in hipster black and our meals arrive promptly, the wait time spent checking the place out and frankly ogling with much interest the plates bound for the tables of other families and groups.

We go for a couple of the classics.

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My fish and chips ($26) hit the spot.

The salad is a fine thing for this kind of food in this kind of place – fresh greens and some finely cut cucumber, radish and red onion, all well dressed.

The fish is three medium-size pieces of rockling that are sweetish, delicate and add up to a good feed.

Plate aesthetics have dictated the fish is placed atop my chips, so some of the latter are spoiled by oil seep – but the rest are hot, crisp and hastily consumed.

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By contrast, I feel a little sorry for Bennie in regards to his choice of the wagyu beef burger ($24), which comes with the same chips.

It appears to be a good, unfussy burger but it simply doesn’t seem to provide him much of a dinner experience.

It’s gone in about two minutes and is a messy handful.

It has good melted cheese, some greenery, sauce and mayo, caramelised onions and that’s about it.

No bacon; just sayin’ …

But brevity of eating has, in this case, no bearing on quality.

As we walk home, Bennie spends the first block or so expounding with passion and enthusiasm on his burger … the deliciousness of the meat, the “crisp on the outside and soft inside” chargrilled bun, the whole deal.

To the point of saying bacon may have been of nuisance value only.

“Next time, you’ve just gotta try it, dad!” he proclaims.

An obvious winner …

Hyde Street Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

An Ethiopian welcome to Footscray

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Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Snowtree, 119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Eliza was one of the many lovely and talented people with whom I worked at the Geelong Advertister.

IIRC, she left not too long after I did … to pursue a gig practising the black arts of PR on St Kilda Road.

As is so often the case these days, we both sort-of followed our respective journeys from Facebook, where – among other things – I monitor with interest the comings and goings of my extended family of media industry brothers and sisters.

That all changed a few weeks back when I received a wonderful tweet from Eliza:

“Hi Kenny, how are you? Am moving to Footscray tomorrow – will need to keep a closer eye on your blog!”

Cool!

My reply was immediate:

“Hi Eliza! Wow that’s great! Will you have dindins with me and Bennie?”

We took our chat into private channels and – bingo! – here we are just a few weeks later having a swell dinner with Eliza and her partner, Josh.

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Kokeb joined the ranks of Footscray’s Ethiopian eateries a few months ago.

It’s a charming space and we are equally charmed by the service offered us by Helen and the music – on a Tuesday night! – of Melaku.

The menu has all the Ethiopian regulars covered, with a few more interesting items.

But we do away with all that – in the interests of easing “catching up” conversation – by going for the $22 a head banquet.

Eliza has us all laughing with stories of how her PR gig came unstuck and we quickly and in some depth swap notes on how we’re both faring these days, she as online editor and social media honcho … back at the Addy.

It’s a great role for her, I reckon.

But Bennie and I are just as delighted to have she and Josh as new neighbours, and excited to introduce them – for the first time – to the delights of Ethiopian food and injera.

They take to them with gusto – and so they should, as the Kobeb banquet spread is top-notch.

All is fresh, hot and tasty.

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We get two kinds of lamb tibs – the regular “white” and the more spicy and red “Kokeb” tibs. Both very good.

There’s the chopped greens of gomen wot and the delicious and chunky carrot, cabbage and potato of cabbage wot.

And, of course, lentils a couple of ways.

Best of all, though, is the shiro, which is served separately from an earthenware pot.

It’s a hot, spicy split pea soup/stew flavoured with berbere.

There’s plenty of food for our admission fee, and we even take Helen up on her offer to top up our supplies of the vegetable dishes and injera.

Some of the cool, crisp contrast usually offered by the presence of tangily-dressed lettuce, cucumber and tomato would have been a bonus.

As our meal and the eating of it wind down, Bennie gets a case of the restless – so we send him off on the daunting challenge of finding us somewhere that is doing dessert relatively late at night and relatively early in the week in Footscray central.

Success!

So we all troop off to the Korean joint Snowtree.

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To my surprise, they’re still serving what look like pretty acceptable Korean dinners – so maybe this is somewhere to take note of as being (maybe) open when all else is closed hereabouts.

But we make to do with a couple of serves of their “Snowtree Belgium waffle” ($7.50).

The waffles are just OK and the cream, I’m almost certain, comes from a can; but all is wolfed down anyway – including all the fruit and the frozen yogurt.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Eliza and Josh, and – yes – we’ll be making the housewarming!

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Snowtree on Urbanspoon

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Greek treats made with love in Kingsville

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Olive Oil & Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9315 1060

There’s an awful lot in the name of this great Greek bakery in Kingsville.

You see, that’s what they use – olive oil and butter.

Oh, of course, there’s other ingredients – but the name nevertheless symbolises a keen dedication to natural products.

No ingredients with numbers rather than names, no premixes … just a righteous determination to make and bake with the simplest and the best in an entirely old-school manner.

This is the kind of place at which the declaration, “Our products have a limited shelf life”, is a proud boast.

Olive Oil & Butter is run by Pelagia, her brother Chris and their mum Martha.

It’s a first restaurant/cafe/bakery outing for the family – and that’s a good thing, as it means the recipes are derived from an inter-generational tradition.

After my lunch is done and paid for (see below), I introduce myself to Pelagia, who is nice enough to set up a display platter of the Greek baking that is available this day. The line-up tends to change, but the prices are mostly in the $4-5 range (less for biscuits).

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 Clockwise from top right:

* Koulouraki – biscuit with vanilla.

* “The best” galaktoboureko – Filo pastry, semolina-based custard, vanilla, syrup with cinnamon and cloves.

* Baklava – roasted almonds and walnuts filling filo pastry with a cinnamon and clove syrup.

* Revani – semolina cake flavoured with lemon and orange sweetened with an orange-zest syrup.

* Another version of koulouraki.

* Paksimadi – a crumbly vegan biscotti flavoured with orange.

As Pelagia explains the ins and outs of the baking before us, we are joined by her mum.

It’s easy to tell from the glint in her eye and the pride in her work that Martha is serious about “olive and oil and butter” and using only the very best ingredients. And no preservatives at all …

I try only a few of the above assortment – they’re delicious.

The rest go home with me – it doesn’t take too long for me to realise my insistence on paying for the lot is going to be rebuffed at every turn, no matter how hard I try or how long I persist.

Olive Oil & Butter does breakfast and lunch, too, though much of what is available in that regard is of non-Greek derivation – pies, muffins, focaccia and so on.

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I do enjoy my pastitsio ($15), though.

It’s a hearty dish that is something of a variation of moussaka, with the good ground beef and tubed pasta melding into the rich bechamel sauce. The accompanying salad is just, fine, too.

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And for dinner, I am also gifted this gorgeous scroll-style spanakopita ($9).

Like the bakalava and its variations (katafi, gianniotiko, saragli), the cheese and spinach scroll is made with filo pastry that is made from scratch in the kitchen.

How good is that?

My two cafe lattes ($3.50) are excellent, BTW!

PS: I will update this post with “tasting notes” as I work my way through my trawl!

The Olive Oil & Butter Facebook page is updated regularly with news and photos of what is available.

Olive Oil & Butter on Urbanspoon

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Random bits

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Consider The Sauce revisited one of its fave places at the weekend.

MiHub Cafe is just our sort of establishment, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with its great community vibe.

(See earlier stories here and here.)

So my visit wasn’t so much about blogging – I didn’t even get my camera out – as it was about beaut food and people.

I had my fill of both, even running into a fellow Rickshaw Run volunteer, and comparing notes on the wonders of Werribee with she and her friend.

Sadly, I didn’t get to talk to MiHub stalwart Nora, as she was attending some sort of event in the city.

Since hooking up with her on Facebook, I have been enjoying her near-daily gifts of Koran-inspired pithy wisdom and love.

But I did come away from my Werribee visit with the latest edition of JOM – Journal Of Malaysians Down Under.

Yep, that’s Nora on the cover … and reading the interview with her inside, I had confirmed what I already suspected – she is a wonderful woman!

You can read the interview here.

And get ye down to MiHub!

From what I could gather during my most recent visit, the best action there is taking place on Friday nights.

Bennie and I will check it out soon and a report will be forthcoming.

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Oh dear!

I was surprised to discover, during a footy sojourn, that a regular CTS reader was harbouring a misunderstanding about the new, ticketed and paid-for format of the CTS Feasts.

He was under the impression that the fee – $20 at this point – is being split between CTS and the participating eateries, but that punters are still expected to pay for their food on top of that.

It’s not so! Your ticket payment covers everything bar drinks.

There are still a handful of tickets unsold to our repeat session at La Morenita on Sunday, June 8. See story here.

Is there such a thing as too many food trucks?

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The days when the west seemed forgotten or ignored by Melbourne’s developing food truck industry sure seem like a long time ago and a long way away …

Tonight on Somerville Road there were 14 – that’s right, 14 – food truck in operation!

I’ve liked all the truckers I’ve met.

And I like that they like each other.

But I wonder how they can all make a buck in such an intense environment.

Those that I talked to tonight said business was good without being outstanding.

There was certainly a happy vibe in evidence!

And, no, I didn’t partake, having already eaten in Carlton …

Footscray returns to the Western Oval

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Upon moving to Melbourne about three decades ago, I was quite taken with Australian football – this strange game adored by millions but played only, or mostly, in a single country … and a single city (mostly) at that.

As I established a new life for myself, and being as I knew few people, it was not unusual for me to attend three VFL/AFL games a weekend – imagine the cost of doing that these days!

I never got serious about barracking for any particular team, but usually went for the underdogs in any given game.

All that was long enough ago that I actually made it to some of the old-school suburban grounds – in fact, IIRC, I may have actually attended the final ever seniors game at the Western Oval.

So I am really quite excited to front up for the return of Footscray – in the form of the Western Bulldogs’ stand-alone VFL side – to the Western/Whitten Oval.

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Marley and her family, Maddie, Ruby and Rory.

Even if I have reverted to other football codes in terms of my active sports interests.

I arrive in time for the start of the second quarter, end up staying to the final siren and have a ball.

There’s gratifyingly big crowd on hand, kids and families and dogs everywhere – none of whom have had to pay for their suburban footy fix.

It being after breakfast but too early for lunch, I’d envisaged grabbing a coffee from the Bulldog HQ eatery The Pound …

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… but the queue nixes that idea right off.

However, I am delighted to find that among the array of eats being provided at the train-line end of the ground are Remi and his super-gorgeous Airstream Happy Camper Pizza van.

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Too early for lunch? Nah, time to try a whole Happy Camper Pizza for the first time ever!

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My $12 margherita is perfection in every way – hot, fresh, excellent ingredients in just the right proportions and very, very tasty!

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There are old-school footy traditions going on everywhere, including kids and balls and dads on the ground at half-time and anyone with an interest taking in the three-quarter-time huddle.

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I run into and enjoy the company of CTS readers and footy buffs (from left) Michael, Footy Maths Institute, Sian and The Holy Boot’s Football Emporium.

Also met but unphotographed is Dugald Jellie, whose report on the occasion can be seen here.

I understand there are about five more VFL home games for Footscray this season – it’s a CTS recommended activity!

(BTW, Footscray thrashed Richmond …)

Happy Camper Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Melb’s food blog rankings

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Random pic that has nothing to do with the story …

Thanks to Ed Charles of Melbourne food blog Tomato and Thang No at Sydney blog Noodlies, and a lot of work, those interested can have a look at a rankings list of “Australia’s top food blogs”.

As ever, I grumble the use of the word “top” when the listings are based solely on traffic as ranked by Alexa.

Such a strategy doesn’t take into account all sorts of factors, including a blog’s engagement with its readers – and CTS, through the burgeoning Feasts, could hardly be more engaged.

And “top” is meaningless in terms of how successful individual bloggers feel their blogs are – it’s easy to forget that bloggers of all sorts have a variety of vastly different motivations and notions of what constitutes a successful blog.

But everyone loves lists and I’m no different.

I actually found the Noodlies combined Melbourne/Sydney too confusing and thus of little interest.

Ed’s Melbourne-specific list I found a lot more interesting.

Consider The Sauce comes in No.54 on a list that numbers 152, with almost 100 more not ranked because they are too new or have too little traffic.

I’ll take that – for a blog that is so obsessed with a particular part of Melbourne and devoutly avoids the trendier foodie happenings and menus across our city.

Footscray Food Blog comes in at No.28.

But I am interested in learning what other Melbourne food blogs regular CTS readers follow or even check out occasionally.

 

 

 

 

CTS Feast No.7: La Morenita 2

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

Consider The Sauce Feast No.7: La Morenita

67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

From 6pm on Sunday, June 8.

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Wow – Maria and Marco of La Morenita and Consider The Sauce were knocked by the response to CTS Feast No.6!

So much so, we’re happy to mount an identical event a couple of weeks later.

Hey, we’re a little nervous – but enough people have let us know they are interested in a repeat or were disappointed in missing out on the first that we’re going ahead anyway!

The menu will exactly the same – see below.

As will the price ($20) and the number of tickets available (25).

See the original CTS Feast La Morenita post here.

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MENU

Cheese, spicy chicken and beef empanadas

Choripan (chorizo in a roll)

Cocktail hallullas (Chilean bread), pebre (spicy chilli sauce)

Traditional ham and cheese sandwiches de miga

Churrasco (burger with beef, tomato, avocado and mayonnaise)

Custard berlin (doughnut)

Milhoja (“1000 layers”) cake (which Marco will slice on the night)

A Jarrito (Mexican soft drink)

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

Macedonian magnificence

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Zegov Charcoal Grill, 16 Wood Street, Thomastown. Phone:  9078 6811

Nat “The Nose” Stockley has a super-sleuthing way of finding about new joints that fits right fine with the Consider The Sauce ethos.

So when he tips us to the existence of a new eating emporium – or, even better, asks us to join him in checking out – we invariably respond with alacrity.

In this case, the business in question is a newish Macedonian place way over there in Thomastown.

No problem – a sweet drive on the ring road, particularly with a slew of new music to listen to, is a breeze and seems no more “out there” or onerous than some of our more far-fetched westie exploits.

As I drive, I have visions of perfectly grilled meats and fabulous cabbage salad dancing in my head.

That’s precisely what we get – and we get more besides.

A WHOLE lot more.

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As we get comfortable in the typically Euro-appointed eatery, Nat and I are like a couple of giggling schoolboys.

Truth is, we both get an immense rush from finding such out-of-the-way places.

As well, I am delighted to find that Zegov ticks another CTS box – regular readers will know we get a particular kick from finding great food on industrial estates. This isn’t that precisely, but it’s real close.

I’ve had no lunch, so am hungry – my mouth really does water as we peruse our menus, which feature both the expected and the not so much.

We choose a couple of starters and a couple of mains – in the latter case, choosing different platters from the three mixed grills available.

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Piroshka ($4 each) look like Chiko Rolls and are filled with a mix of cheese, pickled gherkin, ham and mayo. They’re delicate but, for mine, a little on the bland side given the potential pungency of the fillings.

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Makallo ($7) is chargrilled green chillies in oil “for dipping”. This is nice enough, though I could wish for more pronounced spice and flavour.

Sounds a little on the ho-hum side so far, doesn’t it?

Well, hold on – things are about to get very interesting!

Something spurs Tanya and her mum-in-law Lidija to get really serious about having us waddle out of the place.

Whether it be the fact we’re photographing everything that moves (and much that doesn’t) or that we look hungry (it certainly can’t be that we look skinny because we don’t) … out come three more starters we haven’t ordered just for us “to try”!

Wow!

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Nafora ($6) is lightly chargrilled bread with chilli flakes and cheese that we gaily use for dipping in the oil of the above makallo.

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Sarma ($16 for two) are right up there with the very best cabbage rolls I’ve had, regardless of derivation.

They’re smaller than is often the case, but so tender and packed with not rice but instead a gloriously hearty beef mince sauce.

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Grafce ($7) are baked beans – they’re smooth and hearty, but maybe get a little lost in the multitude of food around us.

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Finally we get to our mains – mix char grill 1 for him, mix char grill 2 for me.

Both cost an outrageously cheap $18.50, with the only difference being that Nat gets pork neck pieces and I get lamb chops.

Gosh, they’re fantastic! The only problem is, we’ve already eaten so much we struggle to do our platters justice – I eat only one of my chops, for instance.

But the meats are superb – plain, juicy, expertly cooked and including five “kebapi” and, for variation, a skinny pork snag of sneak-up-on-you spiciness.

And the cabbage salad?

It’s perfection in every way!

Such a simple thing and such a joy, the cabbage is both tender and crunchy, and a little vinegary to boot. As it should be.

It’s pretty much the only thing we both clean our plates of.

We think we’re done – but Tanya and Lidija have other ideas …

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Tulumba, a dessert special not listed on the menu and yet another treat offered us “on the house”, is like a cross between churros and eclair.

Coated in clear, sticky syrup, it’s a plain and not over-rich way to cap off a magnificent eating experience.

There’s some food in the west that is similar to that to be had at Zegov, but not THAT much.

So this wonderful place is well worth a drive the ring road makes easy.

And I just know that Bennie will love the $10 burgers that are “served with chips in burger”!

Thanks, Nat – you’re always on the money!

Zegov Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon

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The great western suburbs coffee debate

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Regular readers who get their CTS fix via this blog’s Facebook page will be aware that yesterday I posted a link to a list of “Melbourne’s best coffee” as published on Urban List.

As ever with such lists, my beef is with the use of the term “best”.

Look, I’m a journalist – I know how these things work.

And work they did, in this case, with that FB post/link garnering more than 1000 views – way, way more than ever is accorded CTS’s own posts.

Another familiar beef is that in this case, as in so many others, the western suburbs did not score even a solitary mention.

So I reckon it’s worthy of a blog post – let’s have some have some entertaining discussion about your fave western suburbs coffee spots.

As listed on the CTS FB page, I have three that I absolutely swear by for friendliness, service and outstanding coffee – Cup And Bean, Feedback Cafe and Sourdough Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

Steppin’ Out In Sunshine

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MaDE in Brimbank is a dance and music bash being held in the car park adjacent to Classic Curry and in which we almost always park when making one of our frequent Sunshine visits.

Now, dance is not really my thing, but I end up being very glad I make the effort.

This is another wonderful westie community event.

I spend quite a few hours enjoying it all – from an hour so after proceedings commence, but departing way before the party winds down.

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While on hand I catch all sorts of dancing and other entertainment, ranging from junior hip-hoppers to traditional styles from Africa and Europe.

And there are food trucks.

Actually, there are a LOT of food trucks – they’re so thick on the ground, I wonder how anyone is going to make a buck. Maybe things pick up after I split.

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Given the plethora of food rucks on hand, it is no surprise I bump into erudite and much-travelled foodie Nat Stockley.

Nor is it any surprise, given her “thing” for dance, food and, more recently, food trucks themselves, that I likewise stumble across the Urban Ma and other members of the wonderful family with which only days earlier I had been utterly privileged to participate in an amazing Pinoy family feast.

Wonderful folks!

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From Amy at Trailer Made Food, I secure a serve of fried potatoes with tomato sauce and Turkish sausage ($10).

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It’s a lovely thing!

The spuds are crisp and salty, the sauce is intense and the sausage just right.

But I’m still hungry.

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So I hit the Souvlaki Cart – and hit souvlaki heaven.

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My $10 souvlaki is wrapped in everyone’s fave Greek-style pita bread.

Internally, the lambs cubes are really, really top class and a cut way above the meat found your average takeaway souvlaki.

The only quibble I would have is that the yogurt/cucumber combo could’ve benefited from quite a bit more garlic.

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Coasting in Yarraville

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Friendly Neighbours Family Day, Beaton Reserve, Yarraville

We know some of our neighbours, one of them very well.

But, like everyone else, we could do better.

So we are happy to embrace the Friendly Neighbours Program, the leaflet of which arrived in our letterbox this week.

Even better, we are happy to check out the local festival being thrown in that spirit at our local park, which we mostly use for one of our favourite past-times.

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We can’t recall there ever being a public event in “our” park before, but we certainly hope this one becomes a regular.

Bennie remarks as we arrive that it’s the most laid-back fest we’ve ever attended – and we’ve been to heaps.

But laid-back has its charms, for sure.

We like the stalls – and we like even more that the stallholders have been charged no fee!

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I especially like talking to Karen, who makes all her hats and caps from recycled materials.

My search for a winter hat is on, but I don’t find quite the right one among her on-hand range.

But I have her details (karenfalting@gmail.com) should I decide a custom-made number is the answer.

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There’s ukeleles …

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… line-dancing …

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… and bluegrass with crowd-sourced percussion.

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We eye food trucks including Dos Diablos and Beatbox Kitchen somewhat warily – after all, our weekend eating-out budget is pretty much shot.

So we are profoundly grateful to the nice folks from the Ethiopian Youth & Parents Association who are offering, at no cost, snacks that do us just right.

They include injera rolled up like roti rolls and including dal, a sort-of bolognese and a spicy cheese-and-green number – all absolutely delicious!

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Lakehouse redux

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Lakehouse Restaurant, 55 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 3649

Consider The Sauce has not been back Lakehouse since its visit in the Edgewater establishment’s very early days.

We have noted, though, the mixed bag of comments that have accompanied its opening, both here at CTS and elsewhere.

We note them, but figure also they are very much par for the course for such a place in such a place.

We certainly don’t let the less glowing remarks deter us from a Saturday visit for lunch.

In fact, exactly opposite is the case, so delighted are we to grab a spot on the balcony on a beautiful, sunny and virtually wind-free autumn day.

It’s a wonderful thing – and even the pelicans gracefully soaring past as we get comfortable seem to agree.

From the lunch menu (see below), we go for a couple of the sandwiches and split them 50/50.

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The open steak sandwich ($17.90) is fine, though as with all such arrangements we might quibble with the description “sandwich”.

Steak on toast or beef bruschetta might be more appropriate, as it’s impossible to eat ours in anything like the manner usually used for anything sandwich.

But the steak is nice, of just the right heft and goes well with the beetroot salsa, greenery and aoili.

The chips, served in a cute wire basket, are good and hot, though we find those near the bottom overly salted.

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We are surprised and delighted to find the same chip deal arrives with the Mediterranean vegetable sandwich ($13.90), as they are unannounced on the menu.

Surprisingly, Bennie likes this even better than the steak, um, sanger.

I would have preferred vegetables such as zucchini to have more bite – these all seem rather squishy.

But the whole is good – the Turkish loaf is very fresh and warm, and the vegetables are themselves sandwiched by pesto and mozzarella.

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Neither of our lunch selections are likely ever to win ecstatic “oohs” and/or “aahhs”.

But the prices have been right, the setting is simply unbeatable and the service has been just fine.

Next time, we’ll make a point of checking out some pizza or pasta – or maybe the $12 parma Thursday nights.

We’re happy to enjoy what Lakehouse has to offer without indulging in wishful thinking that it was, well, less “generic”.

In Melbourne, spectacular views and/or beach and river settings and REALLY good food just don’t seem to go together.

Or not in places we can regularly afford, anyway.

Lakehouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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CTS Feast No.6: La Morenita

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Consider The Sauce Feast No.6: La Morenita

67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

From 7pm on Wednesday, May 21.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT. CTS AND LA MORENITA ARE IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT A REPEAT!

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Who doesn’t like hands-on food?

Not we here at CTS HQ, that’s for sure!

Whether it be an injera-based spread or a fabulous Pinoy family feast, we just love getting our hands on the stuff.

And that’s just what we’ll all be doing at CTS Feast No.6.

We know this because La Morenita’s Maria has assured us there’s simply no cutlery to be found in the place.

Maria and her hubby, Marco, are old friends of CTS.

We use their empanadas for out-of-the-freezer light meals and snacks.

We love dropping in for coffee and cake.

We love that this friendly Latin American cafe is right there on Berkshire Road as a warm, tasty contrast to the wall-to-wall panelbeaters and the like.

Most of all, we love their amazing range of sooper-dooper, genuine Latin American sandwiches/burgers, one of which – the fabled churrasco – will be the centrepiece of CTS Feast No.6.

As with the previous Feast, a charge of $20 will apply, with the proceeds being split between CTS and La Morenita.

In this case, though, because of space restrictions, there are only 25 tickets available.

After a feast history that has so far embraced three Indian eateries as well as one each of Vietnamese and Chinese, it’s really cool to be offering CTS readers something different.

Let’s let Maria have the last word: “My aim with this night is to make sure everyone goes home full!”

MENU

Cheese, spicy chicken and beef empanadas

Choripan (chorizo in a roll)

Cocktail hallullas (Chilean bread), pebre (spicy chilli sauce)

Traditional ham and cheese sandwiches de miga

Churrasco (burger with beef, tomato, avocado and mayonnaise)

Custard berlin (doughnut)

Milhoja (“1000 layers”) cake (which Marco will slice on the night)

A Jarrito (Mexican soft drink)

Dinner delight in Yarraville

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Alpha Bakehouse, 42 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 6111

The weight of opinion would seem to be overwhelming.

It doesn’t take a lot of looking to find accolades for the coffee served at Yarraville stalwart Alpha Bakehouse.

As well, hordes of commuters get their “roadies” here despite there now being two alternatives that are actually closer to the station.

In my city commute days, I did likewise – but always found the coffee mediocre. But as I say, I am in the minority.

More broadly, we have never really warmed to Alpha. The occasional pie, but that’s about it.

Besides, at lunchtime, the place is so very, very busy.

Always.

Again, we are in the minority.

We’ve been aware for a while the place is now open for dinner – and are open-minded enough to give it a go.

What we find and are provided makes us converts.

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The joint’s daytime role as a bakery/cafe/sandwich place remains apparent at night.

But the Alpha crew has otherwise done a fine job of fostering a real restaurant ambiance.

In the long room, there are many small tables, a larger one of the communal variety and a broad bench at the front.

Wowee – all are set with real-deal napkins! We appreciate that.

We lover our pozzie at the front bench. It’s a fine place to await our meals on a balmy Indian summer’s eve as we watch the commuters heading home in an endless parade.

The Alpha’s dinner mains mostly range through the $15 to $25 mark and can be described as being in the family bistro or local pub tradition (see menu below).

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For once, I pull parental rank on Bennie and choose the “Alpha wagyu burger” ($18).

It’s good, with a nice, hefty patty that perhaps – by our usual standards – could use a bit more zing in the seasoning department.

The bun is excellent, and the greenery and tomato are respectively crisp and fresh.

A nice, crisp slice of bacon would have been appreciated, though.

The chunky “hand-cut” chips are beaut, and I even like them dipped in the generic tomato sauce.

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As luck would have it, Bennie’s meal trumps mine – ironic, given his chicken parma ($18) is what I would have ended up with had he been allowed his burger druthers.

As he motors though his dinner, I venture that it is probably the best parma he’s ever had.

He nods in the affirmative.

Based on my sample taste, I reckon it’d be in the vicinity of that category for myself.

It’s really good. And the meat is served mostly beside – rather than on – the chips. Hurrah!

The parma itself is fine, non-reconstituted chook.

Even better, the topping provides a beautifully finessed harmony between cheese, ham, tomato and sage – something that is, in our experience, far from common.

His chips are the same good deal as mine, while his salad is way better than the mere garnish that has attended my own burger plate.

It’s a winner!

Alpha’s dinner offerings are unlikely to become regulars for us, but we love that it’s there – based on our two meals, Alpha is a classy, viable alternative to similar offerings nearby.

And the early-evening service has been attentive and friendly.

Alfa Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

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Check your spam daily

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Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500

Just like everyone else these days, I am always looking for where the next opportunity or possibility may arise.

So I have developed a daily routine of always checking the spam file of my email account.

What I find there is almost always … spam.

But, just very occasionally, there is something more interesting.

Through that routine I find an interesting approach from publiicst Yvette and her company X2 Marketing.

Her firm represents, so she tells me, a small number of western suburbs restaurants. Would I be interested in some sort of collaboration with her company and the restaurants involved?

A very, very good half-hour phone conversation ensues.

I like it that Yvette and her partner, Anna, have no set ideas how food bloggers and their clients may interact and they seem to be open to ideas. Even better, the Consider The Sauce Feast concept spark a good deal of enthusiasm.

Both women come from a corporate background, yet have ended up in the same place as CTS, preferring the personal touch and a general embracing of the “small is beautiful” ethos.

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Two of the eateries they represent hold no interest to Consider The Sauce at all, but one of them most certainly does.

So it is that all three of us meet at Vicolo, in Young Street, Moonee Ponds. (CTS did not pay for its meal – full disclosure below.)

I am very familiar with Young Street in Moonee Ponds – indeed, Fresh On Young was the subject the very first CTS story.

But I have always been deterred by the somewhat forbidding glass facade of Vicolo, despite a good review from Lauren at Footscray Food Blog.

So I am delighted and happy to find that behind the glass is a classy Italian joint.

I really dig meeting and talking with Yvette and Anna. Despite our different backgrounds, I’d like to think we are on the same page.

On this Thursday night, there is a happy vibe in the place, which is crowded with what I presume are regulars.

Even better, I adore the boss lady, Maria, and the way she sparkles and genuinely seems to care about every table of guests.

Yvette, Anna  and I star with a trio of spuntini.

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Whitebait ($11) are warm verging on cold, but I’m guessing that in the antipasto swing of things this is perfectly acceptable. They’re crisp and unoily, with the fried richness being cut beautifully by the excellent tangy salad.

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Arancini ($10) are a big step up from the tough, unappetising footballs found in generic eateries across the land. These are delicate and variously flavoured with goat, pumpkin and cheese.

Similarly light of flavour and weight is the gorgeous salt and pepper calamari ($11).

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As we await our main, Maria is only too happy to give me a brief tour of the kitchen, expressing the hope that I’ll be comfortable with the fact her two cooks are Korean folks trained by herself pretty much from the ground up.

As if I would care!

One of them, Naggie, is happy to be photographed. The other, not so much …

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Maria explains how she prepares her renowned risottos in a restaurant context – by mostly pre-cooking the rice and keeping all the flavour packages separate, with the end product being as genuine and delicious as you could wish.

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The house red sauce, Maria explains, is made from only the best tomatoes – tinned and puree both.

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I get lucky with my choice of main – it’s a casserole-style goat number ($36) that isn’t even on the specials list. It’s sticky, rich and in every way excellent, the tender meat falling easily from the bone in a way that only comes from long, slow cooking.

My companions enjoy their pasta choices – linguini marinara with fish, mussels, pipis, scallops and calamari ($26.50); and lasagne ($23.50).

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Desserts all come with a $12 price tag, with the lemon tart and tiramisu going down a treat.

On the basis of our combined meal, I’m happy to conclude that Vicolo does classic Italian very well.

As for possible future collaborations between Vicolo and/or X2 Marketing, stay tuned …

Consider The Sauce’s meal at Vicolo was provided without payment being required. Management had no prior knowledge of what would be ordered, and neither sought nor was granted any editorial input into this story.

Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar on Urbanspoon

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