Ripper Sri Lankan buffet: $15

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Chef Lanka, 50/B 217 Mickleham Road, Tullamarine. Phone: 9338 3839

This Chef Lanka is the youngest of three siblings – the others are in nearby Glenroy and the Melbourne CBD.

It’s a big, ritzy room with a raised area lined with many serving “chafing dishes”, the premises being sandwiched – so to speak – between a Subway outlet and a restaurant of the pizza-pasta-seafood-steaks variety.

Just up the road is fine Lebanese place done out in fast-food livery.

Only a few of those heated serving contraptions are in use for the Saturday lunch buffet – makes sense, as we are the only customers.

But there’s more than enough range for a grand lunch and the quality is high.

This is, in our estimation, very good Sri Lanka tucker.

(I’m a bit disappointed in the pics – they make the food look less good than is the case!)

 

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Two kinds of rice …

Fried rice that recognisably of Chinese derivation but somehow different – it’s plain wonderful.

Chicken biryani quite different from those we get from our fave West Footscray haunts – milder, sweeter thanks to the currants, but still real nice.

 

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Lamb curry with meat quite well done but of deep flavour that’s somewhat like the vinegary tang of a vindaloo. I’m told, however, that it’s nothing of the sort …

Devil Chicken – another dish of seemingly Chinese heritage. The battered meat is nicely chewy and the dish as a whole is very mild – this surprises us as it appear as though it may quite spicy-evil.

 

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Jackfruit curry that looks so unappetising that I give it a miss. At first glance, I take it to be made of overcooked fish cutlets!

A highlight – cashew curry, the nuts with just enough gravy and just enough softish crunch left in them.

 

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Spicy potatoes so very, very familiar from my workplace’s weekly, Friday curry runs to another fine Sri Lankan place just up the road apiece.

Another highlight – a super mix of carrot, broccoli and cauliflower done in coconut milk and crushed mustard seeds.

It’s very yummy!

 

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As well, on hand is an endless supply of pappadums and maldive fish, if you like ‘em!

Chef Lanka has a mixed bag of buffet offers, depending on the days of the week and times of the day.

The lunch buffet we have dug costs $15 on Saturdays and Sundays.

The same deal costs $12 for lunch from Mondays through to Fridays.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, a $25 buffet is on offer – and we imagine this will be fabulous when we get around to trying it.

On those nights, all the many serving contraptions come into play – that’s a lot! – and so the food will be even more colourful and diverse, and perhaps even include a goodly dash of seafood.

There’s an extensive a la carte menu as well – including hoppers.

At dinner time Mondays through Thursdays there’s a superb thali-style deal I checked out on an earlier, solo reconnaissance visit.

 

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How’s this for $10.90?

The same lamb curry as in our lunch buffet, coconutty chick peas, coconutty and scrumptious okra, an oily but delicious mix of eggplant and potato, rice and pappadum.

Superb value!

The achaar I ordered separately out of curiosity. It was fresh and crunchy but I found the mustard oil flavour somewhat overpowering.

Check out the Chef Lanka website here.

 

Chef Lanka on Urbanspoon

 

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Deer Park eats goss

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Western Pho in Deer Park is on the move.

The humble yet excellent Vietnamese eatery on Burnside Street – written about and given a new and glowing thumbs up from CTS regular Juz here – will move around the corner to the service road shopping strip on Ballarat Road in three months or so.

Proprietor Phi tells me there will be more food, more staff and more seating – the new joint will have a seating capacity of at least 60.

I caught up with Phi and his builder, “Junior” Espinosa of GE Builder, at the old premises as they were discussing the floor plan for the new place.

“Junior” tells me has worked on such CTS faves as Hyderabad Inn, Dosa Hut and Pandu’s – that’s a nice pedigree!

 

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The new place still bears the signage of the previous tenant.

 

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And just a few doors away preparations are underway for an Indian eatery and …

 

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… another Vietnamese place!

This phases Phi not at all – competition being good and helping to build a happy neighbourhood eats destination, he reckons.

 

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Meanwhile, in even more good news for locals, the current Western Pho premises on Burnside Street, will be renamed Western Roll and feature banh mi, rice paper rolls and the like, including sauces from Phi’s hometown near Cam Ranh Bay – and coffee.

It’s all happening in Deer Park!

 

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Mexican in Yarraville – it’s open!

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Village Cantina, 30 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 8000

By the time I discover Village Cantina in Ballarat Street is up and running, it’s too late – I’ve already had an at-home dinner!

(Nothing flash – sourdough ciabatta toast topped with tomato slices and sardines …)

So this post is more your newsy story to alert readers to the opening and the subsequent rise village diversity.

We’ll no doubt be taking the menu for a test drive very soon and will write about the food then.

 

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The place is done out in colourful cantina style with some nicely cool art works in place.

They’re busy even just an hour after opening.

The compact menu doesn’t get in the least bit adventurous or weird – here you’ll get grilled corn, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and churros.

On the other hand, the tortillas are being supplied by El Cielo of Port Melbourne, so the quality should be there.

(See menu below.)

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Out back, there’s a three-table funky garden for chilling out purposes.

For opening hours, check out the Village Cantina Facebook page.

 

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Far out Flemo burger

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Streat, 307 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9629 4222

Consider The Sauce has stuck its nose into Streat numerous times.

But such has long been our penchant for the spicier, more exotic and evolving available elsewhere on Racecourse Road that we’ve never stayed to partake.

And that’s despite the fact we know Streat is a commendably community-minded enterprise that works tirelessly to fight homelessness.

So I’m happy to be meeting long-time CTS supporter Daniel for lunch and to be doing so at Streat at his suggestion.

I am surprised, however, to lay eyes on the blackboard menu (see below).

My recollection is of a more diverse line-up including the likes of Korean fried chicken.

Today, we’re gazing at a menu that runs simply from breakfast to bagels and burgers.

Still … no problem!

Especially when our lunches arrive.

 

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My “Racecourse Rd” burger ($11, $12.50 with bacon) really is excellent in every way.

Maybe not quite a 10, but a 9 for sure.

Everything is proportionately spot on, expertly assembled and of high quality – the beefy patty, the dressings, the salady bits, the sauce, the cheese, the perfectly two-handed size.

The wire basket of chips ($3.50) is just as good – there’s precisely right number of them to complete a fine and finely priced lunch.

 

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Daniel goes with his regular choice here – the “Wellington St” ($12.50) with fried chicken with coleslaw, mayo, Sriracha, mayo and cheese.

This looks the goods, too.

The chicken chunk is very fat and, my pal tells me, crisply fried.

At his request, we also get a couple of small pots of Sriracha for chip-dipping purposes.

I’m glad I’ve finally hit the Streat – ya never know where the next perfect burger meal is coming from!

 

STREAT on Urbanspoon

 

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Sunshine Mosque – a personal touch

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Open day at Sunshine Mosque, 618 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9363 8245

Consider The Sauce would like to believe our dismay and disgust at the recent weeks’ deliberately inflamed anti-Muslim hysteria is universal across the land.

Sadly, though, having read much in the press of all kinds, on social media and various websites – luckily I am pretty much completely out of the loop when it comes to talkback radio – I know that is simply not the case.

But while these events have been unfolding, a thought bubbled up: “Why have I never been to a mosque?”

At very much the same time, the Cyprus Turkish Community of Victoria started publicising its “everyone welcome” open day – and we are only too happy to accept the invitation.

Predictably and joyfully, our visit is a whole lot of fun, full of friendly people with big smiles.

And, of course, we have our fill of the food on hand.

 

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The cheese-and-spinach gozleme I enjoy is as good as it gets – hot of the hot plate, fresh and wonderful.

But the coolest event of the day has an unexpectedly personal note …

 

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We have been on the mosque grounds just a matter of minutes when I run into my Star Weekly colleague Yasemin.

I’m surprised to see her, and she I.

But we shouldn’t be … after all, I did know she’s a local; and she, in turn, knows of my foodie/multicultural adventurer persona.

Yasemin is very busy selling tickets for the kebab operation but we nevertheless squeeze in some conversation.

For me, this is the western suburbs one-degree of separation at splendid work and a valued opportunity to see a colleague with whom I have in the past year finessed numerous stories as something other than a reporter to my sub-editor.

And for Yasemin, I hope (!), it’s a chance to see me as something other than a cranky, demanding, nitpicking pedant – perhaps as an openminded foodie blogger with untold curiosity and as a father.

That latter description being, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, very much how I see and define myself these days.

This is Yasemin’s mosque.

I ask her if she pretty much grew up here.

Her answer is: “Yes!”

 

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After my savory appetite has been satisfied, I enjoy a super strong and sweet Turkish coffee with a deep-fried dessert called sam isi.

It’s filo pastry encasing semolina, and like so many treasured desserts from that part of the world, is sweet without being overly so.

 

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I stop and have a yarn with Tammy of Stylish Sisters.

Tammy refers to herself as a “convert”, her husband being Somalian.

And, yes, she knows all about our favourite Union Road destination.

I love the name of her business – in my opinion, which in this context is worth no doubt very, very little – many of the “sisters” do indeed have style to burn.

 

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Eventually, the presence at the event of a flagrantly mustachioed dude with a busy camera having been noted, Ekrem Fuldagli introduces himself to us.

Ekrem is the chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria.

It’s a busy day for a busy man, but he makes time to escort us into the mosque proper and patiently answer my questions.

Ekrem has been in the chairman role for about a year.

He tells me it’s a challenging but rewarding role, involving as it does issues and projects both within the mosque community and its interactions with the wider world.

He describes the mosque community as very mainstream and relationships with the neighbours as just fine

The domed mosque interior itself is truly beautiful and, yes, it has what I would call a “spiritual” vibe.

Ekrem tells me the dome itself has no religious significance.

Rather it is all about acoustics and the oration requirements of the pre-electricity and pre-amplification times.

Sadly, other commitments mean we are unable to linger for the scheduled Q&A session to which I have been eagerly looking.

Maybe next time!

 

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Cafe joy away from the main drags

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Woven Cafe, 175b Stephen Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9973 5926

It was while scoping out the fit-out progress of Woven that I discovered, courtesy of a friendly local, that Stephen Street was once, many moons ago, actually the main drag of Yarraville.

All that changed, apparently, when the train line went through … and the main trading/retailing action switched to Anderson and Ballarat streets.

Makes sense really, as Stephen Street is a wide boulevard … it’s nice to see some activity returning to an area away from the village proper.

It’s sweet, too, for the four of us troupe off to try out the newly-opened Woven.

 

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Disclosure – Dan, one of the Woven partners, and his family are a long-time CTS buddies and attendees of CTS Feasts.

But as this is an impromptu lunch, not Dan nor anyone else involved knows we’re coming, though we are outed soon after being seated.

Doesn’t matter – as on every other occasion when folks have twigged bloggers are in the house, the food we receive is the same as all the other customers.

So is the fine service.

Woven is a compact space that has been fitted out beautifully.

With its outdoor seating and smartly-chosen location, it’s a hit in the making.

The menu (see below) is tight and right, canvassing breakfast through lunch.

 

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The other two lads opt for the “Bang Up Burger” ($18.50).

Both are really impressed.

Says the Bennie: “The cheese was nice, the salad was dressed, the patty was good, and the bacon and the sauce were good, too. It was all good! It all fitted together!”

The vibe I get from both Bennie and Julian is that this is a very enjoyable, solid burger.

Their meaty handfuls are abetted by “hand-cut twice-cooked chips”.

They’re fine things, indeed.

And with their skins and dimples and imperfections intact, they’re in the same tradition and mindset as the chips we get at this Newport joint.

If this is a trend we say: “Yay!”

 

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I go the salad route with happy results.

The Moroccan chickpea salad with pickled carrots, fennel and tea-soaked currents ($16) comes with chorizo added for an extra $4.

Sometimes chorizo-added dishes – often pasta or salads – can be mean in the sausage department.

That’s certainly not the case here – there’s plenty of it, which is a good thing as it’s a mildly flavoured and seasoned dish and the chorizo adds needed spice and grease.

The carrots are only slightly pickled and I even add some salt.

But it’s all good, crunchy, fresh, wonderful and of very generous size – the chickpeas themselves are a buttery yellow and perfect.

 

 

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The bread for Christine’s “lemon and herb chicken with aioli and rocket sanger” ($10) comes from another of our fave local haunts and my regular morning coffee stop.

The chicken tastes fine to me, and she gets the same chips on the side for an extra $3.

So … $13 all up? That’s a bargain right there!

We go without coffee – though with the other partner, Dave, at the coffee machine helm, I’m betting it’ll be brilliant when I do try it.

We hit the road for home and the other side¬† of the tracks, stopping by for a sweet, cool treat at yet another local fave – one that is, I’m told, also a supplier to Woven.

Choc orange for him, apple pie for her, lavender and white choc for Bennie and myself …

 

Woven Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Southern style in Yarraville

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Fat Thursdays by Bourbon Street @ The Commerical Hotel, 238 Whitehall St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 9354

All your food trucks and fancy cafes are good and well, but we have to say we are happy and delighted to discover the Commerclal Hotel is up and running once again.

It’s only open three days a week but that’s a win when compared to the sad sight we observed whenever we drove past what seemed to be the abandoned Hyde Street institution.

Inside, all is as much as we recall – a scruffy, lived-in pub ambiance of a sort so hard to find these days that the Commercial almost comes across as a museum piece.

And there’s food – but only on Thursdays.

It is being provided by an outfit called Bourbon Street, which operates a lunch delivery service of southern American-style goodies to the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and to Yarraville, Seddon and Footscray on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

 

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We like it that they’ve called their dine-in project at the Commercial Fat Thursday; we’re rather less impressed with it being called a pop-up – a term much over-used and misused.

As ever with this sort of food, I keep my expectations and hopes in check.

In this case there seems good cause, because despite the use of the names Bourbon Street and Fat Thursday, the in-house menu is studded with items not usually associated with the famously non-BBQ city that is New Orleans – “cajun brown rice” (huh?), pulled pork and jerk chicken among them.

Of course, this is Melbourne, this is the west and in the end I’m oh-so-glad I don’t get hung up on stuffy notions of authenticity – for what Bennie and I have is a fine meal indeed.

We order a main apiece and then load up on the sides (see menu below).

 

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We rather regret getting our BBQ beef and jerk chicken with the rice rather than in roll form. The rice is OK but rolls would’ve been more in keeping with our dinner’s flavour.

My beef and his chicken are fine.

But it’s the sides that do it for us.

The prices are very cheap – surely the cheapest for this sort of food in Melbourne.

At places around town that serve similar fare, getting the number of sides we split between us would result in a rather hefty bill for what is meant to be blue-collar food.

No such problem at Fat Thursday – it falls comfortably inside the cheap eats realm.

But there’s nothing cheap about the quality and the serves are of a good size.

 

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 Fried okra Рwhole, freshly battered and yummy.

 

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Potato salad – very nice.

 

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Corn that is just corn but that fits right well with the rest of our meal.

 

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Coleslaw – very nice.

We also get mac ‘n’ cheese, which tastes good but is a little on the dry side, and jalapeno cornbread, which comes in the form of three small muffins – they’re good, studded with corn kernels and have a delicate spice glow going on.

It’s been a cool hoot to sit in the venue of so many previous happy times – all of them pre-CTS – and eat some pretty good southern-style food without feeling in the slightest bit inhibited by the pricing.

 

Bourbon Street @ the Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

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