Hopper’s Crossing Italian hideaway

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Domani Pasticceria, Shop 4, 220 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 7852

Traffic lights have been installed at the corner of Forsyth Road and Old Geelong Road … to the undoubted relief of long-suffering local motorists.

Still, the roads hereabouts are demanding of driver concentration.

Old Geelong Road from Forsyth right down to Hoppers Crossing Station is one of the west’s least lovely boulevards, a kilometre or so of discount furniture stores, hardware establishments, car-fixer-upperers and discount furniture stores.

 

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We’re not being judgmental in saying that – we understand that it’s to this stretch of commercial activity that the many new residents of housing estates come to find affordable stuff for their new homes.

We’ve done so ourselves, albeit to the Good Guys for a new phone and an amusement place for a long-ago birthday party.

But no one is ever going to award this stretch of road a good-looking award.

Still, as ever in the west, interesting things are there to be found by those prepared to have a peek.

One such is Domani Pasticceria.

 

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It’s located behind a drive-through coffee stand and a fresh chicken shop that also does duty as a continental deli.

Parking is ample and, in a neighbourhood where good food and coffee are rather scarce, Domani presents as a calming retreat.

It’s Italian old-school in the way of Cavallaro’s in Footscray.

There’s nothing savoury about Domani – no pizza or pasta or sandwiches of any kind.

I suspect Domani makes most of its income from baking cakes to order for birthdays, weddings and the like.

But when Bennie and I try it out for post-school coffee and treats, it comes up, well, a treat.

 

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We split between us a chocolate mudcake ($2.50) and a chocolate beignet ($3.50).

The mudcake is pretty much a glorified, dense cupcake and just OK.

The beignet is something else … and it’s a good thing we’re sharing.

So engorged is it with chocolate cream that Bennie and I lapse into giggles at the very delicious decadence of it.

Bennie goes the chinotto route while my $3 cafe latte is very fine.

 

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The minimum card purchase is $15 so that’s exactly the amount of biscotti we snag to take home.

They’re terrific and fresh.

 

Domani Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

 

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MiHub – monthly!

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CTS enjoyed chatting with this happy and livewire bunch of young women. They’re all from Malaysia, all friends, have all been studying – on scholarships – at Melbourne University since July. As such, they’re apartment dwellers but were very happy to have collectively made the train trip to Laverton for “a taste of home”.

 

MiHub Night Market, Laverton Multicultural Hub, 95-105 Railway Avenue, Laverton.

After its premises was sold under it, some doubt surrounded the future of the MiHub institution.

So it was a happy hoot to attend its latest incarnation – as a “night market” at Laverton Multicultural Hub.

Best of all, the new night market set-up will continue on a near-monthly basis for the rest of the year.

MiHub will operate on the following Saturdays:

March 21
May 2
June 6
August 1
September 5
October 3
November 7
December 5

CTS was delighted to run into several readers who had rocked up in response to our preview story earlier in the week as well as a number of other friendly faces.

However, gauging by the number of people story checking that story out online, I fear some may have turned up quite late in the day and after I had departed.

Truth is, while the advertised ending time was 9pm, just about all the food had been sold and eaten by about 7pm.

 

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Please keep in mind, this is a community initiative run by volunteers – not a professional, commercial festival or market that will cost you hefty admission fee or involve an hours’ worth of waiting in queue.

Aunty Nora has enthused to us that future 2015 MiHubs will be better and bigger and include music.

Turning up early is probably a good idea!

If all goes as tentatively planned, CTS will be on board as willing workers next time out in a dish-washing bid to introduce real crockery and cutlery to proceedings.

 

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Among the attendees were dad Kelvin, mum Susan and boys Brendan and Ryan.

For this Tarneit family, the Laverton venue was the fourth at which they’d attended MiHub festivities.

 

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I really enjoyed my superb, freshly-made murtabak with a slightly spice but very nice beef/vegetable stew.

 

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And I loved, too, the delicate tuna patties, samosas and gulab jamun created and sold with a big smile by Masuma.

 

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These tofu cubes had been stuffed with a garlicky mix of veg, bean sprouts and vermicelli then deep-dried to a crisp.

 

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Full of tummy and hanging out with Aunty Nora and son Jake.

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Thai try in Chadstone

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D’Elephant Thai, Shop F018, Chadstone shopping centre, 1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone. Phone: 9568 6600

Consider The Sauce has never before set foot in Chadstone shopping centre.

I’ve often been told that it is a bit more upmarket and swish.

This – an invitation to a blogger/media/industry tasting at D’Elephant Thai restaurant – is my chance to see if that’s the case, and to make very interested observations about the food on offer.

Especially in comparison with our very own reference point, Highpoint.

 

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I’m aware that Chadstone is huge and that I see only a very small part of it.

Nevertheless, turning up typically early, I take in warmly regarded Malaysian and Chinese eateries, several classy-looking cafe-style outlets and a really fine grocer/greengrocer/deli – all within a few hundred metres of my destination.

 

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D’Elephant Thai is a relatively new establishment, the management of which is keen to gauge the reactions of a mixed bag of invitees to their food (see menu below).

The place is nicely done out in cheerful style.

The event is very well run and the staff are wonderful.

 

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I admire the joint’s aim of providing good Thai food at affordable prices in a shopping centre context.

As my handbag for the night, Nat Stockley, points out, some of the very best and most personality-laden Thai food in Melbourne is also some of the cheapest.

But for Bennie and I, in the west, Thai food is invariably a notch or two more expensive than the other readily available multicultural choices.

 

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I enjoy the D’Elephant food.

A couple of dishes – a soup, a curry – are way to sweet for me.

On the other hand, several dishes have a good, feisty chilli whack going on – not something you’d normally expect in a shopping centre and something to be wildly applauded.

 

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A centrepiece of the proceedings is a som tum station at which the papaya salad is being prepared from scratch for the assembled.

They should definitely think about making this a permanent fixture.

(The salad was good.)

Would we eat at D’Elephant Thai if it was at Highpoint?

For sure.

(Consider The Sauce was a guest of D’Elephant Thai management and we were served food from a pre-set event menu. Editorial input into this post was neither sought nor granted.)

 

D'Elephant Thai on Urbanspoon

 

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Finally trying the local F&C

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Under The Sea Fish & Chips, 49 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 6912

Consider The Sauce has long held a preference for fish and chip joints that offer more than paper-wrapped bundles.

We like our F&C and accoutrements fresh-as and eaten at restaurant-provided seating – even if it is of the most rudimentary kind.

We like it, too, when proper cutlery and crockery are part of the deal.

So we’ve never gotten around to trying our very popular local fish and chippery.

But with Bennie being a happy fish eater these days, he’s several times recent in months declared his preparedness to troop around the corner and bring our dinner home.

So off he goes … and back he comes with a meal I find OK in some regards but disappointing in others.

Low expectations met?

Yes.

 

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The chips are hot but on the dull side for me.

Ordering instructions had been for a small so naturally the medium Bennie gets is excess to our requirements.

The calamari rings are of the reconstituted surimi variety, so are automatically graded “OK”.

Fish of the day is blue grenadier and it’s real good.

What’s more, we receive three generously sized pieces instead of two, so we eat really well.

But the batter of one of them is stuck to the paper and is only messily removed.

It’s been good fare, especially as the whole lot cost something under $20.

But I won’t be in a hurry to return.

 

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And with dinner?

Bickford’s, of course.

We go through at least a bottle of this stuff a week – lemon or lemon barley now that the bitter lemon variety seems permanently unavailable.

But tonight at the IGA we spied a new flavour – apple and cinnamon.

I detect only the faintest of spice undertones but Bennie reckons it’s the best of the lot.

 

Under the Sea on Urbanspoon

CTS in 2014 – what we dug

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The following is by no means a full accounting of Consider The Sauce’s memorable moments for 2014 – and any absence is not meant as a slight.

Onwards, and in no particular order …

 

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THE CTS FEASTS

How amazing that the Feasts have become an institution!

Happy events were held in 2014 at Pho House, Indian Palette, La Morenita (twice! See here and here), Vicolo, Xiang Yang Cheng and Phat Milk.

Thanks to everyone involved!

 

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KILLER OLIVES

These superb, crunchy green olives marinated using lemon rind are from Altona Fresh in Altona.

Even Bennie likes them!

 

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THE CTS FUNDRAISERS

Two events were held – at Kokeb to raise money for Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid and at the Plough to raise money for Welcome West Wagon.

This is a new area for us – one we hope to pursue further in 2015.

Truth is, I’m still getting my head around the particular requirements involved.

If anyone runs a community-minded restaurant – or knows someone who does – who might interested in hosting such a fundraiser, please let me know!

 

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ROAD TRIP TO TRENTHAM, MIND BLOWN

The Trentham Food Hub’s Growers, Cookers & Eaters bash was a wonderful event featuring superb produce excellently cooked that was enjoyed by a lovely crowd.

CTS is looking forward to attending the 2015 event with a passel of friends!

 

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RICKSHAW RUN

It was incredible and thrilling.

Bennie and I did our volunteer thing with many others, including many friends, saddling up for the almost the entire weekend.

We are hoping to have the opportunity to do it all again.

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EDUARDO!

Many thanks to the Urban Ma and her extended family for allowing me the honour and joy of participating in a very special Pinoy celebration.

 

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EBI DEGUSTATION

Just for a night, our favourite F&C-cum-Japanese joint went swisho and very special.

I am very glad I was there.

 

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MING’S BEETROOT RELISH

I would’ve been quite happy to publish here the recipe for this amazing beetroot relish made by our friend Ming.

But she tells us she hasn’t quite nailed down the final, perfect recipe yet.

Whatever – the batch she kindly gave us was delicious, sweet and fragrantly spicy.

 

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LEBANESE HEAVEN

After twice visiting and writing about A1 Bakery in Essendon – see here and here – CTS returned with a handful of likeminded pals just for the sheer pleasure of it.

We agreed on a fee and basically let A1 proprietor Gaby decide what we would eat.

It was amazing! It was a momentous meal!

We earnestly suggest you forget about the association of the A1 brand with Lebanese pies and pizzas and explore instead the superb range of home-style Lebanese cooking on hand.

As this was a non-blogging gathering, it went unrecorded in a photographic sense – except for the coffee!

 

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COMA COOKIES

Ginger-coated sugar cookies baked by CTS pal Christine.

So plain, so very sweet, so dreamily amazing.

 

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ACE BBQ

By now, CTS has tried quite a few of the places around Melbourne that are serving BBQ.

Fancy Hank’s remains the best we’ve had.

Quite apart from the superb quality of the meats ‘n’ sides, we love the no-frills roll-up-your-sleeves vibe of the place.

 

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FRIDAY CURRY RUN

Yet another big tick for the beaut Sri Lankan tucker enjoyed by Star Weekly fans and provided by Sevandi and the crew at Spicy Corner?

Why not?!

 

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ORPHAN’S CHRISTMAS

Thanks to Josh, Eliza, Nat, Nicole, Poppy and Ollie for sharing their day with us!

 

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DODGING A BULLET

The troubled times that led me to have a check-up proved to have no physical downside – but my doc spotted something else amiss, so sent me off to a urologist.

In quick time, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the amazing team at Royal Melbourne whipped that sucker out.

Had events not unfolded as they did, in all likelihood – in every probability, in fact – I may have gone undiagnosed until it was too late.

Whew!

Happily, despite the major nature of the surgery, I spent only two nights in hospital – meaning I was able to avoid almost entirely having any truck with the hospital food!

 

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2015?

More CTS Feasts.

Hopefully, more CTS fundraising events.

Bennie and I are in the preliminary stages of brainstorming questions for a Super Dooper CTS Quiz – and hopefully there’ll be a bunch of really good prizes to be had!

And, no doubt, there will be a whole lot more in 2015!

The Heights of baking excellence

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Impasto Forno Antico, 157 Military Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 9331 1111

Here’s a quirk of the western suburbs …

It’s possible for a resident of Sunshine North to stand on one side of the Maribyrnong River and hold a conversation with a friend or neighbour standing on the other side in Avondale Heights – without either of them having to raise their voices.

But if one of them wants to drive to the other’s home, well the quickest route is pretty much via Highpoint!

Avondale Heights seems sort of stranded.

It’s bisected by its only main road, the arterial thoroughfare known as Military Road.

I’m told much of the suburb’s population derives from post-war immigration of the Italian variety.

 

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Certainly, at one of Military Road’s shopping precincts there is an emporium of things most excellently Italian.

Recently, this bakery being on one of my routes to work, I picked up a panini for in-office lunch purposes that was a $7.50 just right – fresh roll filled on the spot with mortadella, roasted capsicum and artichoke.

Yum!

Today, I go the strictly sweet route.

 

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The pear and almond tart ($4.50) and a slice ($3) that is a full-on flat version of a Christmas-style mince pie are wonderful and classy – and a lot more filling than they appear at first blush.

I rather wish I’d gone for one of the lighter things – such as the cannoli.

My $3.50 cafe latte is excellent.

Before my sugary lunch I’d felt all spruced up and looking good after a superb “hot-towel shave” and mo’ trim thanks to Matt at Matt’s Men’s Room.

Excellent, professional and friendly, he did me this fine service for a charge of $15.

How good is that?

 

Impasto Forno Antico on Urbanspoon

 

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New Indian joint in WeFo

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Amrutha Authentic Indian Cuisine, 552 Barkly Street,West Footscray. Phone: 9913 3794

Team Consider The Sauce tonight numbers four for the purposes of checking out the newest addition to West Footscray’s line-up of Indian restaurants.

As the restaurant was being put together behind papered windows, two of us had wondered if the new place would specialise in some way to provide it a point of difference from its many competitors.

The answer is – no.

Amrutha’s menu is long a covers all the expected bases.

Go to the joint’s website here for a looking at the full list, including prices.

 

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The place has scrubbed up a treat – quite a lot of money has been spent.

And the main room is a good deal larger than we were expecting to be the case given the hair salon it replaces.

The furniture and fittings are pure Franco Cozzo.

We admire with interest the breakfast list, which includes all your dosas and a lot more.

But we go a la carte from the body of the menu.

Among our choices are a couple of Indo-Chinese selections …

 

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Gobi manchurian ($7.99) and …

 

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… chicken 65 ($8.99) are enjoyable but wet where we have been expecting dry.

 

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My eyes invariably light up whenever I see a menu that features eggplant, so eggplant curry ($10.99) has been ordered at my instigation.

Again, our expectations come into play – maybe unfairly.

The menu does mention a “rich cashew nut and special sauce”, but this seems to me more of an unbearably creamy spread with eggplant flavour.

It’s something I’d be happy spreading on toast.

But otherwise?

Nah.

 

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Moving right along, we start to get into things more hearty and flavoursome of the kind we have been seeking.

Lamb Madras ($11.99) is very nice, its rich gravy hiding lots of fine meat chunks.

 

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Chicken chettinad ($12.99) is likewise very good, with its gravy of “yogurt sauce with crushed black peppercorn, herbs and spices”.

 

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Palak paneer ($9.99) is a doozy, its silky cheese pieces swimming in a wonderfully almost-smoky gravy.

Another high point for us are the $1.99 naan that avoid photographic scrutiny – sorry!

These are super, and appear to have been made – as one of my tablemates points out –  using “wholemeal flour with all the bran removed”.

The result is like a cross between a regular naan and a roti.

We’ve enjoyed our meal but are left wondering about the wisdom of our choosing, what sort of wonders Amrutha has hiding in its menu – and whether the more snacky or one-person dishes may be the go here.

So I sneak back a few nights later for an early dinner by myself – biryani.

 

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My default choice of chicken is unavailable, so I’m happy to go with the lamb ($11.99).

Even though the lamb almost always used in biryanis – you’ll see it in the markets labelled as “lamb curry” – is often more bone than meat.

No such problem here – the plentiful meat comes easily from the bones and is flavoursome and surprisingly tender.

The rice is somewhat darker than usual, and the fried onions are more than a garnish here – there’s lots of them and they’re fully integrated into the rice.

The biryani picture is completed by a fine gravy that is salty and peanutty and a raita chunky with cubed carrot.

My biryani is very good and fully up there with those available elsewhere in Footscray.

Maybe for me next time the chole bhature ($11.99).

Or perhaps the puri ($8.99), which – according to the in-house printed menu – are served thali-style with a handful of small accompanying bowls of goodness.

 

Amrutha on Urbanspoon

 

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