Westie barbers No.3: Mai Hair Salon

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Mai Hair Salon, 3/119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Barbers of European or Mediterranean extraction are not the only places to obtain a cheap, great and enjoyable haircut in the west.

Far from it.

In the Vietnamese precincts of Footscray and further west, the options are many.

When I enter one of these emporiums in, say, Sunshine or St Albans, my arrival is often greeted with an effusive bubbling of Vietnamese chatter.

This usually translates, I have learnt, as something along the lines of, “OMG check out this dude with the crazy moustache”.

This doesn’t happen at Mai in Footscray, however, on account of me going there so often for so long.

Mai is not a barbershop, of course.

They do all sorts of do’s here, male and female.

But for my purposes, it’s perfect.

A smile, a welcome, “how you want your hair?” is the usual routine.

“Zero, all gone, very shiny.”

No problem – $8 including eyebrows!

Brilliant.

 

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Meal of the week No.6: Ebi

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f&c

 

The dinner hour for CTS and, we suspect, many other bloggers and foodies is somewhere between 6pm and 7pm.

For some, this is the legacy of having – or having had – very young children.

Perhaps “available light” has something to do with it.

I’ve even heard of bloggers who only do lunch for that very reason!

But a big part of it for us is … we’re hungry for food, hungry for adventure.

So 8pm seems way too late, especially on a work/school night.

The Mediterranean post-sietsa 9pm or later?

Unimaginable!

Early evening dining also means missing rush hour and always getting a seat.

In the case of tiny Ebi in West Footcray, that latter point is no small thing.

Entering by myself and taking a seat at the bar, I go through the usual routine … look at the display cabinet, consult the blackboard menu, peruse the regular menu, before saying …

“I’ll have fish and chips thanks, John – large!”

John: “How did I know you were going to say that?!”

Me: “Hmmpf! You must have other regulars who always order the same thing?”

The genial, chrome-domed Ebi host the proceeds to count off a long list of regulars with whom he is on first-name terms and their invariable choices – “fish three ways”, vegetable balls, udon, bento and so it goes.

Everyone gets their own groove on at Ebi …

Kiwi connection in Sunshine

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ka1

 

Bro’s Choice Cafe, 250 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9939 7512

You can buy Kiwi-style Ka Pies all over.

But where they are made is at 250 Hampshire Road.

But 250 Hampshire Road is also home to Bro’s Choice, a humble cafe that – naturally – sells Ka Pies!

It’s a straightforward place and about far from hispsterdom and smashed avo as it’s possible to get and still be a cafe.

I’m happy to call it home for half an hour as I sample my choice of pies.

Yes, I have two – at $4.50 a pop each.

Smoked fish pie is delicate, subtle and very nice.

Lamb roast pie is some kind of magic.

Yes, it tastes of lamb.

But more than, it tastes like ROAST lamb!

How cool is that?

With it sheep meat, bits of spud, carrot and corn, and gravy, it’s very, very good.

I take home four cold pies for further exploration with Bennie – two apiece of hangi pie (with smoked pork, kumara and potato) and pork and watercress.

I’m knocked out to find the price of the cold ones is a real fine $3.50.

Bargain!

And significantly less than the prices listed on the Ka Pie website, never mind delivery costs.

So Bro’s Choice would seem to be logical destination to stock up on these goodies.

We’ll be doing so.

Ka Pies may not have the same heft or all-out richness as Pure Pies but they taste just as good and are a whole cheaper.

 

Bro's Choice Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Chook joint for Footscray

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ogrill10

 

O’Grill, 149 Princes Highway, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0153

O’Grill is a new fast-food chicken place tucked into the service road just a block or so up from the Plough.

We like the idea of this sort of place in this sort of location – there’s pretty good parking capacity for one thing.

The menu is mostly chicken-based, well-priced and ostensibly of a Tex-Mex bent.

(See menu and prices below.)

The meal four of us have there is OK – but we for sure reckon some tweaking here and there could make it an outright winner.

 

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By common acclaim, the hit of the night is this black bean salad.

Doesn’t look too tempting, hey?

But it is delicious!

Underneath the beans is a generous jumble of red onion, tomatoes and coriander, all of it liberally dressed with a really good green tomato salsa.

 

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Chips?

OK but could definitely be crisper.

 

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Corn?

OK but not much sight of the lime chilli dressing.

 

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Chicken wings?

Not “buffalo wings” – and thanks to one of my buddies for deepening my understanding of exactly what that means (deep-fried for starters) – but quite nice anyway.

 

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My two companions who go the burger route note a mismatch between the large buns and the less-so chicken.

Basically, too much bread!

My other companion goes, as I do, for a half chicken and like the burger eaters comments that the breast meat was a tad dry.

Yes, we know it’s hard getting that right.

And while me and my pals might prefer thigh meat in just about all applications, I’ve been told frequently by restaurant folks that there are a significant amount of customers for eating outlets of all kinds that demand breast meat … no matter what.

 

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I have no such problem with my half chook though there is little by way of the spiciness or smoky chipotle vibe I have been expecting.

Perhaps most of all we’d recommend some greater delineation between the various chicken options and an understanding that the people who come here looking for a feed are almost certainly well used to food that is super-charged in the flavour department.

But we’d also recommend giving this place a go – there’s a heap of other stuff on the menu.

Try the black bean salad when you do.

 

O’grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Sweet sensations

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victoria2

 

Victoria Sweets, 216 Blackshaws Road, Altona North. Phone: 9391 2322

Early on in its history, Consider The Sauce dropped in on Victoria Sweets a couple of times … must have been on very slow days as on both occasions as we struggled to find anyone to serve us.

Since then we’ve been happily distracted by many hundreds of other stories but we’re game for another try.

Today we do better and we’re ever so glad!

The place has a humming smell of sugar and nectar and is crammed with Lebanese goodies that are sold at $20 a kilogram

We go out of our way to order items that are not baklava or in that style – we seem to have consumed plenty of them in recent months.

 

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Our tray of goodies, arrived at after much pointing, costs $12.

It’s only upon returning home that we discover just how fabulous, fresh and delicious the Victoria Sweets products are … we’re still working our way through them but we can report that the numbers that look like spring rolls are very sticky tubes supremely stuffed with a lush vanilla cream.

Victoria Sweets?

 It’s taken a while but I suspect we’re about to become very regular customers.

Heck, I may even try to wangle my way into kitchen visit to observe a baking session!

 

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We also note with interest the presence of good-looking gelati.

We’re told it’s made off-premises but within-business – this will be for another visit, hopefully before the weather turns nasty.

 

Victoria Sweets on Urbanspoon

 

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victoria5

Hopper’s Crossing Italian hideaway

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domani3

 

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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