Meal of the week No.19: La Delicatezza

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Sort of hidden in plain sight – surrounded as it is by high-profile Malaysian eateries and overtly public cafes – it’s easy to not notice La Delicatezza on Pin Oak Crescent in Flemington.

I was last in here several years ago for a ploughman’s lunch.

Not much has changed, though that item no longer seems available and the place appears to be now run by a whole new crew.

But it is the same in terms of being a tranquil spot to hang for a while, with its cool interior and adjacent courtyard.

Lunch here comes down to a long list of toasties and paninis, a couple of soups, canelloni, lasagne (see below).

I roll the dice and make my choice – the chicken schnitzel panini with coleslaw ($8.90) – wondering as I do if these folks know what they’re doing.

The answer, emphatically, is a rousing: Yes!!!

Let me count the ways …

The bread is gorgeous, fresh and wonderfully warmed through.

The coleslaw is just right in substance and flavour.

I’m assured the chicken is of the crumbed variety.

But so meltingly tender and superbly seasoned is it, that it comes across more as roast chook – and I mean that as a compliment.

This is an incredibly ace sandwich – a masterpiece even.

And as such, and at a price below $10, it excels in ways that many hipster joints of the kind that end up on Top 10 lists and charge way more struggle to match.

Gee, I want to try them all …

 

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Highpoint – foodie destination?

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It’s been clear – to us anyway – that Highpoint has for a few years now offered better food than other shopping centres, or at least those in the west or north-west of Melbourne.

This hasn’t made it a food destination for us.

But it has meant that if we’re thereabouts anyway, we’re happy to eat – even if that has meant either chowing down at this dumpling place or this Mexican establishment.

But now it seems Highpoint has stepped it up to another level with the opening of new food court area.

Could be Highpoint has actually become a foodie destination.

Think I’m kidding?

I’m not – even though I know there’s a heap of people who will snort derisively at such a suggestion.

 

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The new food precinct is on the lower level and situated alongside JB Hi-Fi.

The food area is big and spacious.

And, frankly, it looks gorgeous.

There’s lots of space between the tables at the various outlets – and the tables and chairs are heavy on wood and combine well with the non-glary lighting.

There’s a lot of exposed beams and other structural stuff when you look up and a lot of concrete – but the overall effect is one of style rather than industrial overkill.

I really do dig it.

 

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Some of the food outlets are familiar – Dumplings Plus from elsewhere in Highpoint, Roti Road from Footscray.

 

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I presumed that only the Korean chicken place Nene Chicken (“1100 outlets all over South Korea”) would be using dispensable cutlery and containers, as it is the only outlet of a real fast-food variety.

But as you’ll see through Pete’s comment below, that is not the case.

That means all here is about reusable bowls, plates, chopsticks and implements.

Applause – especially after my rant about gross wastage at Highpoint of several years ago.

Joining Nene Chicken, Roti Road and Dumplings Plus is Tina’s Noodle Kitchen – and this is where things get REALLY interesting …

 

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It joins sibling branches in Box Hill and Preston and is under the auspices of the Dainty Sichuan crew.

The menu on the Highpoint branch features dishes that I would never have expected to see featured at a shopping centre anywhere in Australia …

 

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In addition to the above pictured snacky things from the start of the menu, also to be had are such outings as tender pork liver in stock soup, lamb tripes, beer duck with konjac cake (with bones), chilli blood curd combination, spicy pork chitterlings, pork kidney flower with pickles, duck web with pickled chilli and many more.

Wow – how about that?

Is it brave and/or crazy?

Or really smart?

Remember, this is a shopping centre … but maybe it’s all of the above.

 

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But for my mid-week visit I do not feel so adventurous so head for Ajisen Ramen, which joins two branches in the CBD.

The menu is way more than mere ramen – I find it hard to restrain myself to a light lunch when contemplating such a long list of snacks/entrees, noodles, donburi, bentos and lunch sets.

But I nevertheless settle on toroniku ramen ($12) with grilled pork cheek, egg, vegetables.

It’s as good a ramen as could be expected – here or anywhere else.

The broth has deep miso flavour and the meat is gorgeously charry in flavour, though quite fatty.

It’s beaut and the price right.

Melbourne’s western suburbs are growing so fast that whole new suburbs and communities are going up in places where there are no old neighbourhoods for restaurants and cafes to colonise.

Of necessity this means any dine-out food will be found only in shopping centres.

But I’ve long worried that the brutal rent regimes involved mitigate against good food – not just food worth eating, at a pinch, but food worth travelling for.

So this is quite something, I think.

I mean, there’s now Roti Road in Footscray central AND Highpoint … I’m a bit stunned, actually.

The new food space at Highpoint has one outlet still to open – Saigon Square.

 

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CTS Feast No.12: The Wrap

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CTS Feast No.12: Curry Leaves, 463 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 8528 3876. Tuesday, August 11.

Many, many thanks to Upeksha, Dillon and the rest of Curry Leaves crew for working so hard to make the latest Consider The Sauce Feast enjoyable!

As always, it was a delight to see so many familiar faces.

And just as enjoyable to meet so many CTS readers for the first time – and swap war stories and tips and faves about the Fabulous Foodie West.

 

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The food ranged from this unannounced yet wonderfully delicious simple chicken and vegetable soup through to …

 

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… biryanis …

 

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… superb string hoppers and …

 

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… equally great rotis and on to …

 

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… hoppers and …

 

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… lampraris before ending up with …

 

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… a range of rather succulent desserts.

 

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Thanks to everyone for supporting this CTS event!

The next one has yet to be devised or locked in any way at all, but wherever and whenever it is, we’d love to see you again.

 

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Altona cafe scores

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PitStop Cafe, 300-330 Millers Road, Altona North. Phone: 9391 1775

Bennie and I wait about 10 minutes for a burgers and chips.

Here’s the thing – this wait is undoubtedly a Good Thing.

Because …

PitStop Cafe is situated in anew industrial-strength shopping precinct – nearby and adjacent are an Aldi, a Bunnings, Officeworks and a JB Hi-Fi.

It’s the kind of place, in other words, you’d expect wait time for a burger to be counted in seconds rather than minutes because said burgers would be lined up, wrapped and with lettuce wilting, in a bain marie.

Yuck!

That this not the case at PitStop – that our food is prepared from scratch with skill and devotion – is born out by the look and taste of our meals.

 

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The chicken schnitzel burger ($9.50) is beaut.

The chook is crisp on the outer, moist and tasty on the inner.

The coleslaw does the job and the bun is fresh.

The cheese seems a little unnecessary.

 

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The basic beef burger ($8.50) with bacon ($1.50) looks an absolute treat.

All is fresh and good.

But here’s another thing – the produce and presentation really does deserve better than the meat that comes with it.

It’s not bad, exactly, but it does have that sausage meat look, texture and flavour that is part of the deal in a typical fast-food Aussie-style burger – the kinds of things, in fact, that are seen regularly lined up in bain maries.

A step up in quality and commensurate lift in price would see, I’m pretty sure, PitStop Cafe match it with such fine burger establishments as Zigzag or 8Bit.

We share the burgers to great delight and get a small $3.50 serve of beer-battered chips with each.

The chips are so plentiful that a single serve would’ve easily sufficed.

They’re hot and fine – though I reckon they’re over-seasoned with chicken salt.

Bennie disagrees.

 

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After our meal, I get talking to boss lady Allison who knows exactly where I’m at in terms of the beef burger meat.

Her business is new, growing and evolving and she’s keen on going for a sort-of two-tier approach,

For the Monday-to-Friday tradie business, such meat is what is expected and demanded.

And for that trade, and Allison, $10 seems to be some sort of uncrossable barrier.

At weekends, though, she is keen to up the vibe with ingredients of greater quality.

She reckons she can pull of the feat of catering to both the tradies and the foodies.

I reckon she’s right – and the good-looking, eggy breakfast dishes we see around us seem to confirm.

Allison is keen on sourcing goodies from westie sources and to that end is proud to offer Sunshine dimmies and Ka Pies, those ones we love and which have become a regular part of our home dinner routine.

We wish her well and will hopefully check back soon.

There’s no reason PitStop can not rise above the sort of greasy spoon industrial precinct places that abound around my Keilor/Tullamartine office location and become a foodie destination in its own right.

 

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Hip and happy in Hoppers

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Corinthians, 37 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 4009

Consider The Sauce has been aware for quite a while of the cool coffee spot that is Corinthians in Hoppers Crossing without ever developing a pressing desire to visit.

However, a recent journey to Hoppers to pick up Bennie found me dropping in for a takeaway coffee and being impressed by the lovely vibe.

Two absolutely amazing gluten-free choc cookies – one for myself out of curiosity, one for Bennie on the theory that “he’s going love the living hell out of this” – did the rest of putting a visit for something more substantial rather higher on the CTS agenda.

So it is that I visit with a pal – the one responsible for the fine new-on-the-scene blog, Not My Bread And Butter.

It’s a nice, cosy room and is obviously quite the coffee spot to be during this mid-week lunch hour.

OK, it’s not like this part of the west is overly blessed with such options – but it’s a credit to the Corinthians crew that they nevertheless aim for high standards in food, service and coffee.

Both our meals are fine, if hardly representative of the menu as whole; there’s salads, for instance, that will have to wait for another time.

 

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My mac ‘n’ cheese ($19) is a humble yet garlicky dish. But I like it a lot – it’s filling, hearty, bigger than it appears and (thankfully) more moist than some of the dry and crumbly versions I’ve had since this dish became a fad.

The rocket and radish salad on the side is very fresh a dressed just right.

 

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My friend enjoys her 24-hour beans – don’t they look special? – with two rotund poached eggs and gluten-free toast ($20).

 

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Unfortunately, there is no evidence of world-beating choc cookies today so we more than make do with a shared slice of carrot cake ($5).

I’m no big fan of carrot cake but find this one to be nice indeed – very moist and tasty.

My cafe latte ($3.50) is excellent.

 

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Kensington treat

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Luncheonette, 173 Rankins Road, Kensington.

Luncheonette is a lovely Kensington place I could describe as having “been on our radar”.

But maybe we would never have gotten around to it had we not been happy to accept an invite from pals to join them for Saturday brunch.

As the four of us amble towards the cafe, I see people seemingly waiting outside for a table – and fear I may have to make a complete hypocrite of myself as I’ve just a few hours earlier penned and posted a piece about the lunacy of queues and hopelessly long wait times.

 

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But no, happily we are ushered right to an inside table for four and proceed to make happy.

The place is small but happily the menu is cleverly designed to fit right in with the limited prep space.

Many dishes look enticing.

We go with three sandwiches and an egg dish.

On the way over, Bennie had shown interest in the fact Luncheonette boasts a reuben sandwich.

I’d warned him that generally one gets what one pays for and that for $13 he should not be fronting up and expecting a two-handed monster.

 

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As it turns out, his reuben has surprising heft for the price, with plenty of sliced pastrami going down a treat with the gruyere, cabbage and mustard, and an American style offering of crisps and sliced pickles on the side.

No bad at all!

 

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My club sandwich ($13) does not impress quite so much, though chopped chicken is tasty and beautifully herbed.

I don’t get much of a hit from the promised “crispy bacon”, though …

 

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I hear no complaints from the recipient of the BLT variation, which appears to be bolstered by a good quantity of avocado.

I’d only say that for myself, alfalfa sprouts have no business being anywhere near a BLT … but others’ mileage may vary.

 

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It appears the member of our group who goes the brunch route did the best of us all.

A simple fried egg is served with homemade hash browns, smoked salmon, horseradish cream and cress ($16).

It’s a lightish dish that explodes with a variety of different but fabulously complementary flavours.

 

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Seddon roast lunch – superb

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Charles and Gamon, 2 Gamon Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 0203

When Bennie was a just-born, I made my first property foray to the west with a view to finding somewhere for us to live, as the CBD studio bachelor pad simply wasn’t cutting it any longer.

House-scouting required, of course, a coffee break.

And I distinctly recall there wasn’t a lot of choice.

In fact, I doubt there’s any more than handful of businesses in the Gamon/Charles/Victoria neighbourhood that are now as they were then.

The chicken shop?

Probably.

But the area has certainly changed – a LOT.

Our coffee stop that day – I may even have had a burger – was made at a joint called the Bowser Cafe, which was housed in a rather ugly brown building that did little to hide its service station heritage.

The Bowser eventually became Sabroso – and I reckon the premises may have at some point before then housed another eatery of some sort.

I trust readers with more reliable memories than mine will tell me if that is the case.

In any case, Sabroso passed us by, our sole visit being a coffee/hot choc stop while out enjoying a late-night amble.

 

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And now Sabroso is gone, replaced by a rebranding exercise called Charles and Gamon.

From what I gather, the same proprietors are still in place with the name change at least partially driven by a desire to distance themselves from the Spanish food that previously was in place.

Now C&G is doing a nice line-up of bistro-style food, including what look like really splendid mid-week meals of comfort food for a very fine $17.

Check out the full menu at the C&G website here.

Not much appears to have changed apart from the name, though there is some vintage wood panelling about the place.

Based on our outstanding Sunday roast lunches, C&G is doing good things.

We’ve been roasting a bit lately – see here and here – but the C&G meals really are the best we’ve had in the west so far.

At $20, they’re a little more pricey than what is available elsewhere but they erase any doubt about getting what we pay for from our first bites.

We consider our lunches a bargain.

 

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Both the roast chicken and …

 

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… the slow-roasted lamb shoulder are abbreviated versions of dishes available at greater length and prices on the C&G menu’s “for the table” section.

The chook is a slightly unappealing yellow-khaki but is a cracker to eat – moist, juicy, delicious, with good gravy and a nice touch of rosemary.

The lamb is gorgeous – crusty, tender and, like the chicken, of good size.

It’s the kind of lamb that wouldn’t be out of place in a really fine Greek eatery or even a barbecue place.

Our spuds are simply wonderful.

No shortchanging in evidence here, with both our plates having plenty of crisp roasted spud chunks that fall into the “moans ‘n’ groans of pleasure” bag.

Slaw?

With Sunday roasts?

Hey, it may not be traditional – and it may even be done as a cost-conscious measure.

But our fresh slaw works incredibly well with the meats and potato.

These have been killer Sunday roast meals.


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