Good, fresh Japanese in Moonee Ponds

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I Dream Of Sushi, 6 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9375 7951

I Dream Of Sushi is a brand new – Nat and I hit it for lunch on opening day – Japanese joint tucked just around the corner from Puckle Street, with a branch of Yim Yam and a fine fish and chippery nearby.

As this is his work nighbourhood, Nat has been watching developments with great interest as he sometimes gets cranky with despair and boredom concerning the same old same old lunchtime routines hereabouts.

The place is done in cheerful cafe style and the staff are on the go and smiling.

I suspect that, not unlike another Japanese CTS favourite, I Dream Of Sushi delivers sushi rolls not out of any great passion about doing so but because to do otherwise would be commercial suicide.

In any case, he and I happily focus on the rest of the menu (see below), which covers a tight but appealing range of smaller dishes and a line-up of rice bowls.

We do real good.

My miso soup ($3.50) is regulation but very good, with deep miso flavour.

 

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Gyoza ($6.50), too, are orthodox but also yummy with a nice garlickiness.

 

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Tofu salad ($10) is a winner and just the sort of light, healthy lunch I’ve been desiring.

The greens, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes are super-fresh and the dressing tangy.

 

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Nat is very happy with his salmon sashimi (12 pieces for $10).

 

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But it’s his teri may don ($12) of “tender chicken thigh cooked in sweet soy on steamed rice w/- Japanese may” that does it for him.

“I’ve hit the bullseye,” he happily proclaims.

I Dream Of Sushi is pitching itself cleverly for the local lunch market – it’ll do fine.

And, yep, Nat will be back.

 

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As we are wrapping things up, we get talking to Catherine and Barb, for whom this is a family affair – they could hardly be prouder of what Acko, Yagu, Miho and Con are doing!

 

I Dream of Sushi on Urbanspoon

 

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Fabulous and fancy @ Ebi

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Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3300

Consider The Sauce loves Ebi; we adore the place, its charming host, the perfect fish and chips and bentos.

But $120 for a tricked-up degustation men?

Not exactly regular fare for CTS, as regular readers will understand.

How to justify such extravagance?

Birthday prezzie?

A few days out, but what the hey …

Tax return treat?

Having only just got all the required documentation in the one room, I haven’t even really started on this year’s effort yet …

Celebratory outing based on good results in the “scary medical tests” department?

Truth is, tonight’s Ebi event – the first of its kind – is simply too tempting to pass up.

I’m tingling with excitement at seeing John spread his wings with the sort of ritzy food, time – and labour-intensive sauces, and superior and refined ingredients of the kind that rarely come my way.

And I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with what I assume will be a small audience of Ebi regulars/fans and doing so with some classy beer, sake and wine on hand … though I suspect the booze may be wasted on a wine prol such as myself.

I’m expecting food that displays strong influences from both Japan and France – and maybe even Italy.

And so it largely proves to be …

Sharing the bar stools with me are Jake and Kim, on one side, with Daniel and Tom on the other.

 

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The table for two behind us is soon filled, to my happy delight, with CTS pals Justin and Sasha!

Wonderful!

And so it begins …

This is no ordinary degustation bash. For starters, the price is way less than those sought for most of the famed and storied options available elsewhere.

There’s the same paper serviettes as ever.

And John himself acts not just as chef but also waiter, maitre’d, busboy and dishwasher.

Frankly, I’d not be comfortable with a more formal arrangement.

 

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Spherified edamame with sea salt crystals is as out-there as tonight’s fare is to get – John even uses the word “Bulli” in relation to it. It’s a gorgeous, slippery, crunchy mouthful with pronounced edamame flavour served with Koshihikari Echigo rice beer.

 

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Anchovy and parmesan straws are rich, buttery and crumbly, the anchovies supplying just the right kind of salty flavour explosion.

 

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Seared Hokkaido scallops with soy wasabi butter are such a hit – for good reason – that John quickly whips up another round for us!

 

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Grilled, salted salmon belly is profoundly exquisite and served with Osakazuki Junmai Ginjo Sake.

 

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Lobster? CTS? Blimey!

Butter-poached crayfish is a dream, served with a yuzu kosho sauce that exhibits just the right kind of tartness to match the seafood’s sweetness.

John describes the sauce as made with a fruit that is a mix of lemon, lime and orange blended with salt and chilli.

This is served with a just-right Borgo Bello Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2012.

 

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We’re about to move into significantly more robust and richer territory …

 

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Duck and porcini kamameshi comes with blackcurrant jus.

Kamameshi turns out to be a sort-of Japanese version of the universal rice dish and is very much like risotto – it’s wonderful, too, as is the juicy duck.

(Served with Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 1998.)

 

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Ahhh – the best of all!

Wagyu fillet with roast marrow, shallot and herb tartlet comes also with roast beetroot and organic kale.

It’s all terrific, the beef ultra-succulent and the tart pastry so very rich.

Served with Wynns Coonawarra black label Cabernet sauvignon 1997.

 

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And to finish …

Ginger and ume bombe with “plum” ice-cream, sponge and meringue – just my kind of grown-up, not-too-sweet dessert; served with lovely Osakazuki Umeshu (“plum liquor”).

So … has it been worth it?

Yes.

I’ve loved the food, the company, the conversation and the liquid accompaniments.

It’s been a beaut experience!

But we’ll still be loving those bentos and fish and chips …

And, yes, there may be more such events at Ebi.

See earlier stories here and here.

 

Ebi Fine Food on Urbanspoon

 

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An A1 arrival in Werribee

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A1 Bakery, 2/70 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 8714 1592

What good news this is – a branch of A1 Bakery in Werribee, a sister joint for the Lebanese shops in Sydney Road and Dandenong.

Yippee!

They’ve been open a week when I arrive, hungry, for lunch.

I’m expecting the big space and in-depth grocery range of the Brunswick establishment.

So I’m surprised to find instead a smallish but cheerful cafe, with only a minimal range of groceries.

There is a heap to eat, though.

There’s a range of 15 super-cheap pies and piazzas.

Plain zaatar goes for $2, zaatar with vegetables is $4 and a spinach and cheese parcel will cost you $4.50.

There’s wraps and salads.

And, best of all, there’s a range of platters – falafel, tawouk (chicken), labne, kibbe, “kafta” and the like.

They range in price from $6 up to $10 and all come with a varied line-up of pickles, yogurt, salad, chips, salad and pita.

 

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As listed, my $8 kofta deal is served without pickles, so I get them added for an extra $1. I’m pretty sure the cheerful and obliging staff will allow customers to customise their platter choices in terms of accompaniments.

My lunch is terrific.

The three kofta sausages, in particular, are wonderful – fat, juicy, mildly seasoned and pinkish in the middle.

The pies and pizzas I see being consumed around me look very much the goods, too!

 

A1 Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

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Breakfast with wings

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Cafe Vue, International Departures, Melbourne Airport

Earliness is a pronounced Weir family trait.

So – headed to Taranaki for some quality Grandma Time – we are through long-term car-parking and various levels of processing with plenty of time to spare.

Plenty of time to spare, in fact, for breakfast.

Of course, just like everyone else, we are way past the times when we associated flying and airports with anything approaching yumminess.

So we are surprised and delighted to enjoy a fine breakfast while awaiting our flight – the surprise all the more greater for being provided by a group the flagship restaurant of which we will most likely never inhabit for reasons to do with both matters financial and plain old inclination.

We pay substantially above the going rates to be found in our greater neighbourhood, but we are happy to do so for such a pleasant experience.

 

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Bennie and I both go for the Vue breakfast burger at $9.90 of brioche, poached egg and hollandaise, his with bacon, mine with smoked salmon.

I do much better – I get a heap of robustly-flavoured fish and the whole thing is a delight.

A pistachio and chocolate danish ($5.40) to share is freash-as and very tasty but almost ethereal in its lack of substance.

The high-price factor arises once more with our cafe latte and hot chocolate – they’re $4.70 but just fine.

The surroundings are civilised and enjoyable, and thus a stylish, engaging rebuff to notions that flying – or preparing to fly – must always be a drag.

The relaxed vibe continues when I take my allocated aeroplane seat and find myself seated to a young mum and a much younger, brand-spanking-new baby.

This a flying first for me – on any kind of flight, international or otherwise.

Nice to meet you, Maryanne and Brooklyn!

 

Café Vue at Melbourne Airport on Urbanspoon

 

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Indian “street food” joint hits West Footscray

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Akshaya, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8394 9713

We may be prone to speculate about when or if the West Footscray stretch of Barkly Street will reach Indian restaurant saturation point.

And we certainly don’t feel obliged to check out, let alone write about, each new arrival.

But when a new place goes the ultra-cheap “street food” route – we’re there!

Akshaya is a sister restaurant to the warmly regarded establishment of the same name in Ashley Street.

But here the focus is quite different – with the spick and span new outfitting reflecting the budget cafe-style menu (see below).

There’s chat dishes, dosas and idlys and vadas, some Indo-Chinese, a few other things of interest … all vegetarian.

 

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Bhel puri ($4.99) is OK and fully fresh enough, but lacks a little in the zing department for my tastes. But then, it just about always does. Maybe bhel puri simply isn’t for me or I keep hoping it will be something it isn’t.

 

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My thali ($9.99) is way better.

I’m told the fundamental difference between the joint’s north Indian and south Indian thalis is rotis (with the former) and rice (with the latter).

The rice with my south Indian thali is excellent.

It’s basically a pulao studded with nice spud bits. But with its mint, cinnamon and other spices, it comes across as a sort-of vegetable biryani.

The sambol – heavily spiced with corianader – and tomato chutney are as you’d commonly find with a dosa meal and are fine.

The vegetable curry also has potato among the other vegetables. It’s oily and delicious.

The crumbed okra looks like it may an Indian take on the Korean popcorn fried thing.

It’s not – the lady finger pieces are tender and not at all crunchy.

But they’re beaut, packed with okra flavour and go nicely with the really thick dollop of yogurt.

On the basis of this preliminary meal at the brand new Akshaya, I’d caution that spice levels here are high.

Not uncomfortably so for me, but in the above thali only the okra and yogurt escape intense spicing.

Bravo for Akshaya for developing a different angle on what is a very competitive strip.

Akshaya on Urbanspoon

 

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A sharing thing

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Cooking Connections at Yarraville Community Centre, part of the Care To Share Project

CTS missed the first, Vietnamese outing of the Care To Share Project’s Cooking Connections program, but was very happy to make the weekend pairing as host.

Thanks to the Care To Share crew for granting me the opportunity (see link below for more information).

Thanks, too, to the punters – many from the west but more than a few from all over Melbourne.

But most of all, warm thanks to the families and individuals who shared their cooking and food with us.

There will be photos and comments about the food in this post, but really they’re only part of the story …

First up on the Saturday were Jamshid from Afghanistan, Sara from Iran and the family of Ebi, Roya and Marianne, also from Iran.

All these folks are on bridging visas.

 

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Marrianne did a fine job of splitting the dates and inserting walnuts in them for the Persian sweet rangenak.

 

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But in the digital age, some things are universal with young folks.

 

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The guests lost no time in leaving their chosen seats to talk to the asylum-seeking cooks.

Jamshid was busy making korme koftas, chicken biryani and Afghan pulao.

 

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Along with a stack of finely chopped greens – spinach, coriander, dill – dried limes went into the ghormeh sabzi prepared by Roya and Ebi.

 

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Jamshid’s lamb meatballs and Afghan pulao were fab …

 

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The ghormeh sabzi – with its greens, potato, lamb and red beans – was piquantly amazing.

 

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Everyone thought so!

 

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The walnut-stuffed dates were drizzled with pan-roasted flour mixed with oil and, finally, coconut for a suave “grown-up” post-meal sweet treat.

 

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On the Sunday, it was time for Rosa, her mum Nigest and niece Betty to present their Ethiopian cuisine.

The guests were split about 50/50 between those who had tried Ethiopian food and injera and those who had not.

The dishes cooked were lamb dishes key wat and tibs, and the cabbage, potato and carrot of key wat.

 

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Having long admired and respected the fresh zing with which our African cooks imbue their salads-on-the-side, I was tickled to discover how one family at least does it – marinating sliced green chillies in lemon juice and using it as a dressing.

 

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Once again, the guests lost no time in getting up close and personal with the cooks and the dishes they were cooking.

 

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For more information on the Care To Share Project, check out their website here and “like” their Facebook page here.

 

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Going the whole chook

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Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9939 9679

Frying Colours does Korean food with an upbeat, swish attitude.

The long room, which formerly housed a noodle shop, has undergone a substantial refit that cleverly combines a hip suaveness and the feel of a more traditional Korean cafe, especially thanks to the old-school wooden tables.

On a Friday night, the place is humming.

The staff are everywhere and very good at their jobs.

The open kitchen/servery takes about a third of the space.

We’re very happy that our food arrives in approximately the same amount of time it takes us to work what we are going to order – bravo!

For tonight, Team CTS numbers four, so we expect to make merry with the menu.

We do.

Everything we have is good.

There’s a couple of major hits and a minor mis-step that has more to do with our ordering than the food.

Just for fun and to experience as much of what’s available as we can, we order a couple of skewered starters.

 

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“Mouth-watering chicken skewers” ($3 each) are good in a kind of Korean satay fashion.

 

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Eggplant skewers ($3) are way better – they’re tender, juicy and with immense smoky eggplant flavour. We’ll be ordering a stack of these next time.

 

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We order a whole fried chicken. They’re $32; $19 for half.

There’s something enormously liberating and reckless about ordering a whole fried chook – or the equivalent bits there-of.

We split our order 50/50 between “spicy” and “sweet soy” (there’s also “original” available).

Our selections turn our expectations upside down.

Expecting the sweet soy pieces to be the more moist, we find them instead to be the most like orthodox fried chicken. They’re fab.

The “spicy” pieces, by contrast, are moist with a glaze that seems almost Chinese. The spice levels are modest for this table-full of western heat hounds.

But still, this is great stuff and the other big hit of the night.

We’d do it again in a flash.

We’ve accesoried with “wasabislaw” ($5) and kimchi ($5). Both are good and well-priced for the serve sizes.

 

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Bulgogi hot pot ($36) is one of a handful of dishes to share.

It’s of a more traditional Korean bent, with sweetish stocky broth, sliced beef, two kinds of onion, heaps of glassy noddles and some nice slithery mushrooms.

It’s nice enough but is, we suspect, not really what this place is all about or well worth visiting for.

Christine eloquently sums up our collective feelings: “This would seem really good if we hadn’t ordered the chicken!”

We reckon stuff such as the fried chicken or the “FC mixed grill” to share ($40) are the go here.

On the way home, we make a West Foostray stop for peanut butter and vanilla ice-cream courtesy of tonight’s dining companions. They’re both so very, very fine. The ice-cream AND the companions.

Check out the Frying Colours website, including menu, here.

 

Frying Colours on Urbanspoon

 

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