CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng – the wrap

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Our CTS Feast at Xiang Yang Cheng was a truly memorable occasion.

I remain surprised that only just over the allocated seating was booked – this was and is, it seems to be, just the kind of food that is ideal for such an event.

No matter … no matter at all.

Because those of us who did indulge had a thoroughly grand time.

And with a smaller group, it was all very relaxed and rather intimate.

I really enjoyed getting around our four tables and having chats with everyone.

 

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And that was made easier by the very nature of the food an its preparation – what may have taken a half-hour so to consume if brought plated to our tables ended up taking more than two hours of rambling indulgence.

Many thanks to the XYC staff, including Larry, Zi and Alicia, for taking such good care of us.

Thanks, also, to Nat, Marc, Paul, Marketa, Jenni, Bronwyn, Adam, Philippa, Milena, Paul, Christine, Lisa and Julian for making it.

 

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But perhaps the most thanks should go to someone who was absent.

One of my first contacts at XYC was Peggy.

Peggy is off being a new mum but it was she who devised the broad and representative menu selections that graced each of our tables.

A lot of thought obviously went into it – and thus was vindicated my decision to leave our meal up to the staff and not bother cherry-picking it myself.

Wow!

What a spread we had.

 

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

 

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Saj revisited

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Saj Mediterranean Grill, Shop 27 320-380 Epsom Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9078 2633

After a happy first-up visit to Saj, I was always keen for a prompt return.

Mostly to see if I could talk the staff into serving their marinated, skewered meats on a plate with accessories – my preferred option and delight.

Perusal of their menu – which can be seen in the story of that debut visit here – seemed to have the meats only available in wrap form.

As luck would have it, a return visit comes to be much more quickly than I had foreseen – five minutes after Nat Stockley and I arrange a quickie impromptu dinner, I’m in the car and headed for Ascot Vale.

And as it turns out, Nat’s eyes prove a lot sharper than mine – what I want is right there on the menu, he points out, under the heading of “Eat in deals”.

Oh happy day!

This is the sort of Lebanese platter I have been yearning for, and wanting in the west, for years.

We both order identical $14.50 plates with one skewer each of lamb, chicken and kofta.

The hommus and baba ghannouj are as on that first visit – excellent.

So is the tabouli, our plates graced with quite large serves of it in cabbage leave cups.

A special word of praise for this Saj salad effort – not only is it sublimely moist and lemony, it also includes the all-important fresh mint, something often omitted from eatery versions.

The meats are fine, especially the nicely seasoned kofta.

We both reckon, though, the meats have all spent about a couple of minutes too long on the grill, the lamb cubes in particular being overcooked – not to the point of being unenjoyable, mind you.

We mention this to the staff as we are paying and leaving, and are told of one customer earlier in the day who expressed distaste for having her lamb pieces “pink in the middle”.

So CTS advises open and frank meat discourse with the Saj folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Camper delivers

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hap1

 

A cold Monday night after a hard day’s work.

Nothing much to look forward to except thawed out soup, an NRL game I don’t really care about and a good night’s sleep.

And another solid day at work when I awake.

Then I see the Happy Camper Pizza Facebook post about how they’re all set up and ready to go at Yarraville Gardens.

It’s way too cold for that sort of carry on, IMO.

But home delivery?

Oh yeah, that sounds real good.

I last spoke with Remi at a Footscray game at the Western Oval, him mentioning then that delivery service was in the works.

So I phone up … and get the man himself taking my order.

From the menu at the  Happy Camper website, I choose the Playing With Fire with tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, olives and red onion.

 

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No more than about 15 minutes later, it’s Remi who cheerfully hand delivers my pizza, with which I get a cute fridge magnet and a one-off $10 off offer if, next time, I order through Delivery Hero.

I pay $14 for my pizza plus a $3 delivery fee – not really economical for solo dining, but pretty good for two or more.

As for my pizza … well I really am a happy camper.

It’s not particularly fiery but it IS a whole heap better than your typical home-delivered pizza.

It’s delicious, with a beaut crust.

I wonder if I am the only home delivery this night that involves a customer clad in Spongebob pyjamas …

 

Happy Camper Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

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Back with the classic cars

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Garazi, 107 Gamon St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2677

It’s been more than a year since we’ve set foot in Garazi – back then, soon after it opened, it was once for a write-up and then on another closely following occasion.

Maybe it’s because, situated as it is on Gamon Street, our minds are already on foodie pastures further afield when we pass it.

So it is today.

Bennie’s copped a full-on meat-free, dairy-free vegan dinner on Friday and a healthy Lebanese lunch with pals on Saturday, so I’m very happy to let him have his way with Sunday lunch.

“Burger, masala dosa, fish and chips, roast lunch, laksa, Mexican …”

I tick off this list as we motor up Gamon and turn into Charles Street, without any noticeable enthusiasm being forthcoming from my CTS Partner.

By this time I begin to realise he simply may not be hungry.

Weird! Well, weird for a 13-year-old …

 

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So I do a U-turn and head for home, happy to call it quits.

But as we pass Garazi he becomes more animated – so in we go.

It’s a treat!

The seating area has been expanded into the real-deal garage of classic cars, among which it’s a hoot to sit with late-breafasters and friendly pooches.

The service is grand and it dawns upon us that we should treat Garazi with more mindfulness for coffees and quick bites. (We don’t do breakfast, not while out and about anyway …)

 

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For all his lack of interest to this point, Bennie makes short work of his burger with the lot ($18) from the specials board.

It’s a good, hearty cafe-style burger and the pattie tastes good and meaty to me.

 

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It’s a good thing his meal comes with stacks of OK shoestring fries, as my reuben sanger ($13) is completely unadorned and even looks a little on the mean side in terms of size versus price.

But in its simplicity, it’s a ripper.

The bread is just right – not too light, not too heavy, toasted and buttered to perfection.

The thick-sliced corned beef is tasty, as is the Swiss cheese, while the plentiful pickles provide plenty of salty, piquant tang.

 

Garazi on Urbanspoon

Zing! Lebanese in the ‘hood

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Many thanks to Josh, Christine, Julian, You Know Who and Eliza for helping CTS check out the west’s new Lebanese eatery!

Saj Mediterranean Grill, Shop 27 320-380 Epsom Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9078 2633

Saj Mediterranean Grill replaces a short-lived Turkish establishment in the showgrounds’ shopping precinct, which has never held much allure for us.

It’s a terrific new arrival – and Consider The Sauce makes the most of our first visit by rocking up with a nice bunch of our regular dining companions.

It’s done out in stark fast-food style, but the food on offer – see menu below – goes quite a bit further than the bakeries our western Lebanese experiences have thus far been restricted to.

We get real plates and cutlery – and cheerful service.

Saj is named after the saj grills, rounded dome plates used to grill the flatbread.

CTS has only ever seen these before at this Coburg institution.

Between us all, we try a good-sized chunk of the menu – but without any intent to do so, we mostly veer away from the more substantial sharwarma and mashawi (grill) wraps.

Even Bennie – given complete freedom to order whatever he pleases (i.e. hamburger) – dines elsewhere.

The skewered meats in the display cabinet look the goods but will have await a follow-up visit.

What we have ranges from good to very good and we’re all very impressed.

Having a new Lebanese eatery in the neighbourhood is a clicking-heels event around here!

Beyond basic descriptions and prices, my assessments and comments are to do with those dishes I personally taste.

 

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Kibbeh ($2) are hot, a little bit spicy, juicy and very fine. Some of my companions find pine nuts, but not so I.

 

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Warak-arreesh (stuffed vine leaves, $1.50 each) are smallish, plain and just right.

 

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Hommus ($5) is fresh and smooth but of only mildish taste.

 

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Baba ghannouj ($5.50) is fantastic – it hasn’t got that prized smokiness but it IS fresh, lemony and full of eggplant flavour.

Both dips are served with the same flatbread used to make the saj pizzas, and more of it is brought to our table without being requested.

 

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Did I say fresh?

Everything here is fresh-as – including this fattoush ($4.50), its joyful jumble of veggies beautifully dressed and anointed with crisp, fried bread.

 

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The tabouli ($4.50) is just as CTS likes it – wet and lemony. It’s a generous serve for the price, too.

 

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The cheese and turkey saj costs $7.50.

 

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Bennie describes his chicken fajita sanger ($10.50) with chook, caramelised onion, capsicum, mushrooms, avocado and cheese with “fajita sauce” as “nice”.

 

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The chicken mashawi ($9) is skewered chicken with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and sauce.

 

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A couple of us order the lahm bi ajin ($6) – saj of “mince meat, onion, tomato and spices”.

It’s nice enough but turns out the description is rather more lavish than what is pretty much the stock-standard “meat” pizza we get at other bakeries.

 

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Mediterranean salad ($6.50) has the same fresh vegetables seen elsewhere with wonderfully chewy, salty chunks of grilled haloumi.

 

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We finish off with a couple of choc banana sajs ($6.50) – a sweet delight with nutty extras!

We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

How can this place not be a hit?

 

Saj Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Pay parking for Yarraville, Seddon, Footscray South

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park2

 

Maribyrnong council is seriously looking at introducing paid car-parking for parts of the municipality that have thus far gone without having it imposed.

There’s obviously a lot of huffing and puffing and “public consultation” to go on before this becomes a done deal.

But the tenor of the council’s community and services special committee report on Pay Parking In Maribyrnong – which you can read here – leaves little doubt that this will eventually happen.

The pay parking areas being proposed are:

Yarraville:

1. Anderson Street Between Buninyong Street and Willis Street.

2. Ballarat Street between Simpson Street and Canterbury Street.

3. Canterbury Street between Railway station and Willis Street.

4. Canterbury Street car park.

5. Simpson Street off-street car park.

Seddon:

1. Charles Street between Gamon Street and Bourke Street.

2. Gamon Street between Charles Street and Station Road.

3. Victoria Street between Charles Street and Buckley Street.

Footscray South:

1. McNabb Avenue.

2. Nicholson Street between Buckley Street and Irving Street.

3. Albert Street between Buckley Street and Hopkins Street.

4. Albert Street car park.

Joseph Road Precinct:

1. Maribyrnong Street between Hopkins Street and Joseph Road.

2. Joseph Road.

3. Neilson Place.

4. Moreland Street between Hopkins Street and Neilson Place.

5. Warde Street.

6. Wightman Street and Selina Street.

7. Whitehall Street between Hopkins Street and Neilson Place.

I have an open mind about this.

The report is honest in stating that whatever other issues are at stake, revenue-raising is a significant part of these proposals: “The generation of non-rates revenue such as paid parking, is an important element towards achieving a long-term financially sustainable City.”

I can’t help feel a certain sadness that the sleepy village feel of Seddon and Yarraville is to give way to a more regimented form of commerce.

Pay parking for the Jospeh Road area is seen as a forward strike with the push for full-on development there growing: “Whilst Joseph Road precinct is not currently a saturated location, imminent multi-level development up to 32 storeys will create a substantial increase in parking demand.”

“Information and feedback sessions” to discuss these proposals will be held as follows:

Yarraville:

Tuesday, September 2, 4.30-6.30pm,

Sun Theatre, 8 Ballarat Street, Yarraville.

Footscray and Seddon:

Wednesday, September 3, 4.30-6.30pm,

Footscray Town Hall, corner Hyde and Napier Streets, Footscray.

 

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The beauty of western vistas

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rachel1

 

The western suburbs have certainly got their hooks into me.

When I am visiting other parts of the city, even those generally deemed as being more aesthetically pleasing than the west, I am frequently beset by an urgency to get home to our “industrial landscapes”.

And in those landscapes, I find beauty and allure.

I revel in the weirdness and the sometimes startling juxtapositions.

I love tooling around western residential areas only to be blindsided by paddocks and old farm houses.

That’s why the work of Tarneit artist Rachel Hanna reverberated with me when I learned of it.

Rachel has been painting for 10 years and has lived with her family in Tarneit for two, and she too reverberates with the west.

“You can breathe over here,” she tells me while installing her exhibition, On The Way From Here To There at the Point Cook Community Learning Centre.

Rachel tells me that, among other things, she adores shipping containers as subjects – although she confesses she finds them difficult to paint.

Looking at the paintings in her exhibition, I find some that I recognise immediately, others that are less obvious – but they all have a genuine western vibe about them.

The paintings are for sale, ranging in price from $150 to $650.

When I venture that such prices seem rather low for exhibition works, Rachel quips: “They’re priced to sell – I need more canvases!”

On The Way From Here To There at the Point Cook Community Learning Centre, 1–21 Cheethamis  Street, Point Cook, until September 19.

For more details, go here.