Nice vibes in Moonee Ponds

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320 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 2649

For many years, these Ascot Vale Road premises housed a corner store that was a bit of a secret – it stocked products and groceries of the South American/Latin American variety, including Jamon.

Alas that opportunity for CTS story has now gone, and in the store’s place is lovely cafe.

Ascot Food Store appears to be ideally place midway between the Puckle Street area and the eats region of upper Mount Alexander Road.

There’s heaps of residential blocks around here and I bet there’s plenty of locals who really, really loving having this new place so handy.

 

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I could be the world-weary scribe and say Ascot Food Store is just like so many cafes all over the place, including the west.

But that would be silly of me.

And it would be to deny the expertise and good cheer of the staff, the white-centric fit-out that confers a relaxed, tranquil vibe on the front room and two further inside, and the quality of the food.

It’s a very breakfast/lunch place, and – based on our meals (see menu below) – I’d describe the serves as light eating.

A hungry table of two who throw in a couple of sides and coffees will find themselves paying between $25 to $30 per person – the going rate these days for this kind of food in this kind of place.

And no complaints from us.

 

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My companion – Karma of alergicinmelbourne – likes her “Benedict” ($17) of poached eggs on top of an English muffin and shaved pork belly, all topped with bearnaise.

As far as I can tell, in this case anyway, “shaved pork belly” = “crackling” by any other name, so I can’t help but admire the sheer artery-clogging chutzpah of it.

 

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My “Apple Wood Smoked Ocean Trout, Freekeh, Roasted Caluliflower, Coriander, Cress, Shredded Kale” ($18) is fine, too.

The fish is a nicely hefty slab and beautifully cooked, though there is precious little smoky flavour.

The freekeh and cauliflower are indistinguishable, but the fish’s base is nicely most.

With the kale and salad bits, it all makes for a lovely, light lunch.

My cafe latte is very good.

Check out Karma’s take on our lunch here.

 

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

 

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West Welcome Wagon benefit – the wrap

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Plough Hotel/CTS Fund-raiser for West Welcome Wagon
Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly St, Footscray.
Tuesday, October 7, from 7-9pm.

Many, many thanks to everyone involved for making this such an enjoyable and worthy night.

Through a mix of ticket sales and our auction we all helped raise a handy figure of cash money to help West Welcome Wagon continue its amazing work.

Our friendly, terrific crowd included a number of CTS regulars and a bunch of WWW types – sometimes both at the same time!

 

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I had hoped to have WWW founder Mia address our mob, but the situation was a tad too noisy for that.

Nevertheless, Mia seemed to spend some time with all our guests and I hope she and her friends enjoyed the night as much as I did.

 

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The Plough staff were working very, very hard on what turned out to be a busy night but looked after us well.

The food – pizzas and a whole lot more – was truly fantastic.

I’d never run an auction before, and coming off a long day at my regular gig, I wasn’t sure I was up for it.

But it turned out to be a whole lot of fun!

So congratulation to Brigitte, who took home both the printer from Techville and the cookbook from the Sun Bookshop, and Amy who grabbed the lovely glassware from inviteme.

And thanks, too, to the other bidders who kept the interest levels high!

 

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CTS Feast No.1: Brunch at Phat Milk

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CTS Feast No.10:
Brunch at Phat Milk, 208 Mt Alexander Road, Travancore. Phone: 9376 6643
Sunday, November 9, from 11am.

THIS EVENT IS BOOKED OUT! 

To book for this event go HERE.

 

Since my first visit to Phat Milk, it has become something of a regular.

I love the happy staff and the coffee.

And I’m working my way through the menu, being especially taken with the breakfast and lunch dishes that display a Middle eastern influence.

So I’m very happy to be hosting a Consider The Sauce Feast there.

This is a series of first for CTS – it’s the first cafe Feast and the first in daylight hours.

And to celebrate it being the 10th Feast, CTS will not take a cut of the ticket monies – and that means a sooper dooper tasty and affordable treat.

Get this – $10 will get you your choice of a dish from Phat Milk’s breakfast or lunch menus, juice and coffee.

But there are just 10 places available!

 

To book for this event go HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Somalian in Flemo

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East African Restaurant, 28 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0434 518 867

What a pleasure it is to welcome a new place to one of our favourite eats strips, Racecourse Road in Flemington.

Mind you, the premises that house East African Restaurant have hosted some sort of hospitality industry activity as long as I can remember.

But that activity always seemed to be of the coffee house/social club/meeting point of the blokey kind that is a staple of all sort of multicultural communities across the west … so we never paid it much interest.

Then, a few weeks back, new signage went up that strongly seemed to indicate the place was making a more concerted effort at getting its food out to a broader public.

 

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Issa (pictured at top) has owned the business for about a year and is indeed setting out to win more customers.

The place is charming in its ethnic cafe simplicity of trestle tables and relaxed vibe.

 

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During my time there, a number of regulars come and go … all of them, save a pale-skinned mum and son, are African gents, some wearing various degrees of traditional attire and some wearing taxi driver garb; there’s a few kids in among the mix, too!

I suspect Issa may be working on a menu proper, but in the meantime I like it a lot that there is none and that the boss man comes to my table to run down the food line-up for me verbally.

Who needs menus?

After quizzing Issa a bit about such things as soup, I tell him I will have whatever is the most popular.

This turns out to be an excellent move – what I get is not only very good but reassuringly familiar.

 

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What Issa calls “mixed food” ($12) he also calls “federation” … ah, yes the same federation as found at Ascot Vale’s Safari just up the road apiece, and every bit as good.

It’s all there and in good, delicious nick …

Tangy broth/soup that in this case has a touch of the curry powder about it.

Wonderful stock-cooked rice.

(As with the many previous times I have eaten this food, it seems like the soup and the incredible rice are the standards by which the meal should be judged.)

Heaps of dry-sauced spaghetti.

The pan-fried lamb with onion is actually rather wet, making it a bit like a stew – and that’s good, too!

The two lamb chops appear to be on the small side and as if they may be a bit tough. They’re not, and as for size … well, I fail to complete my meal anyway, so large is it, so they’re fine.

I could have done with a bit more the sautéed veg, but it’s been a great feed, indeed.

 

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Halfway through my lunch, however, I realise something is missing … and am duly presented with a cup of chilli sauce.

It looks like hot stuff, so I dab it on my meat and rice rather sparingly.

It’s a wise move.

Issa tells me a broader range of food, including injera-based meals, is available during the week.

I plan on trying some of them soon.

 

East African Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Checking out the new Footscray Coles

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When it comes to supermarkets, Consider The Sauce is most definitely a Sims, smaller-is-generally-better kinda guy.

We’ll shop at the biggies but would never make a habit of it nor hold any of them in any great esteem.

Still, I’m interested to check out the new Footscray Coles on account of it being a significant local happening.

And I have friends who live nearby for whom getting basics such as milk – especially outside of regular hours – is something of a hassle. For them, Footscray Coles is of some significance.

As well, I’m interested in seeing what the manager’s claim to have tried hard to reflect the local cultural demography – spied in an advertorial feature in the local press – actually means in reality.

 

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The truth is, not a whole lot.

Of course, the quantity and range of multicultural products the store boasts is way more extensive than would have been the case, say, 20 years ago.

But I didn’t see anything that would see people switching away from Bharat Traders or India At Home.

And the signage seems to fall into something of “try too hard” category.

 

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I mean, what does “Authentic International Food” actually mean?

All is shiny and new and the deli counters have the sort of coverage routinely seen in big supermarkets these days.

 

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And, yes, the shelves groan with an extensive line-up of that depressingly awful “product”, bottled water.

The retail spaces opposite the checkout area are now occupied solely by Bakers Delight, Liquorland and the pharmacy.

 

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Wonderful Ethiopian

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Ras Dashen, 121 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 3293

A chance Sunday night encounter in the Yarraville IGA finds me dining out in downtown Footscray on a Tuesday night with friends and friends of theirs.

Ethiopian is the preference and Ras Dashen is my suggestion.

I’ve been here a couple of times by myself though not recently.

So I’m a little concerned about how we might go so early in the week with a table of five that includes two vegetarians.

I need not have fretted as what we receive is magnificent.

The beyaynetu veg selection is provided at an amazing $10 per head – so the wonderful spread pictured above costs us $50.

Two kinds of lentils – aspicy and rich red number and a yellowish dal-like mix.

A jumble of mixed vegetables, a bowl of delightful beetroot and a typically zingy salad.

It’s all delicious.

On the side, I order the fitifit or beef rib soup ($10) enjoyed on a previous visit.

If anything, if it seems bigger, more meaty and wonderful than before. The broth is pungent – it comes across a bit like an Ethiopian version of pho, but without the star anise and so on.

It’s my new Favourite Thing.

Finally, our table snags a serve of zilzil tibs ($12, sorry no pic usable!).

This is unlike any tibs dish I’ve previously encountered.

It’s very dry, with pan-fried beef strips that have been rubbed – and I’m pretty much guessing here – cumin, a little chilli, salt, pepper and garlic.

It, too, is excellent.

The service we have been given has been beaut and it’s been a fine thing to see a Footscray Ethiopian joint bustling with activity so early in the week..

 

Ras Dashen on Urbanspoon

Looks like Maccas, does real deal Lebanese

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Sheesh Grill, 255 Mickleham Road, Tullamarine/Westmeadows. Phone: 9330 3050

When I first visited Sheesh Grill a few weeks back, my heart sank at the very appearance of the place – it looks like any old franchise fast-food hole.

My heart sank and so, too, did my expectations of a fine feed.

So I was surprised and delighted to enjoy a lovely platter of Lebanese food that defied the setting by being very good.

This was genuine Lebanese food – fresh, tasty and excellent value.

Even better, all the baked goods are, I was told, baked on the premises.

I was keen to return with more eager hands and mouths around which to base an official CTS post.

Sheesh Grill does do hamburgers, and I reckon there’s enough going on in the menu to please just about anyone.

And I also reckon the fast-food ambiance could win over youngsters who otherwise might have nothing but contempt for the more wholesome and tasty goodies at hand.

 

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There’s starters such as filo pastries, kibbeh, stuffed vine leaves and falafels.

There’s dips and salads.

And there’s a heap of meat – shawarma and on skewers.

All of the above are available in a wide variety of configurations.

The member of our trio who orders the above-pictured Sheesh Feast ($18.95) does so on the basis of being “very hungry”.

But it beats her, with Bennie and I happy to help out as she winds down.

The platter has a skewer each of chicken and kafta, a sambouusek (sort of like a curry puff), a kibbeh, falafels, stuffed vine leaves, chips, rice (real Middle Eastern rice), tabouli, pickles and hummus.

I know on the basis of my inaugural visit how good are the stuffed vine leaves and tabouli.

The is a great value meal and would actually do two reasonably hungry people quite easily.

 

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I’ve been happy for Bennie to order a burger just to see how this place goes with that.

But I feel sorry for him when his meal arrives.

He reports that his Ultimate Burger ($10.95) is OK but nothing special. He gets a small chips and a soft drink as add-ons for $2 each.

I hope for a certain level of excellence in chips served at Middle Eastern eateries. These don’t quite qualify; the ones I had on my initial visit did.

It’s not that Bennie’s burger is any way bad or sub-standard – it’s just that the regular Lebanese fare aces it.

The lesson is simple – this place may actually do burgers but the more traditional Lebanese food is where it’s at.

 

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My “regular” sheesh lamb plate ($13.95) is excellent. The larger plates of lamb, chicken or kafta cost $17.95.

All is good or better – a tangy eggplant dip, fattoush, pickles, the same chips and rice as above, and two skewers of succulent lamb insterspersed with onion and capsicum.

Sheesh Grill is well worth a short jaunt up the Ring Road.

 

Sheesh Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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