Back at Pandu’s

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Pandu’s, 351 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0789

We haven’t eaten at Pandu’s for a good long while and we’re excited to be back.

Even more so because among our group of six are two people who have pretty much eaten the inner west dry but have yet to dine at this Footscray Indo-Chinese institution.

And there’s two others have never tried Indo-Chinese at all!

After we enter and a get a table, I realise there have been changes at Pandu’s.

There’s more people in the kitchen.

The prices have crept up – but not too much.

And there’s a new menu that considerably broadens Pandu’s previously hardcore Indo-Chinese line-up.

There’s biryanis, dosas and – oh yes! – cholle bhatrua and pooris with potato maslala.

Most of those will have to wait for another day, however, as we stick – with one exception – to Indo-Chinese.

 

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One member of our group is quite taken with idea of nachos salad as spied on the online menu – as am I.

So we order two.

What we get is, well, weird.

Doritos drizzled with some yogurt and sprinkled with not a lot of cheese, onion and greenery.

It’s OK to nibble on before our more fully cooked goodies arrive.

But Doritos?

Ugh!

In quick time, arriving at our table are …

 

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… vegetable manchurian …

 

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… cauliflower 65 and …

 

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… pepper fish.

By unanimous acclaim, the fish is our meal’s big winner.

Encased in a delicious but not particularly peppery coating are gorgeously tender and tasty chunks of white fish.

As Josh says: “I could eat these all night!”

The gobi and vegetable ball dishes – standard orders for Bennie and I at Pandu’s – are good, too, though a little wetter than we’ve had on previous occasions.

We bulk up our meal by ordering another standard for us …

 

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… veggie hakka noodles as well as …

 

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… veggie Singapore fried rice.

Both are simple but very good in that trans-national way that we usually expect more of the food from Malaysia or Singapore but which is right at home with Indo-Chinese.

Finally, we also enjoy a fine chicken biryani – which I forget to photograph!

 

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Bennie and I reckon the portion sizes of non-carb Indo-Chinese selections may have been a bit smaller than on previous visits – but that could be because there’s so many pals with us tonight and the food disappears quickly.

As well, we note that the shredded cabbage is of a rougher cut that makes it less appealing to incorporate into our meal, and that the gobi, fish and vegetable balls are not adorned with the usual jumble of chillis, curry leaves, onion and capsicum.

But still, these are minor quibbles – Pandu’s remains our go-to place for Indo-Chinese.

I have not kept track of prices as I expect to just call up the Pandu’s website when I get home.

But now I discover the prices there are not up to date!

But here’s the biz – for all of the above food, and a fine meal, the six of us pay a few bucks over $90.

That is, about $15 each!

Fantastic!

 

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Meal of the week No.10: Footscray Milking Station

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Footscray Milking Station has been around for about three years now but never before covered in any way by Consider The Sauce.

We’ve dropped in for coffee or sanger on a few occasions but …

Recently it’s become a regular for me when seeking a nice place to have a quick lunch on one of my mid-week days off, after I have taken care of blogging and associated tasks at home.

I like it – a lot – that there always seems to be ample parking.

The place is always warm and inviting.

And the coffee is grand.

A few weeks back, I had – from the specials board – a fine panini of house-smoked salmon, creamed cheese, rocket and pickled shallots.

That board is always worth checking out – one of these days, I’ll have the soup.

Today I go for the salad bowl ($12).

Normally, roast vegetable salads are no-go territory for me as they invariably number pumpkin among the ingredients.

Not today – so I’m in.

Instead, there’s big, beefy chunks of succulent fennel, chick peas, lots of parsley and even – unadvertised! – pistachio nuts, all of them dressed with a masterful touch.

I mind not in the least the other salad also includes fennel.

In this case, it’s shaved so there’s a very cool contrast with the roast version.

In my second salad, there’s also cucumber, baby tomatoes, rocket, dill and black sesame seeds.

Again, the dressing is amazing –  tangy and with just right amount of moisture to ensure ease of eating without sodden-ness.

It’s a superb, knockout lunch.

 

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Cool tandoori in Hoppers

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Kabul Kebab & Curry House, Shop 12A Woodville Park Shopping Centre, 70 Warringa Crescent, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9749 0944

Between and around the riches of Watton Street in Werribee and Barkly Street in West Footscray, there are lots of Indian or curry restaurants hidden away in all sorts of places.

In the case of this Hoppers Crossing find, it’s a matter – ostensibly – of Afghan food.

On a cold week night, Woodville Park Shopping Centre presents a rather bleak prospect but the glowing lights of this place draw us in.

 

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The series of events – post-school volleyball, guitar lesson, traffic congestion – that have brought us here find us also of robust appetite, so we’re happy to be in a nice, warm, cheap eatery.

Given the location and lack of research, it’s a throw of the dice but we are not disappointed.

The place is done in typical, basic ‘burban ethnic and we’re the only customers – but we are re-assured by the number of locals coming and going for takeaway that there is something worthwhile going on here.

 

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While we await our meal, we are greatly entertained not only by the Bollywood music clips on the telly but even more by the cornball old-school adverts that accompany them.

The pricing is attractive and there’s a range of your usual korma, kofta, vindaloo, masala and other curry dishes.

But we choose breads and the kebab offerings.

 

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First, though, onion pakoras ($6) are a rapidly devoured, well-fried treat.

 

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Potato bolani naan ($5) is fantastic and almost a meal in itself.

 

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Garlic naan ($3) shows scant traces of garlic but is good, too.

 

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Instead of having to select from the kebab/tandoor line-up, we go straight for the “Sizzler Special” ($22).

The menu says it consists of kebab items numbers one through six and comes with salad and dips.

We’re not sure about that – and there are no dips.

But we’re more than happy, anyway.

We’re not about to pretend this is the best or best-cooked meat of this kind we’ve had but it does the job for us.

The minced-lamb sheesh kebabs have a bit of a bitter flavour to them.

The chunks of lamb kebab could be a bit more tender.

But the chicken tikka pieces and two chook parts of tandoori chicken are real good.

We’re happy to have paid only $36 for a satisfying meal.

Do readers have any out-of-the-way faves?

 

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A good thing on Nelson Place

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General Food Co, 117 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8239

General Food Co is on Nelson Place but not really of it.

It’s down towards the shipyard area of Williamstown and separated from Nelson Place’s hit-and-mostly-miss range of eateries by Thompson Street with its Greek restaurant on the corner.

This is a good thing!

Instead of having a Willy food hub vibe about it, General Food Co has a friendly, we-love-locals thing going on.

 

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The interior is small but cosy; there’s an outside area that must be simply great on nice days and there’s more tables on the footpath.

The service is fine, kids are greeted on a first-name basis and the coffee is outstanding.

The two dishes CTS tries – one smaller, one larger – are lovely to eat and behold, and are cooked and presented with skill.

But they are of modest proportions.

They’re perfectly fine for a light lunch but we advise against bringing a rampant appetite here – or perhaps, if that is the case, heading towards the breakfast list, several selections of which I spy as being more generous.

 

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I’m told the “dakos” in my smashed beetroot dakos ($12.50) is a kind of Greek rusk.

Atop the pleasantly chewy bases is a cool, luscious and tangy mix of beetroot and fetta.

The balsamic reduction seems a little out place and is too sticky.

 

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Lamb keftethes ($19) are three plump, generously sized lamb meatballs, deliciously chewy and well-seasoned, with a fine tzatsiki, pita bread that is both crisp and chewy and good salad components.

Some more yogurt/cucumber and a few more slices of pita would’ve been appreciated.

It is genuine regret that I have included some critical comments in this story – General Food Co is a lovely place and, as already stated, the coffee is fab.

 

General Food Co on Urbanspoon

 

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Cross-town Georgian joy

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Aragvi Georgian Cuisine, 318 Centre Road, Bentleigh. Phone: 9557 2893

By Erika Jonsson

Dumplings are one of my ultimate comfort foods.

Whether they are filled with beef, lamb or vegetables, small or large, I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like.

Crisp-based gyoza, wontons in broth, slurpy xiao long bao, Mongolian buuz – they are like friends who have never met; they share important traits but are beautiful for their differences.

My dumpling-making days petered out when my kids were born – it’s not easy to respond to a crying child when my hands are covered in raw meat and my dough is in danger of drying out.

So if I’m out for lunch and can enjoy an expert’s touch, I don’t think twice.

We found ourselves on the other side of town recently after a foray to the Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre recently to apply a fundamental tenet of parenting – if you want happy kids, just add water.

And water slides if possible.

Mission accomplished, it was time to add food.

“What kind of food are we having for lunch?” Joe asked from the back seat.

“I’ll give you a clue,” my husband replied. “The capital city is Tbilisi.”

Georgian!

My tastebuds were tingling at the thought of lots of bread, meat – and dumplings.

Aragvi in Bentleigh did not disappoint in any way – in fact, we are already considering a return trip.

 

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Delicious hunks of warm bread with a side of unsalted butter started to fill the void ahead of the arrival of a bowl of borlotti bean stew, or lobio.

I was surprised when Joe wasn’t interested, but Hugh loved it, as did my husband and I.

Walnuts and coriander were the dominant flavours in a dish that was somehow both simple and complex.

Next out were the dumplings – Joe chose chicken over pork and beef.

Our waitress gave us a quick tutorial on how to eat Georgian-style dumplings, which were quite large and shaped almost like mushrooms.

Use the stem of the dumpling like a handle to allow you to bite the side then suck out the broth.

Continue until you are left with just the dough handle, which is traditionally left behind.

The flavour was quite mild and the seasonings delicate. They were a hit for our hungry family, especially covered in black pepper.

 

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Our next dish was grilled chicken kababi rolls with adjika chilli sauce, salad and housemade chips.

This turned out to be my favourite dish of the day – the colours were vibrant; the chilli sauce sang with heat; the skinless sausages were perfectly cooked; the salad was zingy and fresh; and the chips were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Not yet sated, we shared some delicious cakes, including a walnut sponge and a pastry filled with almond-flavoured custard.

My latte could’ve been a bit stronger, but that’s a small criticism in the context of a really memorable meal.

Aragvi was quiet during our weekday lunchtime visit – I’m not sure why.

We don’t usually travel far beyond Footscray for food, but this gem is worth the drive.

 

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New Afghani in Sunshine

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Afghan Shaheen, 231 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 0449 988 753

The success of Afghan Master Kebab in Sunshine has seemingly inspired others to try their luck with likeminded eateries.

Further afield, in Fooscray, Kebab Surra has made its mark.

In Sunshine, it appears there will be three new kids on the block.

One, already open, is situated in the food court at Sunshine Plaza and yet to be investigated.

Another, on the wider bit of Hampshire Road, still has newspapered windows.

Afghan Shaheen is up and running on the narrower part of Hampshire, heading towards the station.

 

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It’s done out in cheerful cafe style with ornate and shiny furniture.

It’s an Afghani eatery with a few twists thrown in.

You’ll find the chargrilled meats that are the principal reason of the much-love for the already established places.

As well, though, the menu (see below) features a longish list of straight-up Indian dishes and even an Indo-Chinese section.

Additionally, Afghan Shaheen is big on baking.

 

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One display contains a glistening range of Indian-style sweet treats that go for $18 a kilogram.

 

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Another cabinet displays many biscuits that look just like Italian-style biscotti.

I’m told, however, that they really are Afghani!

Rest assured, though, they contain heaps of butter.

They sell for a terrific $16 a kilogram – I’m surprised how many I get for $7.

A bowl namakpura (top photograph) – cumin-seasoned strips of deep-fried pastry – are brought without being ordered.

Playing the same sort of teasing role as papadums, they’re yummy.

 

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Lamb kebab ($13.99) has superb chargrilled meat of high quality – the de-skewered chunks shown here are only half of what is served.

The bread is good but unlike either regular naan or the more chewy, crusty bread delivered at Afghan Master Kebab or Kebab Surra.

 

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What I first mistakenly take to be some kind of soup turns out to be an excellent mint dipping sauce – a vinegary version of the pale green version often served.

It’s piquant and delicious.

 

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Curry and rice for $13.99 doesn’t sound like such a crash-hot deal but qabuli palaw is excellent.

The same, good bread.

The same salad bits

Fluffy white rice studded with moist currants and festooned with cooked, tender and sweet carrot strands.

The lamb “qorma” itself is mildly spiced but as deep in flavour as it is deep in brown.

The lamb is of the same high quality and tenderness as found in the kebab serving.

With its many bits and pieces, this $15 dish could easily suffice as a meal for two.

 

Afghan Shaheen on Urbanspoon

 

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Inside Est.1906 + menu

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Est.1906, 81 Charles Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 1906

When I visit Seddon’s swish new cafe, I’ve already lunched elsewhere.

But I enjoy a good cafe latte and a wonderful, very intense chocolate brownie.

And I have a good look around and, with the management’s blessing, take a bunch of pics.

 

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Proprietor Ken, pictured here with Jordan, tells me business has been good in the few days they’ve been open.

At the moment, it’s a breakfast and lunch proposition (see menu below), closing at about 4pm.

But extended hours and a booze licence are in the works.

 

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It’s a big place and the makeover of what was once the local video store is drastic and spectacular.

It’s has a bit of clinical feel to it at the moment but that’s only to be expected.

The main dining space adjoins the coffee/paying area and the semi-open kitchen.

 

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Next door, and with big windows facing Charles Street, is another area with window seat and a big communal table.

 

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Further back is another, more secluded dining area, while out back and outdoors are more seating, a play space including a sandpit and a fledgling herb garden.

Th outdoor space looks like an outright winner for the bub brigade – it’s big and there is no escape route for wandering toddlers.

 

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