Guest post – Yarraville Japanese

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Kenny says: Laura is a long-time CTS reader and commenter. We have yet to meet face-to-face – but she’s promised to attend a CTS Feast next year! In the meantime, our inter-action has lately become a little more chatty, culminating in her asking if I had a recent menu from Kawa-Sake. I told her, no; in fact, we haven’t been to that Yarraville eatery for more than two years. Lura made her own arrangements – and reported back. My next question was obvious: “Did you take pics?” From there, it was easy to tempt her into writing her very own CTS post. Thank you! We love a guest post …

Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar, 3 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 8690

Words and photographs: Laura Esperanza

Being my birthday week, the choice for takeout dinner was mine.

My good old, faithful of choice is always Japanese – in fact, sashimi and sushi were on the menu for lunch that day – and Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar was featured top of the list based on past experience and close proximity.

I did, however, email Kenny to get his opinion on something local and I considered Ajitoya in Charles Street, Seddon, but it was not an option – being a Monday, they were closed.

As we wanted takeout, the plan was to get my hands on a copy of their menu, dial ahead and the partner N would collect on the way home from work.

 

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I couldn’t locate a menu online and was messaged a copy of their menu on my phone after a call and follow-up reminder a few hours later (I had actually given up having Japanese until I got the text sometime after 6pm).

The plan was for collection at 7.40pm. N was running 10 minutes late and I called ahead to change the pick up time to 8.10pm (always try to have contingency plan!) so that the food wouldn’t be cold.

By 7.50pm, N called to say that the meeting had run late and we would be lucky to collect the food by 8.20pm.  I didn’t worry about calling back and resolved not to be stressed as it was out of my control.

Arriving home with dinner, Japanese beer and a bottle of vino, we were back on track to tuck into the meal.

We drank the beer out of champagne glasses (celebratory birthday week, after all) and started on our feast.

 

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I ordered us a grilled beef with teriyaki sauce skewer for the partner ($3.90), the old favourite, seaweed salad ($4.50), and the Kawa-Sake sushi platter ($49.80).

Yes, total treat territory – but, again, birthday week J.

The sushi platter consisted of three different raw fishes, four nigri, ebi tempura (crispy large prawns in tempura and darn good), salmon age rolls (fried roll with salmon, avocado, eel) , chicken tempura inside out, and prawn avo sushi.

I’m told the teriayki beef skewer tasted like sesame with a light sauce – not too heavy and very tasty.

Next choice was the prawn tempura – always a past winner. It had a cripsy, light batter, was tasty and we enjoyed the extra mayo to dip in.

It had a nice, crunchy texture and was a winner all round. Even though I’m not into fried foods, it was very light.

The salmon age roll with chili mayo was very tasty and was combined with eel. The rice was a little dry but it was picked up 20 minutes late, second call around.

The prawn avo sushi was fresh and enjoyable.

 

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My two least enjoyable dishes were the fried salmon, eel and avo as it had a crispy, thicker batter – too heavy for my liking) and seaweed salad, which was quite tasty and zesty but too runny to be enjoyed it without dropping liquid in the journey from chopsticks to mouth.

Overall I find Kawa-Sake a safe and winning option whenever we have it, either in the restaurant or take out.

While it’s not the most amazing Japanese I’ve had, it has so far had a 100 per cent pass rate and is a fresh and convenient option.

Is it the cheapest?

No.

Have I had better?

Yes.

Would I go back again?

Absolutely.

See earlier reviews here and here.

 

Kawa-Sake Sushi Boat & Grill Bar on Urbanspoon

Inhaling BBQ

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Meatmaiden, Basement, 195 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9078 77

This all seems a little odd – lunching in the CBD on a Saturday.

I’ve taken the car on account of having a handful of funky new CDs to listen to, and as I leave the parking building and hit Flinders Lane I realise – with a momentary sense of panic – that I’ve left my phone at home.

No problem, surely?

Surely I can survive without it, and be out of the loop, for a few hours?

Sure I can!

But Nat has told me Meatmaiden is one of those typically Melbourne joints that doesn’t make itself obvious from the street.

If I can’t locate it, I’ll be unable to contact him.

As it turns out, the street frontage of Meatmaiden is out there in plain sight – but it still takes me a while to nail it.

What IS very Melbourne is the twisty metal-staircase meander from the street through to the restaurant itself.

 

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Cool!

 

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And the scene of the Meatmaiden action is also very Melbourne – underground, dark, cosy in a clubbish sort of way.

We’re meating here for lunch on account of a visit a few weeks before – impromptu because the place Nat, Bennie and I initially pencilled in for a midweek dinner had turned out to be unsuitable – to Fancy Hank’s.

Bennie and I love that place and actually find it hard to credit that there may be other places in Melbourne that do BBQ just as well, let along with the sort of funky rustic vibe so perfect for a such food.

Nat insisted then that there other good places and it’s high time I tried some of them.

So here we are.

At Meatmaiden, the sibling of Richmond’s Meatmother.

 

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Nat is right – the lunch we have is very, very fabulous, even if the sophisticated surrounds are a long, long way removed from the likes of Fancy Hank’s or the equally downhome charms of its nearby Americanophile neighbour.

We pass by the lunch menu and head straight to the main list – the meat of the matter, so to speak.

Given our mutual love for this food genre, Nat and I order with unusual – for us – restraint.

I’d love to hit here with Bennie and go the whole hog, for instance, by going the $49 per person Maiden’s Mood spread of two small/share dishes, three from the smoker/grill and two sides.

But, no, not this time – we get one from the smoker, one from the grill and two sides.

They’re all fabulous and priced right – not cheap eats exactly, but about where it’s at for similar fare around town.

 

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O’Connor pasture-fed flat iron 2220-gram steak ($24).

 

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And … 200 grams of 20-hour Rangers Valley wagyu brisket with native Tassie pepper berry rub ($22).

We consume with both our meat choices in quick time without even pausing to contemplate the use of the various condiments at our table.

 

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Spring onion mash ($8) is great though the spring onion tastes to me as being restricted to the garnish.

 

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Red slaw ($8) is rather blandly dressed but otherwise just right – I like it that the vegetables are chopped finely enough to make fork-loading easy. Such is not always the case.

The service has been spot on.

And given this place is no doubt mad busy at other times of the week, we’ve done real good by dropping in for Saturday lunch – there’s only four other tables occupied.

Saturday lunch – definitely the best bet at Meatmaiden.

Check out the Meatmaiden website here.

 

Meatmaiden on Urbanspoon

 

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Nuevo flavours hit spot

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Nuevo Latino, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0419 589 739

The aroma of new paint tells us Nuevo Latino – in the premises that previously housed the West Footscray video shop – is a fresh enterprise.

But what we see about us conveys a different impression – it’s a fit-out full of bits and pieces, and great vintage furniture, that gives off a happy, relaxed lived-in vibe.

We enjoy our dinner very much.

But the real stars of the night are the staff.

 

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Salvador and Yoko, out front, and Juan and Clarita in the kitchen take care of us in a way that is warm and caring yet never overbearing.

They’re very good and we eventually leave very happy.

And as we walk away, all four of tonight’s Team CTS of four express the hope their new eatery succeeds and prospers.

We try a handful of the tapas and “rations”, and have one each of four of the five mains.

It’s pretty much all good or much better.

 

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Croquettes of bacalao ($3) with what I think is a creamy dill sauce are light, delicate  and tasty.

 

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Yuka chips ($7) with “piquant dipping salsa” are wonderful and unlike anything any of us have eaten previously.

They’re crisp/crunchy on the outer; almost powdery and/or molten on the inner.

 

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Grilled corn kernels ($6) have the “wow” factor, too.

According to the menu (see below), they’re dressed in a chilli lime aioli – but the dish tastes to me like there’s more than that going on.

 

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The papa rellena ($4) – “rock salt baked au gratin potato skins, filled with cheese” – are the single dish we order I find less than memorable.

Nothing bad about them; they simply come and go without leaving an impression.

And now the mains …

 

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The most impressive looking of our mains is carne asada ($21).

The beef strip, threaded on to a wicked-looking dagger/sword, is nice and salty, chewy in a good way and all sorts of wonderful.

It’s not my main so I’m grateful the companion whose it is spares me some nice chunks.

That’s for me next time!

As with all our mains, the accessories – in this case corn tortillas, pico d’gallo and salad – are fine.

 

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“Pupusaw” $16 have that required full-on corn flavour and are gooey with cheese.

They’re served with pickled vegetables and refried beans.

 

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Tamales ($18) are plain but satisfying, also having that corn thing going on.

 

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“Quinoa envoltini” ($28) is a treat of chicken stuffed with spinach, pepitas and quinoa.

It’s mild of flavour but well done and enjoyable.

We have been kind of hoping for desserts along the lines of a flan or creme caramel.

We’re told such is on the way, but we’re happy with our meal and choose to pass on the churros that are available.

After all, the place has been open only a week.

 

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But then Juan presents us with a couple of  complementary cups of blood orange gelati (sorbet?).

They’re terrific – sweet, rich and sourish – and a perfect way to end our dinner.

See another Melbourne blogger’s take on Nuevo Latino here.

 

Nuevo Latino on Urbanspoon

 

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Racecourse Road eats goss

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Chinese Spicy And Barbie Kitchen – far, far better known these days as I Love Dumplings – is one of the most popular eateries in the Racecourse Road neighbourhood.

It’s also one of the few that has a reputation and some cachet outside the west.

So it makes sense that the whole operation is on the move.

 

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The business will be moving into the refurbished former bank building a few doors along.

I’m pretty sure it was an ANZ, but there’s a NAB badge right there.

The fit-out looks to be well advanced and I’m told moving day will be in a couple of weeks.

The new venue will have a seating capacity of 120.

The existing ILD place will be stay “in the family”, to become in due course another eatery.

 

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Sitting adjacent to the bank building, the premises that once housed Chilli Padi Mamak Kopittam is now vacant.

But works are underway inside.

In due course, expect a branch of the popular Pacific Seafood BBQ House chain that is a star of Lonsdale Street, South Yarra and Richmond to be opening up.

 

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Meanwhile, Veggie Villa – which took over a shopfront what for many years housed a pretty decent Indian restaurant – seems to have found a handy niche on Racecourse Road, judging by the number of customers I see in there.

They’re not huge, numbers mind you, but seem enough to be going on with.

I’m prepared to give the joint another go.

But my sole visit came about because I really liked the sound of their smoked eggplant curry, which had no smoky flavour at all and in which the eggplant was cooked down to such an extent that it was basically just … gravy!

Reports, anyone?

Laughter amid the gloom in Altona

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Greek Orthodox Parish & Community – The Dormition of Our Lady, North Altona – launch day of their new church

It’s the launch party of the new Greek church on Millers Road and there’s a lot of people about.

A lot of happy, animated people.

It’s not raining – but it has been.

Leaden skies and sunshine are in an arm wrestle that ends in a draw.

 

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There is, however, a lot of dainty stepping around mud and puddles by people in high heels.

And even low heels.

 

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Antonio from Werribee and I bond immediately.

 

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I’m a bit bemused but not disturbed by the food on offer – corn, prawn skewers, falafel, fish and chips.

And lots of sweet treats.

Where’s the kebabs?

 

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The queue for the F&C looks way too long and tiresome.

So after a beaut corn cob I go for a $5 falafel sandwich. With tahini sauce and turshi, it’s excellent.

 

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I am unsurprised to run into emissaries of another western suburbs spiritual establishment.

 

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Anna, Vicki, Pat and Pam are manning the sweets stand with great aplomb and gaiety.

It’s from Pam that I learn the reason for the food – the church’s big day just happens to coincide with a Greek Orthodox fast day that dictates the non-consumption of meat or dairy products.

Yet there is beer on sale!

I buy a $10 tray of homemade, syrupy goodness to take home, with Pam throwing is a handful of Turkish delight cubes for good measure.

It’s my lucky day!

 

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After witnessing a punch-up in the queue for loukoumades – I take a $5 bunch of them home, too, and boy are they amazing! – I notice the crowd is thinning out and realise it’s time for me to do likewise.

Alfrieda Street eats goss

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So what’s happening on St Albans’ vibrant eats strip?

Well, I’m told a fire event has forced the temporary closure and refurbishment of Sunshine Charcoal Chicken.

Truth is, the place was looking rather tired so hopefully something good will come of their misfortune.

As I said recently to a CTS reader when discussing a similar business in Essendon, one of these days – with a little bit of tweaking and finessing – charcoal chicken shops will become the Next Big Thing.

 

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Alfrieda Street will soon have its own branch of French Baguette Cafe, the Footscray version of which is proving such a multifaceted hit.

 

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What was once home to the short-lived Charitable Vegetarian Restaurant quite recently came to house Sunrise.

In quick order that, too, has closed.

The lovely My from Phi Phi tells me the address is destined to house a new eatery with a broader outlook, one more attuned to the commercial realities of the neighbourhood.

 

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A new Alfrieda banh mi shop appears to have become  hit rather quickly.

 

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Meanwhile, I checked back into Phi Phi – after it all, it has been a long couple of weeks since I was last there – to make sure their roast meats are still superb.

The answer is: Yes!

Definitely my go-to place for this kind of food.

After talking with My, and all going to plan, Consider The Sauce and Phi Phi will co-host a CTS Feast there early in the new year.

 

Actually, better than A1

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a1ess21
 A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

After an initial visit – covered here – Consider The Sauce has been eager for a return adventure at A1 in Essendon.

Primarily to partake of one of the more unusual and intriguing options among the more substantial meal platters they offer – samke hara, which features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

Today, it being that time of year when my very good mate Penny is making her annual visit to Melbourne from Wellington, is the day.

Truth is, on previous visits Penny and I have had some really fine face-to-face catch-ups – we talk by phone at least once a fortnight about everything under the sun – but rarely have we enjoyed a really fabulous meal.

I put the blame for that squarely on my own shoulders in the category of “trying too hard”.

Anyway, we rectify that today – and in spectacular fashion.

As it turns out, the samke hara is unavailable.

So boss man Gabby offers to put together for me (and Penny!) a combo set of shish tawook (chicken) and kafta skewers with all the bits and pieces.

The above spread costs us $24; not pictured are an extra salad and a basket containing plenty of zaatar, olives and a couple each of small rice-stuffed peppers and puff-style kibbeh.

The single-meat deals are priced at $14.50, so I’m not sure our price accurately reflects what it would cost to buy all items involved separately.

And Gaby is perfectly aware there’s a blogger in the house …

But add another $10 or even $20 and it would STILL be a bargain.

I know there’s a handful of places around town that do Lebanese food in more formal settings (and at significantly higher prices), but I find it extremely difficult to imagine their food could be any finer.

As I once said of another Lebanese establishment, in the world of Consider The Sauce, this is as good as food gets – at any price.

As our meal arrives at our table, our day gets even better …

 

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Placing bowls full of wonderful before us, Gaby sighs as he says: “This is when I miss being in Lebanon – all the small dishes!”

Then he introduces us to his mum, Sandra, she being responsible for much of the food we are about to inhale.

And, I’m sure, almost all its heart and soul!

For CTS – which has been known on occasion to mutter, “We revere cooks but chefs don’t impress us that much!” – this is akin to meeting royalty!

Everything we eat rocks our world …

Stuffed vine leaves with a lemony tang and rice still displaying a nice, nutty al dente feel.

Fresh, luscious dips, with the ultra-smoky eggplant number a taste sensation.

Tabouli and fattoush, fresh and zingy.

Two kinds of splendidly crunchy and salty green olives.

And the meat skewers – served at room temperature, juicy, tender, packed with flavour and having the killer chargrilled tang in abundance.

All of the above, of course, can have only one outcome – yes, some time early in the new year and all going as planned, A1 Essendon and Consider The Sauce will co-host the first CTS Feast for 2015.

 

A1 Bakery Essendon on Urbanspoon

 

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