Old-school WeFo

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Con’s Fish And Chips, 577 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 280

Bennie and I had good fish and chips from Con’s many moons ago but haven’t explored the place further since then.

This time, I’ve been nudged through the door by Col and the very excellent Barkly Village Facebook page he runs – he’s raved about the Con’s burgers several times, arousing my interest.

Truth is, we’d looked elsewhere largely based on our preference to eat in and sit down whenever possible, no matter what kind of food is at hand.

So I’m delighted to find, in what is a basic take-away operation, a small table and chairs for my comfort and enjoyment.

Long tells me she and Hung have run the joint for about 11 years but that they still see the eponymous Con from time to time.

 

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Did I say old-school?

How can you tell?

 

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I’m super impressed that Long provides me a half serve of the minimum serve of chips for $2.

They, too, look old-school but are fine, hot and enjoyable.

Predictably, even a half serve is way too big.

 

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My “one with the lot minus egg” ($7) is a two-hands job that is demolished quickly – it’s a typically enjoyable, um, old-school burger.

In the way of such places, the patty has been smashed flat.

I don’t have any problem with that – tradition is tradition, after all.

But next time, I’ll request an extra patty.

These folks are so friendly and obliging, I’m sure that will not present any problem!

 

Con's Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon

 

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Meal of the week No.1

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CTS has become quite besotted with the fish and chips served up by Dough! in Blackshaws Road, Newport.

They’re quite different in vibe and personality from those created by our other fave F&C joint – but no less excellent.

The chips are tumbler-peeled, hand-cut and all-terrific.

The fish, in this case a nice piece of blue grenadier, is always beautifully cooked although it does usually fall apart in my hands.

I don’t care, so good is it!

The calamari, too, is always tender and tasty – and it’s the real thing.

See earlier story here.

The BeeeasT of Tarneit

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BeeeasT Burgers, 1 Alexandra Avenue, Tarneit. Phone: 9974 6971

It’s difficult to imagine a more whitebread upbringing than school life in particular and life in general than that experienced by CTS in the ’60s and ’70s.

There were occasional exotic influences and people – though not much in the way of exotic food – but by and large Maori people and culture in particular were something that happened in textbooks, the North Island or the All Blacks.

A later career move that found me living, and surfing, in Gisborne and, before and after, in Wellington brought a more homogenous New Zealand to my life.

Still, the Melbourne move when it came was made at least in part because of the desire not to simply slip into a Kiwi sub-culture in, say, Sydney or Brisbane.

I love my Kiwi brothers and sisters, whatever their genre, but I have no desire to be surrounded by them at the expense of all else.

But after almost 15 years in the west, there has been a change.

It started – or, rather, I started to notice it – at Bennie’s primary school, where one of his best pals was a young Maori lad.

It continued with the thoroughly Kiwi-infused vibe of the Footscray Bulldogs Rugby Union Club, for which Bennie played for a couple of seasons.

In more recent times, I have enjoyed monitoring the ups and downs of the Altona Roosters Rugby League Club, though I have yet to make it to a game.

As well, I am enjoying observing through Facebook the beaut work of Victoria Maori Wardens and their efforts to keep Maori and Islander youngsters from getting into big trouble. I will make it a point to meet them one day.

I even diary-marked a couple of Waitangi Day functions this year – one in Elsternwick, one in Altona – but sadly missed both.

Maori may not flow in my blood but it resides in my soul, and is capable of surprising me with the force and profundity with which it sometimes surfaces.

 

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All these things are but a reflection of the fact the Maori and Islander population of Melbourne’s west has increased dramatically in the past decade or so, drawn like so many of us from around the world by housing prices but also, these days, no doubt by a sense of community as well.

Honey knows all about it.

She and her family live in Point Cook, but Honey travels to Manor Lakes p-12 College for her regular gig as assistant principal.

Assistant principal of a western suburbs school of 1800 or so kids?

Oh yes, she knows very well the changing face of the west in general and its Maori/Islander face in particular.

Incredibly, Honey has another job – she is a co-owner and co-proprietor of BeeeasT Burgers in Tarneit.

And the BeeasT itself, which shares a small business precinct with the likes of branches of Briyani House and International Foods, is testament to the growing Maori/Islander community in the west.

The business has been up and running since November yet in that time it has amassed a staggering 9000-plus Facebook likes.

 

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So it is with an easy smile that I front up for a chat and a feed.

In truth, aside from sweet potato chips on the menu (see below) and L&P in the fridge, there’s nowt that is particularly Kiwi about the fare here.

But there is no mistaking the nature of the management or the joint’s customers.

Many of the burgers listed are more complex and grandiose than fit my immediate needs, so I go for the Fair Dinkum ($10) – minus the pineapple.

All Beeeast burgers come with chips.

Those chips appear a tad nondescript but are really excellent and hot.

Similarly, my burger looks modest but goes down a treat.

It’s like a cross between an Aussie-style corner store burger and Grill’d, mostly because the very good patty has a real beefiness about it.

 

Beeeast Burgers on Urbanspoon

 

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Finally trying the local F&C

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Under The Sea Fish & Chips, 49 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 6912

Consider The Sauce has long held a preference for fish and chip joints that offer more than paper-wrapped bundles.

We like our F&C and accoutrements fresh-as and eaten at restaurant-provided seating – even if it is of the most rudimentary kind.

We like it, too, when proper cutlery and crockery are part of the deal.

So we’ve never gotten around to trying our very popular local fish and chippery.

But with Bennie being a happy fish eater these days, he’s several times recent in months declared his preparedness to troop around the corner and bring our dinner home.

So off he goes … and back he comes with a meal I find OK in some regards but disappointing in others.

Low expectations met?

Yes.

 

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The chips are hot but on the dull side for me.

Ordering instructions had been for a small so naturally the medium Bennie gets is excess to our requirements.

The calamari rings are of the reconstituted surimi variety, so are automatically graded “OK”.

Fish of the day is blue grenadier and it’s real good.

What’s more, we receive three generously sized pieces instead of two, so we eat really well.

But the batter of one of them is stuck to the paper and is only messily removed.

It’s been good fare, especially as the whole lot cost something under $20.

But I won’t be in a hurry to return.

 

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And with dinner?

Bickford’s, of course.

We go through at least a bottle of this stuff a week – lemon or lemon barley now that the bitter lemon variety seems permanently unavailable.

But tonight at the IGA we spied a new flavour – apple and cinnamon.

I detect only the faintest of spice undertones but Bennie reckons it’s the best of the lot.

 

Under the Sea on Urbanspoon

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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When imperfect chips are perfect

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Dough!, 115 Blackshaws Road, Newport. Phone: 9939 157

Can you remember the first time you consumed a beer-battered chip?

Blowed if I can … I think it may’ve been at a Grill’d outlet.

Since then, of course, beer-battered chips have become ubiquitous.

There’s a very good reason for that – at their best, they are sinfully delicious.

But here’s an interesting wrinkle – John at Dough! reckons that most outfits that serve beer-battered chips are actually serving brought-in products made with re-constituted potato.

In this scenario, your beer-battered chip would seem to bear a similar relationship to a spud that a nugget does to a chook.

I have no reason to doubt John’s assertion, though a quick online search didn’t turn up much.

But it makes sense, doesn’t it?

In any case, at John’s Newport pizza and fish ‘n’ chip emporium, he’s for sure taking another tack.

His chips are peeled – in a tumbler – and cut right there on the premises.

The result is a stark contrast to the crisp and puffy beer-battered chip.

John’s chips are quite easily identifiable as coming from real spuds – there’s dimples and imperfections and a profound degree of spudness.

This is my kind of nostalgia!

 

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With my wonderful chips ($5 and worth every cent), I get blue grenadier ($6.50) and three calamari rings ($2).

Both are lightly battered.

The fish falls apart as I eat it, but I don’t mind. It’s rather delicate and beautifully cooked.

The rings, too, are tender and tasty.

John tells me his business is growing.

He’s in a good spot here – there’s not a lot around by way of good food, though Motorino and Famous Blue Raincoat are a few blocks away.

Still, he must balance what he’d like to do and what is best for the business in terms of satisfying customer demand.

He plans in the next few months, for instance, to start using real ham instead of the processed “pizza ham” variety.

And hooray for that!

But still, on John’s pizza lineup – split between about dozen each of “traditional” and “gourmet” – punters can choose Aussie-style pies heaving with the usual toppings .

Or they can single out more spare offerings in the Italian manner.

 

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On a subsequent visit with Bennie and Che, for instance, Che’s small meat lovers ($9.50) has the aforementioned “pizza ham”, along with salami, chicken and bbq sauce.

It’s definitely Che’s go!

 

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Bennie’s puttanesca ($10) is more continental in terms of its toppings but their quantity is Aussie-style all the way.

He nods with appreciation after a few bites but towards the end of his meal tires somewhat of the saltiness engendered by bacon, olives, capers and anchovies.

 

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My own piccolo diavolo ($10) hits the spot and is – not surprisingly, given my own tastes – the leanest and meanest of our lot.

Hot salami, chilli, red onion, roasted red capsicum and chilli oil make for a light, tasty, spicy lunch.

We like John and his joint, and envy the locals for whom this is becoming a regular.

 

DOUGH! on Urbanspoon

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Hot Fish @ Conways

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Hot Fish @ Conways, 11-21 Wingfield St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3400

Fish and chips and other seafood to eat right away at Conway’s?

Seems so obvious, we’re surprised it’s taken this long to eventuate!

But we’ve taken our time to check out the freshly-cooked fare at the famed seafood outlet near the river.

We’re particularly interested to see how things are shaking in regards to a couple of issues raised by the otherwise warm picture painted by the review at Footscray Food Blog and subsequent Facebook discussions.

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First up, the eat-right-here situation has been well and truly fixed thanks to the addition of four nice long bench tables and equally long seats right outside the Conway’s shop proper and another seating set-up further along under an umbrella.

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Secondly, the chips – about which some misgivings had been voiced.

Our brought-in chips are crunchy, well-cooked and hot.

But, oh, the salt!

I’m a big fan of salt when it comes to F&C, but this level is almost too much for me – and Bennie finds it goes a fair way to spoiling his lunch.

The fish (hake) that comes with our twin Classic Fish & Chip packs ($9) seems a little light-on at first, but proves to be meaty, delicious and filling.

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No surprise our serve of coleslaw ($4.50) is dressed with commercial mayo, but it’s good.

The vegetables are fresh and hand-cut, and we both like the resultant salad a lot.

With its fine, under-cover seating and ease of parking, Hot Fish will certainly be a magnet for those in the greater neighbourhood seeking a fish and chip fix.

But best to request a restrained hand when it comes to the salt shaker!

Hot Fish on Urbanspoon

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