Burgers? Best in show

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Zigzag Burgers ‘n’ Salads, Showgrounds Village, 320 Epsom Road, Flemington. Phone: 9372 5948

We’ve never felt any affinity for the showgrounds shopping precinct – the very honourary Lebanese fare of Saj aside.

Even last week, upon spying a new fast-food outlet, my eyes and mind slid by with barely a hint of interest.

Perhaps its was the somewhat conflicted description of “Burgers ‘n’ Salads”.

But then a regular reader and burger fan – Hi Lauren! – broadly hinted she’d love the CTS verdict before taking the plunge herself.

And then, when doing some research, I noted some very positive reviews at Urbanspoon and on the joint’s Facebook page.

Hmmm, this was starting to look more promising by the minute.

So much so that a report from our burger guru of choice, Nat Stockley, that he’d heard mixed comments about the place in no way deterred a happy, hungry CTS Team of four fronting up for Sunday lunch.

Our verdict?

Oh, yes – this is a winner!

Everything we had was good or excellent.

Our multi-facted order arrived within minutes but the food showed no signs of hasty preparation.

And the pricing (see menu below) is excellent.

 

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Bennie went the brisket bacon deluxe ($9.90) and he liked it plenty.

He reported the brisket was less like the BBQ versions we’ve been indulging in mightily in recent months and more like the brisket “you get in pho”.

But it all worked good for him, and that included the dressing/sauce and salad components.

As part of a combo deal, he also got a serve of the “house cut chips”, another order of which we got to share.

They were tasty but not crisp – not that it mattered.

 

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Our table also ordered a serve apiece of the popcorn chicken (above) and the popcorn prawns – both priced at $8.50.

The serves looked small but were big enough to ensure that all four of us got a good taste of both.

They were both excellent – crisp, unoily and tasty, with dipping sauces (chilli garlic mayo and Thai lime chilli) providing nice contrasts.

 

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The recipient of the chicken burger ($9.50) was happy with his lot while also reporting that the thin chicken breast, grilled not crumbed, was a little on the dry side.

No matter – as with all our burgers, the whole in terms of construction, presentation, balance and ingredients made such a criticism very muted indeed.

 

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I reckon I did best of all of us with my beef bacon deluxe ($9.90).

Again, all was in harmony.

This was a damn fine burger for $10 – one could easily pay another $5 and more around town for such a fine sandwich.

 

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And the salad portion of Zigzag?

Well, obviously we were in no mood for any such thing.

But the salad display actually looked very interesting and varied.

This could be a winner for Zigzag, as several customers were going salad instead of burgers when we were in the house, and the food options – especially quick, cheap and healthy ones – are not thick on the ground around here.

We had a super lunch, and on that basis we vote unanimously that Zigzag is a new, small western suburbs business that is doing good.

And for those who care, there’s not an ounce of hipster to be seen – and as little likelihood of queues.

Check out the Zigzag website here, though the menu there is not as detailed as the one below.

 

Zigzag Burgers n' Salads on Urbanspoon

 

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Do dogs dig dumplings?

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I Love Dumplings, 311 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9372 5218

The restaurant also known as Chinese Spicy and Barbie Kitchen appears to have bowed to the obvious and inevitable by embracing I Love Dumplings as its major name.

It’s also moved a few doors up the road – into what was once a bank building.

 

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On the outside, it’s drab, box-like appearance still reeks of financial sector.

 

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Inside, and after a no-doubt expensive and extensive makeover, it looks like, well, a Chinese restaurant.

With a happy, big mid–week lunch crowd in attendance and a vinegary tang in the air, it sounds and smells like one, too.

Team CTS is today two robust appetites and one not so much.

We order smartly and stick solely to dumplings – or almost – in celebration of the management’s embracing of the dumpling love mantra.

The lunch menu (see below), mind you, has a lot of very well priced and interesting non-dumpling dishes about the $10 mark that will make this a lunch hot spot for sure.

We spend about $10 per head and eat like kings.

 

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Pan-fried chicken corn dumplings ($9.80 for 15) are extreme in terms of plainness but taste beaut, the lovely chicken meat having enough corn kernels to provide flavour and texture lifts.

 

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Steamed pork and spring onion buns ($11.80 for six) are, we are assured, quite different from the regular BBQ pork buns.

We don’t find that to be the case, but they’re a hit anyway – quite delicate, and with enough moistness in the filling to offset the doughy exteriors.

 

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Steamed vegetarian dumplings in Sichuan chili sauce ($9.80 for 15) are our best dish.

The soy-based, thin sauce has enough of a spice kick to make the already fab dumplings really sing.

The parcels are packed with all sorts of goodies that make the absence of any sort of animal protein an irrelevance.

Do dogs dig dumplings?

The guide dog trainers of two lovely labs that have been in the house for lunch-time assure us they would if they could!

 

I Love Dumplings 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?

Far out Flemo burger

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Streat, 307 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9629 4222

Consider The Sauce has stuck its nose into Streat numerous times.

But such has long been our penchant for the spicier, more exotic and evolving available elsewhere on Racecourse Road that we’ve never stayed to partake.

And that’s despite the fact we know Streat is a commendably community-minded enterprise that works tirelessly to fight homelessness.

So I’m happy to be meeting long-time CTS supporter Daniel for lunch and to be doing so at Streat at his suggestion.

I am surprised, however, to lay eyes on the blackboard menu (see below).

My recollection is of a more diverse line-up including the likes of Korean fried chicken.

Today, we’re gazing at a menu that runs simply from breakfast to bagels and burgers.

Still … no problem!

Especially when our lunches arrive.

 

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My “Racecourse Rd” burger ($11, $12.50 with bacon) really is excellent in every way.

Maybe not quite a 10, but a 9 for sure.

Everything is proportionately spot on, expertly assembled and of high quality – the beefy patty, the dressings, the salady bits, the sauce, the cheese, the perfectly two-handed size.

The wire basket of chips ($3.50) is just as good – there’s precisely right number of them to complete a fine and finely priced lunch.

 

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Daniel goes with his regular choice here – the “Wellington St” ($12.50) with fried chicken with coleslaw, mayo, Sriracha, mayo and cheese.

This looks the goods, too.

The chicken chunk is very fat and, my pal tells me, crisply fried.

At his request, we also get a couple of small pots of Sriracha for chip-dipping purposes.

I’m glad I’ve finally hit the Streat – ya never know where the next perfect burger meal is coming from!

 

STREAT on Urbanspoon

 

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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

More Wayo wow

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wayo24
Wayo Japanese Dining, 286 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 5484

Wayo is not one of your more formal Japanese restaurants; nor is it your quickie purveyor of sushi rolls, though there are those available.

So … Wayo IS a rather elegant cafe-style eatery.

And on the basis of a second visit – see a story about the first here – it’s doing truly superb things.

This time around, four dishes are selected from the entree-sharing list.

This simple, affordable Japanese-style tapas spread is truly memorable, each and every dish an outright winner.

 

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“Hearty veggie miso soup” ($4.50) has deep miso flavour.

And there’s a goodly bunch of onion, carrot and potato in there.

“Hearty” is certainly the operative word.

We’re well used to Japanese potato salad being more like mashed spuds in the style also found accompanying BBQ in the US.

Such is the case with this “potato salad with Japanese gravy” ($5.50).

Here, though, the pile of dull-looking warm potato adorned with enoki mushrooms looks distinctly unappetising.

But the flavour is fabulous – surely there is a strong cooked-in-stock thing going on here.

Not sure about the clear “gravy” – is it a glaze or is it merely an oil slick?

No matter – we love this, too.

 

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Nasu dengaku ($8) also defies expectations of the orthodox.

Instead of a halved baby eggplant, this version consists of a thick slice of regular eggplant. The skin has separated from the flesh and gained a brittleness that makes it almost seem like a bottomless bowl.

Is it meant to be eaten? It tastes OK, with smoky flavour, but is a little weird.

But the flesh itself and the gooey miso sauce are sublime – so silky and delicious.

 

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“Tirikara fried chicken” (five pieces for $7.50) is made of ribs or ribettes rather the advertised fully-fldged wings – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In any case, the price is still right for the simple reason they taste sooooo good – dry of batter with, I think, a strong garlic flavour.

Based on this rather randomly selected array of dishes, we’re definitely up for return visits to Wayo.

 

Wayo Japanese Dining on Urbanspoon

 

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A monarch among Melbourne’s laksas

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M Yong Tofu, 314 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 0168

Driving home from a Saturday night function in Flemington, I do a double take as I tool along Racecourse Road.

What the … ?

What was once our cherished Grand Tofu has a new name and the exterior has a new paint job.

So naturally I make it my urgent business the next day to find out what gives.

 

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I am immediately re-assured upon seeing this sign in the window.

Inside, I find that everything is indeed the same – including the welcome from the ever-smiling Suzanne.

 

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Turns out some alterations in the partnership arrangements of the business have occasioned some superficial tweaking.

“Everything the same,” Suzanne tells me. “Laksa still good!”

“You mean the same angry management and crap service?” I ask.

Much laughter ensues as I await my laksa – because, yes, I just have to make sure.

And it is.

Heady broth packed with flavour, fresh mint brightly contrasting with the cooked curry leaves.

Greens beans, broccoli and two pieces of heavenly eggplant.

Supper sodden tofu, fish cake – and, oh yeah, chicken.

Look, I’m not going to proclaim this as the best laksa in the west or Melbourne.

There’s more than enough outfits and websites and blogs doing that sort of thing when it comes to food “lists” – almost always without having done the incredibly hard yards that would give those sort of claims to be definitive any sort of gravitas.

But I sure do love this laksa.

Regardless of the name change …

The crew here have printed up a new menu with lots of pretty pictures, but I am happy note the price rises have been very tiny indeed.

Such is not always the case when such overhauls take place.

M Yong Tofu on Urbanspoon