8bit: The Bennie Verdict

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8bit, 8 Droop Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8838

We have a few loose ends to take care of at the venue of our great party of a few nights ago.

I’d be happy to chow down right here and now.

But Bennie has other ideas: “We’ve already had African this week!”

Says Kokeb’s Helen: “I don’t blame you!”

She’s plainly envious as we troop off to 8bit.

Since the initial CTS story on Footscray’s new burger hot-spot, we’ve heard and read a lot … many happy raves, some “meh” and quite a lot of talk about protracted wait times.

I’m very interested to see what Bennie, the undoubted burger expert of the family, thinks.

We’re told the wait time will about 20 minutes.

It ends up seeming like more, but no worries … Bennie soon finds something to keep him happily occupied.

 

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After snagging a pair of stool right there at the shake station, I’m happy, too – watching kitchen action such as this is very much the CTS equivalent of taking in some performance art.

 

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Item 1: Cheese and bacon fries ($7).

These are almost certainly the unhealthiest things we’ve eaten this year – and that’s saying a LOT.

They’re gone in under three minutes.

Yum.

Item 2: After Burner ($9.50) with beef, tomato, red onion, lettuce, cheese, chilli sauce, calapeños, chipotle mayo.

“It’s just a burger,” says Bennie. “Grill’d is better …”

Ouch!

Based on my good-sized sample, I reckon he’s making a pretty harsh call. I really like the bite and freshness of the multi-layered lettuce and the spicy tingle of the mayo.

Item 3: Golden Axe ($9.50) with crispy fried chicken, cheese, Sriracha mayo, slaw.

Bennie rather wishes he’d had this instead.

It’s darn good and the chook really is delightfully crunchy.

The only fault I find is a lack of your actual real chicken flavour.

Some readers, both here and on the CTS FB page, have made unflattering comparisons between 8bit and a certain Latin-American joint in Sunshine.

Now, as much as we love that Sunshine emporium – and we really, really do – I’m not sure such comparisons are really valid.

They’re wholly different propositions, with different aims, staffing levels and – no doubt – rent to pay.

8bit is cool … and despite his lukewarm response, Bennie is keen to return for an outing with the “double beef, double cheese, double bacon, pickles, mustard, lettuce, 8bit sauce” Double Dragon.

See the 8bit website here.

8bit. on Urbanspoon

 

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EAHA/Kokeb/CTS party – the wrap

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EAHA/Kokeb/CTS fund-raising party for Eritrean kids, Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22.

 

It was an evening to raise funds to support the work of Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid.

It was held at Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe in Footscray.

It was beaut!

Thanks go to many people …

 

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Thanks to everyone who supported the event through their credit cards and their presence.

Thanks to the Kokeb family – Helen, Melaku, Naeb … and, most particularly, thanks to Demet, who spent the whole day cooking the wonderful food we enjoyed so much!

 

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Thanks to Louise and Noray from EAHA for telling us about Eritrea and the group’s work.

Thanks to the rest of EAHA gang – Wafa, Namarek, Aziza and Amira – for providing smiles, great ginger-infused Eritrean coffee and popcorn, dates and sweet cake hombasha to go with it.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for his as-always fantastic pics. He really saved me. Maybe it’s time to face reality – that hosting these events AND taking good blog pics is too much of a stretch!

Thanks to Matt from Westgate Party Hire for providing the serving platters free of charge.

 

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What we enjoyed food-wise:

 Yebeg wat: Freshly made beef stew served with injera.

Doro wat: Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in dense stew of onions, berbere and Ethiopian butter. Boiled eggs are knife-poked and simmered in the stew. A high holiday treat in Ethiopia.

Misir wat: Split lentils stewed with onion, garlic and a blend of Ethiopian herbs.

 

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Alecha: Potatoes, carrot and split peas cooked in onion, garlic and olive oil. A mild dish with a touch of turmeric and a subtle blend of herbs and spices.

Salad, injera.

$1000 has been deposited in the EAHA bank account.

Thanks!

 

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Indian “street food” joint hits West Footscray

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Akshaya, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8394 9713

We may be prone to speculate about when or if the West Footscray stretch of Barkly Street will reach Indian restaurant saturation point.

And we certainly don’t feel obliged to check out, let alone write about, each new arrival.

But when a new place goes the ultra-cheap “street food” route – we’re there!

Akshaya is a sister restaurant to the warmly regarded establishment of the same name in Ashley Street.

But here the focus is quite different – with the spick and span new outfitting reflecting the budget cafe-style menu (see below).

There’s chat dishes, dosas and idlys and vadas, some Indo-Chinese, a few other things of interest … all vegetarian.

 

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Bhel puri ($4.99) is OK and fully fresh enough, but lacks a little in the zing department for my tastes. But then, it just about always does. Maybe bhel puri simply isn’t for me or I keep hoping it will be something it isn’t.

 

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My thali ($9.99) is way better.

I’m told the fundamental difference between the joint’s north Indian and south Indian thalis is rotis (with the former) and rice (with the latter).

The rice with my south Indian thali is excellent.

It’s basically a pulao studded with nice spud bits. But with its mint, cinnamon and other spices, it comes across as a sort-of vegetable biryani.

The sambol – heavily spiced with corianader – and tomato chutney are as you’d commonly find with a dosa meal and are fine.

The vegetable curry also has potato among the other vegetables. It’s oily and delicious.

The crumbed okra looks like it may an Indian take on the Korean popcorn fried thing.

It’s not – the lady finger pieces are tender and not at all crunchy.

But they’re beaut, packed with okra flavour and go nicely with the really thick dollop of yogurt.

On the basis of this preliminary meal at the brand new Akshaya, I’d caution that spice levels here are high.

Not uncomfortably so for me, but in the above thali only the okra and yogurt escape intense spicing.

Bravo for Akshaya for developing a different angle on what is a very competitive strip.

Akshaya on Urbanspoon

 

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Great food + good company = help for Eritrean kids

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7.24pm, Monday, July 21: There is a single ticket left!

To book for this event, go HERE.

A FUND-RAISING PARTY FOR ERITREAN AUSTRALIAN HUMANITARIAN AID, HOSTED BY CONSIDER THE SAUCE AND KOBEB RESTAURANT & CAFE

Putting aside for a moment the regular Consider The Sauce Feast activity, we will instead host a wonderful fund-raising party on Tuesday, July 22.

This is a lovely story of how one thing can lead to another and another with winning results.

A few months back, while attending the African festival in Footscray, I spied a poster for an event being held at the Flemington Community Centre in Mount Alexander Road that very night.

It was a a fund-raising dinner for a charity called Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid (EAHA).

So I fronted and paid my $30 with visions of a second injera meal for the day and other whoop-de-doo swirling in my head.

I got to have my (very nice) meal and, beforehand, some explosively good Eritrean-style coffee – rich, thick, sweet and heavily spiced with ginger.

I did, though, have to get to grips with the fact that there was to be some serious business and speechifying.

But as I listened and watched the slide presentation, I found myself being inspired by the work EAHA does in supporting Eritrean kids in refugee camps in Sudan. (Think about that for a minute …)

So I introduced myself to the EAHA operatives Louise and Anwar, who had done the speechifying, and offered the services of Consider The Sauce for a fund-raising bash.

This is a small, grassroots charity it is easy to admire – there are no middlemen, there is no “administrative leakage”. Virtually all the funds they raise go straight to those kids in Sudan.

Read more about EAHA here or on the group’s Facebook page here.

From the there it was a simple matter of finding a venue.

So I returned to Kobeb in Barkly Street.

There I soon discovered Helen and Melaku were up for it – and also that Helen is Eritrean and was brought up in New Zealand.

It all fits!

The Kokeb crew will prepare a feast of goodies to be eaten with injera and enjoyed with good company – all for a measly $30.

There is a maximum capacity of 45 people for this event.

Kobeb will be reimbursed for the grocery shopping but apart from that and the TryBooking fees, all the money raised will go to EAHA and thence to those Eritrean kids.

Says Louise: “EAHA is excited to be joining Kenny and Kobeb in this feast and fundraising evening! Not only will it be great food, it will also help us raise money to finish building a primary school at an Eritrean refugee camp in Sudan. As we see it, it’s a win-win situation; people get to taste some of the fabulous cuisine from Ethiopia/Eritrea and raise money for a good cause at the same time!

“100 percent of money that EAHA raises goes directly towards projects benefiting Eritrean refugees. EAHA is run by volunteers, most of whom have direct connections to the area in Sudan where most Eritrean refugees have been living for decades. EAHA is completely committed to helping the community there and ensuring that every dollar raised is spent to the greatest effect.”

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EAHA/Condsider The Sauce/Kokeb Party,

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22, from 7pm to 9.30pm (approx).

Soft drinks free, alcohol to paid for separately.

To book for this event, go HERE.

Coming to Barkly St (not Indian)

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In our very early days, Bennie’s mum and I had a single, desultory upstairs meal at Palmerino’s.

A few times back then I stopped by for a beer or three but never managed to crack it with the regulars in what seemed like a rather odd amalgam of bottle store, bar and social club.

Then it became a franchised bottle shop.

Well, all that is no more – and the Bottle-O is no longer a bottle-o.

Instead, it is being rapidly transformed into a restaurant-bar, with the upstairs space to continue to be used for functions.

The man behind 540 On Barkly is Simon Matkowsky, formerly chef at the Mona Castle in Seddon.

He tells me his new baby will be up and running before the end of June.

To start with, dinner will be served Tuesdays through to Saturdays, and lunch Wednesdays through to Saturdays.

The draft menu Simon shows me covers all the bases in what could be informally described as “modern Australian”, including tapas, “hand-helds”, pasta and risotto, and grills.

I reckon Simon has snagged a good spot here.

Heading in one direction, there’s not a lot of food, particularly of this variety, all the way to Sunshine and beyond.

Heading in the other direction, 540 On Barkly is situated a nice kilometre or so from the Plough and the eateries of Seddon.

 

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Burger buzz in Footscray

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8bit, 8 Droop Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8838

There’s no doubting the incredible buzz 8 Bit has created.

We’ve heard about queues, long waiting times and even the running out of food.

So we’re a little unsure what sort of situation will greet us, even early on a Tuesday night.

No probs …

Yes, there’s a 30-minute wait time, but we can deal with that – and not too long after placing our orders, we three snag stools overlooking the kitchen/prep area.

And that’s ace, as we get to see the whole 8 Bit team in action.

There and generally the operation has a fast-food feel, though there’s undoubted buzz, spirit and vibe that elevates the experience.

 

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As we wait, taking in the whole scene, we snatch a few moments of passing conversation with on-duty manager Kasey, who has been going since 10am and is still smiling!

And in answer to a FB query about 8 Bit gluten-free, we even see her packing a “hamburger without a bun” for a takeaway order.

In the interests of having a look at the broader menu, I steer away from the burger and go hot dog instead.

 

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My “1942” consists of “grilled bratwurst, pickle relish, curry ketchup, slaw, mustard mayo” and costs $7.50.

It’s a messy, sloppy delight.

The sausage is quite plain but good. But it’s the soft roll, slaw and the distinctive curry ketchup flavour combining with the other condiments that make this a winner.

The chilli cheese fries ($7.50) of “beer battered fries, chilli beef, cheese sauce, jalapeños, spring onions” impress less, I suspect, not because they’re not good but because they’re maybe not my thing.

But I do like the spice tingle from the peppers.

 

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My companions got the burger-and-sides route an seem happy with their choices – small fries ($3), small onion rings ($3), 8Bit with cheese (beef, tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles, mustard, cheese, 8Bit sauce, $8.50) and the splendidly named Altered Beast (beef, bacon, cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, 8Bit sauce, BBQ sauce, $9.50).

I snag an onion ring and find it to be very good.

 

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It’s been a blast to share in the widespread delight the arrival of this snazzy establishment has brought to Footscray.

One simple warning, though – the seating capacity is rather limited.

We may do a follow-up CTS story on the occasion of Bennie getting his hands around one of them burgers – oh boy, is he ever going to love this joint!

Check out the full menu at the 8 Bit website here.

Eat8bit on Urbanspoon

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Footscray’s Roti Road

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Roti Road’s “flying roti men” can be observed in action in the kitchen … or (bottom photograph) right out there on the dinging room floor.

 

Roti Road, 189-193 Barkly Street,  Footscray. Phone:9078 8878

Since Consider The Sauce hit the road, a variety of widespread options – in Seddon, Sunshine, Deer Park – have come to offer Malaysian alternatives away from Racecourse Road in Flemington.

Still, the opening of Roti Road in the premises of what was formerly the Yummie yum cha joint has created quite a buzz … and even a week or so after it opened its doors and very early in the week, there’s obviously quite a few people in the house to see how it  stacks up.

Laksa and the like right here in downtown Footscray?

We’re right with them and excited about it, too.

 

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The revamp leaves the place still looking like a cheap ‘n’ cheerful ethnic cafe, but with very real touches of class to go with it – there’s a lot of dark wood and it looks great.

The staff are on the ball, even when Bennie’s main soup/noodle bowl appears to go missing.

Bennie and I are joined by our equally hongry pals Eliza and Josh, so we get to take quite a few of Roti Road’s offerings for a test run.

We have a great time – but there are hits and misses.

 

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We order two serves of the basic roti cani deal for $5.90 apiece.

This is great stuff – super fluffy roti that is much more substantial than first appears to be the case, accompanied by dal, curry gravy, sambal.

What a super and affordable snack meal, with a serve of four different curries available to supplement for $4-5.

 

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Red bean Okinawa ($5.50) and traditional three-colour milk tea ($4.50).

 

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Satay chicken (six pieces for $9) is sweetish, a little smoky and fine.

 

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Eliza goes OK with her char kuay teow ($10.50), but besides not being made with the wide noodles of her mum’s rendition it seems on the undistinguished side.

 

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The reading/eating public wants to know – so I was always going to order a laksa.

Roti Road’s basic chicken model ($11.50) is dull.

All the expected bits and pieces are in place, but it simply lacks the sort of impact and lusty oomph for which I’m hoping.

The curry soup itself is mild and bland. Eliza takes a taste and concurs.

 

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Bennie stuns me by ordering the fish head noodle ($11.90).

Good it is, too, with plenty of fish pieces both bony and fleshy in a lovely, homely, tangy, milky broth.

But there’s simply too much of it for him and it’s also a little too much on the high-maintenance and fiddly side.

 

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In terms of our main selections, Josh is the big winner with his man-size serve of Malaysian-style curry chicken ($16.80), of which he makes lip-smackingly short work.

It has many chook bits bathing in a sticky sauce that has a sweetish, perhaps smoky tang the likes of which I’ve never before come across is a Malaysian curry.

 

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We grab two of the roti tisu desserts ($9.50, $9.90), the crispy bread “lightly coated with condensed milk and dusted with sugar” and the above specimen additionally having cocoa powder thrown into the mix.

Both are served with garishly white ice-cream and are a sticky, moreish treat – sort of like an “impossible to stop” dessert version of potato chips!

Roti Road is a great Footscray addition, but it’ll simply take a short while to find what works … start with the rotis and go from there.

 

Roti Road on Urbanspoon

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An Ethiopian welcome to Footscray

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Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Snowtree, 119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Eliza was one of the many lovely and talented people with whom I worked at the Geelong Advertister.

IIRC, she left not too long after I did … to pursue a gig practising the black arts of PR on St Kilda Road.

As is so often the case these days, we both sort-of followed our respective journeys from Facebook, where – among other things – I monitor with interest the comings and goings of my extended family of media industry brothers and sisters.

That all changed a few weeks back when I received a wonderful tweet from Eliza:

“Hi Kenny, how are you? Am moving to Footscray tomorrow – will need to keep a closer eye on your blog!”

Cool!

My reply was immediate:

“Hi Eliza! Wow that’s great! Will you have dindins with me and Bennie?”

We took our chat into private channels and – bingo! – here we are just a few weeks later having a swell dinner with Eliza and her partner, Josh.

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Kokeb joined the ranks of Footscray’s Ethiopian eateries a few months ago.

It’s a charming space and we are equally charmed by the service offered us by Helen and the music – on a Tuesday night! – of Melaku.

The menu has all the Ethiopian regulars covered, with a few more interesting items.

But we do away with all that – in the interests of easing “catching up” conversation – by going for the $22 a head banquet.

Eliza has us all laughing with stories of how her PR gig came unstuck and we quickly and in some depth swap notes on how we’re both faring these days, she as online editor and social media honcho … back at the Addy.

It’s a great role for her, I reckon.

But Bennie and I are just as delighted to have she and Josh as new neighbours, and excited to introduce them – for the first time – to the delights of Ethiopian food and injera.

They take to them with gusto – and so they should, as the Kobeb banquet spread is top-notch.

All is fresh, hot and tasty.

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We get two kinds of lamb tibs – the regular “white” and the more spicy and red “Kokeb” tibs. Both very good.

There’s the chopped greens of gomen wot and the delicious and chunky carrot, cabbage and potato of cabbage wot.

And, of course, lentils a couple of ways.

Best of all, though, is the shiro, which is served separately from an earthenware pot.

It’s a hot, spicy split pea soup/stew flavoured with berbere.

There’s plenty of food for our admission fee, and we even take Helen up on her offer to top up our supplies of the vegetable dishes and injera.

Some of the cool, crisp contrast usually offered by the presence of tangily-dressed lettuce, cucumber and tomato would have been a bonus.

As our meal and the eating of it wind down, Bennie gets a case of the restless – so we send him off on the daunting challenge of finding us somewhere that is doing dessert relatively late at night and relatively early in the week in Footscray central.

Success!

So we all troop off to the Korean joint Snowtree.

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To my surprise, they’re still serving what look like pretty acceptable Korean dinners – so maybe this is somewhere to take note of as being (maybe) open when all else is closed hereabouts.

But we make to do with a couple of serves of their “Snowtree Belgium waffle” ($7.50).

The waffles are just OK and the cream, I’m almost certain, comes from a can; but all is wolfed down anyway – including all the fruit and the frozen yogurt.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Eliza and Josh, and – yes – we’ll be making the housewarming!

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Snowtree on Urbanspoon

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Footscray returns to the Western Oval

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Upon moving to Melbourne about three decades ago, I was quite taken with Australian football – this strange game adored by millions but played only, or mostly, in a single country … and a single city (mostly) at that.

As I established a new life for myself, and being as I knew few people, it was not unusual for me to attend three VFL/AFL games a weekend – imagine the cost of doing that these days!

I never got serious about barracking for any particular team, but usually went for the underdogs in any given game.

All that was long enough ago that I actually made it to some of the old-school suburban grounds – in fact, IIRC, I may have actually attended the final ever seniors game at the Western Oval.

So I am really quite excited to front up for the return of Footscray – in the form of the Western Bulldogs’ stand-alone VFL side – to the Western/Whitten Oval.

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Marley and her family, Maddie, Ruby and Rory.

Even if I have reverted to other football codes in terms of my active sports interests.

I arrive in time for the start of the second quarter, end up staying to the final siren and have a ball.

There’s gratifyingly big crowd on hand, kids and families and dogs everywhere – none of whom have had to pay for their suburban footy fix.

It being after breakfast but too early for lunch, I’d envisaged grabbing a coffee from the Bulldog HQ eatery The Pound …

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… but the queue nixes that idea right off.

However, I am delighted to find that among the array of eats being provided at the train-line end of the ground are Remi and his super-gorgeous Airstream Happy Camper Pizza van.

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Too early for lunch? Nah, time to try a whole Happy Camper Pizza for the first time ever!

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My $12 margherita is perfection in every way – hot, fresh, excellent ingredients in just the right proportions and very, very tasty!

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There are old-school footy traditions going on everywhere, including kids and balls and dads on the ground at half-time and anyone with an interest taking in the three-quarter-time huddle.

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I run into and enjoy the company of CTS readers and footy buffs (from left) Michael, Footy Maths Institute, Sian and The Holy Boot’s Football Emporium.

Also met but unphotographed is Dugald Jellie, whose report on the occasion can be seen here.

I understand there are about five more VFL home games for Footscray this season – it’s a CTS recommended activity!

(BTW, Footscray thrashed Richmond …)

Happy Camper Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Rickshaw Run 2014

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A whole weekend fuelled by Vietnamese iced coffee, freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice and love …

Last year, I volunteered for a couple of shifts pulling a rickshaws, Bennie joining me for one of them.

This year, we are up for way, way more.

As much as we can get, in fact.

Why?

Well, our continuing adventures with Consider The Sauce and projects such as The Westies: Dishes of Distinction and the CTS Feasts are only strengthening our commitment to and love for the west, its food and its people.

As well, this year the Rickshaw Run is being co-ordinated by our great pal and partner in the Westies, Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.

We’ve been eagerly anticipating this night and the days ahead for many weeks.

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Getting set for the first night.

Several months before RR14, Lauren had suggested I would be perfectly suited for the role of meeter-and-greeter at our guests’ first stop – D&K Live Fish for fresh oysters.

And so it was agreed.

Turning up at about 5pm after my regular (paying) gig, I take in the scene and then get busy familiarising myself with my job.

Lemons, napkins, time schedule, touching base with David of D&K, oysters … tick, tick, tick, tick tick!

Am I nervous?

Only a little – the simple truth is can’t wait to get into it.

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Maribyrnong mayor Grant Miles gives rickshaw pointers on opening night.

And then it’s on!

I handle my first group, and then another, and then another – and so the night unfolds sweetly and with intense pleasure.

I find I am getting a real kick out of sending our guests on their way with smiles all round.

I develop a spiel that takes in the western suburbs, their many marvels and their incredible food, with plugs for the Westies awards as I go.

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My first group at D&K make short work of their oysters.

I soon discover that in each group of eight, there are some who oyster and some who don’t.

I let them sort it out for themselves.

A week or so before the run, Lauren had tipped me that a group from my NZ hometown of Dunedin would be passing my way.

But that is meant to be on Sunday arvo.

So I am utterly gobsmacked by what happens halfway through Friday night.

There I am, settling into my “welcome to the Rickshaw Run” groove and happily entertaining a wonderful group of gorgeous gals.

Then, with the conversation being focused on oysters, one of them asks me: “Have you ever had Bluff oysters?”

Here’s how the conversation unfolds:

Me: “I’m Dunedin born and bred – of course I’ve had Bluff oysters!”

She: “So are we!”

Me: “What?!”

She: “We’re all from Dunedin!”

Blimey!

Then unfolds a fabulous conversation and gales of laughter.

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From the left, Pip Gardner, Nicole Hesson, Maureen Williams, Sheryl McCammon, Barbara Anderson, Kenny, Alison Glendining and Karen Dalzell.

All of these women are about the same age as me, and the degree of separation between them and myself in terms of connections between friends, family and business is way below six degrees.

Here’s more conversation with the same chick, Barbara, who asked me about Bluff oysters:

Barbara: “So King’s High School – did you know Geoff Anderson?”

Kenny: “Yep – he was pretty much in the same class as me all through high school. His old man was deputy principal. He was a cranky old bugger!”

Barbara: “I married his son!”

Cue more uproarious laughter …

(Confession: My somewhat jaundiced memory of my high school years paints all the King’s High School staff – including those who were young and female – as “cranky old buggers”!)

Thank you, beautiful Dunedinites – I loved meeting you. Where were you in my teenage years?

In the meantime, my newly teenaged son has been having a ball and making himself useful at the same time.

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He’s bonded with Duncan at Toh’s Bakery and is stepping right up in terms of serving the Rickhshaw Run guests banh khot as they listen to the fabulous drummers of Wadaiko Rinko Noriko Tadano.

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As Friday night winds down, we head to Sen for a feed with our similarly ecstatic fellow volunteers.

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Then it’s home for some well-deserved sleep before arising and doing it all over again.

Fronting on Friday, I had been tired from a hard day’s work and wondering how I was going to get through the Rickshaw Run night.

By the end of it, I’m outrageously high on natural love juices.

I struggle to bed down for the night – and I’m not alone.

Lauren texts me in the morning: “I took ages to go to sleep!”

I get there eventually, despite the racket emanating from our next door neighbours’ party and their hideous taste in music.

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It’s fabulous to return to the scene on Saturday morning and watch our wonderful event unfold as the Saturday Footscray street similarly comes to life.

I happily swing into action at the “oyster bar”.

By this time, I am embellishing my spiel with tales of events and people who have already passed my way.

As well, depending on the group, I am finding there is sometimes a lot of interest in food blogging, how it works and my own personal journey.

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Adding to the fun and colour are periodic episodes involving some Footscray locals who think they know a good thing when they see it.

On several occasions I am obliged to explain that, no, the oysters are not for general public consumption and are actually part of a paid, ticketed event!

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Rickshaw passengers Tony and Rosa are offered sweet treats from their own business!

With the lunch rush over, I am able to wander around a bit and take in the greater Rickshaw Run picture.

For a lucky few groups on Saturday afternoon, their journey includes the impromptu generosity of canoli, beignet and biscotti from Cavallaro’s.

Wonderful!

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Then it’s time for us to go on our own Rickshaw Run.

I had been somewhat reluctant about this, seeing as both of us have been having such a swell time in our volunteer roles.

But we’re food bloggers, too, and duty calls … and the truth is we are looking forward to a yummy break and seeing life from the other side of the rickshaw.

We have a real nice time with Kylie, Gee, Sean, Paula, Jenni and Temple.

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We are delighted to be hauled around by our good friend Jane.

As with all other Rickshaw Run punters, our adventure includes making our own rice paper rolls at Sen and hu tieu soup noodles at Phong Dinh.

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As the day’s oyster action winds down, Lauren summons me to Sapa Hills for the dinner shift.

There’s a bottleneck of rickshaws happening.

Sapa Hills is mad busy so there is only one table available for Rickshaw Run purposes.

A suitably assertive marshal is required.

To my surprise, I find I enjoy this role, too!

It’s simple – explain to the guests what the situation is and that they have precisely 20 minutes from the time they are seated to enjoy their bun cha ha noi, charcoal grilled pork with vermicelli and herbs.

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After I’ve done my best to make everyone involved in the flow of what is, after all, a glorified progressive dinner, things move along nicely.

Long and his crew do their bit by making sure the food is on the table pretty much as soon as their guests are seated.

There is one group, though, that is uncomfortable with being given instructions and perhaps even with the whole Rickshaw Run arrangement.

One member of this group gives me a “death stare” of epic proportions.

That’s OK, lady – I love you, too!

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Out on the street and during this logjam, I witness a truly heartwarming scene.

As four rickshaws and their passengers await their tasty time in Sapa Hills, I see all eight guests deeply engaged in conversation with their haulers, who include our friend Georgia.

No way could this be defined as “killing time”!

We give the volunteer meal session at Sen a miss and head for home once more, tired but very, very happy.

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Sunday dawns beautiful, sunny and just right for a whole lot more of the same.

Today the rickshaw haulers are to include a beefy, friendly bunch from the Footscray Rugby Union Club.

At the “oyster bar”, I have long since done away with asking people their names. But I do persist with finding out from whence does every individual customer come.

They come from all over Melbourne – and in terms of the west, I am surprised how many emanate from West Footscray and Williamstown.

They come from all over, actually. From New Zealand, of course, and quite a few from Britain.

But it is only with my second last group that I meet my first North Americans – and even they’re Aussie residents.

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Halfway through our final day, I find my own passion and enthusiasm completely unflagging.

But Bennie is starting to feel a little jaded and bored.

So I am grateful to Lauren’s hubby, Paul, for whipping him away for a few hours to be in another place with other faces.

Hot food at the Croatian Club, if you don’t mind!

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My expected post-oyster Sapa Hills duties fall through on account of there being another ultra-keen volunteer raring to go.

And it’s too early to wait around to enjoy the camaraderie of the Sen volunteer shebang.

So it’s over for us.

Damn.

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A week or so before Rickshaw Run 2014, I became involved in some undignified dickering over the placement of the CTS logo relative to others on the official event T-shirt.

The matter was easily resolved.

But I later reflected on the episode with dismay, horror and revulsion.

It was a glimpse of the sort of ego-driven ambition that sometimes made monsters of myself and my colleagues in our big-time newspaper days.

I don’t want to go down that road again.

So I am profoundly grateful to the Rickshaw Run and all who sailed upon her for a timely reminder of what it should be all about.

I loved every single minute of it and enjoyed meeting with and talking to so many wonderful people from all over the west, Melbourne, Australia and the world.

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The photographs below constitute by far the biggest ever pic spread attempted on Consider The Sauce.

They are published in chronological order as our one night and two days of the run unfolded.

As I actually had a job to do and there were simply so many people and events going on all the time, I unhappily dispensed with the idea of taking names for captions.

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This Sapa Hills vegetarian alternative – eggplant done in the same way as is frequently accorded chicken ribs and calamari – was the best dish of the weekend for me!

eat.drink.westside – a fab preview

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Heaven forbid Bennie and I should ever, through sheer familiarity, take the riches that surround us for granted.

Heaven forbid, too, we should ever become blase and unappreciative of the marvellous opportunities continuing to be afforded us because we are, by now, well-established food bloggers.

A media/blogger “famil” to promote eat.drink.westside, for instance, is something we could easily blow off as it is to cover ground with which we are very familiar – in a general sense, if not specifically.

But front up we do – and have a brilliant time, seeing ‘Scray central through new eyes.

eat.drink.westside, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, is a suite of really fine food events in and around Footscray presented by Maribyrnong City Council.

They include the famed and fabulous Rickshaw Run – for which volunteers are still being sought.

Other events include Dancing with the Tides, Malt Hops Yeast and Water, A Trio of Astrological Bites and Melbourne’s Fish Mongrels.

eat.drink.westside runs from February 28 to March 16, and further details can be discovered here.

Of course, much of the intense enjoyment of our several hours in Footscray is down to the food we eat and the people who make it that we meet along the way.

But we take much pleasure, too, from rubbing shoulders with a bunch of fellow food nuts, including a number of familiar faces and friends.

Among those we do the Footscray Boogie with are food scribe Cara Waters, Ros Grundy from Epicure, Sofia Levin of Poppet’s Window, awesome foodie-about-town Nat Stockley, Cindy and Michael from Where’s the Beef, Dan Kuseta of Milk Bar Mag, Charlene Macaulay of the Star newspaper, Benjamin Millar, my colleague at the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Weekly, Claire from Melbourne Gastronome, and last but far from least Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog, who does a typically top-notch job of being our guide and host.

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We start at 1+1 Mandarin Dumpling Restaurant, where Amy and Julia take us through the rudiments of making dumplings.

The restaurant’s food is based around the Xinjiang province of northern China, which has a large Muslim population, so our dumplings will be of the lamb genre. For those among us of vegetarian bent, there is a filling of cabbage, mushrooms, fried tofu and spring onions.

Amy and Julia show us how to carefully roll out the dough balls of plain four and water so there is a lump in the middle for the filling to sit on.

Gloved and aproned, we have a grand time having a go. We’d all hate to be making enough to feed a hungry family, never mind a busy restaurant!

But we do surprisingly well – mostly the results look like dumplings of a suitably rustic (ugly) variety.

Later, we boil ours up as per the instructions. They hold together really well and taste amazing!

Next stop is a few doors’ up and a real treat – a visit to the legendary T. Cavallaro & Sons.

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Here I finally get to meet Tony Cavallaro (pictured with Sarina).

We try some amaretti and – oh my! – some of the joint’s heavenly and freshly-made canoli.

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Even better, Tony takes us out back where he shows how he makes his Sicilian specialty marzipan lambs using 100-year-old plaster casts.

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On our way to inhale the heady sights, sounds and smells of Little Saigon Market, our group ambles to the sugar cane juice/iced coffee stand for beverages of choice.

Then it’s onward and up Barkly Street for our final destination – Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar.

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Here, Mulu has prepared a magnificent Ethiopian feast – I mean, how ridiculously, enticingly superb does this look?

As is unlike the case with many other Ethiopian eateries hereabouts, Mulu makes her own injera, which joins rice, a typically zesty and simple African salad, three pulse stews, four meat dishes and two of vegetables.

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I could be flip and say I happily content myself with a non-meat platter.

But “content” would be a lie – this is simply fabulous Ethiopian tucker.

I particularly like it when African cooks meet beetroot.

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To complete our journey, Mulu prepares traditional Ethiopian coffee – and as Bennie turns teen in a matter of days, I allow him his first serious taste of this forbidden fruit.

It’s strong, hot and sweet.

I’m horrified to note that he lustily knocks it back like pro!

Thanks for having us – we always learn something new in the west!

And it’s always a pleasure doing so.

Wayo wow in Flemo

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

Ahh, 286 Racecourse Road …

For many years it was the site of this site’s preferred charcoal chicken shop.

Its products were not in any way different or better than those of most similar places.

But when the mood for such trashy food was upon us, we always received a warm welcome there.

And they served their in-house food on real plates with real cutlery.

But now it’s the home of a chic new Japanese eatery.

It looks good, and we enjoy the service and the promptness with which our food is delivered to us.

And on the basis of our first lunch there, we reckon that if Wayo was situated in, say, the CBD, Fitzroy or Prahran, the queues would already be forming.

There’s a few sushi rolls in the display cabinet, but mostly the menu sticks to some basic yet enticing bowls and grills.

The entree list numbers 12 – order all or most of them and you’d have a mighty spread of Japanese-style tapas for a table of four or so punters.

From that list we choose charcoal grilled vegetables (large serve, $13.50) as a shared starter.

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The vegetables – wonderfully including fennel – are beautifully cooked, taste as good and go great with the dark, lusty sesame sauce.

The only quibble we have is with what seems to be a rather steep price.

Bennie chooses a simple bowl of curry with rice ($10; the same meal is available with chicken cutlet for $14).

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The lad is a little underwhlemed.

He reckons the beef quotient is neither here nor there.

But it tastes good to me, the gravy being a rich brown, deep of flavour and – of course – of only mild spiciness.

Maybe he’s outright envious of his dad’s meal.

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Charcoal grilled chicken ($13) with yakiniku BBQ sauce is a delight.

The miso soup appears as if it may be quite a class above that served in most cheap Japanese places, stuffed as it is with onion chunks and more.

But we both find it a tad flavourless.

I suspect this style of miso soup is supposed to look and taste just as we have been provided, but we miss that miso tang nevertheless.

The thigh pieces are much better – only lightly grilled, they boast splendid chook flavour.

That flavour is quite subtle, though, so I may have been better off choosing one of the other, less robust sauces available.

Quite apart from our meals and experience in general, it’s the attention to detail at Wayo that really impresses.

It would be easy to bluntly dismiss, for instance, my serve of potato salad as just a pile cold mashed spud.

But that would be to ignore the skill with which the potato has been cooked and dressed to be fully tender yet maintain such a wonderful, grainy texture.

Likewise with the green salad provided with both our meals – the ingredients are super fresh, well-balanced and dressed with a delicacy seldom seen in such contexts.

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We like, too, the rustic wooden tables.

Blogger note of appreciation: They are non-reflective!

Even the handsome wooden chop sticks and soup spoons add their own touch of joy and class to the Wayo experience.

We suggest the Wayo crew might want to place a sign somewhere that says something along the lines of:

“1. Please order at counter.

 2. Please pay when ordering.

 3. Cash only.

 4. Thank you!”

That way any potential confusion, embarrassment or disappointment may be avoided!

Even with the minor caveats expressed above, we are very eager to return.

Wayo Japanese Dining on Urbanspoon

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Turning to mush on NYE

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The Little Mushroom Company, New Year’s Eve @ Footscray Park

Part way through the fireworks ‘n’ music jamboree at Footscray Park, we heard a rumour that Maribyrnong council had resolved to repeat the debut event if a 1000 or so people turned up or the debut.

Well, by our reckoning there were at least five times that many in attendance, so a repeat would seem to be guaranteed.

It was a swell party with a really nice vibe.

But the council may want tweak a few detail here and there, including a closer finessing of the car-parking situation.

We parked in the VU car park but it still took us a while to escape – and that was while the final band, Bjorn Again, was still thumping away with that fat, boring ’80s Euro-pop sound.

As well, the council will be well advised to seriously look at exhorting more food trucks to cater to the masses.

As it was, the half-dozen or so trucks at the party – including the Curry Truck and Mr Burger – struggled to cope.

The lines were very long!

We rather regretted not investing in Footscray rice paper rolls or Vietnamese coleslaw. Next time for sure!

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But we certainly don’t regret partaking of the Little Mushroom Company fare, even if the mushie crew was slow getting moving and we had to wait a while.

We ordered one apiece of the Mexican and Greek mushroom burgers at $10, although we found there to be little that was Greek or Mexican about either.

There was no doubting the quality, though.

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These were really nice sandwiches, the dressings were just right, the rocket was fresh-as and the buns a delight.

I reckoned the mushrooms themselves were a little slight in terms of robust mushie flavour, but they sure were big, meaty and juicy.

Some may quibble at the prices, but $10 seems to us in line with food truck standards and those of festival catering – and a short festival was what this bash very much resembled.

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Music was not high on our list of party priorities, but we really enjoyed the The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.

We threw frisbee.

It was a hoot meeting a number of CTS pals, including Mr Footy Maths Institute, just as we were all about go “ooohh” and “aaahh” over the fireworks.

And it was fine, too, to hang out with a number of nice young ladies even if I am, for them, not Kenny but merely “Bennie’s dad”.

Best way to ascertain what the Little Mushies are up to is likely to be through their Facebook page.

The Little Mushroom Co 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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Old-school F&C

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CK’s Cafe and Chippery, 253A Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 4560

The stretch of Barkly Street up towards Victoria Street remains unreconstructed Footscray and is not, it appears, perceived in any way as a food precinct.

Yet while the area is changing in terms of apartments and the like, it already teems with eating activity.

The options range from the new-look Plough Hotel and a couple of famous old-school Chinese places to Lentil As Anything, a growing number of African establishments, a (mostly) late-night pizza joint, a Nanado’s and a pair of cafes.

Chris, the “C” of CK – the other letter is a bloke named Ken – tells us he’s even heard the short-lived Italian buffet-style place across the road from his new cafe is scheduled for a fresh incarnation.

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It could be that the guys’ cafe and chippery may find a handy niche for itself in this mixed environment.

As Chris points out, the area is a lot more residential than it appears from street level.

What they’re offering is a nothing-fancy range of fast-food.

In terms of fish and chips, it would be unfair to compare with the polish of, say, Ebi – but being situated between that Essex Street place and the new food-to-eat-right-away outing at Conway’s, and offering an alternative to what’s around in their immediate vicinity, may do them right.

Certainly we have only the most minor of quibbles regarding a two-man meal that costs us only small change over $15.

(Conway’s, BTW, is where CK’s is sourcing their fish …)

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My blue grenadier ($5) looks a little lonely presented alone but tastes fine. The batter is relatively ungreasy but does come away from the fish.

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Bennie’s burger with the lot ($6.50) appears rather unimpressive when first brought to table, but the boy likes it a lot – as you can see from the photograph, the patty is significantly more beefy than is often found in such places and at such prices.

As he says, it ain’t the Grill’d of which he’s so fond, but it IS less than half the price.

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The chips ($3) are the standout of our meal – lots of ‘em, hot, crisp, perfectly cooked.

We’ve even been given a choice of regular or chicken salt.

Chris charges us $2 rather than the listed $3.50 for the coleslaw he’s quickly whipped up for us on account of he thinks it’s rather on the mean side size-wise.

I carelessly neglect to take a picture of it, but it impresses – freshly made cabbage and carrot with just the right, restrained amount of commercial mayo.

Meaning it’s a little on the sticky side – as opposed to the mayo/cabbage soup we are often served elsewhere!

CK's Cafe and Chippery on Urbanspoon

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Vietnamese gumbo?

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Bun Ta, 108 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 4130

Bun Ta is a brand spanking new Footscray joint.

Sort of … see below.

It has a dish I have never spied on a Vietnamese menu before now.

I know this because, being a fan of almost everything to do with New Orleans and South Louisiana, had I ever before come across something described as “Vietnamese gumbo rice vermicelli soup”, nothing at all could have prevented me from ordering it.

So I pounce on it at Bun Ta, despite eliciting only the most vague descriptions of the dish and its protein protagonists, and a gentle warning that it is of “strong flavour”.

As I soon discover, the “gumbo” is presumably meant to be “jumbo”, as in the fat chopstick-defying noodles.

Oh, how wonderfully Westie – stitched up by a linguistic menu glitch, and ending up with a damn fine lunch anyway!

Such menu snafus are, of course, one of the routine pleasures of eating out in the west.

They’re good fun and I mean no mean-spiritedness in pointing this one out.

But sometimes you just have to laugh and go with the flow.

As it is, I really like my bun mam kho ($10).

It comes across as a Vietnamese take on tom yum – the broth is slightly sweet, slightly sour, slightly spicy and all delicious.

It’s made, I am subsequently told, using fish sauce and lemongrass among other ingredients.

The slithery noodles are joined by pork belly, fish, squid and prawns.

But this is not a meaty affair – these ingredients have a gentleness about them that is in harmony with the whole, which includes some in-bowl greenery and much more on the side.

It’s a real nice alternative to the more familiar (in these parts) pho or hu tieu dishes.

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Bun Ta is actually the much-loved stalwart Huy Huy given a new name and a swish new look.

The ownership, I’m told, is the same, and I’m guessing much else is as was.

But still, this sort of rejuvenation is good for everyone and I suspect Bun Ta will become just as revered at its earlier incarnation.

The new place has four kinds of coleslaw for $12-14 and three kinds of pancake for $13 amid many familiar dishes.

One main that catches my eye is bo ti me – rare beef with tamarind ($15). But it’s only served as a main, so will have to await another visit with a fang friend for company.

I will return soon, as well, for their “7 toppings broken rice”, which is gaining the most raves of the Bun Ta social media action I have seen.

The Bun Ta Facebook page is here.

Bun Ta on Urbanspoon

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A Footscray playground

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Khartoum Centre Restaurant & Cafe, 143-145 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 0452 639 329

Sometime soon after an early CTS story on  Khartoum Centre, we stopped considering the place as an eats option.

This was largely due to service that was genial but disconcertingly haphazard and a confusing menu that was difficult to navigate in terms of options and prices.

That’s all changed.

The place has been given a makeover, the food choices and their prices are clearly laid out in a big back-lit menu behind the serving counter, and there is a reassuringly routine process for ordering, receiving and paying.

This is great!

Because while this eatery is nominally Sudanese, the menu ranges across quite a broad spectrum.

This is illustrated by the fact that much of the menu is available in alternates based on injera, Lebanese bread, spaghetti or rice.

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And the super grilled-meat-with-rice dishes are very similar to those to be had at Sunshine’s hot new kebab spot.

This diverse approach and a more user-friendly experience mean CTS is likely to use Kartoum Centre as a playground in coming months.

There’s one dish here that is clearly the most popular – at lunchtime anyway.

Foul is delicious, nutritious, dirt cheap and at Kartoum Centre comes in configurations that range from plain to the more ritzy that include extra vegetables, salad and so on.

A complementary bowl of lamb broth with chunks of aromatics is nice enough but plain as can be and defiantly under-seasoned.

Ordering lamb curry ($12) in African restaurant may appear to be folly.

But I’m so comfortably secure with the level of food here that I’m happy to give it a go – on the basis that it will be good and that this Footscray curry will bear little or no resemblance to a West Footscray curry.

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I’m certainly correct on the latter count – no orthodox curry is this.

The tomato-based gravy seems to be seasoned with little more than salt and pepper. And certainly not with any of the spices we routinely think of as being curry.

But as for being good goes, I’m dead wrong – it’s very, very good!

All is richness and deep flavour, with the lamb pieces – some of them on the bone – ultra-tender and the fat easily discarded.

Forget curry – this is more like a fantastic stew or goulash.

With heaps on injera and good salad bits on the side, it’s a winner.

See our earlier story here and a more recent one at Footscray Food Blog here.

Khartoum Centre Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Burgers out, 100% Nepalese in

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Magic Momo Kafe, 588 Barkly St, West Footscray. Phone: 9972 2616

So we never made it back to Magic Momo Kafe, after our initial momo-focused visit, to assess and enjoy its efforts at a trans-national menu – though we heard the burgers were actually quite good.

Too late for all that now, though, as the place has changed dramatically.

There’s a rather nice fit-out in a more restaurant style and the menu is now hardcore Nepalese.

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We remain bemused that chowmein is part of Nepalese food culture but we have come across it before – at our fondly remembered visits to the now defunct Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar in  Footscray central – and we’re happy to give it another whirl.

Magic Momo’s egg rendition ($7.95), with its egg noodles, cabbage and other vegetables, is satisfying if rather plain.

We’re inclined to say a heavier hand with the salt shaker and higher spice levels are required, but no doubt this dish is exactly the way it’s meant to be.

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Of course, a visit here simply necessitates a momo experience – so we go a fried serve of the pork numbers ($8.95).

They’re good, though rather small.

The casings are pleasantly chewy and mildly spicy innards blazingly hot and juicy.

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From the four-choice fish section of the menu we choose “Nepalese-style gravy fish” ($13.95).

It’s a bigger serve than the above photo suggests.

The gravy appears to be a no-nonsense tomato-and-onion-based number that is mildly spiced and has a heavenly, lemony tang. We’re later told one of the seasoning ingredients is dried oregano!

The flavour of the fish – butterfish, we’re told – is mild but comes through nicely, something quite rare in fish dishes from this broader part of the world.

This is recognisably the same dish as I’d tried a few nights previously, but the earlier portion (see photo below) was a good deal more moist and several degrees more excellent.

We love it that Magic Momo Kafe is providing an alternative on a stretch of Barkly Street that seems destined to reach doubles figures of Indian eateries in the not too distant future.

And we’re interested in trying what appear to be Nepelese-style versions of thalis they offer – chiura sets (with beaten rice as previously experienced at Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar) and khana sets.

See menu below.

On the basis of this meal, though, we suspect homely, simple and satisfying is the go here – rather than whizz-bang.

But often that’s a fine, thing, too.

Magic Momo Kafe on Urbanspoon

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Community glue in WeFo

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Longest Lutheran Lunch, St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 362 Barkly Street, Footscray

Cecil is the pastor who keeps an eye on Bennie’s school in north Sunshine.

Having known him for several years, enjoyed his company on quite a few occasions and even having sought his advice and counsel on various issues, I consider him a really cool cat.

Even if he does wear red socks with sandals in summer while out and about on his bicycle.

So it seems seriously remiss of me that until today I’ve never gotten around to visiting his Barkly Street church for a service or any other purpose – especially as Bennie and his mum, Deb, have been regulars for some time.

As it turns out, I could hardly have chosen a better day to show my face – today St Matthew’s is joining other Lutheran churches around the country for a proverbial long lunch.

I have an exceedingly grand time – and the food, as good as it is, is just part of the pleasure.

Even more important, there’s an all-embracing community vibe that lives and breathes inclusiveness.

So not only do I get to hang out with Bennie, Deb, Pastor Cecil and his lovely wife, Jane, and Tom, Bennie’s school principal, I mix it with a whole bunch of people.

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Heavily represented among the gathering of several hundred are many members of the Mara people from Burma. They share an evolving “fellowship” and church premises with the St Matthew’s congregation.

Sprinkled through the assembled masses are representatives of the Filipino, Sudanese and Ethiopian communities, along with many older folks and many, many youngsters of all stripes – some of whom aren’t even playing games on mobile devices.

For food, there’s a whole pig and a whole lamb being spit-roasted and dismembered, along with all sorts of salads and curries – and even some regulation snags in bread.

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I make happy with samples of a couple of the chook curries and more of the pork than I should. It’s simple, delicious and seems to have a whiff of ginger about it. It goes swell with the beetroot salad I spy on my second go round and a sublime potato salad.

Bennie does much as I do, though Deb is effusive in her praise of an old-school curried rice salad she has happened upon.

Then out come the cakes – including a rendition of our fave deep dark chocolate cake that Bennie has knocked out this very morning unaided by any parental supervision whatsoever.

It’s brilliant!

There’s also baked cheesecake, scrumptious hand-made cupcakes and much more.

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Jane wheels out a candle-laden hazelnut number from Hausfrau in celebration of her hubby’s birthday.

Everyone in the dwindling crowd happily sings Happy Birthday.

In a world in which the Uniting Church has been in the news for flogging off many churches across Victoria, devastating the communities involved, and in which the mega-churches seem to offer something of a worship equivalent of shopping centres, I worry about the future of such an enterprise as St Matthew’s.

So I talk to Simon, who happens to be chairman of Bennie’s school and is also involved in future planning for St Matthew’s.

He tells me that while the church is facing issues – among them, the property needs a comprehensive overhaul and Pastor Cecil will be retiring in a few years – the future is nevertheless secure.

Part of that is being under the umbrella of greater Lutheran family, and part of it, too, no doubt is the freehold nature of the land ownership.

But equally, the soul of the place would seem to admit no other option but continuing on.

One thing’s for sure – I shouldn’t let myself be such a stranger in future.

Thanks for having me!

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On tour with Lauren

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lauren1

One of the most profound of the many pleasures of bringing you Consider The Sauce has been our friendship with Lauren of Footscray Food Blog.

She’d already had her site up and running for about a year by the time we came along but she was sincerely welcoming right from the outset.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed countless laughs, more than a few meals and been a constant source of advice and support for each other. All the while discovering there can be a lot more to what we are doing than merely running a website full of reviews.

Many of you will be aware Lauren has been running food tours of various kinds in and around Footscray.

At first, these were under the auspices of the CAE, but today’s snack/street food tour of Footscray was part of the council’s Discover Footscray Tours program.

The plan is for Lauren to see out the year in terms of her already scheduled commitments before going out on her own.

And the sharing spirit continues … in some ways we are blogger competitors, yet it never seems that way.

So the idea, as it stands, is for me to inherit her CAE gig come the new year.

She’s done such a grand job for them, they were eager to have a ready-made replacement. And Lauren, bless her, had no hesitation it putting my name forward.

So there you go – early 2014 will likely see us both leading groups of happy food hounds around yummy westie neighbourhoods.

Still, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me, so I am eager to glom as much information and advice from Lauren as I can.

So as future tour guide, hungry foodie and fervent westie, it was a pleasure to join Lauren’s other punters today.

They included our mutual pal Nat Stockly as well as regular readers of both our blogs, such as Cynthia, Sian and Michael.

Lauren was a lovely and very informative guide, and everyone had a fine old time.

I don’t want to give too much away about the actual stops made and food consumed – except to say that even an old hand such as myself was surprised to find the most glorious burek in the most unlikely of places!

Lauren’s tours are recommended – even to those of you who reckon you’ve got a good handle on our westie food.

New Year post-script: After much contemplation, I have decided against being a tour guide for the CAE. Instead, I will be focus on more and better CTS Feasts, the Westies (of course!) and hopefully other exciting projects! But please do check out Lauren’s tours.