Thank you, Footscray!

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Entries for Consider The Sauce Guest Post Competition were slow in arriving but in the end we got a goodly number.

All were good.

A couple were longer and more detailed than the winner.

But in the end, the honours go to Erika Jonsson for her eloquent and soulful homage to Footscray.

Congratulations and we hope you enjoy your lunch at Woven.

And thanks to all who entered!

 

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By Erika Jonsson

My four-year-old son’s fingertips are stained yellow.

He’s licked them clean but the turmeric always lingers in the beds of his nails for a day or two after an Ethiopian feast.

He loves eating with his hands, dipping tangy injera into brightly coloured stews or wrapping it around perfectly cooked meat.

Joe slides down from his seat and heads to the counter to pay – a responsibility he takes seriously.

“Don’t forget your manners,” I remind him as he walks away.

He proffers a $50 note and accepts his change.

“Amesegenallo,” he says.

The faces behind the counter light up – shock quickly becomes delight at the realisation a small, blond boy has just said thank you in Amharic, Ethiopia’s primary language.

“Thank you” is a powerful word in any language, but say it to someone in their native tongue when they are not expecting it and you can open up a conversation in an instant.

My son has spent the entirety of his short life in Footscray.

He loves to talk and he loves to make people happy.

So he says “cảm ơn” when he’s been eating pho; “terima kasih” at Roti Road; “shuk’ran” at Babylon (a favourite that

has now sadly closed); and “grazie” to Joe the barber for a handful of lollies after a hair cut.

He takes diversity for granted.

“How good does Kebab Surra smell?” he exclaims from across the road as he catches a whiff of charcoal and spice emanating from his favourite restaurant. “Can we have Kebab Surra for dinner please, please, please?”

I grew up in a household with plenty of culinary variety, but nothing like the world of choices Joe has on offer within a kilometre of our central Footscray apartment.

When we moved to Footscray, when I was pregnant with Joe, my friends and family were aghast.

Occasionally they still express concerns about safety or doubts over our inner-urban lifestyle.

I just laugh.

I’ve never regretted our decision to move to Footscray.

Every now and then I wish for more space, but the trade-off isn’t worth it.

Joe and I walk everywhere.

We eat out when we feel like it, and a family meal for three plus an increasingly hungry nine-month-old rarely costs more than $40.

We have a world of food right outside our door, and it opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to travel, friendship and cultural awareness.

Life tastes good in Footscray.

Meal of the week No.6: Ebi

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f&c

 

The dinner hour for CTS and, we suspect, many other bloggers and foodies is somewhere between 6pm and 7pm.

For some, this is the legacy of having – or having had – very young children.

Perhaps “available light” has something to do with it.

I’ve even heard of bloggers who only do lunch for that very reason!

But a big part of it for us is … we’re hungry for food, hungry for adventure.

So 8pm seems way too late, especially on a work/school night.

The Mediterranean post-sietsa 9pm or later?

Unimaginable!

Early evening dining also means missing rush hour and always getting a seat.

In the case of tiny Ebi in West Footcray, that latter point is no small thing.

Entering by myself and taking a seat at the bar, I go through the usual routine … look at the display cabinet, consult the blackboard menu, peruse the regular menu, before saying …

“I’ll have fish and chips thanks, John – large!”

John: “How did I know you were going to say that?!”

Me: “Hmmpf! You must have other regulars who always order the same thing?”

The genial, chrome-domed Ebi host the proceeds to count off a long list of regulars with whom he is on first-name terms and their invariable choices – “fish three ways”, vegetable balls, udon, bento and so it goes.

Everyone gets their own groove on at Ebi …

Meal of the week No.5: KItchen Samrat

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samrat2

 

The perpetual blog-driven need for the new and interesting can mean old reliables are overlooked.

But as it happens, this very mid-week lunchtime I am in the mood for Indian snacky stuff.

And I am in Footscray.

So I step through the doorway of Kitchen Samrat (36 Leeds Street) for the first time in years.

I am surprised and delighted to find the place has gone from shabby to somewhat chic.

 

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It looks like a proper Indian restaurant now.

There’s even real cloth napkins, the classy effect of which are rather diminished by there being some dried food crud on the bench seat I initially choose.

The menu is longer and also more proper, and includes a number of good-looking banquet options.

Perhaps a lingering and wide-ranging CTS meal here is warranted.

But I spy with delight that the quick lunch items such as cholle bhatrua at Amritsari kulcha ($12) are still in the house.

The latter is just lovely – chick peas, butter knobs, pickle, onion and two wonderful breads stuffed with potato, coriander and spices.

Footscray eats goss

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footgoss4

 

Changes are afoot in Nicholson Street, Footscray.

Pho Ta (above) and …

 

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… Babylon have both closed.

Asking around, the best I could discover in terms of reasons was along the lines of “problems with landlord”.

These closures are a shame as both joints added diversity to a colourful part of Footscray.

 

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Over in Hopkins, Snow Tree has set itself up for soon-come visit by the CTS team by the agency of a much more attractive fit-out and a much longer menu – including fried chicken!

 

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The Dancing Dog building will be auctioned on Saturday, April 18, at 1pm.

There is a meeting being held tonight (Wednesday, March 25) with a view to making a stab at keeping the property out of the hands of developers.

For more details, check out the Permaculture Out West Facebook page.

 

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Meanwhile, up in West Footscray, what was once Gusto will soon become Dosa Corner.

According to the always reliable Barkly Village Facebook page: “Gusto will be replaced by a South Indian Style Restaurant. Ex chef from Dosa Hut across the road.”

We wonder if there will be any point of difference between the new place, Dosa Hut and the neighbourhood’s other Indian eateries.

Truth is, though, Dosa Hut is usually busy so maybe it’s not an issue.

 

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Dosa Hut itself is growing, with the opening of a branch in Tarneit at the Wyndham Village Shopping Centre.

I suspect our Tarneit readers are doing cartwheels.

Very excellent – bank on it

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ovest25

 

Ovest, 572 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7766

Ovest has been open a while by the time Team CTS visits.

Every time I’ve passed by in recent weeks when the place has been open, it’s been jumping.

So our hopes are high – especially those of my friends, who live just a black away and for whom this shapes as a welcome local of the non-Indian variety.

Our hopes are fulfilled, and in terms of the food well exceeded.

 

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Here’s the bottom line – we have one entree, one side, one pizza, two mains, one dessert, two glasses of wine and a soft drink.

The bill comes to just cents above $40 each.

What an absolute ripping bargain!

We’ve booked at 6pm on a Sunday night – which may have been a mistake as it’s family rush hour, the joint is very noisy and the service is a little scrappy, but not enough to cause any alarm.

When I amble back to my car, post-dinner and after having picked up a wonderful loaf of freshly baked bread from my companions’ place, Ovest is a lot more placid.

The dining room looks a treat and it’s a wonderful thing that this old bank is playing host to such vibrant life.

 

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Coleslaw of cabbage, pear, radish, lemon and parmesan ($12) is a real big serve of yum.

At first, I wish for a little more salt and flavour bite, but by the end I come to love the rather perfumey flavours.

 

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Saganaki kefalograviera, sherry vinegar-soaked currants and pickled onions appears modest of portion but is so rich that three of us are happy.

The cheese has a marvellously toasted and salty crust.

 

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A mushroom pizza with taleggio, caramelised onion and fior de latte ($20) is very, very good, its many fungus chunks having a real meatiness about them.

 

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Tuna nicoise ($26) is a stunner and very generous to boot.

Underneath that handsome slab of fish lie spud discs and heaps of superbly creamy mayo.

My roast of the day (top photo, $25.50) is a simple but good-sized snapper stuffed with lemon.

The fish is lovely but it’s the accompanying salad/salsa that makes this dish sing – the clever addition of pickled chilli discs adds not just random exclamations of heat but also a just-right tartness.

The good, hot chips are served in such quantity that there’s more than enough for us all to share – but then, that’s true of everything we’ve enjoyed.

 

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By the time dessert selections are to be made, we’re stuffed.

So to speak.

So two becomes one with three spoons.

Panna cotta of yogurt, vanilla and strawberry jelly ($10) is just the sort creamy dream you’d expect and lasts all of about, oh, five seconds.

The jelly is a delicately-flavoured delight.

My pals are stoked.

So would I be if this “local” had just opened a minute from my front door!

 

Ovest on Urbanspoon

 

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Chook joint for Footscray

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ogrill10

 

O’Grill, 149 Princes Highway, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0153

O’Grill is a new fast-food chicken place tucked into the service road just a block or so up from the Plough.

We like the idea of this sort of place in this sort of location – there’s pretty good parking capacity for one thing.

The menu is mostly chicken-based, well-priced and ostensibly of a Tex-Mex bent.

(See menu and prices below.)

The meal four of us have there is OK – but we for sure reckon some tweaking here and there could make it an outright winner.

 

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By common acclaim, the hit of the night is this black bean salad.

Doesn’t look too tempting, hey?

But it is delicious!

Underneath the beans is a generous jumble of red onion, tomatoes and coriander, all of it liberally dressed with a really good green tomato salsa.

 

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Chips?

OK but could definitely be crisper.

 

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Corn?

OK but not much sight of the lime chilli dressing.

 

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Chicken wings?

Not “buffalo wings” – and thanks to one of my buddies for deepening my understanding of exactly what that means (deep-fried for starters) – but quite nice anyway.

 

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My two companions who go the burger route note a mismatch between the large buns and the less-so chicken.

Basically, too much bread!

My other companion goes, as I do, for a half chicken and like the burger eaters comments that the breast meat was a tad dry.

Yes, we know it’s hard getting that right.

And while me and my pals might prefer thigh meat in just about all applications, I’ve been told frequently by restaurant folks that there are a significant amount of customers for eating outlets of all kinds that demand breast meat … no matter what.

 

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I have no such problem with my half chook though there is little by way of the spiciness or smoky chipotle vibe I have been expecting.

Perhaps most of all we’d recommend some greater delineation between the various chicken options and an understanding that the people who come here looking for a feed are almost certainly well used to food that is super-charged in the flavour department.

But we’d also recommend giving this place a go – there’s a heap of other stuff on the menu.

Try the black bean salad when you do.

 

O’grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Westie barbers No.2: Aurelio

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buzz1

 

Buzz Barbers, 547b Barkly Street, West Footscray.

The CTS story on Chris the barber at the Circle in Altona was well received, giving me the confidence and desire to occasionally profile these fascinating characters scattered across the west.

Next up – Aurelio at Buzz Barbers in West Footscray.

Aurelio gives me a superb buzz cut, a real professional job including eyebrows, for $10.

He’s been in the house for about seven years but tells me his corner shop has been home to one barbering operation or another for about 40 years.

He inherited the chairs.

He’s my kind of barber, preferring to keep his prices as low as possible with a view to encouraging return and regular customers.

 

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His place is done out in classic old-school barber style.

As he works, we have a great old chat about the western suburbs, his Italian background, Italian food and the ebbs and flows of the barbering business.

Aurelio was born in Sicily but came with his family to Australia aged two, and was raised in the Moonee Ponds/Ascot Vale area.

He comes from a family of boilermakers.

We both chuckle ruefully when I suggest there has been a long-declining demand for boilermakers in the western suburbs.

He tells me I have a nice, round head that is well suited to the clean-shaven, shiny, bald look.

“If I did that, I’d look like a crim!” he says.

“You already do!” quip I.

“I know,” comes the quick retort. “But imagine how much worse it’d look without hair!”

 

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