Bastille Day/Small French Bar

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Small French Bar, Shop 3 154 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8479

Stefan has his liquor licence now – so is able to proclaim happily: “I reckon we are a bar now!”

My understanding that he’ll have his delightful establishment doing dinners on Friday and Saturday nights in addition to the regular breakfast and lunch hours.

When he posts on Facebook details of a special Bastille Day dinner of three courses for $55, Consider The Sauce and friends leap at the opportunity with alacrity.

Our group ends up being of six, so we are allocated the long, tall table and the accompanying stools – about which we care not a jot.

We are very happy to be together and enjoying such a lovely meal, all agreeing that Small French Bar is a wonderful addition to Footscray, its affordable fare and homely vibe fitting right into the “food for the people” ethos that surrounds it.

 

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To start we are served a glass apiece of kir royal and amuse bouche of salmon mousse slathered on baguette and …

 

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… superbly fresh ‘n’ salty oysters.

Oh my!

 

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I confess my exposure to French cooking is extremely limited and that feuillete d’escargots a la Provençale (snails and garlic butter pastry) is my very first exposure to snails as food.

What to think?

Hmmm … not bad, nice flavour, quite chewy.

More like mushies than the oyster facsimile I’d been anticipating.

 

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I share my pastry with a dining companion who has ordered the assiette de charcuterie (cold meat plate).

Ahhh, this is more my go – very nice!

 

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Only one of group orders the non-meat main – ratatouille Nicoise a la buche de chèvre (Mediterranean vegetables stew with melted goats cheese).

He’s happy with his lot and it does look a treat … I’d certainly be happy to eat this.

But … like the rest of us, I’m pretty much ecstatic about the boeuf Bourguignon of beef and ox tail stew in red wine (top photograph).

This has us all “ooohing” and “aaahing”.

It’s fabulous, sweet, rich, hearty and perfect!

 

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Fondant au chocolat (chocolate self-saucing pudding) appears modest of portion but is more substantial than it looks, sublimely gooey and of very intense flavour.

 

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Tarts aux pommes (crunchy apple tart) rounds out the menu options.

The verdict of one who goes this route?

“Great!”

See earlier post here.

Meal of the week No.16: Small French Bar

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What a delight it is – upon the occasion of Consider The Sauce’s first visit to Small French Bar – to have lunch in Footscray when the mood is for lightness and avoidance of bowls laden with noodles.

When the desire is not so much for quantities of food as it is for a food experience.

Just think – within a few months, the inner west has been blessed with eateries of the French, Jamaican and Portuguese persuasions.

And the world hasn’t ended and the west still exists pretty much as before.

Small French Bar (3/154 Barkly Street, 9687 8479) is housed in cosy premises in the Royal Hotel building.

The cafe is done out in simple style and there are French tunes on the sound system.

The menu (see below), too, is simple – split as it is into sections for petit dej, frommage, brasserie, snacks charcuterie and patisserie.

Duck confit ($25) is being joined by a rotating cast of French classics such as coq au vin, pot au feu and beef bourguignon.

Daylight hours are the go at the mo’ – but when the place gets its liquor licence in a few weeks, night hours will be introduced.

 

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My goats cheese salad ($15) is simple and magical.

Good greens are dressed with walnut oil and cider vinegar, while the slightly unorthodox inclusion of pine nuts adds lovely taste and texture.

Sitting on top are three slices of fresh baguette slathered with fabulously flavoursome Buche de chevre, both warmed rather than toasted.

Wow – it’s a perfect and wonderful light lunch!

 

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Stefan tells me he took to heart the lively discussions on the Facebook pages of both Inner West Newsboard and Consider The Sauce regarding his use of foie gras.

At first, he bristled with defiant pride based on cultural heritage.

He loves the stuff – and so, too, do his Vietnamese customers.

But putting aside all that – and the questionable ethics of people all around the cafe happy to tuck into budget meals undoubtedly not made with free range or organics chickens – he decided to take it off the menu.

It’s a pragmatic business move – naturally, he wants Small French Cafe to appeal to the widest possible audience.

It’s a decision, too, that will doubtless leave some delighted and others disappointed.

 

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Overlooked gem in our midst

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magic42

 

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

In the rush of the new and the thrill of discoveries, it’s inevitable that we all come to overlook places that have been around for a while, ones we come to take for granted.

We hit Magic Momo Kafe in its early days but have since looked, gone, eaten and written elsewhere.

But on a freezing early-in-the-week night, Bennie and I make an impromptu visit and become very happy we do so.

We bugger up the ordering to some extent – in terms of similar dishes – but end up reflecting that here is a local establishment that offers intriguing, and very affordable, points of difference from the plethora of nearby Indian eateries.

It’s a cosy place, although tonight is such a chiller that the heater near our tables struggles.

And we love the pressed metal ceilings!

 

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We start with entree serves of five of the steamed chicken momo ($5) and …

 

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… chilli vegetable momo ($6.50).

We like them both but the vegetable numbers win the day with their smooth, tasty innards.

The “chilli” component is an OK jumble of vegetables somewhat in the Chinese style.

 

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The same vegetables pop up in the traditional soup thukpa ($11.95).

Our vegetable version is a noddle-based large bowl of niceness that is easily big enough for us to share.

 

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More of that Chinese influence on Nepalese food is displayed in the staple chowmein ($10).

We’ve had this here before – see here – but this is way better.

It’s far less oily than we might expect from a Chinese, Vietnamese on Indo-Chinese dish.

The whole thing has a beaut charred thing going on and the lamb strips are chewy and a bit like jerky.

Very good – and the highlight of our meal.

 

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Grilled sekuwa ($9.90) is described as “meat roasted in a natural wood/log fire in a real traditional Nepalese country style”.

The marinated lamb – cumin is among the ingredients – is served on puffed rice and is quite good, if a little on the chewy side – but I suspect that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s a rather pricey dish, though, for what amounts to not much more than a handful of meat.

 

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On a slightly earlier visit, I’d selected one of several “sets” available at Magic Momo Kafe.

The Nepali khana set  ($17.50) is a tad more expensive than your average Indian-style thali offerings found in the west and across Melbourne but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Joining a very fine chicken curry were a mildly spiced and colourful vegetable mix that came across as something like a Russian salad, a very runny dal made from (I think) aduki beans, a chilli sauce, some salady bits and some steamed greens aside the rice.

Hopefully, we will find time to visit Magic Momo Kafe again soon – the menu is longish and there’s lots to explore.

 

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West Welcome Wagon party – auction goodies

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The Brother Nancy team gives a cheery thumbs-up to being part of the fun!

 

There’s about a week and half until the West Welcome Wagon/Santorini/CTS Greek fundraising feast in Williamstown.

We have about 10 tickets left – if you’re thinking about attending, and we really, really want you to, I suggest you get your skates on.

For booking information, go here.

In the meantime, a couple of generous businesses have donated goodies for a simple, two-pronged auction on the night I hope will raise even more moolah for West Welcome Wagon.

Brother Nancy in West Footscray – see Erika’s story here and mine here – has donated lunch for two to the value of $50.

We reckon that should see a pair of you right for a cool drink, a main meal and a hot drink.

 

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As well, Maria and Marco of La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines have donated a lovely half-dozen bottle of primo South American wine.

Tomato rice in Footscray

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Thien An, 32 Irving Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 0398

Bennie’s dining desires are frequently over-ridden by more pressing imperatives in terms of Consider The Sauce.

He always takes this with good grace and a sense of adventure.

This Saturday, however, with his chores satisfactorily and even cheerfully done, I agree to humour his oft-stated plea: “I want tomato rice!”

Off we go, navigating the twists and turns that take us to the top of the Footscray market building.

We take in the amazing views and then head to Thien An.

In its previous carnation, across the road in much smaller premises in a row of now-demolished shopfronts, we once were regulars.

I ask Bennie if remembers those visits.

Nope.

There’s two kinds of tomato rice, we discover – the regular and one on the “Chef Recommended” list (see below).

 

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He goes for the latter ($11), which is a bit of twist on the usual, featuring beef ribs instead of cubed beef.

It’s a very good example of his heart’s desire.

The meat comes away from the bones easily and is a little bit more chewy than the typical melt-in-your-mouth beef served with tomato rice.

The rice is fine, there’s seasoned salt and those yummy, lightly pickled vegetables such as cabbage and carrot.

It’s a winner.

 

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My own rice vermicelli with grilled pork northern style ($13) is good, too, though not as explosively so as a similar dish served at Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.

This one has no dipping sauce accompanying and the mix of pork slices and meatballs are bathing in a sort of broth/soup.

Still, with the assistance of much greenery – including regular mint – it does go down a treat.

Thien An is, it appears, still a good, reliable in Footscray institution – and certainly has one of one of the lovelier dining rooms around here when it comes to Vietnamese eateries.

 

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Littlefoot tastes great

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Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

Consider The Sauce’s gaze was largely elsewhere as Littlefoot was coming together

So it was long after it opened that a happy bunch of CTS regulars hit it after going Indo-Chinese up the road apiece.

We were there only briefly, for post-dinner drinkies and dessert.

But one of those desserts – a foundation menu listing – was so brilliant we vowed to return to take the whole menu for a spin.

In the meantime, yours truly was at Littlefoot for the Letters To The West event that was part of the Emerging Writers Festival.

And a fine night it was, too, with me playing catch-up in terms of just what a very cool additional piece is Littlefoot in the Footscray/inner west scene/jigsaw puzzle.

So it is that the following week the exact same crew of six plus two more great CTS pals front up for a mid-week dinner.

 

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It’s been a chillingly cold day so Littlefoot is almost empty when we arrive.

Thankfully, a more cheery bar vibe evolves as our meal progresses.

The round front table is ours for the night and proves precisely right for the eight of us.

I’d been a little concerned about effective photography but the light proves OK.

Littlefoot really is a fine place to spend time with friends and conversation – with or without food.

I’d thought that with a table of eight we’d pretty much try everything on offer food-wise.

As one of our party enthusiastically quipped when Littlefoot plans were afoot: “Eat everything!!!”

But as it turns out, our collective eyes are drawn to specific menu items at the expense of others, though we try quite a bit.

It’s all good, better than good or really good.

 

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Yep – pork rind chips ($3.50) look just like the trash food that comes from convenience store plastic bags; but they taste way better.

Perhaps it’s for the best that our single bowl provides each of just a nibble or two before we move on to things more robust and (ostensibly) healthy!

 

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Fried chicken spare ribs ($10) with crunchy crumbs and wasabi mayo are terrific.

The coating really is crunchy, but also grease-free.

The ribs are suitably meaty and flavoursome and the wasabi mayo a true delight as a foil.

 

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The chips with beer cheese ($12.50) are fine but it seems I’m the only one unwowed by the beer cheese dip.

I don’t find it to be a bad taste – it simply doesn’t turn me on.

(Going by this wikipedia entry, that I don’t find beer cheese a winner seems surprising – no matter; in this matter, at Littlefoot, I am a minority of one amid a table of eight …)

 

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Several serves of both versions of banh “mini” ($5.50) –  teriyaki tofu and BBQ braised beef – are ordered.

They’re as fresh and tasty as could be desired.

One devil’s advocate wag points out that they are both smaller and more expensive than the regular banh mi to be had just a block away at Nhu Lan and other outlets.

To which my immediate thought is: “Meh … this is a bar …”

 

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Slow-cooked kangaroo on Ethiopian bean ful, topped with hemp seed dukkah ($18) is another outright winner and good value for money given the generous size of the portions.

The photograph here shows the big chunks of roo meat broken up – very tender and toothsome!

The bean mix is a cool blend that reminds me of chilli con carne.

That’s fine by me – Littlefoot’s aim is to embrace and celebrate the surrounding food cultures, not replicate them; best to leave notions of authenticity at the door.

Rolls of injera and excellent greenery complete a fine dish.

I suspect that when it comes to a “main course” concept at Littlefoot, this roo dish is it – there is only one item that costs more, the $25 tasting board.

 

 

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We are presented a duck pizza by the management, an on-the-house gesture that is appreciated.

By this time we’re all getting fullish so it’s just right that there’s a pizza slice each to appreciate.

It’s good, the meaty duck complemented by nice crunchy things.

 

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Dessert time!

And once more, we inhale enjoy the injera and hazelnut chocolate pinwheels with creamy coconut dipping sauce ($9.50) had on our earlier visit.

What a superb and utterly delicious piece of imagination is this, perfectly encapsulating the Littlefoot food philosophy.

The sourness of the injera does a sexy tango with the sweetness of the hazelnut/chocolate, this time even more ooozy and plentiful, all of it lubricated by the coconut sauce.

Totally Yum.

Sign up to the Littlefoot Facebook page, which is regularly updated with forthcoming events, musical and otherwise.

 

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Hair? Yes. BBQ? No.

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Meet Lina.

She’ll do you a do or a haircut with a smile and skill.

Lina’s Hair Salon is at 1/7 Kinnear Street, Footscray.

 

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What Lina cannot do is provide with you with a lunch or a dinner – or even a snack – of barbecue.

Which is quite at odds with a recent listing on Urbanspoon.

Whatever the origins of this mystery, Lina is being a good sport about.

She is, however, fielding phone calls from barbecue fans wishing to book tables.

But at least I know where to go to get my next haircut!

 

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