Dandenong road trip

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MKS Spices’n Things, 23 Pultney Street, Dandenong. Phone: 9701 3165

Living in the west means, by definition, living away from Melbourne’s centre.

Yet by other measures the west, or the inner west at least, is very much inner city.

The greater western suburbs may be growing at a prodigious rate but they still have some way to go to match the imposing sprawl of of Melbourne’s east and south.

In fact, such a big spread is Melbourne that getting to those far flung-areas for food adventures requires planning and some significant driving.

The Maroondah Highway is our least favourite!

 

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Dandenong, I know, is packed with many sorts of foodie wonders and I wish we could explore there with more ease.

But with nothing pressing in the west, I’m more than happy to indulge in an overdue catch-up with Nat and a quickie lunch trip to Dandy.

It’s a bleak day and we don’t really explore, for instance, the Indian and Afghan precincts but it’s all good fun.

 

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For lunch we hit MKS Spices’n Things.

Says Nat: “It’s got the best ever bain marie!”

He’s not wrong!

 

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The live food aspects is just part of what is a very big supermarket operation but the area around the bain marie displays is crazy busy this Saturday.

We take our numbers and wait to put in our orders.

The range on hand for this first-time visitor is bamboozling and in the end I feel like I could’ve done better.

 

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Two parathas with goat and okra curries plus chutney costs a fine $8.45.

But all is just adequate and some of it is distinctly not hot or even warm.

The vegetable curry also has onion and capsicum but the okra pieces themselves are splendid and the highlight of my lunch.

 

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A fried chicken maryland is sticky, cold but actually quite good.

 

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Nat, for whom this not a first visit, appears to do way better with his plate of biryani, goat curry, greens and a fab-looking dal.

He cleans his plate.

Yes, all the plastic here is a drag.

But observing the place in operation, I’m pretty sure management figures it’s the only viable way for them to go with their current set-up.

 

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On the way home, we stop at the fabulous establishment known as Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena so I can happily spend almost $100 stocking up on Lebanese pies for the freezer and much more.

 

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As Nat says, it ain’t the cheapest but for me the quality is terrific.

Sadly, it also is nutty busy, preventing us from stopping awhile for coffee and sweets.

But I do like how one of the Oasis folks at the cash register refers to me as “young man”.

 

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Dosas go (further) west

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Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

Dosa Hut in West Footscray has become an institution.

So much so that even the recent appearance of an upstart imitator right across the road has caused not a blip in Dosa Hut’s business.

But it should always be gratefully remembered that it was Dosa Hut that brought dosas – and related foods such as idlis and vadas – to Melbourne’s west.

Those introductions have wrought a revolution.

These days, it’s very rare to find an Indian restaurant on West Footscray’s Barkly Street Indian precinct – or Werribee’s equally busy Watton Street – that doesn’t sell dosas and the like.

As well, most who do so are these days also selling biryanis, Indo-Chinese dishes and even breakfast/snack dishes such as bhel puri and cholle bhature.

And they are often doing so without having on their menus once-were-staples such as beef vindaloo or butter chicken.

All this has been great for us punters – we’ve got more variety of Indian food in the west at lower prices than is normally the case in more formal a la carte joints.

It can even be argued that much of this new wave of Indian food is healthier!

 

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But as we’ve been chowing down on our inner-west dosas, the western suburbs themselves have been expanding at a frenetic pace.

And in the new housing wilds of Tarneit and Truganina, there has been little or no Indian food to be had – until now.

I suspect the opening of a Dosa Hut branch at Wyndham Village Shopping Centre is a masterstroke – one that is soon to followed by another branch at Roxburgh Park.

The new Tarneit establishment has more obvious similarities to a fast-food place than its West Footscray sibling – the young and efficient staff are even decked out in uniform black, including caps, and the ordering process is conducted via tablets.

But as far as we can tell, the long menu is the same.

There’s enough that’s recognisable about our surroundings that we relax but we nevertheless stick to a couple of old stagers to share – just to make sure the food here is of the same high standard as closer to home.

As we fully expect it to be …

 

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Masala dosa ($9.50) – with the crisp, fermented rice and black lentil crepe stuffed with spuds – is the default position when it comes to dosas; not as bare or unadorned as a plain dosa, not as rich as those stuffed with lamb, chicken or cheese.

This is a fine version with all the accoutrements lined up, including a very fine sambar (a soupish, curry mix of dal and vegetables), though the potato masala is bit more dry and crumbly than we are familiar with.

 

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Chicken biryani ($11.95) looks a little on the plain, unseasoned side as it is brought to our table.

 

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But spilling the rice, profusely studded with cloves and cardamom pods, on to our metal tray reveals a much wetter and more highly flavoured mixture.

Buried among it are a chook drumstick and a meaty thigh, both good of flavour.

The peanutty gravy and runny raita are the usual, expected and enjoyable accessories.

Just one, final word of warning – not all the food at the likes of a Dosa Hut is highly spiced and hot.

But most of it is – if you’re not used to very hot food, or who have children who are likewise, ask the staff for safe tips.

 

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Meal of the week No.11: Saudagar

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Saudagar has been a Footscray fixture for years.

I’ve had their cholle bhatura and tried some of their sweets.

But it’s never appealed as an obvious or attractive place in which to obtain a nice, cheap feed of Indian tucker.

 

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So I am delighted – thrilled even! – to discover the place has been spruced up a bit with some new furniture and a much more welcoming look that says, “Come and eat here!”

Aside from the sweets, the prices – AFAIK – are the cheapest in the inner west: Vegetarian main courses all about $8, meat mains about $10, chicken biryanai $9.

 

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I enjoy a vegetarian thali priced at $8.

Unbuttered naan – and that’s fine by me.

Excellent, uncreamy daal that has a nice hit of ginger and appears to be made of aduki beans.

Malai kofta – wonderfully delicate and toothsome potato and cheese balls in a creamy cashew nut sauce.

Fluffy rice, pickles, onion slices.

I love my Saudagar lunch but I’m not about to tell you that it’s exceptional in any way – and that’s a profound testament to just how rich we are in the west of terrific Indian food.

 

Saudagar Sweet Shop & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Back at Pandu’s

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Pandu’s, 351 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0789

We haven’t eaten at Pandu’s for a good long while and we’re excited to be back.

Even more so because among our group of six are two people who have pretty much eaten the inner west dry but have yet to dine at this Footscray Indo-Chinese institution.

And there’s two others have never tried Indo-Chinese at all!

After we enter and a get a table, I realise there have been changes at Pandu’s.

There’s more people in the kitchen.

The prices have crept up – but not too much.

And there’s a new menu that considerably broadens Pandu’s previously hardcore Indo-Chinese line-up.

There’s biryanis, dosas and – oh yes! – cholle bhatrua and pooris with potato maslala.

Most of those will have to wait for another day, however, as we stick – with one exception – to Indo-Chinese.

 

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One member of our group is quite taken with idea of nachos salad as spied on the online menu – as am I.

So we order two.

What we get is, well, weird.

Doritos drizzled with some yogurt and sprinkled with not a lot of cheese, onion and greenery.

It’s OK to nibble on before our more fully cooked goodies arrive.

But Doritos?

Ugh!

In quick time, arriving at our table are …

 

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… vegetable manchurian …

 

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… cauliflower 65 and …

 

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… pepper fish.

By unanimous acclaim, the fish is our meal’s big winner.

Encased in a delicious but not particularly peppery coating are gorgeously tender and tasty chunks of white fish.

As Josh says: “I could eat these all night!”

The gobi and vegetable ball dishes – standard orders for Bennie and I at Pandu’s – are good, too, though a little wetter than we’ve had on previous occasions.

We bulk up our meal by ordering another standard for us …

 

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… veggie hakka noodles as well as …

 

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… veggie Singapore fried rice.

Both are simple but very good in that trans-national way that we usually expect more of the food from Malaysia or Singapore but which is right at home with Indo-Chinese.

Finally, we also enjoy a fine chicken biryani – which I forget to photograph!

 

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Bennie and I reckon the portion sizes of non-carb Indo-Chinese selections may have been a bit smaller than on previous visits – but that could be because there’s so many pals with us tonight and the food disappears quickly.

As well, we note that the shredded cabbage is of a rougher cut that makes it less appealing to incorporate into our meal, and that the gobi, fish and vegetable balls are not adorned with the usual jumble of chillis, curry leaves, onion and capsicum.

But still, these are minor quibbles – Pandu’s remains our go-to place for Indo-Chinese.

I have not kept track of prices as I expect to just call up the Pandu’s website when I get home.

But now I discover the prices there are not up to date!

But here’s the biz – for all of the above food, and a fine meal, the six of us pay a few bucks over $90.

That is, about $15 each!

Fantastic!

 

Pandu's on Urbanspoon

Indian street food in Laverton

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A-One Sweets, 52 Bladin Street, Laverton. Phone: 8360 7989

Consider The Sauce enjoyed its visit with the Urban Ma to new CBD joint Delhi Streets – the food we had was good.

But I have been bemused, but not surprised, by some subsequent reviews of the place.

More precisely, I’m bemused that the place’s publicity is being bought into to such an extent that it is being put about that Delhi Streets is doing something edgy and adventurous in “bringing Indian street food to Melbourne”.

I feel this is misleading as just about everything Delhi Streets serves has long been available across Melbourne, including West Footscray, Werribee and elsewhere.

The places that do Indian street food can sometimes be businesses of the more regulation Indian variety that have dosas, chaat and the like on their menus – but they’re also often humble shops that do little more than serve snacky Indian treats and have overwhelmingly Indian customers.

A-One Sweets is one such place.

 

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Like so many of its kind, it’s a bare-bones Indian cafe – with lots of sweets of course!

But they do a nice, simple and very cheap line of snacks such as aloo tikki and pani puri.

There’s also a vegetarian thali and paranthas stuffed with gobi, aloo or paneer and served with butter, yogurt and pickle.

I’m actually in Laverton to do some volunteer duty on the West Welcome Wagon sausage sizzle at the market at the Woods Street Arts Space.

But I know that if I turn up for tong duty on an empty stomach, I’ll end up eating about a dozen of those $2.50 suckers.

And while I’m partial to a sausage sizzle snag in white bread, I most certainly do not want to make a meal of them, so to speak.

So I venture to the Bladin Street shops a few blocks away and into A-One Sweets, which has been on my to-do list for a while.

I tell the nice man behind the counter, as I peruse the menu, that I feel like something other than chole bhature – that, indeed, I’ve had that fabulous Indian dish at many places festooned across the west.

“Ah,” he says with a big smile. “But have you had our chole bhature?”

He’s persuasive, I say “Yes!” and I’m ever so glad I do.

 

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My $9 meal is a doozy.

The breads are puffed up like footballs and ungreasy.

There’s plenty of yogurt to join the regulation raw onion slices and commercial, tangy pickle.

Best of all, the chick pea curry is very nice indeed.

I love it and pretty much leave my thali tray clean.

 

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From there it’s back to Woods Street to join my fellow WWW sausage sizzle volunteers.

It’s great to meet and swap notes with some fellow westies.

We sell a heap of snags and make some good cash money for West Welcome Wagon.

Everything I am wearing, though, will be going straight into the laundry basket!

A-One Sweets is one of those gems of places away from the main drags and shopping centres that are an outright pleasure and thrill to stumble upon.

 

A-One Sweets on Urbanspoon

 

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CBD Indian is bolly good

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Delhi Streets, 22 Katherine Place, Melbourne. Phone: 9629 2620

What fun!

Another leisurely day-off trip into the CBD to have lunch with the lovely Jacqui, the Urban Ma.

This time we’re checking out Delhi Street, right next door to the cool bagel place we hit a while ago.

Delhi Streets has a most admirable aim – to “do Indian street food most Melburnians have yet to experience”.

However, anyone who has hung out in West Footscray even a little in recent years will be familiar with most that Delhi Streets offer.

 

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The place may be new but it already has a nice lived-in vibe.

It may be geared to quickie lunches and takeaways but it feels more comfortable and intimate than that.

There’s chaat, thalis, dosas, uttapum and biryani (see menu below).

They also do wraps.

Personally, I don’t have use for wraps unless they’re a nice, lusty souvlaki or kebab.

But as Jacqui points out, this is an obvious menu direction for the joint to take on behalf of the take-lunch-back-to-the-office crowd.

 

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We share bhel puri ($6).

It’s fresh and crunchy, with a good dose of roast peanuts.

 

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Jacqui is new to the Wonderful World Of Dosas so I’m happy she gets a good one.

Her masala dosa ($10) is the goods, though the pancake itself is truncated compared to those in our westie faves.

The accompaniments are missing the usual chilli concoction but the sambar and coconut chutney are lovely.

 

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I go for the vegetarian thali ($10) – and it’s a doozy.

Good salad, rice and papadum.

Really good naan and cooked-down vegetable curry.

Outstanding dal that I think is made with aduki beans.

Read Jacqui’s review here.

Check out the Delhi Streets wesbite here.

 

Delhi Streets on Urbanspoon

 

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Meal of the week No.6: Dosa Corner

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Consider The Sauce may end up doing a more substantial write-up on Dosa Corner, the new Indian place opposite long-established Dosa Hut on Barkly Street in West Footscray – when there are a tableful of mouths to feed.

In the meantime, here’s the goss.

Dosa Corner has been open about a week, there’s incense burning, the place is bright and cheerful, and the service good considering this is a snack-type joint.

The menu is quite long and super cheap.

There’s dosas aplenty, of course.

But there’s also chaat, uthappams, quite a few Indo-Chinese dishes, biryanis and a trio of sweets.

Get a load of the above-pictured pooris!

The freshly fried breads are a little smaller than usual but very good.

The gloopy dal/vegetable mix is excellent.

The other accompaniments are those that attend your typical dosas.

The price?

$5.

How’s that for a brilliant light lunch?

 

Dosa Corner on Urbanspoon

 

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