Meal of the week No.5: KItchen Samrat

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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.

Indian blast; not in WeFo!

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dasian2

 

D Asian, 68-82 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 8354 8387

By the time Bennie and I step through the doors of D Asia, it’s been open about six months.

Obviously, we haven’t been paying enough attention.

Though perhaps in this case, that’s something to do with the fact the restaurant isn’t on Hopkins Street proper, but rather looks out on the carpark and towards Franco Cozzo and Centrelink (into which dread office I most assuredly never wish to step foot again!).

D Asia is a typically warped idiosyncratic CTS experience.

The place is cavernous, complete with dance floor, bandstand and disco ball.

We are the only customers.

The menu is by a long way the longest I’ve ever seen – far too voluminous to photograph and publish here.

No customers, stupendously long menu?

Those are the sorts of things that normally see red flags hoisted.

But after visiting as a pair and then solo, and eating mostly well, I have to confess my curiosity about this abidingly strange and unlikely Indian restaurant remains high.

I will return to check out the many dishes of which I’ve never before heard.

With no pre-planned gameplan, Bennie and I find ourselves going happily all Indo-Chinese and all vegetarian.

 

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The staff do the right thing by us by splitting our single serve of coriander lemon soup ($7.95) into two bowls.

It’s, um, super.

Mildly viscous in the familiar Chinese style, it’s refreshing and tangy, with tiny dice of vegetables providing crunch.

 

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Golden fried potato ($12.95) is OK but is nothing more than battered potato stalks.

There is little or none of the advertised “marinated” factor.

This dish is, in our opinion, way over-priced.

 

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Chilli baby corn is a much better deal at $11.95 – and a much better tasting one as well.

These are terrific flavour bombs, deep-fried and unoily.

There’s more than corn going on here, but it’s those kernals that provide the delightful “pop”.

Very, very yummy, they are.

 

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Gobi manchurian ($10.95) is a good deal wetter than the rendition we’re familiar with from our favourite Indo-Chinese haunt.

It’s pleasant enough but no earth-shaker and is very oily.

 

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As are our vegetable hakka noodles ($11.95), but we’d expect nothing different in a wok-tossed Indian dish.

They are fine, though, with plenty of diced and well-cooked vegetables.

 

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On my follow-up visit, I try another Indo-Chinese dish – cutmet aloo ($4.95), which is described as “boiled potato dressed with Indian spices and served with tamarind chutney”.

Again, this is nice enough but no great shakes.

 

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Then, just for to see what D Asia does with plain, workaday Indian food, I get a serve of mutton curry with roti ($10.95).

The fresh-cooked roti is fine.

The mutton is on the bone, and seems even more fiddly than is usually the case.

This is one of the most oily curries I’ve ever experienced.

And it’s the saltiest curry I can recall eating.

I like it a lot, though, although others’ mileage may vary!

D Asia?

What an enigma!

And I don’t think it’s really possible to be uncharmed by an eatery that has seven kinds of dal.

Or one that serves goat fried rice.

Or one that has 12 different soups on offer, including chicken or mutton suraba.

Or one that has a deep-fried Indo-Chinese dish call botanic vegetable.

Or one that seasons its gongura mutton with rosella leaves.

Or … well, you get the picture!

 

D Asian on Urbanspoon

 

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New Indian joint in WeFo

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Amrutha Authentic Indian Cuisine, 552 Barkly Street,West Footscray. Phone: 9913 3794

Team Consider The Sauce tonight numbers four for the purposes of checking out the newest addition to West Footscray’s line-up of Indian restaurants.

As the restaurant was being put together behind papered windows, two of us had wondered if the new place would specialise in some way to provide it a point of difference from its many competitors.

The answer is – no.

Amrutha’s menu is long a covers all the expected bases.

Go to the joint’s website here for a looking at the full list, including prices.

 

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The place has scrubbed up a treat – quite a lot of money has been spent.

And the main room is a good deal larger than we were expecting to be the case given the hair salon it replaces.

The furniture and fittings are pure Franco Cozzo.

We admire with interest the breakfast list, which includes all your dosas and a lot more.

But we go a la carte from the body of the menu.

Among our choices are a couple of Indo-Chinese selections …

 

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Gobi manchurian ($7.99) and …

 

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… chicken 65 ($8.99) are enjoyable but wet where we have been expecting dry.

 

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My eyes invariably light up whenever I see a menu that features eggplant, so eggplant curry ($10.99) has been ordered at my instigation.

Again, our expectations come into play – maybe unfairly.

The menu does mention a “rich cashew nut and special sauce”, but this seems to me more of an unbearably creamy spread with eggplant flavour.

It’s something I’d be happy spreading on toast.

But otherwise?

Nah.

 

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Moving right along, we start to get into things more hearty and flavoursome of the kind we have been seeking.

Lamb Madras ($11.99) is very nice, its rich gravy hiding lots of fine meat chunks.

 

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Chicken chettinad ($12.99) is likewise very good, with its gravy of “yogurt sauce with crushed black peppercorn, herbs and spices”.

 

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Palak paneer ($9.99) is a doozy, its silky cheese pieces swimming in a wonderfully almost-smoky gravy.

Another high point for us are the $1.99 naan that avoid photographic scrutiny – sorry!

These are super, and appear to have been made – as one of my tablemates points out –  using “wholemeal flour with all the bran removed”.

The result is like a cross between a regular naan and a roti.

We’ve enjoyed our meal but are left wondering about the wisdom of our choosing, what sort of wonders Amrutha has hiding in its menu – and whether the more snacky or one-person dishes may be the go here.

So I sneak back a few nights later for an early dinner by myself – biryani.

 

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My default choice of chicken is unavailable, so I’m happy to go with the lamb ($11.99).

Even though the lamb almost always used in biryanis – you’ll see it in the markets labelled as “lamb curry” – is often more bone than meat.

No such problem here – the plentiful meat comes easily from the bones and is flavoursome and surprisingly tender.

The rice is somewhat darker than usual, and the fried onions are more than a garnish here – there’s lots of them and they’re fully integrated into the rice.

The biryani picture is completed by a fine gravy that is salty and peanutty and a raita chunky with cubed carrot.

My biryani is very good and fully up there with those available elsewhere in Footscray.

Maybe for me next time the chole bhature ($11.99).

Or perhaps the puri ($8.99), which – according to the in-house printed menu – are served thali-style with a handful of small accompanying bowls of goodness.

 

Amrutha on Urbanspoon

 

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High-Quality thali

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quality6
Quality Cafe, 1116-1118 Glenhuntly Road, Glen Huntly. Phone: 9571 5544

Just for a change for Saturday lunch, Bennie and I are really happy to be heading over to Nat’s side of town instead of trolling around the inner west.

As we had discussed where to meet, I’d pointed out to Nat that he’d long been posting on Facebook great-looking photographs of funky ethnic food from funky ethnic eateries in his own extended neighbourhood … so how ’bout we try one of them.

The joint selected, Quality Cafe, is just the sort of place I had in mind.

 

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It’s a newish. bare-bones Indian cafe with an adjoining grocery.

It’s also, as the signage points out, “100% vegetarian”.

That’s fine by us!

The menu (see below) boasts quite a nifty list of snack and chaat items, as well as dosas, bahji and chole bhatura.

We collectively sidestep all that with little mucking around and go the thali route.

 

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My “Quality Thali” ($12.50) is a winner in almost every way.

I love the sambar, dal and cracking, creamy pea-and-cheese curry.

The vegetable biryani, not so much.

Plain rice, raita, tangy pickle and roti complete the picture.

 

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As neither of them have eaten breakfast, Nat and Bennie both go for the bigger “Weekend Thali” ($15), which is the same deal plus a potato-based vegetable curry and a cauliflower curry.

I reckon I could live on this kind of food.

It’s humble, delicious and inexpensive.

But what knocks me out about the Quality Cafe thalis is the presentation.

Each dish is presented in its own bowl, with all placed upon a steel platter.

How lovely they all look, bequeathing on a quick Saturday lunch a heightened sense of occasion way beyond the modesty and affordability of the food at hand.

How I wish more Melbourne’s Indian restaurants – including those of the west – took such care in finessing their thalis.

Thanks, Nat!

 

Quality Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Kebabs with a difference

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degree2
400 Degree Tandoor Grill, 888 Mount Alexander Road, Essendon. Phone: 0430 345 106

 

Full moon, start of the weekend, not a care in the world, no alarm to be set for the morrow … the timing is right for a slightly cross-town drive in search of something mighty fine to eat.

We’re headed to Essendon and the 400 Degree truck, which is part of the ever-evolving and growing Melbourne food truck scene but which seems to be making a name for itself away from the usual congregating points and by doing festivals and the like.

We’ve heard good things about what they offer, most notably from our very good pal Nat Stockley.

(We learn, however, during a flurry of messages while we’re ordering and eating, that Nat’s experiences with this crew has thus far been restricted to their chicken tikka box, which he describes as “kind of like a biryani” … no matter!)

 

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There’s two happy blokes in the truck doing the food biz, and another out front playing a sort of meet-and-greet cum security role.

It being 10pm, this is pretty much opening time for these guys.

‘Round about midnight, the clientele no doubt increases in number and drunkenness, so security is probably a good idea.

We’re told, we presume somewhat jokingly, that the security even needs security.

I offer Bennie’s services at a discount but stir up little interest.

 

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Bennie goes the tandoori chicken wrap ($9.50).

He likes it a lot; it disappears in under five minutes.

It tastes good to me, too.

 

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I go the “9-hour” lamb ($9.50), and it, too, is a winner.

The shaved lamb is juicy and tasty.

I like the way the chilli sauce I have chosen mostly works its way down my wrap so the last few, delicious mouthfuls are the spiciest and sexiest of all.

Both our wraps are wrapped in pliable rotis that – along with the Indian-style fillings – really do set the 400 Degree products apart.

It’s been a fine feed.

As we drive home, we discuss the perhaps surprising fact that 400 Degree offers so little by way of extras … such as chips or samosas or curries of any kind.

We conclude that if they went down that path, they would end up being something other than a kebab truck with a difference.

Their simple approach works a treat.

Check out the 400 Degree website here.

 

400 Degree Tandoor & Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Deer Park eats goss

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Western Pho in Deer Park is on the move.

The humble yet excellent Vietnamese eatery on Burnside Street – written about and given a new and glowing thumbs up from CTS regular Juz here – will move around the corner to the service road shopping strip on Ballarat Road in three months or so.

Proprietor Phi tells me there will be more food, more staff and more seating – the new joint will have a seating capacity of at least 60.

I caught up with Phi and his builder, “Junior” Espinosa of GE Builder, at the old premises as they were discussing the floor plan for the new place.

“Junior” tells me has worked on such CTS faves as Hyderabad Inn, Dosa Hut and Pandu’s – that’s a nice pedigree!

 

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The new place still bears the signage of the previous tenant.

 

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And just a few doors away preparations are underway for an Indian eatery and …

 

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… another Vietnamese place!

This phases Phi not at all – competition being good and helping to build a happy neighbourhood eats destination, he reckons.

 

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Meanwhile, in even more good news for locals, the current Western Pho premises on Burnside Street, will be renamed Western Roll and feature banh mi, rice paper rolls and the like, including sauces from Phi’s hometown near Cam Ranh Bay – and coffee.

It’s all happening in Deer Park!

 

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Wow – great offer

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Consider The Sauce has not been in the habit of talking up specific offers by particular restaurants – so far as I can recall this is a first.

I am happy to do so not on the basis of giving yet another plug for a favoured eating place but because I genuinely think CTS readers will appreciate knowing about the beaut offer I came across during the course of a Monday night “can’t be bothered cooking” quick bite in West Footscray.

Regular readers will know that Hyderabad Inn, at 551 Barkly Street, is among our faves among the bustling West Footscray Indian contingent – indeed, it was the venue of the first-ever Consider The Sauce Feast!

The joint’s “spring special offer” is currently available Mondays through to Thursdays and between 6pm and 7pm.

Heck – that’s eating hour for Team CTS! And I suspect most all families, too …

Here’s how it works …

Get any regular dosa and a can of soft drink for $3.95.

Insane!

The dosa lineup numbers 30 and ranges from masala, lamb and chicken dosas through to chicken tikka and tandoori vegetable.

They’re normally priced at up to $13.50.

Or you can choose from the smaller range of 70mm dosas, grab a can of drink and pay $6.95.

The 70mm dosas usually sell for up to $16.50.

The biryani deal of which I partook is just about as good.

My chicken version (pictured above) was its usual excellent self, with all the bits and pieces present and in working order – moist rice, high spice levels, fried and raw onion, peanutty gravy, raita, hard-boiled egg, two good-sized chook bits.

For this, and a can of soft drink, I paid $9.95.

Normal price for the rice alone is $15.

Get it while you can!