World Cup: Hope lives

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In the face of all available evidence, I am – like no doubt many thousands of people around the country – falling once again for World Cup optimism.

Here’s how my thinking goes: “Well, let’s see now … if the Socceroos can sneak a win against the Netherlands – another country with a young, inexperienced team … and if, somehow, they can sneak a draw against either Spain or Chile … well, who knows?”

It’s completely ridiculous, of course.

But I can’t help myself.

Actually, considering the utterly odious nature of both FIFA and a lot of what is going on in Brazil, the best result for Australia may well be three straight losses, homeward bound and bring on the Asian Cup.

In the meantime, though, there is much football to be watched.

So far, I have found three different venues offering a more social way than a living room sofa to take enjoy the spectacle.

Anyone know of any others?

 

1. Spot On Kebab Station

Just how the playing times will work with this late-night joint, I do not know.

Food: Yes.

Booze: Nope.

Coffee: Unknown.

Check out their Facebook page for updates.

 

2. Village Cinemas, Sunshine.

As far as I am aware, this is only for the Socceroos’ opening game against Chile on Saturday, June 14.

Doors open 7.15 am, kick-off at 8am. Entry is free

This sounds pretty cool!

More information here.

Food: Unknown.

Booze: Nope.

Coffee: Unknown.

 

3. Mozzarella Bar

Seddon’s new Italian establishment is throwing parties for Australia v Chile and Italy v England on Sunday, June 15.

The cost is $40 a head.

Food: Yes – “Unlimited Pizzas & Drinks”.

Booze: Yes.

Coffee: Yes.

Bookings: 9687 0097

 

4. Hyde Street Hotel

Yarraville’s newest foodie pub is opening it’s doors from 7.30am for the Soccerooes-Chile game for an 8am kick-off. As far as I can tell from their FB page, admission is free though table bookings can be made.

The cost: Free

Food: Yes – “$7.50 Egg & Bacon rolls!

Booze: Yes.

Cofee: Yes

Table bookings: 6892163

Fine dining in Braybrook

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Spot On Kebab Station, 263 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 0449 545 786

A blog I have started following recently is called Mon’s Adventures.

I like Monique’s writing style and perspective, and she ventures into the western suburbs occasionally.

And while she covers food and places that are normally outside the scope of Consider The Sauce, she also is happy, as she puts it, to get “down and dirty” – as when she visited a Ballarat Road kebab shack.

Moreover, it’s a kebab joint that has hitherto escaped our notice.

Initially, and prompted slightly by Mon’s photos, I presumed this was because the establishment concerned is set back from the busy thoroughfare and next to La Porchetta.

And I found it of great interest that in Mon’s opinion, she would choose the Spot On “Bomba Burger” above “the overrated Huxtaburger any day”!

So it is that Team CTS – comprising, for this outing, yours truly, Bennie and by-now regular CTS helper Rob – heads for Braybrook in high spirits and replete with robust burger appetites.

 

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Turns out Spot On Kebab Station has escaped notice by us until now not because it’s set back from the road – quite the opposite.

It’s sits right beside the road, with cars and trucks whizzing by just a few metres away.

It’s set up pretty much like your typical kebab shack.

But there’s a covered, turfed dining area with a wide-screen TV and heating facilities, should they be necessary.

There’s plenty of cheerful, obliging staff on hand, and even early in the evening there’s a steady flow of customers coming and going.

 

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In some ways, we know that by being here so early in the night and early in the week, we are missing the point of this place.

Going by upbeat postings on its Facebook page, the Spot On team has already established its venture as something of a westie social hub.

Later at night, perhaps even on this night when game 1 of State of Origin kicks off, or in a few weeks time when the World Cup starts – this may be a very cool place to hang.

There’s certainly something that delights we three about chowing down right here.

 

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Bennie and Rob both go with the chips-in Bomba Burger ($8.50), upgrading for an extra $2 each for more chips on the side and a can of soft drink.

According to the sign menus, the Bomba includes a 140-gram beef patty. As well, this being a solid halal joint, instead of bacon there’s a “rasher” of lamb doner kebab.

Chips, salad and dressing complete the picture.

Both my companions are very impressed with their meals, Bennie nodding enthusiastically after just a few mouthfuls and eventually giving it a 8/10 thumbs up.

 

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I go the cevapi route, my large sandwich ($11) generously stuffed with swell-cooked sausage cubes and simply dressed with sour cream and onion slivers.

It tastes great and goes down a treat – or most of it, so hefty is my meal.

As with my mates’ burgers, the bread is fresh and lighter than might be expected from an eatery of Turkish derivation – and this no doubt helps elevate our combined experience.

Quite apart from our food – which we have really enjoyed – we simply like the very fact of Spot On’s existence.

Just one suggestion …

Come on, guys, make the switch – ditch the polystyrene for cardboard!

 

Spot On Kebab Station on Urbanspoon

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Macedonian magnificence

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Zegov Charcoal Grill, 16 Wood Street, Thomastown. Phone:  9078 6811

Nat “The Nose” Stockley has a super-sleuthing way of finding about new joints that fits right fine with the Consider The Sauce ethos.

So when he tips us to the existence of a new eating emporium – or, even better, asks us to join him in checking out – we invariably respond with alacrity.

In this case, the business in question is a newish Macedonian place way over there in Thomastown.

No problem – a sweet drive on the ring road, particularly with a slew of new music to listen to, is a breeze and seems no more “out there” or onerous than some of our more far-fetched westie exploits.

As I drive, I have visions of perfectly grilled meats and fabulous cabbage salad dancing in my head.

That’s precisely what we get – and we get more besides.

A WHOLE lot more.

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As we get comfortable in the typically Euro-appointed eatery, Nat and I are like a couple of giggling schoolboys.

Truth is, we both get an immense rush from finding such out-of-the-way places.

As well, I am delighted to find that Zegov ticks another CTS box – regular readers will know we get a particular kick from finding great food on industrial estates. This isn’t that precisely, but it’s real close.

I’ve had no lunch, so am hungry – my mouth really does water as we peruse our menus, which feature both the expected and the not so much.

We choose a couple of starters and a couple of mains – in the latter case, choosing different platters from the three mixed grills available.

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Piroshka ($4 each) look like Chiko Rolls and are filled with a mix of cheese, pickled gherkin, ham and mayo. They’re delicate but, for mine, a little on the bland side given the potential pungency of the fillings.

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Makallo ($7) is chargrilled green chillies in oil “for dipping”. This is nice enough, though I could wish for more pronounced spice and flavour.

Sounds a little on the ho-hum side so far, doesn’t it?

Well, hold on – things are about to get very interesting!

Something spurs Tanya and her mum-in-law Lidija to get really serious about having us waddle out of the place.

Whether it be the fact we’re photographing everything that moves (and much that doesn’t) or that we look hungry (it certainly can’t be that we look skinny because we don’t) … out come three more starters we haven’t ordered just for us “to try”!

Wow!

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Nafora ($6) is lightly chargrilled bread with chilli flakes and cheese that we gaily use for dipping in the oil of the above makallo.

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Sarma ($16 for two) are right up there with the very best cabbage rolls I’ve had, regardless of derivation.

They’re smaller than is often the case, but so tender and packed with not rice but instead a gloriously hearty beef mince sauce.

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Grafce ($7) are baked beans – they’re smooth and hearty, but maybe get a little lost in the multitude of food around us.

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Finally we get to our mains – mix char grill 1 for him, mix char grill 2 for me.

Both cost an outrageously cheap $18.50, with the only difference being that Nat gets pork neck pieces and I get lamb chops.

Gosh, they’re fantastic! The only problem is, we’ve already eaten so much we struggle to do our platters justice – I eat only one of my chops, for instance.

But the meats are superb – plain, juicy, expertly cooked and including five “kebapi” and, for variation, a skinny pork snag of sneak-up-on-you spiciness.

And the cabbage salad?

It’s perfection in every way!

Such a simple thing and such a joy, the cabbage is both tender and crunchy, and a little vinegary to boot. As it should be.

It’s pretty much the only thing we both clean our plates of.

We think we’re done – but Tanya and Lidija have other ideas …

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Tulumba, a dessert special not listed on the menu and yet another treat offered us “on the house”, is like a cross between churros and eclair.

Coated in clear, sticky syrup, it’s a plain and not over-rich way to cap off a magnificent eating experience.

There’s some food in the west that is similar to that to be had at Zegov, but not THAT much.

So this wonderful place is well worth a drive the ring road makes easy.

And I just know that Bennie will love the $10 burgers that are “served with chips in burger”!

Thanks, Nat – you’re always on the money!

Zegov Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon

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A bleak night in Brunswick

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Rezah Afghan Kebab, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

It’s a very odd few hours that end in sheer delight.

Good pal Nat Stockley and I have fronted for the launch of a new food truck, one that excites us both.

As he points out, whenever we tee up a foodie excursion, neither of us arrive at the appointed location early – but we are ALWAYS on time.

In this case, that is bad timing indeed.

The scene in a Brunswick back street is bleak.

It’s pissing down with rain and the dub music issuing forth from the venue is doing strange, unpleasant things to my internal organs.

Now look, I’m someone who has always fully embraced volume as a music asset – but this is just no good and no fun.

About three-quarters of an hour after the announced starting time, and with food seemingly no closer to appearing, we give it up and head for Sydney Road.

Our first stop, a perennially popular Lebanese joint, is chockers like I’ve never see it before – and will require a 15-minute wait for a table. If we’re lucky …

So we amble on up the Sydney Road hill and settle on Rezah.

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I’ve been here before, so know what I’m getting into. Nat has his reservations, but is soon won over.

We have a really, really fine meal in a restaurant that has now climbed onto the list of Melbourne places I most warmly regard.

Perhaps the love that unfolds is because of my previous visit. Or, more likely, the folks who run this joint are just extremely lovely people.

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Whatever … I soon start a dialogue with Firoz.

Firoz tells me the restaurant has been running for nine years and that he and wife Aasiah have lived in Australia for 16.

I’m even invited into the kitchen to see our dinner being prepared – so cool!

Nat and I, being of robust hungriness, go for the mixed kebab set menu that’ll cost us $20 each.

It’s terrific!

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The rudiments of our feast are the same as on my previous visit …

Wonderfully vinegary pickles of carrot, onion, cauliflower and even a plump, round chilli.

A minty chilli dip of only mild hotness and a stiff, tasty yogurt dip.

Chewy, hot Afghan naan – so different from the Indian variety.

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Our chicken one way and lamb two are fab, especially the lamb and chicken pieces – tender and extremely tasty, with that charcoal thing really going on.

The minced lamb sausage is nicely chewy but I find it a bit bitter in the garlic manner.

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The rice, festooned with currants and carrot strands, is every bit as good as that we love eating at this Westies winner.

It’s made, Firoz tells me, with stock made from long-simmered lamb bones and spices including two kinds of cardamom, cinnamon and cumin, as well as salt and pepper.

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In a testament to what kind of restaurant this is, Aasiah provides us with a complementary serve of aushak.

The green onion dumplings, smothered in yogurt and a pulse stew of some sort, are wonderful.

As we are wrapping things up, smiling Firoz several times places his hands over his heart to demonstrate his appreciation of our enjoyment of his family’s food and cooking.

He does so again when he makes clear his desire that we not pay for our dinner.

With gentle determination, we eventually persuade him that there’s no way we’re going to allow that to happen.

After a shaky start to our evening, Nat and I have had a fine old time.

And I even got to hear previously unheard – by me – details of my friend’s sordid rock ‘n’ roll past.

What do you reckon?

Would it be completely out of order for Consider The Sauce to arrange a CTS Feast in such a non-western suburb of Melbourne?

Rezah Afghan Kebab on Urbanspoon

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Post-midnight Braybrook kebab

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Tasty Toasted Kebabs @ Fun Galore, 234 Ballarat Road, Braybrook

Funny, eh, how almost all the palaver about Melbourne’s food trucks seem to imply they’re some cool, NEW thing,

That’s simply not the case – vehicular food delivery systems go way back in Australia, I’m guessing as far back as the horse-drawn variety as opposed to those mounted on internal combustion or steam engine vehicles.

And then there’s Mr Whippy and the kebab shacks that are festooned across the city.

Perhaps in the case of the latter it’s a matter of out of time, out of mind – the kebab shacks don’t come into their own until after midnight.

They’re far from our usual routine, but we’re on hols so the rule book is out the window.

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Our sleep requirements have expanded to fit the extra time available, and – perversely – late nights are perfectly acceptable.

After his father has done with televised sport for the night, Bennie has glommed on to a screening of the 1955 flick The Tender Trap.

We don’t from whence does the lad’s penchant for vintage comics, cars, clothes, movies and so on come.

Sure, his dad and his mum are so inclined, but it hasn’t been forced down his throat.

Yet he’d happily prefer Louis Armstrong over the latest teeny bopper any day, and can equally happily disappear into old-school song-and-dance movies.

So I’m happy to let him suck up an hour or so of creepily sexist Frank Sinatra sparring with husband-chasing Debbie Reynolds – and even rise from the sofa for the occasion when he calls my bluff and quickly proffers an eager “Yes!” to the suggestion of a post-midnight snack.

Then off we go …

We reject one Ballarat Road, ahem, establishment on the grounds it looks rather forlorn and lacks even the most rudimentary seating, ahem, facilities.

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And thus we front at Fun Galore and the kebab shack run by a friendly fellow named Abdul.

He’s been tending this particular patch for six years and runs other shacks on Sydney Road and Flinders Street.

In those six years, he tells us, there have been only a couple of instances of rowdy, drunken or abusive behaviour.

“People are looking for something good to eat so are nearly always polite and friendly,” he says.

That’s certainly the case on the night we visit, with about 20 or so customers coming and going in the 20 minutes we’re hanging around.

These folks keep mostly to themselves.

What surprises somewhat is that in being outright Caucasian, Bennie and I are in a small minority, with most punters being of Asian persuasion, including the Sub-Continental variety, with some representation from Pacific and African parts of the world.

Why should this surprise? This is the western suburbs, this is Braybrook – what the hell did I expect?

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Our chicken kebabs cost $8 and are tasty.

Thankfully, Abdul uses Lebanese-style pita bread, so our snacks are without the significantly greater weightiness that would come with Greek-style pita or Turkish bread.

Our kebabs have been toasted so the bread is quite pleasingly crisp, yet the salad bits inside retain their crispness.

The chicken meat, for mine, gets lost among its fellow ingredients, including plenty of garlic and chilli sauces.

But perhaps that’s no bad thing.

Then it’s home and bed for us.

Tasty Toasted Kebabs on Urbanspoon

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The Greekgrill

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The Greekgrill, 43 Civic Parade, Altona. Phone: 9398 5335

Getting in early seems to have become something of a Consider The Sauce habit of late.

When I ask the staff at The Greekgrill how long they’ve been open, they say since about midday!

Yep, it’s opening day.

That would explain why we haven’t noticed this establishment before.

It’s smack bang in the middle of a small shopping strip that has previously been of little interest to us, save for hitting the ATM of the correct flavour before heading to adventures elsewhere in Altona and environs.

The Greekgrill delivers a variety of options – yes, you can order a burger or kebab wrap or charcoal chicken here.

But what intrigues me are the more substantial and traditional Greek offerings.

And especially at attractively low prices. (As previously noted, we love Greek restaurant food, but that style loses out when the prices are steep compared to more affordable options.)

How about a plate of chicken or lamb gyros with “chips, salad, warm pita bread and tzatziki” for $16.90?

Or “char grilled baby snapper served with lemon and herb scented rice and salad” for $17?

Mixed grill for two goes for $36 and the seafood platter for two costs $42.

I entered seriously contemplating some of these heftier items, but while ascertaining if the taramosalata is house-made – the answer is “yes”, but it’s not on today – I switch paths and figure a light meal is just the ticket for this early evening chow down.

My mixed mezze plate (top photo) is beaut – particularly at $14.

The dips, eaten with warmed and lightly toasted pita bread, are super – an apricot-coloured spicy fetta number with a swell and very cheesy chilli kick, a plain cucumber and yogurt combo, a garlicky eggplant delight, and a beetroot blend that is less sweet than most of its kind but packed with that earthy beetroot flavour.

Elsewhere on my plate are two kinds of olives, kalamata and stuffed green jobs, a few cubes of rather ummemorable fetta and some roasted red capsicum.

I’ve been given a few extras over and above the menu description – perhaps because it’s opening day and they’re looking to impress or perhaps because of the interest I’ve shown.

Small red peppers stuffed with a creamy blend of fetta and ricotta also have a nice chilli hit, while the marinated octopus is chewy but nice enough.

A serve of “dolmadakia” (“vine leaves stuffed with herb rice”) costs $6.50, but I’ve snagged a couple at 50 cents apiece. They’re plain but good.

Judging by the number of locals dropping in to grab menus, it seems The Greekgrill will prove a winner.

The Greekgrill on Urbanspoon

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Rezah

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Rezah, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

Meet my new favourite things.

They’re aushak, they’re Afghani dumplings and they’re incredible.

I’ve ordered a half serve of them ($15), instead of one of the $20+ kebab mains, so I can get a taste of other bits of the menu at this lovely Afghani restaurant.

It’s a tactic to which I often resort when eating by myself, one that can often go wrong and worse.

But tonight I feel like a bleeding genius of ordering.

Encased in silky pillow casings, each of the dumplings is stuffed with splendidly vivid green sliced spring onion.

The distinctive bitter flavour of the onions goes absolutely divinely with the slightly sweet, slightly but just rightly chilli glow of the meat sauce and the minted yogurt around the fringes.

I can’t remember the last time I deliberately slowed my eating to linger over every mouthful.

But by the time I’m down to my last dumpling, it’s stone cold.

Yes, that good.

Accompanying my meal is a serve of toorshi ($3.50), described as “pickled vegetables in vinegar”.

These watery pickles, too, are just plain fantastic – mouth-puckering sour, there’s onion, cabbage, potato, chilli, cauliflower, cucumber, all of it soft to the point of mushiness but so fine.

Watery, sour and excellent, too, is the dip/chutney of “fresh tomato, coriander, garlic, fresh crushed green hot pepper” ($3.50) I order, which is joined by a regulation mint/yogurt raita, which I haven’t.

The aushak sauces, the dips and the pickles are all gleefully mopped up by nicely chewy fresh flat bread, which is like a cross between the Turkish and Lebanese varieties.

Rezah is decorated with Afghani artwork and photos, the service has been lovely and the food delivery as prompt as can be expected.

Frankly, I’m drooling at the thought of returning.

There’s plenty of meat on the menu (see below), including familiars such as tandoori chicken and various biryanis.

But there’s some points of difference, too, such as asheh lubia – homemade noodles with red kidney bean sauce and yogurt.  Sounds pricey at $25, but you never know …

Rezah Afghan Kebab on Urbanspoon