Souvlakis and white choc risotto

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Hellenic Flavours On Puckle, 25 Puckle Street Moonee Ponds. Phone: 93757064
Vicolo, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500

There’s been a number of eatery openings in and around Puckle Street lately and we’re up for trying one of them for lunch.

We know Hellenic Flavours will be a kebab shop that will also do hamburgers.

But we suspect that it may also be one of those nifty places that does a nice job of taking care of the fast-food requirements but one that also offers more substantial Greek food at prices way below those found in more formal Greek restaurant settings.

That’s just what we discover.

 

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The place is done out in the expected mix of take-away and restaurant with plenty of seating and scenic photos from the Mediterranean adorning the walls.

A big work group sitting next to us is tucking with glee into $15 plates of various kebab meats (some of it on sticks), pita, salad, chips and tzatiki.

Cool!

There’s also available the likes of mousaka, pastitsio, stuffed vegetables and grills such as steaks.

 

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We both go for the traditional lamb souvlaki ($11) and are happy with our choices.

 

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Our wraps are encased in the usual, thickish Greek-style pita we suspect may have come from this venerable Braybrook institution.

There’s just the right amount of salad and sauce.

And the meat is crunchy crusted, salty, hot and delicious.

Next stop – dessert!

Not since a flurry of visits to the classic Italian of Vicolo – culminating in a beaut CTS Feast – have we been back.

Today we’ve been enticed through the Young Street doors by a Facebook item in which Marie spruiks her white chocolate risotto with hazelnuts.

 

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It’s the biz at a very generously proportioned $12 serve – thank heavens Bennie and I share.

“Mmmmm – it’s good,” says I.

“Yes, and so healthy,” quips Bennie.

Haha!

It’s nothing of the sort, of course.

But nor is eating this glorified rice pudding quite exactly like the decadent, silky and out-there experience of consuming a panna cotta, creme brulee or even a pavlova.

The al dente rice gives it a bit more substance and chewiness than that.

Still – excellent!

 

Hellenic Flavours on Puckle on Urbanspoon

 

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Nice vibes in Moonee Ponds

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320 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 2649

For many years, these Ascot Vale Road premises housed a corner store that was a bit of a secret – it stocked products and groceries of the South American/Latin American variety, including Jamon.

Alas that opportunity for CTS story has now gone, and in the store’s place is lovely cafe.

Ascot Food Store appears to be ideally place midway between the Puckle Street area and the eats region of upper Mount Alexander Road.

There’s heaps of residential blocks around here and I bet there’s plenty of locals who really, really loving having this new place so handy.

 

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I could be the world-weary scribe and say Ascot Food Store is just like so many cafes all over the place, including the west.

But that would be silly of me.

And it would be to deny the expertise and good cheer of the staff, the white-centric fit-out that confers a relaxed, tranquil vibe on the front room and two further inside, and the quality of the food.

It’s a very breakfast/lunch place, and – based on our meals (see menu below) – I’d describe the serves as light eating.

A hungry table of two who throw in a couple of sides and coffees will find themselves paying between $25 to $30 per person – the going rate these days for this kind of food in this kind of place.

And no complaints from us.

 

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My companion – Karma of alergicinmelbourne – likes her “Benedict” ($17) of poached eggs on top of an English muffin and shaved pork belly, all topped with bearnaise.

As far as I can tell, in this case anyway, “shaved pork belly” = “crackling” by any other name, so I can’t help but admire the sheer artery-clogging chutzpah of it.

 

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My “Apple Wood Smoked Ocean Trout, Freekeh, Roasted Caluliflower, Coriander, Cress, Shredded Kale” ($18) is fine, too.

The fish is a nicely hefty slab and beautifully cooked, though there is precious little smoky flavour.

The freekeh and cauliflower are indistinguishable, but the fish’s base is nicely most.

With the kale and salad bits, it all makes for a lovely, light lunch.

My cafe latte is very good.

Check out Karma’s take on our lunch here.

 

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

 

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Burgers – a tough business

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nym31

 

New York Minute, 491 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9043 1838

Last time Consider The Sauce frequented New York Minute, Bennie devoured a beaut two-handed, multi-level burger with which he was well pleased.

That was a while ago – and some time after our initial stories about the place (here and here).

We’ve eaten a whole helluva lot of burgers since then.

Bennie, in particular, has come to consider himself an expert, refining as he goes just what it is that pushes his burger buttons.

And the burger biz has changed a lot in that time, too.

There’s a handful of food trucks going around that specialise in burgers of various kinds, some of them doing excellent work.

And these days there’s hip outlets such as 8bit going very hard indeed for those burger dollars.

It’s a tough business – even if all that is good news for burger consumers.

So we are very interested to discover how New York Minute – which will soon be opening a branch in Williamstown – is going these days.

The answer?

It’s going OK … although we conclude the place has lost something of its charm and edge.

 

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During our Saturday lunch visit, business is brisk.

The place’s small space has been reconfigured – there’s no longer any interior tables, just window bench stools.

We grab one of the two outside tables.

Bennie’s New York – with “2 beef patties, special sauce, spinach, cheese, pickles & onions” (top picture, $12) – looks the goods but fails to elicit the much sought after groans of pleasure.

To use Bennie’s terminology, it’s “just a burger”.

 

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My brisket burger – with “Prime cut beef & sweet pickles with special sauce” ($9) – is OK but also lacks the sort of oomph that would set it apart.

There’s just not enough here to get in any way excited.

 

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Our large chips ($5) certainly look the part.

But what at first glance may appear to be a bronzed tan increasingly looks orange.

I detect an unwanted sweetness, but Bennie reckons that’s all about the charmless “aioli”.

But he also reckons there’s an excess of chicken salt going on here.

I’m not sure about that …

Going by the joint’s Facebook feed, New York Minute is a happy, happening thing.

But based on our latest meal, we reckon it’s entered the realms of merely good rather than excellent, as subjective as that may be.

 

New York Minute on Urbanspoon

CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng – the wrap

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Our CTS Feast at Xiang Yang Cheng was a truly memorable occasion.

I remain surprised that only just half over the allocated seating was booked – this was and is, it seems to be, just the kind of food that is ideal for such an event.

No matter … no matter at all.

Because those of us who did indulge had a thoroughly grand time.

And with a smaller group, it was all very relaxed and rather intimate.

I really enjoyed getting around our four tables and having chats with everyone.

 

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And that was made easier by the very nature of the food an its preparation – what may have taken a half-hour so to consume if brought plated to our tables ended up taking more than two hours of rambling indulgence.

Many thanks to the XYC staff, including Larry, Zi and Alicia, for taking such good care of us.

Thanks, also, to Nat, Marc, Paul, Marketa, Jenni, Bronwyn, Adam, Philippa, Milena, Paul, Christine, Lisa and Julian for making it.

 

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But perhaps the most thanks should go to someone who was absent.

One of my first contacts at XYC was Peggy.

Peggy is off being a new mum but it was she who devised the broad and representative menu selections that graced each of our tables.

A lot of thought obviously went into it – and thus was vindicated my decision to leave our meal up to the staff and not bother cherry-picking it myself.

Wow!

What a spread we had.

 

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

 

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128
Date: Thursday, August 21.
Time: From 7pm.
Cost: $25.

Driving towards a rendezvous with CTS Feast No.8, Bennie and I were discussing option for the next such outing.

“What about the hot pot place?” he asks.

Great idea!

As we had plenty of time to spare, we headed to Mount Alexander Road and put our proposal to the Xiang Yang Cheng team.

Once we discussed what’s involved, their answer was: “Yes!”

It’s on …

XYC is, we reckon, an ideal vehicle for a CTS Feast – it’s a cool restaurant with VERY interesting food, both of which we’re happy to endorse.

And we also reckon their super Sichuan hot-pot cooking is ideal for the enjoyment of a gathering of CTS friends … we hope you think so, too.

In our discussions with Peggy and Tracey, we looked at offering each table the same representative choices from the XYC line-up.

In the end, though, I decided it best to simply let the Team XYC to do the choosing from their very long menu, which you can check out in our CTS review here.

The XYC tables seat four, so we are throwing this invite open to 24 guests.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

 

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Good, fresh Japanese in Moonee Ponds

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dream5

 

I Dream Of Sushi, 6 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9375 7951

I Dream Of Sushi is a brand new – Nat and I hit it for lunch on opening day – Japanese joint tucked just around the corner from Puckle Street, with a branch of Yim Yam and a fine fish and chippery nearby.

As this is his work nighbourhood, Nat has been watching developments with great interest as he sometimes gets cranky with despair and boredom concerning the same old same old lunchtime routines hereabouts.

The place is done in cheerful cafe style and the staff are on the go and smiling.

I suspect that, not unlike another Japanese CTS favourite, I Dream Of Sushi delivers sushi rolls not out of any great passion about doing so but because to do otherwise would be commercial suicide.

In any case, he and I happily focus on the rest of the menu (see below), which covers a tight but appealing range of smaller dishes and a line-up of rice bowls.

We do real good.

My miso soup ($3.50) is regulation but very good, with deep miso flavour.

 

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Gyoza ($6.50), too, are orthodox but also yummy with a nice garlickiness.

 

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Tofu salad ($10) is a winner and just the sort of light, healthy lunch I’ve been desiring.

The greens, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes are super-fresh and the dressing tangy.

 

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Nat is very happy with his salmon sashimi (12 pieces for $10).

 

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But it’s his teri may don ($12) of “tender chicken thigh cooked in sweet soy on steamed rice w/- Japanese may” that does it for him.

“I’ve hit the bullseye,” he happily proclaims.

I Dream Of Sushi is pitching itself cleverly for the local lunch market – it’ll do fine.

And, yep, Nat will be back.

 

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As we are wrapping things up, we get talking to Catherine and Barb, for whom this is a family affair – they could hardly be prouder of what Acko, Yagu, Miho and Con are doing!

 

I Dream of Sushi on Urbanspoon

 

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CTS Feast No.8: Vicolo – the wrap

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Maria (La Morenita) meets Maria (Vicolo).

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CTS Feast No.8: Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500. Tuesday, June 17, from 7pm.

It’s something to marvel at – that what started as a simple gathering at Hyderabad Inn in Footscray for about 10 people almost a year has seen the Consider The Sauce Feast concept progress to an eighth outing.

This time we were the guests of Maria at Vicolo in Moonee Ponds.

Of course, a fine time was had by all.

And once more, it seemed like about at least half of the guests had been attendees at one or more previous Feasts.

Thank you!

The Vicolo turn-out was a particularly gregarious crew, all of whom seemed happy and eager to make happy conversation with their immediate table neighbours.

That made my task as host very relaxing – a big thank you for that, too!

I thought the food was super.

 

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Conchiglioni ripienne di ricotta e spinache al forno (giant pasta shells filled with ricotta and spinach, oven-baked in our delicious Napoli sauce) was a light and simple starter with a fine tomato sauce.

 

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Those who chose risotto paesana di vegetale verde e pesto Genoese (risotto with zucchini, asparagus, leek, and green peas and our home-made basil pesto) as their main course were happy.

The sample I tried was flavoursome with pesto and beautifully, slightly al dente vegetables.

The serves were huge!

 

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If anything, those who opted for osso buco cacciatore-style con polenta (tender beef osso buco oven-braised with rosemary, red wine and winter vegetables over soft polenta) were even happier.

It was rich, sticky and wonderful.

This was Bennie’s first experience with this dish – he loved it, but drew the line at sucking up the marrow.

 

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Panna cotta della casa di mandola (homemade almond cream dessert) was divine, the wafting flavour of marzipan being all the more effective for its subtlety.

 

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The lemon tart was equally luscious.

Plenty of people managed to have a good taste of both desserts by doing deals with their neighbours!

Thanks again to everyone, particularly to Maria and her staff.

 

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