Killer Korean BBQ

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tobagi3Consider The Sauce is enjoying a splendid year – but it’s not one that is turning out as expected. At its start, I envisaged much activity of the CTS Feast variety. To date, however, there has been a single Feast event. Attempts to get others up and running have failed to come to fruition. I’m OK with that – if such things are not to be, pushing harder doesn’t seem to help. In the meantime, Bennie and I – with help from a variety of very fine foodie pals – have simply continued to explore the western suburbs with glee. That relaxed approach seems to engender it own rewards in terms of interesting approaches that lob into the CTS email inbox. One such a few months back came from Moonee Valley Council – regarding a project in which CTS is very happy to have become involved. So … this post is the first of six that will appear in the next half-year or so sponsored by Moonee Valley Council. Long-time readers will know by now – and new readers can be assured – that our participation has only been made possible by being free to choose freely the six eateries to be written about and by having complete freedom to say whatever we please, good or bad. In other words … it’s business as usual here at CTS.

 

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Tobagi BBQ, 726 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 8870

The stretch of Mount Alexander Road heading uphill to Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds can come across as a closed shop by day.

By night, by contrast and strictly thinking of food, it becomes a good deal more appealing.

As Bennie and I wander down one side of the road and up the other, we ponder quite a nice range of restaurants and cuisines before ending up pretty much where we started, thence to enter Tobagi BBQ, a Korean joint we’ve had on our “to do” list for a long time.

We end up being ever so happy we step through the Tobagi door, as we enjoy good Korean food of a homespun sort we’ve not come across before, cooked and served with panache.

The place is rather plain, if you look closely, but the clever use of many browns creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.

At first, on a mid-week night, we’re the only customers so enjoy the exclusive and friendly attention of both Elle and Jiweon, while the latter’s dad, Gerry, is in the kitchen.

 

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Our first dish, vegetable dumplings ($8), doesn’t augur well for a fulfilling or filling evening.

The dumplings are OK, with mushy fillings that are very garlicky, but the serve size seems on the parsimonious side.

 

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The arrival of “denjang soup” ($10) is much reassuring.

A big, very fine bowl of basic miso soup is studded with heaps of tofu and enoki mushrooms.

There’s plenty enough for Bennie and I to share, though as with our mains the mix of white/black rise seems superfluous to our mutual mindset and appetite.

Even if such grains are the Korean way …

 

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I have friends for whom the idea of paying for kimchi is anathema.

Me, I’ve got no problem with it in an Australian setting, particularly when $4 gets us this lovely, generous bowl of fresh, zingy and only-lightly-pickled cucumber.

 

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Then it’s on to our mains – for which we throw caution, both food and financial, to the wind by going big on meat with beef bulgogi ($25), of thinly sliced and marinated beef with enoki mushies, and pork galbi ($29), of free-range pork ribs marinated in chilli paste and sesame oil.

 

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To go with our mains, we are provided with three sauces – sesame oil/salt, miso paste and chilli paste, along with lettuce leaves and two serve of the same rice ($3 each).

 

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It’s at this point in our evening that Jiweon really comes into her own by deftly barbecuing our meats at our table.

Good job!

 

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We start in on the beef and enokis at the medium-rare stage – and it tastes very, very nice, with great texture and BBQ flavour.

We eat some with the nearby sauces.

We eat some rolled up in the butter lettuce leaves, as instructed.

We eat some just making it up as we go.

 

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The pork proves even more demanding of Jiweon’s time.

She barbecues the big, handsome chunk of meat whole for a while before cutting the meat from the bones with scissors and continuing the cooking.

In the end, we are left with heaps of smaller chunks each and a nice, meaty bone to gnaw on at the end.

The meat is an interesting contrast to all the US-style barbecue we’ve indulged in this year.

Here, the pork rib meat is quite chewy, very tasty and not as spicy as seems might be the case.

We’ve had a beaut meal and love the people here.

It’s a meal, though, that has stretched the definition of “cheap eats”.

But we’re happy with the quality and quantity of what we’ve been served. We reckon it’s all been good value for money.

Truth is, we could’ve got away with paying less by the simple, prudent moves of not ordering rice we didn’t need and two cans of soft drink where water would do!

Maybe a hotpot for us next time …

(This post has been sponsored by Moonee Valley Council.)

 

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More than dumplings in Moonee Ponds

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Dumpling House, 2 Everage Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9188

Consider The Sauce recorded the new existence of Dumpling House in a Moonee Ponds eats goss post a month back, noting along the way how much I enjoyed the chicken and mushroom wontons in “peanut, chilli and spice sauce”.

Today I’m back for lunch and I have company.

Between us we try enough of the menu to ascertain that Dumpling House is about more than dumplings and is, indeed, a very handy arrival in the Puckle Street neighbourhood – basic of decor, very cheap and with surprises waiting to be unearthed.

And word, it seems, is getting out – there’s one large lunch group, another table of four and a few takeaway orders going out the door.

 

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Pan-fried chicken and prawn dumplings ($9.50 for 12) are a big bite size and quite chewy.

The innards (top picture) are a deft mix of chicken and prawn – very tasty!

 

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We enjoy, too, the Shanghai fried noodles ($9.50).

There’s nothing spectacular about this dish – it’s simply a good, solid rendition of a standard noodle dish with greenery, carrot and beef.

 

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We are so very happy we have ordered the spicy eggplant ($16.50).

Not that it’s spicy, mind you.

It’s not.

And forget the capsicum, which is little more than a garnish.

The dish is also monumentally oily – but I doubt it could be made any other way.

What it does have is gorgeously luscious eggplant pieces with flavour that has us moaning and sighing with delight.

The sort of eggplant flavour, in fact, of which I dream.

All this is set off by the wonderfully by bright green, al-dente broad beans – such a nice touch!

 

Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

 

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Moonee Valley eats goss

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moon8

 

Big changes are afoot at Italian restaurant Vicolo, the Young Street venue for a memorable 2014 Consider The Sauce Feast.

Come early June, Maria will be closing the joint down for a couple of weeks for a major overhaul – this place is most definitely going to look very different.

Some time at the end of June, she will be reopening as Harry’s Bar, named after the Venice institution of the same.

And she will, of course, be serving that famous bar’s signature drink, the bellini (Prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar).

Maria will retain some of the current and longstanding food, but the famed risotto list, for instance, will be cut to the lunch offering of 10 varieties.

Coming in will be an increased emphasis on pizzas and things such as goat and porchetta roasted in a stone oven.

As well, there will be breakfast and brunch offered at weekends.

Consider The Sauce will have a great reader giveaway for the Harry’s Bar opening night party so stay tuned!

 

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Moonee Ponds has a brand new dumpling place.

Dumpling House is at 2A Everage Street (phone 9372 9188).

Becky and Joseph have been up and running for only four days when I visit.

The room is bare-bones cafe style but the service is grand, and Becky is very keen to get customer feedback.

They have a longer, regulation-style Chinese menu (mainly for nights) but the lunchtime gist of it is two lists – one of “with rice” dishes and another of dumplings (see menus below).

 

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I just love the chicken and mushroom wontons in “peanut, chilli and spice sauce” (15 for $10.50).

There’s not much evidence of peanuttiness but that’s OK – if the descripition had been “with chilli-infused soup”, I would’ve ordered it anyway.

As is evident from the above picture, it’s fiery – in fact, at the upper limit of my spice threshold.

Yummy, though!

The wontons are fabulous – small, lovely of texture and with a nice, hefty hit of ginger.

And I love, too, the chopped bok choi.

Often such dishes are served with whole leaves, which can be both hard to handle and bitter.

These are neither and really lovely to eat.

They’re the best “dumplings” I’ve had this year – and that’s saying quite a lot!

Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

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On the other side of Puckle Street, in Pratt Street, what was until recently a Brown’s Bakery is in the process of being transformed, according to one of the builders I quiz, into “a fancy fish and chip place”.

Cool!

 

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Good bento, great price

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Chiba, 19 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0248

Consider The Sauce has checked out the smaller, takeaway-oriented Chiba joint on Puckle Street – it was, mind you, many moons ago – but never the Chiba proper on Hall Street.

I am gently encouraged by this blog’s very fine pal, Nat Stockley, who works in this neighbourhood and who has explored its nourishment offerings in forensic depth.

Chiba, he opines, offers good, solid Japanese food at good prices.

He is, as ever, entirely correct.

I order for a mid-week day-off lunch, following Nat’s suggestion, the bento.

There’s nothing adventurous about it – but it is a fine feed well done.

And at $15, it’s super cheap – especially considering it is served to me in a full-service Japanese restaurant.

You’ll pay the same – or more – in less salubrious settings and get no service for your trouble.

 

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Good miso soup, with just green onion and tofu cubes, gets proceedings underway.

 

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The bento itself has …

Four pieces of salmon sashimi.

A very mini mini-spring roll and two pieces of nicely-crumbed and deep-fried white fish.

Mildy flavoured and rather finely-diced chicken teriyaki.

Rice.

Just OK tempura consisting of three parts vegetables and one part prawn.

If anything, the shredded cabbage under the fried fish and spring roll is the highlight, anointed as it is with a tangy, whizzed dressing of carrot, vinegar and seasonings.

Nice!

A simple fruit offerings of bite-sized cubes of three different varieties melon completes my meal.

Check out the Chiba website here.

 

Chiba Japanese on Urbanspoon

Souvlakis and white choc risotto

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hellenic3

 

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