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 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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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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Consider The Sauce Feast No.8: 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.

After an initial visit to Vicolo and then being a privileged guest at the joint’s 10th birthday party … it’s Feast Time!

I’ve had a ball getting to know Maria from Vicolo, who has lined up a dynamite night for us.

To secure your ticket for CTS Feast No.8 at Vicolo, click here.

This time out, the number of guests we’re inviting is 40.

The price is $25 per person.

Yes, that’s a little more than previous CTS Feasts – but there’s a very good reason for that.

And that reason is the night’s menu … check it out:

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CTS FEAST NO.8: VICOLO

ENTREE

Conchiglioni ripienne di ricotta e spinache al forno (giant pasta shells filled with ricotta and spinach, oven-baked in our delicious Napoli sauce).

MAIN

Osso buco cacciatore-style con polenta (tender beef osso buco oven-braised with rosemary, red wine and winter vegetables over soft polenta)

OR

Risotto paesana di vegetale verde e pesto Genoese (risotto with zucchini, asparagus, leek, and green peas and our home made basil pesto).

DESSERT

(Desserts will be allocated on a 50/50 basis to guests, but feel free to swap with your neighbours!)

Cassata di limone (homemade lemon tart).

OR

Panna cotta della casa di mandola (homemade almond cream dessert)

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That’s right – a classy three-course Italian meal for $25!

If you need any further convincing of just what an exceptional opportunity this is, check out Vicolo’s regular menu here.

Guests will be responsible for paying for their own choices of drinks and/or coffee.

As with other recent CTS Feasts, the ticket monies will be split between the restaurant, in order to help cover some of the costs, and CTS, for our work in setting the night up.

To secure your ticket for CTS Feast No.8 at Vicolo, click here.

Thanks to Anna and Yvette from X2 Marketing for helping facilitate this event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

African flavour blast in Moonee ponds

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Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe, 33 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 0403 338 836

Holmes Road is the continuation of Puckle Street on the other side of the railway line.

It’s a curiously undistinguished strip of shops and assorted businesses.

Shebelle, for instance, resides right next door to a pole-dancing instruction palace.

Never mind all that – Shebelle is here to give not just the immediate neighbourhood but also the Puckle Street precinct a hefty infusion of great colour, taste, flavour and friendly service.

Shebelle once resided with other Ethiopian eateries in Barkly Street, Footscray.

It’s been open in Moonee Ponds for about a week and I join Nat and his colleague, Tim, there for a terrific lunch.

We are offered right off freshly roasted and brewed Ethiopian coffee, but opt for post-meal caffeine.

The menu (see below) is longish and appears to have most of the regular Ethiopian bases covered.

But there are also more unusual touches and some Moroccan influences.

Much to ponder and check out on repeat visits.

How utterly gorgeous, for instance, might be a north African version of  “chicken satay sticks” – described as “Moroccan style marinated with harissa and clarified butter, garlic, olive oil” with a choice of injera or bread?

We all head elsewhere on the menu and are very happy with our choices.

 

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My “Harirra Soup”, served with house-made injera, is a lot more robust and tasty than it looks in this photograph.

It has the sort of tang we adore being provided in the soup at Safari in Ascot Vale.

But this version has more vegetables, making it a little like an African minestrone; the lamb bits are flecks rather than chunks.

And there’s a heap of small, delicate brown lentils, making it also like the sort of rich lentil soup that comes from all over the Middle East and parts of Europe.

 

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Upon the arrival Tim’s “Moroccan lamb meatballs” ($15), Nat and I are envious.

The four chunky, big and beautifully seasoned meatballs are served in an intensely tomatoey sauce that has a nice chilli whack – whether from harissa or chilli powder, we know not.

Accompanying is a densely packed couscous.

Wow – great dish!

 

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Nat and I, both being more used to “tibs” dishes that are dry, are surprised by the appearance of his lamb tibs ($12).

Hewan explains to us that tibs are dry when served with injera, but in more of a soup/stew configuration when with served with rice, as Nat has chosen.

In any case, his dish is another goodie, with fine, chewy lamb and fresh green chilli slices.

 

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“Ethiopian style salad” ($8) is a just-right mix of very fresh greens, tomato, onion and more green chilli. When I get this sort of simple yet classy, zingy salad at African joints, it makes me think they could teach many cafes a thing or three about how it should be done.

Before departing, we do take up the offer from Hewan and Etsegent of a small cup each of their delicious, sweet Ethiopian coffee.

We wish Shebelle and its crew all the very best in their new location – and hope the locals learn to appreciate what a gem is in their midst.

Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Vicolo turns 10

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Maria, Nonna Nella and Bianca.

 

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Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500

Since Consider The Sauce’s first visit to Vicolo, yours truly has returned a couple of times.

That’s been to take advantage of the joint’s $15 lunch special of risotto and a glass of wine.

One time I had a zesty, lighter number with vegetables and lemon rind.

On another and by contrast, I went with a robust ragu and sausage number.

They were both brilliant.

Maria has done what she said she would – turned this long-time risotto hater into a convert!

I mention this to make the point that Vicolo is rapidly becoming part of our routine and that this time out I am not merely fronting for another snout-in-trough freebie at a place I would otherwise not frequent.

Though – let’s make no bones about it, and yes food blogging is sometimes the best gig in the world – I leap at the chance to attend the restaurant’s special 10th anniversary dinner as an extremely privileged non-paying guest.

And why wouldn’t I?

Specially when it’s not just Maria in the kitchen – in there she’s been joined by her mum, Nonna Nella, and daughter Bianca.

Three generations of Italian cooking – how wonderful!

 

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Once again I am joined by Yvette and Anna from X2 Marketing – by now, this has gone way beyond work and I genuinely like hanging with this crew – and this time, too, by their respective partners, Michael and Rob.

I suspect there are more extra hands at hand in the kitchen, and there certainly is on the floor.

It’s a full house, the vibe is upbeat and happy, and the guests seem evenly split between Maria’s extended friends-and-family and regular customers – with us lot in the middle.

It’s busy, busy, busy, but we find the service and food arrival times to be good.

Some of our party choose to eat from the regular menu, but I will highlight here dishes from the special birthday list (see below).

 

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We get a couple of sets of Nonna Nella’s antipasto ($22) to share.

It’s all fine in a wonderful old-school way. I specially like the rich fishiness of the sardine involtini and the zipoli (fried long doughnuts stuffed with anchovies), both bottom right.

 

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My brodo di pollo (chicken broth with polpette and home-made pastina, $15) is my night’s highlight.

Describing this as chicken noodle soup would do it a gross injustice.

Nor does the above photograph in any way convey the depth of simple, soupy flavour or the hidden presence of masses of noodles and marble-sized meatballs.

 

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I had goat, in casserole form, on our previous visit, so somewhat regretfully pass on the capretto in crostata (traditional cacciatore-style goat pie with verdura, $38).

But I’m glad Michael gets it and he enjoys the rich heartiness of it.

 

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My pesce spada (swordfish bagnara on grilled potatoes with orange and fennel salad, $38) is, for fish these days, quite well done.

That’s an appropriate term, as eating this IS like eating a steak – one, though, that is juicy, tasty and in no way dry. The salad and rather smoky roast spuds are the perfect foils.

Bangara?

Maria says: “Bagnara was the lemon, olives, capers, parley and olive oil dressing that garnished the fish!”

 

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Our table mostly goes without dessert, but Michael and I both plunge right on ahead with the pannetone pudding ($12).

This, of course, is a bread and butter pudding – and a fantastic one. Instead of the listed figs, our puds are topped with the most luscious berries.

For dessert, Yvette has … lasagne (in joke …).

 

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Finally, Maria sends us – unbidden – a plate of “dolcette – Nonna Nella’s little sweet things”. They, too, are lovely … but by this time we are all uniformly sated.

Thanks, Maria!

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This is the second in what will be a trilogy of stories about Vicolo.

The third will likely be published in a few weeks – regular readers will guess, I’m sure, where we’re headed with this … and it’s going to be brilliant!

Consider The Sauce’s meal at Vicolo was provided without payment being required. Management had no prior knowledge of what would be ordered, and neither sought nor was granted any editorial input into this story.

Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar on Urbanspoon

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