Racecourse Road eats goss

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Chinese Spicy And Barbie Kitchen – far, far better known these days as I Love Dumplings – is one of the most popular eateries in the Racecourse Road neighbourhood.

It’s also one of the few that has a reputation and some cachet outside the west.

So it makes sense that the whole operation is on the move.

 

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The business will be moving into the refurbished former bank building a few doors along.

I’m pretty sure it was an ANZ, but there’s a NAB badge right there.

The fit-out looks to be well advanced and I’m told moving day will be in a couple of weeks.

The new venue will have a seating capacity of 120.

The existing ILD place will be stay “in the family”, to become in due course another eatery.

 

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Sitting adjacent to the bank building, the premises that once housed Chilli Padi Mamak Kopittam is now vacant.

But works are underway inside.

In due course, expect a branch of the popular Pacific Seafood BBQ House chain that is a star of Lonsdale Street, South Yarra and Richmond to be opening up.

 

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Meanwhile, Veggie Villa – which took over a shopfront what for many years housed a pretty decent Indian restaurant – seems to have found a handy niche on Racecourse Road, judging by the number of customers I see in there.

They’re not huge, numbers mind you, but seem enough to be going on with.

I’m prepared to give the joint another go.

But my sole visit came about because I really liked the sound of their smoked eggplant curry, which had no smoky flavour at all and in which the eggplant was cooked down to such an extent that it was basically just … gravy!

Reports, anyone?

Laughter amid the gloom in Altona

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Greek Orthodox Parish & Community – The Dormition of Our Lady, North Altona – launch day of their new church

It’s the launch party of the new Greek church on Millers Road and there’s a lot of people about.

A lot of happy, animated people.

It’s not raining – but it has been.

Leaden skies and sunshine are in an arm wrestle that ends in a draw.

 

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There is, however, a lot of dainty stepping around mud and puddles by people in high heels.

And even low heels.

 

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Antonio from Werribee and I bond immediately.

 

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I’m a bit bemused but not disturbed by the food on offer – corn, prawn skewers, falafel, fish and chips.

And lots of sweet treats.

Where’s the kebabs?

 

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The queue for the F&C looks way too long and tiresome.

So after a beaut corn cob I go for a $5 falafel sandwich. With tahini sauce and turshi, it’s excellent.

 

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I am unsurprised to run into emissaries of another western suburbs spiritual establishment.

 

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Anna, Vicki, Pat and Pam are manning the sweets stand with great aplomb and gaiety.

It’s from Pam that I learn the reason for the food – the church’s big day just happens to coincide with a Greek Orthodox fast day that dictates the non-consumption of meat or dairy products.

Yet there is beer on sale!

I buy a $10 tray of homemade, syrupy goodness to take home, with Pam throwing is a handful of Turkish delight cubes for good measure.

It’s my lucky day!

 

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After witnessing a punch-up in the queue for loukoumades – I take a $5 bunch of them home, too, and boy are they amazing! – I notice the crowd is thinning out and realise it’s time for me to do likewise.

Alfrieda Street eats goss

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So what’s happening on St Albans’ vibrant eats strip?

Well, I’m told a fire event has forced the temporary closure and refurbishment of Sunshine Charcoal Chicken.

Truth is, the place was looking rather tired so hopefully something good will come of their misfortune.

As I said recently to a CTS reader when discussing a similar business in Essendon, one of these days – with a little bit of tweaking and finessing – charcoal chicken shops will become the Next Big Thing.

 

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Alfrieda Street will soon have its own branch of French Baguette Cafe, the Footscray version of which is proving such a multifaceted hit.

 

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What was once home to the short-lived Charitable Vegetarian Restaurant quite recently came to house Sunrise.

In quick order that, too, has closed.

The lovely My from Phi Phi tells me the address is destined to house a new eatery with a broader outlook, one more attuned to the commercial realities of the neighbourhood.

 

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A new Alfrieda banh mi shop appears to have become  hit rather quickly.

 

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Meanwhile, I checked back into Phi Phi – after it all, it has been a long couple of weeks since I was last there – to make sure their roast meats are still superb.

The answer is: Yes!

Definitely my go-to place for this kind of food.

After talking with My, and all going to plan, Consider The Sauce and Phi Phi will co-host a CTS Feast there early in the new year.

 

Actually, better than A1

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 A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

After an initial visit – covered here – Consider The Sauce has been eager for a return adventure at A1 in Essendon.

Primarily to partake of one of the more unusual and intriguing options among the more substantial meal platters they offer – samke hara, which features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

Today, it being that time of year when my very good mate Penny is making her annual visit to Melbourne from Wellington, is the day.

Truth is, on previous visits Penny and I have had some really fine face-to-face catch-ups – we talk by phone at least once a fortnight about everything under the sun – but rarely have we enjoyed a really fabulous meal.

I put the blame for that squarely on my own shoulders in the category of “trying too hard”.

Anyway, we rectify that today – and in spectacular fashion.

As it turns out, the samke hara is unavailable.

So boss man Gabby offers to put together for me (and Penny!) a combo set of shish tawook (chicken) and kafta skewers with all the bits and pieces.

The above spread costs us $24; not pictured are an extra salad and a basket containing plenty of zaatar, olives and a couple each of small rice-stuffed peppers and puff-style kibbeh.

The single-meat deals are priced at $14.50, so I’m not sure our price accurately reflects what it would cost to buy all items involved separately.

And Gaby is perfectly aware there’s a blogger in the house …

But add another $10 or even $20 and it would STILL be a bargain.

I know there’s a handful of places around town that do Lebanese food in more formal settings (and at significantly higher prices), but I find it extremely difficult to imagine their food could be any finer.

As I once said of another Lebanese establishment, in the world of Consider The Sauce, this is as good as food gets – at any price.

As our meal arrives at our table, our day gets even better …

 

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Placing bowls full of wonderful before us, Gaby sighs as he says: “This is when I miss being in Lebanon – all the small dishes!”

Then he introduces us to his mum, Sandra, she being responsible for much of the food we are about to inhale.

And, I’m sure, almost all its heart and soul!

For CTS – which has been known on occasion to mutter, “We revere cooks but chefs don’t impress us that much!” – this is akin to meeting royalty!

Everything we eat rocks our world …

Stuffed vine leaves with a lemony tang and rice still displaying a nice, nutty al dente feel.

Fresh, luscious dips, with the ultra-smoky eggplant number a taste sensation.

Tabouli and fattoush, fresh and zingy.

Two kinds of splendidly crunchy and salty green olives.

And the meat skewers – served at room temperature, juicy, tender, packed with flavour and having the killer chargrilled tang in abundance.

All of the above, of course, can have only one outcome – yes, some time early in the new year and all going as planned, A1 Essendon and Consider The Sauce will co-host the first CTS Feast for 2015.

 

A1 Bakery Essendon on Urbanspoon

 

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Not your average chicken shop

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Essendon Charcoal Chicken, 6 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9078 3270

Consider The Sauce is told that business at Essendon Charcoal Chicken is way down ever since a certain AFL club uprooted and moved its training activities elsewhere.

That’s a shame, as right here on Napier Street and around the corner on Fletcher there’s a number eating establishment that look well worthy of exploration.

As is it is, I’m waylaid by Essendon Charcoal Chicken as I’m ostensibly on my way to lunch at an A1 place right across the road.

At first glance, this looks very much like just another charcoal chicken shop, right down to potato cakes in the bain marie.

Look just a little closer, though … and it’s clear there’s much more going on.

Lilydale free range chooks, for starters.

 

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A salad lineup that a whole heap more attractive than the gloopy coleslaw usually found in chicken shops.

 

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Roast spuds looking gorgeous and scented with rosemary and salt.

 

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Some great looking lamb going round and round above the charcoal, sharing that space with the poultry.

 

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And – finally – the chooks themselves, looking sensational and crusted with herbs.

My superb-looking lunch (pictured at top) of half a chicken, roast spuds and salad costs a very fine $12.90.

The chicken tastes just as good as it looks, though in truth the guts of the breast meat is dry.

Some gravy or condiments are needed here.

If anything, my sides are the highlight.

The spud chunks and divine and fall-apart tender.

The fresh, crunchy salad of all sorts of things is wonderfully dressed.

Chicken shop?

Salad?

Beautifully dressed?

Yes.

 

Essendon Charcoal Chicken on Urbanspoon

 

 

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A Good Thing for Buckley Street

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The retail premises that kicked off the CTS story about Buckley Street is, it turns out, destined for a more interesting and welcome future than the “convenience store” mentioned on the planning application led us to believe.

Thanks to CTS reader Zoe for providing this link to the website/magazine Food Service News.

According to the story, the Buckley Street shop is to become a Melbourne sibling for the Marrickville establishment known as Cornersmith.

Like the Sydney store/cafe, Rhubarb Wholefoods will be a “wholefoods store and vegetarian cafe”.

And an important element of the way Rhubarb operates will involve customers swapping their homegrown vegetables, fruit and more for cafe products.

A bartering business for the west – how cool is that?

Follow the progress of Rhubarb Wholefoods by “liking” their Facebook page.

CTS Feast No.10: Phat Milk – the wrap

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CTS Feast No.10: Brunch at Phat Milk, 208 Mt Alexander Road, Travancore. Phone: 9376 6643. Sunday, November 9, from 11am.

How good and enjoyable was this CTS Feast?

Well, for purely selfish reasons, I’d have to proclaim: “It was the best!”

You see, not only was this the first Feast in held in daylight hours and the first hosted by a cafe, it was also the smallest … well, OK the smallest since the very beginnings of the CTS Feast tradition.

And I know full well that organising and hosting a small number of people is significantly easier and less stressful than hosting a big bunch.

In this case, too, Bennie and I knew about half the guests already and enjoyed the heck out of getting to know those we didn’t.

As we arrived, the Phat Milk crew seemed to be embroiled in a frantic breakfast/brunch rush … but things soon seemed to settled down, and the timing of our massed arrival ended up seeming quite good.

Shaun, our main server, Rose, and the rest of the staff looked after us supremely well.

Bravo!

 

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As our brunch unfolded and the conversations ebbed and flowed, I realised that on top of all the many pluses of the CTS Feasts, they also provide a simply lovely and easy way for likeminded folks to mix and mingle and make new friends in a way that isn’t always that easy in other social settings.

So I was thrilled to see three guests – who had only met for the first time an hour or so earlier – swap details as the event wound down.

And Bennie and I even snagged – and feel very privileged to have done so – an invite for a homecooked Indian meal in Seddon from a lovely couple of regular CTS readers attending their first CTS event.

Wow!

 

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So many, many thanks to Alice, Nelio, Ankitha and Raj, Shamaila, Amanda, Chiara, Lisa, Julian and Christine for making this a wonderful occasion.

The food?

I thought it was outstanding.

 

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As on a previous visit, I went for the purple carrot and sweet potato latke with blueberry-cured salmon, quark and a poached egg.

It was a lot more filling than it looks here!

Most others also chose from the breakfast menu, with table’s dishes including …

 

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… a cauliflower omelette and …

 

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… baked eggs, as well as …

 

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… your more traditional, custom-selected breakfast fare.

(Swamp Thing? Gee, I wonder whose meal that could be?)

 

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Only two of us chose from the blackboard lunch menu (see below).

The entire CTS party “oohed” and “aahed” when Ankitha’s salt-and-pepper soft shell crab burger (pictured at top) arrived, while Raj’s garlic-and-thyme chicken cous cous salad also looked mighty fine.

Obviously, this event was a co-promotion between Phat Milk and CTS … but I really do dig this one-of-a-kind establishment and the people who run it.

They offer not just great food but also twinkle-eyed personality to go with it.

 

Phat Milk on Urbanspoon

 

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