Indian blast; not in WeFo!

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D Asian, 68-82 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 8354 8387

By the time Bennie and I step through the doors of D Asia, it’s been open about six months.

Obviously, we haven’t been paying enough attention.

Though perhaps in this case, that’s something to do with the fact the restaurant isn’t on Hopkins Street proper, but rather looks out on the carpark and towards Franco Cozzo and Centrelink (into which dread office I most assuredly never wish to step foot again!).

D Asia is a typically warped idiosyncratic CTS experience.

The place is cavernous, complete with dance floor, bandstand and disco ball.

We are the only customers.

The menu is by a long way the longest I’ve ever seen – far too voluminous to photograph and publish here.

No customers, stupendously long menu?

Those are the sorts of things that normally see red flags hoisted.

But after visiting as a pair and then solo, and eating mostly well, I have to confess my curiosity about this abidingly strange and unlikely Indian restaurant remains high.

I will return to check out the many dishes of which I’ve never before heard.

With no pre-planned gameplan, Bennie and I find ourselves going happily all Indo-Chinese and all vegetarian.

 

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The staff do the right thing by us by splitting our single serve of coriander lemon soup ($7.95) into two bowls.

It’s, um, super.

Mildly viscous in the familiar Chinese style, it’s refreshing and tangy, with tiny dice of vegetables providing crunch.

 

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Golden fried potato ($12.95) is OK but is nothing more than battered potato stalks.

There is little or none of the advertised “marinated” factor.

This dish is, in our opinion, way over-priced.

 

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Chilli baby corn is a much better deal at $11.95 – and a much better tasting one as well.

These are terrific flavour bombs, deep-fried and unoily.

There’s more than corn going on here, but it’s those kernals that provide the delightful “pop”.

Very, very yummy, they are.

 

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Gobi manchurian ($10.95) is a good deal wetter than the rendition we’re familiar with from our favourite Indo-Chinese haunt.

It’s pleasant enough but no earth-shaker and is very oily.

 

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As are our vegetable hakka noodles ($11.95), but we’d expect nothing different in a wok-tossed Indian dish.

They are fine, though, with plenty of diced and well-cooked vegetables.

 

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On my follow-up visit, I try another Indo-Chinese dish – cutmet aloo ($4.95), which is described as “boiled potato dressed with Indian spices and served with tamarind chutney”.

Again, this is nice enough but no great shakes.

 

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Then, just for to see what D Asia does with plain, workaday Indian food, I get a serve of mutton curry with roti ($10.95).

The fresh-cooked roti is fine.

The mutton is on the bone, and seems even more fiddly than is usually the case.

This is one of the most oily curries I’ve ever experienced.

And it’s the saltiest curry I can recall eating.

I like it a lot, though, although others’ mileage may vary!

D Asia?

What an enigma!

And I don’t think it’s really possible to be uncharmed by an eatery that has seven kinds of dal.

Or one that serves goat fried rice.

Or one that has 12 different soups on offer, including chicken or mutton suraba.

Or one that has a deep-fried Indo-Chinese dish call botanic vegetable.

Or one that seasons its gongura mutton with rosella leaves.

Or … well, you get the picture!

 

D Asian on Urbanspoon

 

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So-so burger in Kensington

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Jerry’s Burgers ‘N’ Shakes, 482 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 1687

Not too long before we noticed the assembling of a Jerry’s franchise branch in Kensington, our friend The Burger King dined at the Tullamarine shop.

His verdict?

He was and is dismissive.

More recently, another friend – for whom Kensington is neighbourhood territory – implied he and his had a much more satisfying time at the new place.

So I decided to find out for myself.

 

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The Kensington jerry’s is a smallish operation, done out in typical fast-food franchise fashion.

The seating is limited and rudimentary.

I found the service to be good and the prices to be very low.

But there’s the rub – on the premise of “you get what you pay for”, your Jerry’s burger will most likely suffer by comparison with the more pricey likes of Grill’d and other ritzy burger places.

The range of sandwiches – and even salads – is very long (see below), ranging through beef, steak, pork, fish, vegetarian and breakfast items.

 

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I went with the She Hot! burger with beef, bacon, cheese, red onion, Tabasco aioli, lettuce and jalapenos ($7.90) and a small serve of chips ($1.90).

My burger was just OK, and as hinted at above pretty much what you’d expect for cents under $8.

It wasn’t nearly as hot as the number of pepper slices included might suggest.

It was a sloppy meal, with the structural integrity lapsing totally by the end.

Worst of all, the meat patty was bereft of beefiness and redolent of sausage meat.

I wouldn’t go so far as draw a comparison with “pet food”, as one Urbanspoon contributor has done, but you get the picture …

The best part of my dinner were the chips, which were terrific and plentiful.

 

Jerry's Burgers 'n' Shakes on Urbanspoon

 

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Bargain Barkly lunches

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540 On Barkly, 540 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 96872479

It’s taken us a good while to eat at 540 On Barkly since initially covering its impending arrival.

Now that we’re in the house, we’re happy – the long room is a tranquil, nice place to be on a broiling hot day.

One of the walls is adorned with photographs depicting scenes from Footscray’s past.

Some of them have foodie themes.

 

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Can anyone identify where this pic was taken?

 

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Perhaps this one was snapped somewhere around Essex Street?

 

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We keep it simple – and very affordable – by ordering from the list of $12.50 lunch specials regularly posted on the establishment’s Facebook page.

 

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Bennie like his chicken fajitas fine, though as they’re in wrap form they present as a very light meal that seems to disappear in seconds.

Yes, my lad would’ve preferred the burger from the menu proper!

I do much better with my very excellent fish burger (top photo).

The Turkish roll housing it is super fresh.

Fillings are tip-top and just right.

The fish itself – blue granadier – has been simply pan-fried and its taste is delicate yet robust enough for a good flavour hit.

The chips are many, very hot and very nice.

 

540 on Barkly on Urbanspoon

 

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Team CTS does BBQ – again

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Le Bon Ton, 51 Gipps Street, Collingwood. Phone: 9416 4341

Are regular readers discerning a trend here?

Yes, it seems we’re methodically – without actually meaning to – checking out Melbourne’s outlets for BBQ and other things to do with the American South.

This is driven largely by besottedness with that part of the world in general.

I’d have to say, after several tremendous meals, my skepticism about what is possible and available in Melbourne in this regard is evaporating; Le Bon Ton continues that trend.

Our pursuit of this food is driven, too, by the simple fact we love it to pieces.

In this case, “we” refers to an extended CTS “A” Team that numbers six and involves Bennie, myself and four great pals who also love getting on the fang.

We wish another “A” Team member, the fabulous Nat Stockley, who would fit like a glove into this happy aggregation, was with us!

 

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Le Bon Ton is in a former pub in the back blocks of Collingwood.

It’s a big place rather extravagantly set up, with a lot of time – and no doubt money – spent on creating a Southern aura.

It works.

The place rambles just like some old-school New Orleans restaurant, with many rooms and a beaut outdoor dining area out back.

We figured arriving relatively early on a Friday night would see us right in terms of snagging a table.

We are wrong.

The place is jumping and packed.

No matter – after a brief cocktail-and-chat interlude that actually seems just right, we are seated and thereafter very well taken care of.

Most of our group went with the $49 banquet set-up just a few weeks previously at Meatmaiden, and ended up being happy with the results.

At Le Bon Ton, we baulk at their comparative offering of the Southern Pride deal for $59, not so much because of the cost but because we simply doubt our combined capacity to eat that much food.

So we go our own ways, ordering a couple of dishes to share and getting sandwiches and a meat offering based individual preferences.

This turns out to be a winning approach for us – and allows us scope to go with a couple of pies at the end of our meal.

 

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The original inspiration for our Bon Ton outing was fried chicken.

Here it’s served as an entree of “Southern style buttermilk soaked tenders with cracked pepper white gravy” for $16.

We get two serves that allow us one piece apiece of very good, beautifully seasoned and coated chook.

 

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Based on a recent visit here by two of our party, we also go the chili cheese fries ($15).

As all our food arrives pretty much at the same time, the photographic situation is intense so this rather blurry photograph is all I’ve got to show you of these delicious, decadent pimped-up spuds.

We get two orders of these, too. One would’ve done.

 

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With the arrival of the brisket (half a pound of grain-fed Riverina Angus beef for $21) we wonder just how Melbourne’s BBQ emporiums who sell their smoked meats by weight go about maintaining consistent portion sizes.

Surely there’s not someone in the kitchen weighing up individual orders?

In this case, the serve seems very, wonderfully generous, so much so that the person whose meal it ostensibly is happily shares it with rest of the table.

Thanks, Eliza!

It’s very, very fine.

 

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The Le Bon Ton cheeseburger of “150g Wagyu beef patty & crispy bacon w/ onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, spicy ketchup & aioli” comes with a price tag of $16 and disappears down the gob of its owner in a flash.

 

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Two of us select the brisket sandwich of “pit smoked chopped brisket with damn good BBQ sauce & slaw” ($16) – and what a sloppy, tangy, spicy joy it is.

Mine certainly eats bigger than the photo seems to suggest.

The “debris” of meats and dressings that tumble from my sandwich are far from being the least of the pleasure had.

 

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Through our BBQ explorations, Bennie has developed a profound fondness for pulled pork.

He devours the Le Bon Ton version – “pit-smoked pulled pork with white onion, jalapeno, sharp cheddar & special sauce” ($16) – with relish.

It, too, is bigger and more hearty than first appears to be the case.

 

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With a view to dessert, the Pie Mistress in our midst goes for the lighter delights of Gulf-style crab cakes with streaky bacon, bell peppers, celery and Old Bay aioli ($16.5).

She reckons they’re good and crabby. The sample I am afforded tastes lovely with a herbal blush that is familiar yet mysterious.

 

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With such an amazing spread laid out before us, the otherwise fine buttermilk biscuits ($8.50 for three and served with chipotle and honey butter) seem something like bridesmaids.

 

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Then it’s pie time!

 

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What to choose, what to choose?

The Le Bon Ton pies are individually baked items that cost $12.

We collectively find the …

 

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… chocolate and peanut butter mousse pie and …

 

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… the banana cream pie to be utterly wonderful, though in truth the former seems a little on the bitter side to me.

We’ve made pigs of ourselves.

The food and the service have been grand.

The financial damage?

The $35 per person we pay is outstanding value.

Eschewing the temptations of hanging out all night in cocktail mode, we waddle into the night.

I skip breakfast before getting down to writing this story.

Check out the Le Bon Ton website, including menu, here.

In a lovely piece of serendipity, just before departing for Collingwood I had unwrapped a new CD arrival that has this tune as its first track:

 

 

Le Bon Ton on Urbanspoon

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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Something groovy for WeFo

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Consider The Sauce may have views on the varying food, service and even the social media hubris of West Footscray’s Indian restaurants, but right from the start we’ve considered them a community asset.

So we were surprised to discover – via a comment on our story about new Indian kid on the block Amrutha – that such a welcoming outlook is by no means universal among West Footscray locals.

Still, as much as we love our Indian tucker, we also dig the heck out of diversity – so we’re delighted to see something very exciting happening in one of the neighbourhood’s landmark buildings.

 

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The double-storey building at 572 Barkly Street has been vacant and unused, so far as we are aware, for several years.

Its history includes time spent as an ANZ bank branch and as home for a Serbian Social Services And Support group.

That latter was still active when we were living just around the corner, many years before CTS.

My very strong visual recall is that “social service and support” meant, in this instance, a very blokey spot for coffee and gossip!

That’s the (potted) history.

The future is … Ovest.

The new eatery, at this point scheduled to be unveiled to the eating and coffee-slurping public in February, is the baby of Ben Sisley, his wife Stephanie and Alex and Kate from Seddon’s Sourdough Kitchen.

Ben has a long history in Melbourne’s hospitality industry, including more recently stints food styling in the corporate world and, before that, time with Mr Wolf in St Kilda and, before that, with Madame Joe Joe, also in St Kilda.

 

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Ben tells me Ovest (it means “west” in Italian) will offer food that will be based around the joint’s pizza oven – think pizzas and the likes of seafood and steak dishes using the same cooking apparatus.

Ben talks enticingly, for instance, of whole snapper lightly crusted/dusted with flour, seasoned, pan-fried and then quickly grilled in the pizza oven.

“We  will be tightly focused in terms of opening hours and menu at the start, and then we’ll see where the public takes,” he says.

“This is a great location and we think the area is ready for something like this.

“We see us catering to everyone from people grabbing an after-work drink right through to young families.”

What that means is … no pasta, no breakfast, dinner and maybe lunch on selected days.

Nor will there be entertainment offered – the open kitchen will play that role.

“The food is the entertainment,” Ben says.

And, thanks to a liberal licence being secured, there is the possibility of 1am finishes on Saturdays and Sundays.

“But we won’t be sitting around chewing up money on wages if there’s no customers around,” Ben quips.

Significant renovations are underway on the ground floor of the old bank building.

But in some ways it appears to be almost purpose-built for the likes of Ovest.

The classic ’60s/’70s style bar is cool as!

The area around the entrance will be for more casual, drop-in customers, with the rear area offering dining of a more formal variety.

Read Hilary McNevin’s story in The Age here.

Newport Thai hit

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Siam Kitchen, 334 Melbourne Road, Newport. Phone: 9391 5179

Consider The Sauce has received a good deal of medical advice in the past six months or so.

Some of it was about food.

“We really like Siam Kitchen in Newport,” the doctor said. “The wok dishes and salads – not so much the curries.”

That’s the kind of advice – medical or otherwise – we’re happy to follow!

Truth is, Siam Kitchen has been on our radar for a long time.

 

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The restaurant occupies the same strip as the recently covered Odd Spot Cafe.

We are expecting a modest, typical suburban Thai eatery.

So we’re surprised and delighted to discover within a really love room dominated by dark wood and tastefully decorated.

We’re happy to report that by and large the service and food reflect those good first impressions.

This place is a handy and classy notch or two better than the phrase “suburban Thai eatery” implies.

It’s early in the week but the place is busy, with a good half of the tables occupied and a constant stream of takeaway customers coming and going.

There’s only one front-of-house staff member at hand and she’s working very hard indeed, though some kitchen folk help out by bringing full dishes out and taking empty ones back in.

It’s Bennie and I only tonight so we keep it simple by choosing two entrees and two mains plus rice.

The entrees satisfy rather than thrill us.

 

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We whip through two roti breads served with satay sauce ($5) in quick time though it’s all rather nondescript and the sauce lacks punch and is too sweet for us.

 

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Crispy golden bags (tang tong) of marinated pork mince with garlic, spicy onion and herbs served with sweet chilli sauce ($6.90) are way better and much more interesting than your average won tons.

The chilli sauce, too, is a flavour hit, boasting more zip and depth of flavour than your typical commercial version.

I cannot tell if this one of those commercial brands tarted up in the kitchen or one made from scratch – either way, very nice!

 

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Seafood pad cha of – “traditional” stir fry with peppercorn, ginger, eggplant and mixed vegetables ($14.90) – is my selection based on the eggplant component.

As it turns out, the eggplant is pretty much the least of it.

There’s plenty of seafood that tastes very fresh – I slurp up the mussels as Bennie is uninterested, and the scallops have terrific flavour.

Best of all, there’s nothing tame about the seasoning levels here – it’s a spicy blast.

 

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Crispy chicken salad with herbs and chilli topped with peanuts ($13.90) is Bennie’s choice and the outright highlight of our meal.

The chicken bits really are crisp, and delicious to boot. And we love the crunch of the peanuts.

There’s a significant chilli hit here, too, and real tang thanks to coriander, mint and lemon juice.

Unlike some people we could mention, we’re by no means Thai food experts – but for what it’s worth, the Siam Kitchen menu appears to have no really unusual dishes or surprises.

That said, this is the best Thai food we’ve had in the west.

Check out the Siam kitchen website, including menu, here.

 

Siam Kitchen on Urbanspoon