Westie eats goss 30/9/16

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Village Cantina in Ballarat Street, Yarraville, is for sale.

The agent’s listing points out that buyers will have the opportunity “to continue current cuisine or redevelop into a hipster café”.

 

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A few doors along, and also on Ballarat Street, Naked Egg (in the premises formerly filled by Hausfrau) is now doing dinners, the menu featuring a line-up of solid, old-school Italian dishes at good prices.

 

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At the other end of Ballarat Street in the village, Friend or Pho will soon be licensed.

 

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On Barkly Street in Footscray, right next to Ames, will soon be an bar/emporium of the craft beer variety.

It’ll be called Bar Josephine.

 

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Also on Barkly, right next to Nando’s, the big, new Indian place Sankranti has furniture in the house – but it still looks like a lot of work is to be done.

Nonetheless, one of the chefs told me they’re planning on an October 10 opening.

 

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Big is definitely not better in the world of CTS, of course, but I am looking forward to taking this place – and its massive menu – for a spin.

 

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On Nicholson Street in Footscray, Cafe D’Afrique is a coffee/food stalwart of the African scene.

It is closed for renovations – we’ll be very interested to see what eventuates.

 

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Across the road, at the entrance to the Footscray Hub, Kulan Eatery has opened.

 

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It is a halal place that is offering a line-up of Footscray-themed burgers.

CTS soon try!

 

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At Harrington Square in Altona, Waffee is closed for renovations.

The spot next to the Maltese cakey establishment Borg’s will soon be an ice-cream shop – though CTS has been unable to discover, yet, if it is going to be gelati or regular ice-cream, or whether it will be house-made or of the more commercial and/or brought in variety.

Also opening at Harrington Square, in the premises formerly occupied by Altona Curry House, is Birdcage Altona Cafe.

A great (halloumi) cheesy evening

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bahari7
Cypriot halloumi pormotion, Bahari, 179 Swan Street, Richmond. Phone: 9427 7898

How many of the many invites, spam, deals and inducements Consider The Sauce receives worthy of further investigation?

One in 50?

I don’t keep count, but the number is probably closer to one in 100 or even higher.

But the invite from Bella at Progressive PR and Publicity impressed.

 

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For starters, it was boldly, unapologetically stated right upfront in the covering email: “Our client is the Cypriot agricultural organisation Panagrotikos.”

Kudos for that when so many such communications are sly or even deliberately misleading.

 

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And I was for sure interested in halloumi cheese – I eat it, mostly in Lebanese pies and pizzas, but know next to nothing about its history, how it’s made or where it comes from.

So this event looked like a nice chance for knowledge to be gained.

 

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was this an event being held at a restaurant or venue that I would otherwise be interested in checking out?

The answer in this case was an emphatic yes – the event’s venue was the Bahari restaurant of Philip Vakos, an alumni of MasterChef.

Not that that impressed CTS at all – as I’m sure most readers will know.

But Cypriot food?

Oh yes.

 

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I threw the “plus one” chore out there to CTS readers …

… and so it was that regular CTS reader and leaver of comments Mitchell and I rocked up to Bahari, surprised to actually arrive early given the peak-hour traffic we were forced to negotiate.

 

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We met Bella as we entered – and then unfolded a most pleasant surprise.

Because in the logistics of ensuring our attendance at this event, I had not twigged – as I should have – that Progressive PR was the business of very good and lovely old friend from my Sunday Herald Sun days, Jodie Artis.

 

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Jodie was one of record company stars when I was doing the Sunday Herald Sun entertainment thing. I put a lot of store in family, networks and connections.

My jaw pretty much hit the ground when Bella said: “But you know Jodie …”

But of course!

 

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After that, I knew this was going to be a very cool night.

And it was.

Mind you, the place was packed – but only with a few of my fellow bloggers.

 

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And I learned precious little about halloumi, though chef Vakos did create Cypriot/Greek sausages called sheftalies.

There was speechifying by various dignitaries – Anastasis Yiapanis (Panagrotikos Association of Cyprus),  Theodoros Ahhas (Cyprus Cattle Farmers Organization), Georgios Kyprianou (Pittas Diary Industries) and George Stogias (Economotechniki LTD).

And fair enough, too, after all they were paying for this bash!

 

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But right from the start the food kept coming and – the reason I have chosen to perpetrate this so-far rather long-winded post – it was magnificentl.

Really, seriously this was super good – and far, far better than I would normally (and cynically) expect from a PR-generated event.

Onya, Bella and Jodie!

 

 

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There was no stinting on portions – when a platter was exhausted, it was replaced with more of the same.

It was all excellent.

See the menu below.

 

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Got the Punjab covered

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Sada Bahaar, 308 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

When Sadia – that’s her on the left – arrived in Australia from Pakistani Punjab about four years ago, she quickly realised she was going to need a driver’s licence for her new life.

In the course of obtaining one, her driving instructor was Ravinder – that’s her on the right – who hails from Indian Punjab.

Out of that experience grew a friendship and now a restaurant.

And along the way, Sadia, too, has become a driving instructor.

Sada Bahaar (it means ever-green) is situated on a stretch of Ballarat Road that is never, ever going to win any beauty contests.

But it is showing signs of increasing foodiness, what with the presence of a long-time Sri Lankan place we have yet to cover, a much newer, cheap ‘n’ cheerful Sri Lankan place, as well as a burger joint. Also nearby, just around the corner really, is the wonderful West of Kin.

 

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The origins in friendship of Sada Bahaar imbue this comfy eatery with a vibe that is almost unRestaurant – the same person who takes your order is also going to be among those knocking your food together in the kitchen.

We like that.

We like, too, the chance to explore some different and Pakistani dishes from the usual Indian stuff we devour on a weekly (at least) basis.

To that end, our very good buddy Nat Stockley has already made inquiries along those lines even before Bennie and I rock up.

We enjoy a very tasty meal that blends Indian and Pakistani tucker in fine home-cooked style.

 

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Dahi bhalay ($7.50) are deep-fried urad dal dumplings served with spiced yogurt, chick peas and onion bits.

They are also very nice – the blandness of the dumplings (they have, for all of us, a touch of the felafel about them) offset by the tangy toppings.

 

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Haleem is not so much a Pakistani dish but more a staple – made of grains, pulses, meat – across the Muslim world that is often associated with Ramadam.

This chicken version ($10) is very soup-like, the chook so finely minced that it all becomes one with the ingredients.

With its cool fried-onion topping, it reminds me of our favourite Iraqi soup.

 

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From the tight barbecue section of the menu we get lamb seekh kebab ($10) – two long, skinless snags of minced lamb that is quite crumbly but nevertheless delicious.

 

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All too often, the chick peas we get in Indian restaurants seem to be getting a bit tired on it.

By contrast, the Sada Bahaar Lahori cholay ($10) smacks of freshly cooked – but with the gravy and intact pulses nicely integrated.

And as you can see by the many flecks of chilli, this is quite highly spiced food – as are most of our dishes.

 

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Sada Bahaar special kahari ($14) is the triumph of the night and our meal.

A rich (and, yes, rather oily) chook curry, it has high-impact flavours that are boosted to another, higher level by the dish being festooned with many ginger strands and discs of fresh, green chilli.

The chicken pieces are quite bony, and some of our party get more meat than others, but this is a beauty.

 

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We get one each of the regular and garlic naans ($1 each, both pictured above) – they’re OK but unusual in that they’re more like flat bread than most naan we eat.

I prefer the chapati ($1, not pictured) we also order.

 

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On earlier, reconnaissance visit by myself, I enjoyed the very affordable ($9.95) chicken biryani – it’s a rather dry version, but the flavours are all there, the raita joined in this case by a plate of salad veg instead of the more usual gravy.

Sadia tells us that much praise for her cooking was often attended by suggestions she should start a restaurant.

We’re glad she’s spreading some of that love around.

Especially given the low prices and welcoming, low-key ambience.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for help with the pics.

 

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WeFo cafe overload? Not yet …

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Dumbo Melbourne, 11 Argyle Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9078 2645

Like Lot 10 Eatery, Dumbo is a new arrival in the WeFo neighbourhood.

They join West 48, Pod @ PID, Brother Nancy and Jellybread.

This is some fairly intense cafe action.

But saturation point?

Not yet, it would seem.

Dumbo appears to have found its own niche rather quickly.

 

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The old building next to Footscray West Primary School has been extensively revamped.

Much of the limited space is taken by the kitchen and serving area.

In the main customer space, there’s a big communal table and a handful of smaller types.

On my first visit, the “new paint” vibe was still going on and the mix of Motown and other R&B – just the sort of finger-snapping grooves that would normally have me happily bobbing my head – was unpleasantly “boomy”.

At a second visit, both had gone and all was good.

The menu (see below) has plenty of takes on the usual line-up to keep the breakfast fans happy.

From that list, the baked Moroccan lamb clay pot ($16) strikes us as something that could also do handy lunch work.

The lunch list itself has just three dishes – and CTS tries the lot.

 

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Pearl couscous salad with herbs, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumber, chilli herb oil, blackened chicken and green pepper relish ($18) is super.

The chicken, moist and juicy, smacks of cumin and more in the seasoning department.

Best of all is the fabulous, tangy green pepper relish.

No mere garnish this, it is provided in sufficient quantity to really give the dish a hearty flavour bomb.

 

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The quinoa zucchini salad with sun-dried tomatoes, dill, goats cheese, shallots, beetroot and smoked trout ($19) is lovely yet doesn’t quite have the same impact or striking delineation of flavours.

It’s undeniably constructed from top-notch ingredients all round, but is a little bland for my tastes.

Or maybe it’s this simple: Memo to self – never order anything that involves quinoa.

 

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Eating at cafes such as Dumbo often means CTS has to re-calibre expectations in terms of taking on board that meals such as the above salads are not the massive mounds of biryani or pho we habitually consume.

And that $18 or $19 is the going rate for such fare – and we’re fine with that.

 

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Dumbo’s brioche burger ($19) with “chorizo patty”, bacon, Swiss cheese, jalapeno cream cheese, caramelised onion and thin chips with harissa mayo on the side, however, does seem to fall short in the value for money department.

The verdict from Tony is that the quality is there but the quantity is less than generous.

But then again, maybe comparing a cafe burger with what is available at the many ritzy burger joints around is unfair.

We have been interested to see what precisely “chorizo patty” meant.

Would it be a patty all of re-formed, smoked, porky sausage meat?

Or would it be a beef patty with some chorizo meat included?

It is, as far as we can tell, the latter.

 

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My cafe latte ($3.80) is outstanding and perfect in every way; and I suspect Tony’s double espresso is likewise.

 

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Home-style Lebanese – brilliant

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Mankoushe, 323 Lygon Street, Brunswick East. Phone: 9078 9223

Back in the early days of Consider The Sauce, we frequented on several occasions  a wonderful hole-in-the-wall cafe/bakery in Brunswick East that did a red-hot line Lebanese pizzas and pies.

In the several years since then, we have moved on to other things and places.

Since then, too, much has changed with Mankoushe.

A year or so after our story, a Mankoushe restaurant proper was opened right next door; and then about six months ago, the bakery was closed – though the restaurant still does those great pizzas ‘n’ pies, with the lunch menu dedicated to them.

You can check out the lunch and dinner menus at the Mankoushe website.

So it’s a mighty hoot to try the extended Mankoushe restaurant with CTS pal Marco.

 

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The verdict?

No kidding, this is brilliant Lebanese food at ridiculously affordable prices – a match and more for any of our favourite Coburg haunts and even fancy places such as Ablas.

Even better, the accent is very firmly on home-style cooking.

There’s just a single dish on the Mankoushe dinner menu that mentions the word “kebab” – and that’s an entree.

And there’s not a dip to be seen.

Mankoushe is an outright champion  for vegetarians, too – we almost go meatless ourselves, but are seduced by the meatiest of the three main courses.

It’s a busy Sunday night and we haven’t booked, so end up perched at the window bench right next to the door – but the food is so amazing, we care not.

Our various choices arrive with admirable promptness and the service of fine and friendly.

 

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House-made pickles ($5) are crunchy, of mild sourness and very good – jars of the various veg are on sale to take home.

 

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Stuffed vine leaves ($12) are warmed though, heavy on the lemon (yay!) and with just a touch of dill and chilli.

It’s a very generous serve for the price.

 

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Roasted cauliflower salad with minted yoghurt and sultanas ($10), one of three salad offerings, is another generous serve – so much so, we do not finish it off.

It’s gorgeous – and manages that neat trick, one we always admire, of being both a little crunchy and very pliable.

 

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One of our two mains (top photo) is purple turnip stuffed with, green peas, basmati rice and fresh herbs and topped with walnut tarator.

It appears to be of modest proportions for the $21 asking price – but as is so often the case, eats bigger than it looks.

The turnip lends a slightly bitter tang to proceedings, but there’s no doubting the quality and yumminess of the filling.

The walnut sauce is nice but is swamped by the tomato sauce in which our turnips reside.

 

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OMG, OMG, OMG – how good is this?

Wood-fired short lamb leg with chickpea dressing ($28) is another ripsnorting bargain – we’d expect pay an extra $10, $15, $20 or more for this in a flash eating house or pub.

And paying the equivalent of $14 each, we two eat till we metaphorically drop.

It really is amazing, the meat every bit of fall-apart tender and juicy as we could ever expect.

Dessert?

Two are listed – coffee and cardamom poached dates with labne ($8), and milk pudding with Iranian wild figs and sugar syrup ($11).

Based on our meal, I’m sure they’re awesome – but we have eaten so well and so much, they’ll have to wait for another visit.

Mankoushe is a Melbourne star, its prices and unassuming comfiness a stark and wonderful contrast to the excellence of the food.

Mankoushe is a cash-only establishment.

Meal of the week No.33: Dong Ba 2

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The main food action in St Albans is definitely on Alfrieda Street, so it’s sometimes easy to miss what else is going on around the corner on Main Road.

Dong Ba 2 (302 Main Road East, phone 9364 6663), for instance.

It’s a relative newcomer to St Albans and a younger sibling of the Footscray version.

Dong Ba 2 is quite chic in terms of its otherwise regulation Vietnamese cafe decor.

The menu is long and features all the usual suspects, with a few less familiar offerings along the way.

 

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Very few places, just as an example, serve pho of the “Chicken Farm” variety.

It’s common in much of the Western world for younger animals to be more coveted for food than the older.

Lamb is seen as more ritzy than mutton.

But in many parts of the world older animals are more revered for their extra flavour.

Is Dong Ba 2’s Chicken Farm pho ($15) worth the extra few bucks above the regulation chook soup noodle?

Is it more rustic and funky?

Yes!

There’s an extremely generous amount of chicken in that bowl – far more than the photo indicates.

It’s all wonderfully flavoursome and quite chewy (though not onerously so). And some of it is various shades of brown rather than the more familiar white meat.

There’s skin, some gristle – and even a few bones.

With great broth and accessories, it all adds up to significant extra all-round punch.

(This post has been sponsored by the St Albans Business Group. However, Consider The Sauce chose and paid for the food involved and the STBG neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

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Footscray soul food

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Somali Star Cafe, Footscray Hub (arcade between Nicholson and Albert streets).

The Footscray Hub arcade mostly seems wonderfully changeless in its lively Africaness.

But it’s only ever had, to the best of our knowledge, a single food outlet among its various hairdressers, clothes shops and more.

These days that shop goes under the moniker Somali Star and is, I reckon, at least the third incarnation of that food space.

It’s a small – there’s two simple booths so seating is restricted.

But most customers are of the takeaway variety and come and happily go for the sambusas.

 

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The sign saying “the sambussa is back” is, we reckon, a bit misleading.

Because we’ve had these African versions of the samosa from here before – but never like this.

 

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Oh no, these are bigger and better by quite some margin …

 

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… and, in the case of our lamb number, absolutely delicious, the flaky pastry generously stuffed with minced meat, onion and herbs.

And at $3.50, they’re a superb, dead-set bargain.

Effectively a light meal all on their own, it’s a sure thing these henceforth will feature at least once a week in CTS work/school lunches.

But while our sambusa is profoundly enjoyable, it is a holding pattern – pretty much – for our more substantial plates.

 

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Unlike its predecessors in this space, Somali Star has a wall-mounted menu, from which we are happy to make our selections.

We’re warned there’ll be a wait time of about 15 minutes. But we don’t mind that as we very much enjoying the moment.

That wait time stretches to more than 20 minutes but we continue to care not – even when one of dishes is forgotten, or did not register in the first place.

What we get is unfussy, very enjoyable Somalian food.

 

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Pasta/beef ($12) displays the Italian influence on north African food.

The noodles go just right with a sauce that is a bit like a Somalian version of spag bol.

Both are excellent.

The salad bits on the side are fresh and zingy and the commercial chilli sauce is added at our request.

 

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The rice/lamb ($13) comes without adornments – maybe because it has been rushed once the friendly realised our order for it had gone awol.

We’re familiar with Somalian rice being cooked in stock, seasoned with the likes of pepper and cardamom and served with slivers of onion.

This rice is quite different, pan fried (I think) with onion and small meat chunks.

The lamb is something else.

Normally, when eating lamb in neigbourhood/street food places, be they Indian, African or other, we are used to getting lovely meat that is nevertheless sporting its fair share of bone, fat and/or gristle.

We don’t mind that at all, as the quality cooking of the meat itself invariably outweighs the extraneous bits.

We admire the cooking skill that makes such delicious food out of the cheapest cuts of meat.

In the case of this here Somali Star lamb, we get all the cooking skill and none of the rest – save for the single, visible bone piece.

The meat is very simply cooked/grilled, and – as far as I can tell – unseasoned.

But it is so wonderful, tender and yummy that I reckon a heap of much flasher eateries/pubs/cafes would be happy to serve it and charge a whole bunch more in the process.

Soul food is a term bandied about a bit these days, often in tandem or alongside BBQ food of the American variety.

Given my interest in American roots music and culture, I find that appealing.

But when such food is served in trendy places and the prices hurt, it can seem like something of a pose.

Let’s think, instead, of Footscray soul food, western suburbs soul food as a bowl of pho.

Or a WeFo biryani or dosa.

Or a couple of plates of cheap, delicious Somalian food at Somali Star.

 

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