Let’s have a chat

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Chatkora’s, Unit 4, 45 Leakes Road, Laverton North. Phone: 0499 333 295

“There’s no furniture so it’ll be great!!!”

Interesting to reflect how my enforced (but now perfectly harmonious) removal from the regular workforce and the ongoing shock of the virus and its various upheavals are impacting Consider The Sauce.

The unfolding CTS future, it seems, looks something like this …

A much less frantic pace – maybe one post a week or every fortnight.

Much more eating at home. And sleeping in.

And, perhaps most importantly, posting only about those places that really, really excite us and that we consider deserve much wider exposure and appreciation.

So, as it stands, there’s little or no chance we’ll be covering any cafes or bars – or the latest “it” place that is being raved about in the other strands of media – during the rest of this year and beyond.

As an indication of that revamped CTS ethos, it’s fair to say that our current favourite places, the subjects of regular visits, are Panjali, Hop N Spice and Chai N Dosa.

Oh yes, street food galore!

It’s that sort of zeal that finds us roaming to Laverton North to try the Indian street food of Chatkora’s.

It being around Sunday lunch time, we are restricted to the brunch menu, rather than the more extensive dinner list (see menus below).

No problem!

As for the lack of furniture, well we make happy with an impromptu car boot picnic just like all the other customers.

Besides which, a Chatkora’s bricks-and-mortar eating house is taking place right behind the current truck’s location and will be unveiled in coming months.

The food here hails more from India’s north than the South Indian fare of Chai N Dosa and, I suspect, from Delhi in particular.

But it’s a long way from being heavy as it’s all-round vegan from top to tail.

We find the food delicious.

The wait times are a little longer than you may expect, but it’s worth it and just everything appears to be prepared from scratch.

They even cook up several different kinds of chick pea curry for different menu items.

This kind of food seems to rely very much on a mix of wet and dry ingredients, the combinations of which simply would not work in a pre-prepared sense. All that zingy crunch would be lost!

Take my Amritsari bheega kulcha ($14) for instance.

How good is this?

Toasted flatbread is anointed with chick pea curry, shredded daikon, red onion, a green minty sauce and coriander.

It’s wonderful!

Bennie is equally as pleased with his Pindi chole bhature ($16).

Given the space limitations of the truck, we can happily live with the breads being pre-made.

They’re still good, as are the rich chick pea curry and the attendant accessories.

So delighted are we with our lunch repasts, we are excited to return a week later to explore the more extensive night-time menu.

My Amritsari nutri kulcha ($16) is fabulous and something a little bit different.

The toasted flatbreads are quite fluffy.

The curry and its wonderfully tasty gravy are studded with soy meat bits – that’s where the “nutri” comes from.

Not really my thing, but it works fine.

The raita has small, soft pearls of … maybe puffed rice?

And the pickle bits are house-made. They have a whiff of mustard oil about them – again, not really my thing, but it’s not too strong.

Bennie’s chole aloo tikki burger ($14) has stuffing of a quite dry chick pea mix and what appears to be a potato patty/rissole.

He likes it fine.

On the side are a tangy tamarind sauce and crisps that come across as a vegan version of prawn crackers.

Having so much fun are we that we top off our dinners with super kulfi icecream-on-a-stick ($5) – mango for him, pistachio for me!

Chatkora’s?

Go on, make that drive.

It is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday and lunch/brunch of Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit the Chatkora’s website here.

Street wise

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Chai n Dosa, 310 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 0420 262 274

“Street food”?

Ugh.

That term has been soiled and sullied into meaningless submission, perhaps by too many “lifestyle influencers” and perhaps also too many careless and glib mentions in various media outlets.

Of course, at the point this kind of coverage in those kinds of places of that kind food springs forth, there’s almost certainly little that is “street” about the “food”.

Here in the mighty western suburbs of Melbourne, we all have regular access to real-deal street food.

At Chai n Dosa that availability runs to seven days a week.

OK, OK – if you want to get all technical on me, Chai n Dosa is not actually on any street.

Instead, it’s on what used to be on a used car lot.

Used car lot?

Anyone who has been up and/or down this particular stretch of Ballarat Road will know exactly what I mean when I say … it’s the one with the wagon wheel!

But in every other way, Chai n Dosa is the epitome of street food.

Low prices.

Rudimentary eat-in facilities. Just a handful of chairs, actually. Though there are a handwash basin and plenty of paper napkins on hand.

You’ll find those napkins handy as you’ll want to do what all the other customers do – ignore the plastic cutlery and eat with your hands.

And do so while sitting on one of the chairs – or squatting or standing; or maybe using your car bonnet or boot lid as a picnic table.

We use the boulders embedded in the adjacent nature strip – and for sure we aren’t the first to do so!

The menus (see below) are mostly vegetarian and mostly familiar.

The Chai n Dosa crew serve up the likes of chicken pulao later in the week, but for the rest it’s all about carbs.

We like the look of the bonda!

But for our Sunday lunch, we stick to the familiarity of masala dosa ($8.50) and …

… idly and vada ($8.50).

The food is all excellent – and the vada are particularly noteworthy.

They’re a little crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside – and that’s a far cry from the the doughy doughnuts sometimes served up elsewhere.

The accompaniments – sambar and chutney – are likewise exemplary.

And you know what?

It’s all very subjective, but we reckon the food tastes better and we enjoy our meal more for it being had from such a funky street food set-up.

Vietnamese thriller

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Hu Tieu Go Ong Map, 2/203 Ballarat Road (actually on Gordon Street), Footscray. Phone: 9077 7099

How lovely it is to see the oft-times gloomy and unlovely group of shops on Gordon Street, as it meets Ballarat Road, finally hosting some food businesses that are surviving instead of lasting just a few months or weeks.

The latest addition – Hu Tieu Ong Map – is doing more than surviving.

It is positively thriving.

Our long-time buddy and fellow eats nut, Juz, spotted it and tells us every time he passes, it is brimming with happy customers.

When we finally get there ourselves – for two Saturday lunches – we find it equally packed with happiness.

The food quality is high and the service cheerful.

But what sets Hu Tieu Og Map apart is its menu (see below).

Here you’ll find many dishes that are otherwise unseen – as far as we know – in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.

They include quite a few featuring the likes of snails and clams.

The noodles are house-made – as is, I suspect, just about everything else.

We are encouraged to try the house signature “knock” noodles ($12).

They can be had as soup or dry with the soup on the side.

Bennie goes all porky with his.

While mine is all about sliced pork and prawns.

In both cases, our soups boast a meaty bone and the dipping sauce has a depth of flavour and lustre rarely seen in Vietnamese restaurants. We attempt to discovers its ingredients, but that mission gets lost amid paying and laughter.

We very much enjoy our knock noodles – the overall vibe is a bit like a cross between more familiar hu tieu dishes and pho.

Deep-fried prawn gyoza ($8 for five) are crunchy taste bombs.

The prawny innards are immersed in a mix that we find is akin to the gingery/oily/garlicky mash usually served with Hainan chicken rice.

It’s only upon revisiting the menu that I realise my curry chicken noodles ($13) we most likely meant to be served with a side dish of sprouts and greenery.

No matter at all because I love all of this.

It’s very mild in the Vietnamese way and has carrot chunks in addition to the chicken. Like poultry bo kho!

This is the familiar grilled chicken vermicelli ($13.50).

Except in several ways it is not familiar at all – the Hu Tieu Ong Map version explodes with more flavour and texture and joy than just about any other rendition we have come across in the greater western suburbs.

It’s fantastic in every way.

And there’s a stack of roasted peanuts.

We love that.

Sri Lankan heights

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Hop N Spice, 284 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 9310 2000

“Under New Management.”

They’re words that are regularly seen emblazoned on the windows of all sorts of businesses all over, including eating places of the western suburbs.

They represent many stories – new hopes and dreams, as well as shattered dreams and hard luck yarns.

Hop N Spice has new management.

I know this because one of the new bosses contacted me, just before we were all struck by virus/lockdown madness, with a view to enticing me/us to try out their food.

So, as Bennie and I front up for Saturday lunch, it’s taken this long for us to try the new-look Hop N Spice.

We have eaten here – under the previous regime.

At least a couple of times, though I am a little surprised none of those meals was recorded here at Consider The Sauce.

Then, a few years back, I arranged to meet Nat at Hop N Spice for dinner – this was as our mutual love of Sri Lankan food was reaching intense heights, as represented by our meals at the now defunct White Elephant in West Footscray and sadly missed Curry Leaves in Sunshine, as well as the superb Fusion Ceylon in Werribee and Kites in Clayton South.

I was a little early, so while waiting for Nat I entered the restaurant as it was then – and was aghast.

It was dingy and dismal.

Worse, in the hand-wash basin right there in the dining area were the remants of someone’s meal – or food scraps of some kind.

I beat a hasty retreat and we dined elsewhere that evening.

So it is with just a little trepidation that Bennie and I enter today’s Hop N Spice to do the CTS business.

And that trepidation, it very happily turns out, has been illogical and unfair.

Because in this case, “Under New Management” very much means a whole new deal.

The wash basin is still there and clean-as, but all else is changed.

The place looks bright and breezy, it’s spick and span and the food in the bain marie looks ace.

Even better, the super friendly staff are all smiles and welcoming, eager to explain the food to us when it’s needed.

That food is superb – and we are ecstatic to find such fine Sri Lankan tucker so relatively close to home.

Bennie’s meal deal costs $11.

This is absurdly cheap – I mean, really, this is 2021, not 2011 or 2001, you know?

(A slightly more elaborate set-up is available to dinner time for $13.)

His meal includes a great, tangy coconut sambol and jackfruit curry.

His third veg concoction looks like it involves celery.

The stalks are, we’re told, what in the world of Sri Lankan cooking/eating are known as “drum sticks”.

The stringy stalks are inedible.

Instead, you scoop out the tender, internal peas the same way you eat an artichoke.

Very nice!

His meal is capped off by papadum, rice and a very good lamb curry that is all tender meat and no bones, fat or gristle.

Like Bennie’s lunch, my lamprais (top photo, $13) is presented/plated with style and elan we seldom see in eateries of this kind.

It’s all terrific, though a slim band of banana leaf is all that denotes “lamprais”. No matter!

The same lamb curry is matched with the customary HB egg, pickled eggplant moju, fish croquet, sweet onion sambol and top-notch rice.

Hop N Spice?

We’ll be back for sure!

Top tasty cafes with a Japanese tang

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The Usual Joint, 32 Furlong Road, Sunshine.
Coracle Cafe Restaurant, 63-65 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9315 1411

We just love The Usual Joint.

The Sunshine cafe is far enough away from our home base to miss out on being subject to weekly – or even monthly – visits by us.

But we’ve had some cracking meals there so have no hesitation in heading that way for the first day of a new menu.

While our previous meals at The Usual Joint have been of a Vietnamese persuasion, the new list takes quite a different tack – with the usual capable crew taking a poke at the currently very “in” rice bowl fad and a likewise Japanese-influenced noodle salad.

We reckon they’ll be pretty darn good at it.

They are.

My salmon soba noodle salad ($17.50, top photo) is lovely and bursting with fresh, clean flavours.

The luscious cubes of chargrilled salmon are assisted by similarly configured tofu, enoki mushrooms and seaweed salad, the rice and greens quite heavily dressed in a sesame concoction. Not that I mind!

 

 

Bennie’s katsu chicken curry rice bowl ($16.50) looks just as sweet and tastes the same.

Here the potato and carrot pieces are swimming in the curry gravy while the crumbed, crunchy chicken is adjacent.

Rice, pickles and a big, fat dollop of may0 complete the picture.

 

 

Savoury offerings aside, what The Usual Joint prides itself on are its cream puffs and crepe layer cakes.

We’re big fans of the latter so indulge this time out in a ridiculously delicious wedge of their pandan and coconut ($10).

Swoon we do!

 

 

Coracle of Yarraville IS a local for us, one we should perhaps visit more often.

Though it is a very busy place!

Nevertheless, we are happy to heed a suggestion from a friend who knows her stuff and rates the current cooking here as terrific (Hi, Deb!).

She’s right; we enjoy some smashing food on our return visit.

 

 

The lunch offerings here evince a similar Japanese, fusiony outlook as at The Usual Joint – a little flashier and more elaborate, a few bucks more.

And well worth it.

My mapo tofu rice bowl ($20) is a dream.

The pork mince and tofu with Szechuan peppercorn and green peppercorn is a funky, earthy flavour bomb – and something quite different from the slick, glazed and glib versions often found in Chinese line-ups.

It is pungently wow.

Accompanying are choy sum, pumpkin in mirin, pickle carrot; and housemade soy sauce with Chinese pickles and cucumber.

And – to finish – perfumed iced tea gently clinking with ice cubes.

 

 

Bennie’s brothless kakuni ramen ($21) doesn’t quite have the same immediate knockout appeal, but he enjoys it nonetheless.

Kabuki, we’re told, means slow-braised pork belly in master stock.

That porky stuff is served with Japanese ramen eggs, light wabasi dressing, beancurd skin, charred baby corn and spinach ohitashi.

 

Homely and heavenly

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Afghan Bread, 250 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 0468 559 955

The eatery/bakery known simply as Afghan Bread has been mentioned here before – as part of a CTS Westie eats goss post a year ago.

But that was just in passing.

On this lovely Sunday, we’re back in modest force simply to eat.

And we do.

Really, really well.

 

 

In quite a few ways, Afghan Bread – which spruiks Afghan and Persian cuisine on its window signage – is the epitomy of what CTS adores in an eating place.

Seemingly something of an accidental restaurant, its dining room (such as it is) has just a few tables and chairs, the place’s bakery operation spilling out into this area via a flatbread-carrying conveyor belt.

The menu is mounted above the serving counter, with the prices being very low.

The service is welcoming and smiling, albeit requiring goodwill and patience to surmount happily a language barrier.

There you go – just about everything we love!

And while, given its nature, this isn’t the sort of place to have won attention and plaudits in the wider community (yet), the buzzing coming and going we observe as we enjoy our meal leaves no doubt this is very definitely a mainstay of the Afghan community and others “in the know”.

 

 

Bennie and Deb both choose the tikkah kebab ($15).

This consists of fabulously delicious cubes of high-class lamb, barbecued just right.

The serves are huge.

Marinated?

We think so, though nothing so robust as cumin. The meat speaks and eats for itself.

Bennie even opines: “I think this may be the best lamb I’ve ever eaten!”

 

 

The meat dishes are accompanied by a wonderful dipping sauce – minty, vinegary and of only mild spiciness.

Cheap prices?

Well yeah, but the dishes are basic – add-ons up the overall cost just a little.

We order two breads ($2 each), a bowl of yoghurt ($5) and a plate of rice ($5).

But even then, we eat royally for a miserly total of $55.

And most of the rice and yoghurt – and one of the breads – go home with us.

 

 

My chicken korma ($13) is cooking of quite different kind.

More stew than curry, it is a typically Afghan concoction – cooked down, tomatoey, mildly seasoned.

It, too, is wonderful.

And not a bone to be found.

 

 

Because of my excitement over our Sunday lunch, I forget to photograph the bread.

So I return a few days later for a solo lunch, this time choosing the shami kebab.

So far as I can tell, these are the same as – or very similar to – what in other places are usually referred to as shish kofta.

The meat is sublimely juicy and I buzz with the joy of it.

The shami kebab ($13) plus one bread see my lunch costing $15.

 

Perfect.

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Sunshine Social, 64 Glengala Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 9312 0223

The post-lockdown adjustment to our eating out outlook will inevitably change, we mostly surmise.

But in the meantime we are fully reveling in a freshly found sense of freedom, a sort of giddy glee that is accompanied by an internal acknowledgement just what a joy and privilege it is.

Mind you, we are not full bore out there – yet. We won’t be standing, jostling shoulder-to-shoulder anywhere anytime soon.

But that’s OK as that’s never been our go anyhow.

In the case of our mid-week lunch at Sunshine Social, we have the place pretty much to ourselves. And the drive has provided some much-needed driving time for Bennie as he works towards getting his licence.

We rate the place highly, but since our initial story soon after it opened, our visits have been infrequent as it is just a tad outside our nearby locales to be considered a local.

But we have noted with satisfaction, upon viewing social media pics and comments, that the former servo has forged a handy niche in its own neighbourhood.

As per that first story, I order half a chook, chips and coleslaw – because that’s what I ALWAYS order when in charcoal chicken circumstances.

Bennie orders the same.

Normally, when we’re on blog duty, this would be a no-no.

But post-lockdown, this, too, has been adjusted to a less pernickety “do exactly as you want” attitude.

In this particular instance, the outcome pleases us both.

Because we absolutely love a meal we will be discussing for decades to come.

 

 

Our chicken meals differ from the one I enjoyed very early in the Sunshine Social story in two important regards.

For one, the price – $18.50 – is significantly less than the “proper restaurant” figure previously charged, putting it within just a couple of bucks of your standard charcoal chicken pricing for such a combo.

Given the quality of the food, this is an extraordinary bargain.

Because – no lie – this is the best charcoal chicken meal I’ve ever cosumed.

And that’s saying a huge lot.

The chicken, every bit of it, is succulent and juicy.

Yep, even the denser bits to do with the breast meat.

As well there’s a delectable whiff of American-style barbecue cooking about it.

Oh boy.

OMG.

The coleslaw – a handsome pile – is the perfect foil. It is perfumed with dill and only lightly dressed.

That’s quite a difference from the mayo-laden slop served up pretty much universally in old-school chicken shops.

We kinda like that tradition, too, but it’s super awesome to be fed something with way more class.

(The coleslaw has been substituted at our request for the green salad normally served with this meal. We are unsure whether this arrangement will be available to all customers and/or at all times.)

 

 

To cap it all off, we both receive and enjoy substantial serves of very excellent chips.

 

 

Oh yeah – as a starter we also enjoyed our serve of roast beetroot hummus with flatbread for $5.50.

But as we depart it’s a little tricky to even recall that particular dish as it is overshadowed by perfect poultry.

Visit the Sunshine Social website, with menu and prices, here.

 

Malaysian heights delight

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Orange Hat Cafe, 16 Harrington Square, Altona. Phone: 0433 264 887

We reckon it’s pretty cool to see life – and food – blooming at Harrington Square, and Orange Hat Cafe is right in the thick of it.

We have visited previously.

But that was pre-winter, pre-lockdown – and subsequently seems a long time ago.

So, inevitably, I end up asking the same questions again.

Or more precisely, inquiring exactly what kind of food does Orange Hat serve?

The answer is Malaysian. With a hint of Singaporean. And a flourish of Indian – especially with a new chef on board, one with an Indian family background.

As well, some of the staff members wear hijabs, so of course the food here is halal.

So I figure Orange Hat is something of a halal twin for another of our favourite places, Panjali in Sunshine, where the food is likewise Malaysian, but the spiritual flavour is Hindu.

Not that any of this matters, really, but I do like to get such things right.

And besides, the most important things about Orange Hat are the following – the welcome is toasty warm, the smiles wide and the food very, very good.

If we lived in Altona, or anywhere near it, we’d be here once a week.

At LEAST once a week.

Orange Hat Cafe is gearing up again after the long, unopen winter.

We’re told “specials” such as banana leaf meals will return in the new year.

And – who knows? – perhaps the current opening hours of Thursday-Sunday and noon-5pm may be extended.

In the meantime, we are restricted – during our Sunday lunch visit – to the “Permanent Menu” (see below).

And that is no hardship at all.

 

 

Bennie rates his nasi lemak rendang ($14) as right up there with “the best” he’s ever had.

It’s all very simple, with all the requisite bits and pieces laid out beautifully.

The beef is very coconutty – and manages the neat trick of having the feel and flavour of homecooked food, as opposed to restaurant cooking.

Cool, eh?

 

 

My mee rebus ($12) is a 10/10 soup noodle dish; it’s superb.

There are plentiful cubes of no-bone lamb in there and lots more besides, all luxuriating in a viscous “shrimp/peanut broth”.

Hardboiled egg, noodles, bean sprouts, tofu.

You get the picture.

It’s a big serve at a low price.

 

 

Having enjoyed our savoury lunches so very much, we are in such an expansive mood that we partake of a trio of the sweet offerings – the pinkish kuih lapis (steamed layer cake), the yellow bingke ubi (baked tapioca cake) and apam gula melaka (a sort steamed apple cake).

We love the first two; the last, with its earthy flavour, not so much.

We reckon Altona locals are extremely lucky to have Orange Hat Cafe in their backyard.

And we also reckon westies from all over, and Melburnians generally, should make the drive and the effort.

 

Classy Japanese for Footscray

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Hanzo Babekyu, 45 Leeds Street, Footscray. Phone: 0487 935 550

Leeds Street is such an integral part of Footscray Central that it seems a little odd to be heading right there to eat, such has been the somewhat scrappy nature over many years of its food stature.

But headed there we are.

Furthermore, after many months of of a diet consisting mostly of healthy, splendid and frugal homecooking, we are very open to throwing some money around on a lavish Japanese lunch and are hopeful we will be able to so at Hanzo Babekyu, a swish-looking new arrival.

The place certainly looks the part.

Alas, we discover the more elaborate a la carte menu is in operation at evenings only.

Likewise the varied at-table barbecue feasts that commence at about $40 per person.

So that means we are restricted to the tight lunch specials list (see below).

So how do we do?

Are we served a disappointing rendition of “food court Japanese”?

Well, the prices are certainly in that ball park, with the entire line-up falling between $13 and $17.

But our lunches, we are super happy to report, eclipse whatever associations have been generated by the bargain-basement prices.

We eat very well.

 

 

My chicken curry don ($13.50) is a supreme outing of its kind, with the all-important ratio of rice to gravy just right.

There are heaps of onion slices in there.

And there seem to just as many good chicken pieces, carrot slices and green bean segments. Incredibly, all these show signs of having been chargrilled before being doused in the deep brown and rich curry sauce.

It’s a winner!

 

 

Bennie is equally knocked out by his “Makunouchi” bento ($15).

We’re not sure if the pickles are house-made; nevertheless, they make a nice alternative to the standard pickled ginger we’d normally expect at such prices.

Underneath waving bonito flakes are a trio of deep-fried spheres that are very tasty. They are gooey and appear to contain potato, octopus and perhaps more.

Good beef teryiaki is matched by a prawn/veg concoction of almost Cantonese construction. The prawns, a generous serve, are significantly bigger than expected.

Even the mixed leaves that constitute this bento’s greenery are top notch.

While the more detailed options and barbecue offerings at Hanzo Babekyu must await another day – or night! – we have been delighted with our Saturday lunch, concluding we’ll be returning before long for a repeat.

 

Uyghur in Footscray Central – tops!

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Kiroren Restaurant, 253B Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 0435 555 658

Meeting Justin on a Friday for a feed at a small family restaurant where it’s cash-only and the ordering requires patience because of a language gap – NOW it feels like we’re out of lockdown and Consider The Sauce is back in business!

Truth is, my dining companion had his eye on this eating house before lockdown, so it’s a pleasure to follow-up on this Uyghur place.

 

 

The restaurant dining room looks plain and comfy – but as it’s fine, if a little cool, we settle into the sole outdoor table.

The menu is longish, the prices orthodox and the fare very similar to that offered by Karlayisi on Gordon Street.

And that means we already have a pretty good idea of what we’re about to order.

We find the food to be excellent – with one minor mis-step on our part.

 

 

Tarhamak salat ($14) is described as “cucumber salad with garlic sauce”.

It certainly looks garlicky!

However, we discover the bulb flavour is rather muted in favour of sesame oil.

The salad is wonderful – cool and delicious.

There was a time – not so long ago – when I would’ve grumbled a bit about paying $14 for a plate of chopped cucumber.

But no more; this is worth every cent, so expertly done is it.

Heck, it could even be described the highlight of our meal!

 

 

House-made noodles?

Of course!

Aqqik gorush chopi kormisi ($15) is described as “stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, onion, bird’s eye chilli and celery” – and is affixed with three chillis, denoting extreme heat.

In true, we find it to be only mild in the spice department – perhaps the cooking was tweaked to accommodate the paleface pair sitting outside.

No matter – we love it anyway.

Typically, we find it to be not so much in the stir-fried style; it’s wetter than that – and more like the soup noodles found in other Asian parts.

 

 

There’s a smallish dumpling offering here, but we have no qualms about ordering what appear to be the orthodox steamed versions.

Tugra ($15) of beef, onion and “veg” are top notch.

 

 

Naturally, this being an Uyghur establishment, we order some barbecued lamb.

Koroga kawap ($8) is lamb ribs.

They’re fatty, cumin-infused and gorgeous eating.

 

 

Nope, these aren’t figs – they’re borak kawap ($6).

Unfortunately, the lambs kidneys are a bit too offal real for both of us.

But considering all else we have enjoyed, that seems no big deal.

We figure Kiroren is a very handy addition to Footscray Central eats options.

The burgers? Just as great as the view …

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The Eatery at MDGC, Mt Derrimut Golf & Community Club, 475 Mt Derrimut Rd, Derrimut. Phone: 8737 9011

The Mt Derrimut Golf Club has been on our “things to do” list for pretty much as long as Consider The Sauce has been going.

A quick afternoon visit after I’d picked up Bennie from his current, Truganina, place of work quickly elevated the place up our list of priorities. Beer, chips and a superb view went down a treat.

A few weeks later, we are back – the day is overcast, Melbourne’s CBD is a smudge on the horizon, but our spirits are high.

Oh my, how good is it to be out and about again?

 

 

In terms of eats, the venue is finding its feet again after the long lockdown months.

So for the time being, a basic bar-style menu is on offer, with a more elaborate list and such things as Sunday roasts presumably still to come again.

On the drive, I’d confessed my scepticism about the quality of the food we might encounter here, so much so that I was quite prepared to ascertain the beef burger patties are made in house – the dreaded frozen patties seemed like a possibility.

Once perusing the menu (see below), we realise its adamant proclamation of quality renders such an inquiry unnecessary – so we order and wait.

The food is really, really good, the service unobtrusive and the timing spot on.

 

 

Bennie digs his chicken burger ($18) a whole bunch, eventually rating it 8.5/10.

The panko-crumbed chicken is substantial but very fine, while all the bits and pieces are just right.

The chips (included in the price) are just as excellent, hot and crisp as on our earlier visit.

 

 

My spicy beef burger ($18) is sensational.

It’s bereft of any greenery or veg.

But the ingredients are wonderful.

Onion rings provide little by way of flavour, but compensate by contributing cool crunch.

Best of all is the bacon.

It’s outstanding and there’s heaps of it.

How often does burger bacon barely pass muster or deliver little or no flavour?

That’s emphatically NOT the case here.

The “siracha mayo” is only a tad spicy, but the beef is real-deal delicious and chewy.

For those suspicious of mixing burgers and brioche: These were really good and fresh. And, unlike so many burgers, they held together supremely well. My last mouthful was a perfect gobful of meat ‘n’ bacon, topped and tailed by similar-sized pieces of bun. Impressive! No falling apart.

This is a 9.5/10 burger – maybe even a 10!

Really.

Bennie wonders if my extremely high rating can be attributed to many burger-free months or the high spirits of liberation.

Nah.

 

Melb’s best tacos

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Dingo Ate My Taco, Chifley Drive/Coulson Gardens, Maribyrnong. Phone: 0413 513 977

The photos that came by text message from Bennie are blurry – side-by-side tacos snagged while on one of his lockdown ambles, one that found him as far away as northern Maribyrnong.

Maribyrnong the suburb, not the LGA!

But the excited phone call that quickly follows could not be more focused.

“These are the best tacos I’ve ever had!” he enthused.

Well.

That’s enough for me – so here we are, tootling off on official Consider The Sauce business for the first time in about six months.

We’ve had some good tacos in our time – but we’d be lying if we had you believe they’re among our very favourite things to be found in the wonderland that is western suburbs food.

But I’m sure open to persuasion.

The Saturday lunchtime scene at Coulson Gardens is relaxed, with just enough people – many in picnic mode – to create a bit of a buzz without feeling crowded.

That’s quite a contrast from the scene we can see across the river in Essendon, where the cricket crowds seem to be heaving.

The crew manning the Dingo food truck is a happy and willing one, and they help us make our choices from the whiteboard menus.

We go with family special #3 – the birria quesataco plate of three beef brisket tacos served with coriander, onion and salsa and a side of “consume”. This costs us $19 each.

As well, being of profoundly robust hunger, we chuck in a tub of corn chips and salsa for $5.

The consommé is nowhere near the spiciness its fiery red hue suggest. But still – very nice, very beefy.

The tacos?

Here’s the CTS verdict – they really are the best tacos we’ve had in Melbourne.

A bit crunchy, a bit chewy, both nicely cheesy and greasy – and all-round delicious.

As well, these tacos – and, indeed, the whole experience – have a street food vibe about them.

Perhaps tacos should only EVER be enjoyed from a food truck?

With the corn chips/salsa and a couple of Jarritos soft drinks thrown is, our lunch has cost us $53.

We’re fine with that even if it seems just a tad pricey for a food truck meal.

We believe it will be some time before we start to deviate from the home-cooking habits that have developed through lockdown and so have resolved that when we do eat out that there will be no cutting of corners or tight-fistedness.

As well, the heft of the meal dispels any lingering suspicions that tacos are a good way to spend quite a lot of money and still feel hungry.

We don’t start to feel peckish for dinner until well into the evening.

Happy 10th anniversary, CTS!

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The first Consider The Sauce post was foisted on to the public on August 25, 2010.

This is the 1444th post.

In those 10 years, Consider The Sauce has enjoyed more than 1,792,016 page views and there have been more than 7000 comments.

As of today, Consider The Sauce has 902 email subscribers and 2666 FB followers.

Of course, this solitary post was NOT what I had in mind to celebrate the CTS 10th birthday milestone.

Planning, in my mind and early this year, took the form of a fabulous and big fund-raising dinner.

But circumstances have rather intervened, eh?

In hindsight, my unseemly departure from the regular journalistic workforce late last year can be seen to have been rather timely – a nice segue into the enforced idleness of pandemic times, a chance to take many deep breaths after a 40-year career and blessed opportunity to revel in what has become a truly magnificent music collection.

There’s ink in my veins, so I have not ceased to be a journalist, but I’m pretty sure that whatever non-CTS writing/editing endeavours await in the future, they will not be of the orthodox kind.

Some people have suggested we should be forging ahead with CTS on the basis of take-away food and deliveries.

Well, yes, we’ve done some of that – and will doubtless continue on a sporadic basis.

But it just isn’t the same as getting out and about and meeting wonderful folks and eating their food.

I admire immensely those in the game – both food providers and food media – who are gamely going about their business during lockdown.

We are cheering you on – from the sidelines!

In the meantime, we really are enjoying taking a blog break and doing a surprising amount of good home cooking.

Bennie has grown up with Consider The Sauce and is now a fine young man with a pronounced taste for Spicy Food. He regularly drags his mates all over Melbourne to enjoy CTS discoveries. Or, at least, he used to!

Likewise, he regularly messages me when he finds cool food stuff when he is not actually “in the house” at CTS HQ.

He finished school last year and entered the workforce early this year – just casual labor through a nice, small recruitment agency.

Dreams and plans are being formulated in his noggin, but in the meantime he is basically taking a year off – and that is fine by me.

After a sometimes meandering and maddening approach to school life, he took to the working life with gusto, aplomb and – gosh! – discipline.

So much so that now the phone has stopped ringing, I am equally and perfectly at ease with him NOT working – given that all his work, including at FoodBank, has to date been in the rather risky supply chain world in the west.

We will return!

We miss eating out SOOOOOO much!

In the meantime, thanks so very much to all our readers and fans, including the lurkers, the tipsters and the leavers of comments!

And thanks most of all, and as ever, to the amazing multicultural communities of Melbourne’s western suburbs and their food traditions and welcoming smiles.

Def our fave Japanese joint

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My Little Bento, 12 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8585

There have been changes made at 12 Margaret Street in Moonee Ponds.

What was Kingyo izayaka has become My Little Bento.

This switch appears to be a reaction to covid factors – yet could just as easily be interpreted as a canny business move.

 

 

The menu (see below) has been slimmed down and the prices are extraordinarily low.

Yet I know for sure that food will be every bit as fine as the goodies that served as a basis for our Kingyo izayaka review.

How so?

 

 

It’s all about the pickles – the same crunchy, sour delights that figured in our earlier visits are still in the house.

We order a side serve ($7) of them … just, you know, to make sure.

Yep all good – better than good!

So no worries at all, as two lunch-time visits – one with Nat, another with Bennie – happily attest.

 

 

Miso soup ($4) – regular-style, simple and every bit as good as expected.

Nat’s sashimi bento ($18, top picture) is oh-so-pretty with its array of textures, colours and flavours.

 

 

My “chicken katsu sando” from the specials board ($14) is good, a tangy sauce accompanying the crisp chicken and with more of those pickles joining in the fun. My chips, though, are warm. Just. But still eat good.

 

 

Bennie really digs his chicken bento ($15.50) – and I think we all enjoy the bentos here being arrayed on plate instead of boxes.

So lovely!

The fried chicken is excellent, as are all the other features – including a crumbed, deep-fried croquette. Perhaps, he reckons, filled with red bean paste as found in Chinese buns.

 

 

The chicken is even better – and more flavoursome – in the form of katsu curry don ($15.50), with which comes with a variation on the pickle theme.

The curry gravy is as rich in flavour as its deep brown colour suggests.

It’s tempting to indulge in hyperbole and proclaim that My Little Bento is delivering the best Japanese food in the west.

But as there’s at least one place we haven’t tried, we’ll settle for saying it’s definitely our fave.

 

Wonderfally delicious

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advis_falafels, 16 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9396 1841

How cool is watching our favourite locals and those beyond integrating the virus-inspired pivots and swerves into their ongoing operations?

For instance … what was once Little Advi has become advis_falafels.

 

 

Along the way, the shop has been given a much fresher and brighter look.

It’s more spacious, as opposed to the lovely and much-loved yet cramped previous layout.

The menu, too, has been streamlined.

No meat as far as we can tell.

But the dips and salads remain – hooray!

And instead of what was my habitual order for several years – the falafel wrap – there is now an open falafel pita ($11, see menu below).

At first, Bennie and I are a bit bemused about whether to eat with hands or cutlery.

A bit of both turns out to be the go.

And while the ingredients are familiar from previous visits, somehow the flavours and textures seem to have bloomed and zoomed.

The falafels themselves are superb, while the crunchy slaw and hummous are the perfect foil.

Even the way the juices soak into the flatbread is wonderful!

 

Back on the burger beat

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Beats Burgers, 255 Keilor Road, Essendon. Phone: 7018 3501

Blinking, hesitant, we are back in the world.

But not with any great confidence or elan.

We reckon we’ll be cautious for quite a while, preferring places we can get in and and out with a minimum of fuss and in which the distance thing is a given.

And that’s cool as it’s pretty much our regular routine anyway.

Beats Burgers has been on our radar for a while, but we’ve ended up here today somewhat haphazardly.

Having hit Bennie’s favourite comic shop in Moonee Ponds and picking up some groceries for the week ahead, we just kept on tootling up Mount Alexander Road and turned left.

 

 

Beats Burgers is a spacious place and, happily, there is just one other table occupied.

The walls are festooned with street-style art, with beats on the sound system close enough to the Roy Ayers we’ve been playing in the car to make a nice fit.

We eat good.

 

 

The chips are excellent – hot, crisp, yummy.

But I wish we’d been asked about yay or nay to chicken salt.

 

 

The Beats Deluxe burger is fine – just a good, straighahead beed burger with tomato relish, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles.

 

 

The Chicken Houston is a definite step up in class.

It’s even simpler – just fried chicken, chopotle mayo, coleslaw and pickles.

But the chook chunk is wonderfully crunchy and teams up real well with the slaw.

Value for money?

We’re a bit half full/half empty on that score.

Our lunches have been combo deals – the burgers, chips and cans of soft drink for $20 each.

In some ways that seems a little steep, especially in regards to the beef burger.

But OTOH, it’s generally in the going rate vicinity for such burger meal deals.

We’ll happily step inside Beat Burgers when we’re in this neighbourhood again.

 

Two amazing iso meals

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House of Mandi, 326 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9077 3963
Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

A substantial desire for Somalian food is upon us.

But instead of recourse to an icky app, I’m happy to head out on a Friday night to Flemington.

Discovering as I do so, and as I’m sure many others are, that driving logistics and stress is much lessened in current circumstances.

House of Mandi looks like just about every other eating places these days – the place is in a state of friendly disarray, with tables pushed back to the walls.

But it’s open!

I order, get our food and am back in Yarraville in what seems like no time.

Just what sort of meal we’re getting remains a mystery until we open the polystyrene boxes on the kitchen counter.

 

 

Gosh – it’s all brilliant.

And then some.

There’s no soup involved, which is not unexpected as this takeaway.

The rest is sublime.

Rice – studded with cardamom and cloves.

But this has depth of smoky flavour that we have never before encountered in countless Somalian meals.

Bennie has no qualms about calling it: “This is the best rice I’ve ever had!”

Spiced yogurt and green chilli sauce – plenty of both.

Our lamb shanks are tender, tasty and perfect in every way.

We’ve paid $15 for this amazing meal.

 

 

The next day is as bleak a Saturday as can be imagined.

Because of the rain and chill, I have something of a plan that involves grabbing empanadas and other supplies at Latin Foods & Wines and then whizzing home on the ring road to enjoy our lunch in warmth and comfort.

But Bennie has other ideas – he definitely wants to wrap his choppers around our fave Latin Foods & Wines sandwich, the chacarero.

So far as I can recall, we’ve never eaten a meal while sitting in our car; the idea has no appeal.

But I reluctantly let him have his way – and it turns out to be a most excellent call.

We get what I strongly suspect is an iso deal – so my advice would be get it while you can.

Chacarero, top-notch chips that are hot and crisp and a can of soft drink – all for $10.

Our sandwiches?

Wonderful, with their squeaky green beans and sliced beef that is of such high quality that it defies the gnawing aspect that usually leads to regular steak sandwiches disintegrating.

We enjoy our lunches yet never spill a drop of food juice on ourselves or the car.

Maybe I should re-adjust my attitudes to this kind of eat-in meal?

Rib and curry sensations

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520
podatpid, 638 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0404 904 900

Never order ribs from a non-specialist barbecue joint.

This is the emphatic lesson rammed home to Consider The Sauce through tedious confrontations with mediocrity.

Or worse.

But in the case of Santorini, we figure this is a rule worth ignoring.

Observing on FB the ingenuity and passion with which the whole Santorini crew is confronting the virus brouhaha is truly heartening.

That includes free delivery – yes, even as far as Yarraville – and specials events such as “souvlaki night”, free donut nights and more.

So order ribs, we do.

What we get is simply sensational.

Great lemon potatoes and heaps of them.

Greek coleslaw, and heaps of that, too, with just enough onion to add a little bite and quite a lot of feta, which crumbles into the dressing.

What a magic mix!

Given the superb accompaniments, and the fair asking price of $25 per person, we’d be quite unfazed to get a single big beef rib each.

Unfazed, but disappointed.

But no!

We get two of the beefy blighters each.

And – you guessed it!  – they, too, are very, very excellent.

And tender.

And delicious.

To order from Santorini online, go here.

 

 

Another of our faves, podatpid on Barkly Street in West Footscray, is also having lots of fun and satisfaction in keeping on trucking.

The cafe is selling a select range of top-notch grocery items, including bread.

And pick-up/take-home meals.

After having two encounters with it, we’ve become particularly fond of their pork-and-pineappple curry.

A really big serve for two cost us a fine $22.

It’s not so hefty in the pineapple department – it being outweighed by sweet potato.

Now that’s something that normally have both of us wrinkling up our noses in disgust because of its similarity to pumpkin.

But here, mixed in with the rich brown (and mild) curry gravy, it’s fab.

And our curry boasts a really good amount of tender pork chunks.

 

 

This particular meals ends with a sweet treat from yet another of faves – Olive Oil & Butter on Somerville Road.

Baklava for two – with yogurt. Greek, of course.

Hunkering down at home like everyone else, we’ve actually been cooking/eating healthily and affordably to a quite amazing extent.

So it’s been good to enjoy such great food from outside.

Even if we’ve not been sitting inside.

 

Naked and hungry

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Naked Egg, 32A Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9396 0309
Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

We’ve been hearing the talk – that Yarraville cafe Naked Egg has been doing fab takeaway meals.

So we check them out.

And the outcome is outstanding.

Some takeaway meals don’t suit us as we don’t have a microwave oven.

So I get two serves of chicken cacciatore at $18 each.

Actually, with its sausage and beans involvement, it’s more a cassoulet.

But let’s not split hairs, eh?

 

 

Bennie has somehow become the tightwad of the family, so gets a bit sniffy about the asking price of $18 a serve.

I beg to differ.

Adamantly.

Our “stew” is gloriously rich and delicious, with seeming multitudes of chicken bits, sausage and vegetables, all in a rich, thick sauce of profound delectableness.

Expert cooking going on here, methinks.

In a restaurant setting – oh, those were the days and hopefully will be again – I’d expect to pay in the mid-$20s or even more.

So this strikes me as very good pricing. I expect any decrease in price would inevitably mean a drop in quality.

The side serve of spuds and sauerkraurt is OK, but no match for the main event stew.

In a word: Fabulous!

 

 

For another take-home meal, we venture a bit up the road – to Panjali in Sunshine.

This time, I’ve phoned in our order beforehand and the whole procedure is sweet and swish, our food (mostly) awaiting when I turn up.

We get two murtabaks – one lamb ($12.90) and one chicken ($11.90).

It may be thought in some quarters that anything involving flatbreads purchased for later heating up is a recipe for ugh.

But we know from previous experience that is not the case with murtabaks.

Panjali murtabaks, anyway.

 

 

Our Saturday night meal is, well, orgasmic.

Perhaps we’ve been missing a certain level of spice and oil and funkiness?

Anyone else in that bag?

In any case, our Panjali meal of murtabak has us both ooh-ing and ahh-ing an sporting happy grins.

Not only do the murtabaks re-heat very well, but the accompanying gravies – one beef curry and one dal and vegetables – are wonderful.

 

Happiness delivered

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Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar, 28 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9943 4233
Safari Restaurant, 159 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 7175

Once these crazy times have abated, perhaps one of the lasting legacies will be a determination by many restaurants to continue taking care of their own home deliveries, leaving the icky apps out in the cold.

Wouldn’t that be great?

We have watched online as small businesses across the west have re-imagined their operations with passion and ingenuity – it’s been awesome to observe!

We are adhering pretty much to the “stay in your village” ethos, but even in and around Yarraville there is plenty from which to choose – and we plan on doing so about once a week in the coming months.

First up, a special Saturday night treat, is Eleni’s!

And because it’s a treat on the heels of a week of excellent home-cooking, we go all in and order the $63 meat deal for two. The toasted pita bread costs us an extra $2.

It’s all terrific, superb – and much more voluminous than the above photo indicates.

What we get: Lamb and chicken gyros, loukanika (sausage), lamb cutlets, Greek rissoles, pork kalamakia (skewer), tzatziki and salad.

The meat is cooked dead right and we love the different flavours and seasonings.

Hot? No. It’s warm – and that’s fine by us.

If we get around to Eleni’s again in the coming months, we’ll likely opt for one or more of the home-style dishes such as gemista, moussaka or pastitso.

Check out Eleni’s takeaway/delivery menu here.

 

 

When it comes to our meal from Safari, we do succumb to the use of a delivery app.

Safari was our Somalian hot spot several years before we became fully entranced with the Somalian eateries of Flemington.

Because of “stay in your village”, we have no idea how most of the Racecourse Road places are faring – or even if they’re open.

Though we note with happiness that #SomaliEats IS now up and running, offering pick-up and delivery – though I doubt that delivery option would stretch as far as Yarraville!

But such is our desire for a taste of Somalia, that we do the Door Dash thing with Safari – and it is absolutely outstanding!

We both opt for the lamb federation meal – fragrant, cardamom-studded rice AND pasta, heaps of tender lamb on the bone, some salad and veg.

No soup, but that’s no biggie; one banana between the two of us and tubs of chilli sauce and “Safarinaise”.

Really, this was just as good as having a Somalian feed in a restaurant, though without the vibe and colour!

The cost?

A mere $18 each.