Bougatsa boogie

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 9687 2665

Fig & Walnut is one of our locals, one of our regulars.

But, a little sadly, that regularity is mostly confined to grabbing Saturday morning coffee on the way to our kung fu rendezvous in Carlton.

Today, though, there’s no class scheduled, so we sleep in a bit and resolve to hit Fig & Walnut for lunch.

Actually, it’s not lunch so much we’re desiring – our outing is more centred around the bougatsa that is invariably displayed on the front counter when we’re getting our takeaways.

But those in-and-out visits are never the right time for this sweet business, so we’ve resolved to fix that.

 

 

With custard on our minds, we ignore the menu and go for what we figure will be lighter items from the display cabinet.

Bennie’s sausage roll ($9.90) looks solitary and humble, but is beaut and then some – a really top, meaty effort and a bigger meal than it appears.

He is nevertheless envious of my bacon and egg pie ($9.90).

Normally he is not interested in anything that smacks of hard-boiled egg.

But this chunky slice is sensational – just like mum’s!

Except that in this case the bacon is layered through in fabulous quarter-inch slices.

(No photos of this item – I took a bunch, but they’re all blurry. Bad food blogger!)

 

 

As well, we’re presented with a complementary dish – chilli scram ($19.50).

Yes, they know we write about food and stuff.

This is an intriguing outing with a cake-like mound of egg scramble topped by fried enokis, miso mascarpone, pickled chilli and more.

There’s a whiff of ginger in there.

Very good!

After a savoury segment more hefty than we’d planned, we maybe should’ve been less gung ho about the bougatsa.

But, no, we order two slices ($7.90) with top-notch coffees to match.

What can I say?

This is sweet treat heaven – but not too sweet; rather demure in that regard, actually.

And the slices are BIG – half of each goes home with us to be lazily consumed over the next couple of days.

 

We bustle to the Hustle

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Hot Dog Hustle, 252 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

Well golly and gosh – haven’t we been very good boys!

CTS HQ has been awash with vegetables, salads, legumes, unmeaty pasta dishes and all manner of righteous eating for what seems like weeks.

Now I reckon it’s time to go a bit crazy.

I say to Bennie: “C’mon buddy – we’re going!”

Says he: “Where???”

“It’s a surprise – one you’ll like!”

Hot Dog Hustle, a Braybrook-based food truck operation, has been on our list for yonks – it’ll be a pleasure to tick this one off our to-do list.

It’s a dim and drizzle early evening, so we are happy to find some rudimentary – and covered – seating is available for our dining pleasure.

Bennie orders the “Furi” ($12) and its teriyaki sauce, caramelised onion, jalapeno, spicy mayo, Hustle mayo, chilli flakes, furikake and shichimi peppers.

Two mouthfuls into his meal and the Bennie verdict is in.

It’s supremely unequivocal.

“This is truly great,” he enthuses.

But he is a little envious of my bulgogi cheesesteak ($15) and its sliced steak, caramalised onion, grilled capsicum, melted cheese and Hustle mayo.

And so he should be.

This is magnificent!

It’s an awesome fast-food feast packed with a variety of intense flavours.

The sliced beef is tender, easily devoured and tasty.

A “free” fried egg is included with each of hot dogs and the fries and onion rings ($5 each) are good accompaniments, though the latter constitute a rather small serving.

The hot dogs themselves are far from the top-notch smoked kind we have at home, bought from Andrew’s Of Yarraville, but they’re quite adequate for the food here.

Seeing the Hod Dog Hustle pics on FB, I had been wondering how customers eat such creations when the toppings outweigh the dogs and buns beneath.

And the buns are the real fluffy hot dog kind – a far cry from the Vietnamese banh mi baguettes we use for hot dogs and kranski at home.

With their hands?

Nah, don’t think so – I reckon they do what we do and go the knife and fork.

Check out the Hot Dog Hustle website here.

Yarraville dumpling zone

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Chi Bao, 46 Anderson Street, Yarraville.

Greater Asia is as vast as Yarraville’s village is tiny.

Nevertheless, in our 15+ Yarraville years, we have tried a goodly number of local eateries of one Asian persuasion or another.

Sometime it’s been great.

More often it’s been just OK.

And sometimes it’s been dreadful.

Yet heading to Chi Bao – the village’s spanking new dumpling emporium – we are cheerful, optimistic.

But nor are we weighted down with high expectations.

We figure we’ll be doing fine if we get something of similar standard to what we might be served at Highpoint or Pacific Werribee.

 

 

So we are consequently ecstatic, thrilled and quite happy about the quality and deliciousness of our lunch.

The menu does play it a little safe in places – after all this is not central Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans, where hardcore can be a viable business plan.

So the Chi Bao menu has, of course, fried rice, but also Shanghai fried noodles, spring rolls and even sweet and sour pork.

But in the food we enjoy there is not slightest sense of gentrificated compromise, even if the pricing appears to be a tad higher than we’d pay for similar food in Footscray.

And we appreciate that our chosen dishes do not all arrive in a flurry – the wait times denote the care evident in our food.

 

 

Up first is the simplest of salads ($7.80) – cucumber with the lightest of applications of a vinegar sesame dressing.

It’s cool and just right.

 

 

Salt and pepper tofu ($6.80) appears, at first blush, to be rather pale and unappealing.

But in the eating it is superb, the tofu pieces delicately rendered and imbued with a spot-on level of salt.

 

 

The chilli dumplings ($16.80) are 10 steamed pork-and-cabbage parcels luxuriating in house-made chilli oil.

The dumplings are every bit as good as we could wish for.

But what really excites us about this dish is the funky, rich, sticky and spicy chilli oil.

It’s not in the danger zone, but is very much an improvement on the weak, pallid, watery versions we have been served elsewhere.

 

 

Our beef and celery pan-fried dumplings ($15.80 for 12) arrive freshly turned out of the pan and sporting a lacy bottom.

These, too, are superb – though we detect little or no difference in flavour attributable to the presence of celery over cabbage.

The dumplings at Chi Bao are colour-coded to make identification by the staff easier when it comes tom look-a-like dishes.

So the chicken dumplings, for instance, have some turmeric included.

In the case of our beef-and-celery dumplings, the grey-with-black-dots colour scheme is thanks to black sesame.

Chi Bao is a hit.

It is happily occupying a niche in Yarraville that obviously needed filling.

 

More banana leaf yum

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Annapoorna Srilanakan Restaurant, 290 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 8528 0064

We wrote about Annapoorna several years ago – a short piece based on a single, solitary meal.

But thanks to a weekend Facebook post – thanks, Chee Chin Lee! – Nat and I front up for Sunday lunch to see what changes have been wrought.

There’s new management and a new approach.

We’re told a written menu is in the works and that at dinner time the full regalia of South Indian/Sri Lankan tucker as channelled through Malaysia is available – think idlys, noodles such as mee goreng, house-made rotis, dosas and so on.

For lunch, we can have a banana leaf meal from the bain marie … or nothing.

But that’s fine by us as that’s what we would’ve ordered anyway!

 

 

The routine is familiar – the basic (vegetarian) meal costs $9.50, with most customers adding protein as chosen from the whiteboard.

 

 

I append my leaf combo with chicken curry ($6) and enjoy my meal heaps.

All is most enjoyable.

The cabbage retains some crunch – not always the case in such places and with such food, where cooking down is often the norm

The dal is studded with vegetables and the eggplant is as silken as it looks.

 

 

Nat happily goes the fish curry ($7) route for his add-on – the sea creature, pomfret, is surrounded by okra.

I envy him his wise selection – it looks better than mine.

 

 

Cafe does a soul strut

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Sadie Black Cafe, 31 Perth Avenue, Albion. Phone: 9312 1869

We’ve taken our time getting to Sadie Black in Albion.

But since it opened, we have followed its story on Facebook and had to suppress the drool as an endless parade of eats pics unfolded.

So we find it no surprise that we eat well when we do finally visit.

Nor are we surprised to learn that Sadie Black has become first-rate joint of the neighbourhood nirvana variety.

 

 

It’s a happy and delicious place.

 

 

And this gorgeous back garden will be a popular spot in the warm weeks and months to come.

 

 

Bennie is a bit meh about his SB burger with fries ($17).

This is perplexing – it looks bloody fine to me.

And tastes that way, too.

He does give a hearty thumbs hoist to the very fine Istra bacon ($2 extra).

He voted at the last federal election. He’s done with school, save for a few exams. The future is his.

So on the drive home, I suggest he may want upgrade his menu choices with a more wide-ranging and less burger-teen philosophy.

 

 

There’s not the slightest equivocation when it comes to my pig and potato croquettes ($18) – this is wonderful in every way.

The croquettes come with beaut roasted cauliflower, pickle slices, a mustard sauce and toast.

 

 

Beneath the crisp exteriors, the tubby parcels explode with the flavour of ham hock meat and peas, all immersed in a roux gooeyness.

 

 

We’d already ticked this lunch off as a dessert dead cert on the basis of the obvious pride the cafe takes in its baking and sweets.

We are not disappointed.

 

 

This upside down pear and berry pudding ($7.50) is a joy that has us grinning and smirking.

How lucky are we?

The coffees we have with it are very good.

 

VenU – a study in good eating

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VenU, Level 1 Building D, corner of Nicholson and Buckley Streets, Footscray (enter restaurant via Albert Street). Phone: 9919 8708

Tertiary education and other training and teaching institutions – and their people – have become ever more entwined in western suburbs life.

And, of course, some of this training and education involves courses and (mostly) young people looking to pursue careers in the hospitality industry.

They include those taking part in the Victoria University Polytechnic’s VenU restaurant for the next month or so – until early December.

The students man every part of this enterprise from the kitchen through to front of house.

 

 

After enjoying lunch there as a guest (full disclosure below), the CTS verdict is in.

It’s really, really good!

It’s super affordable!

It’s licensed!

You should go!

There are representative menus below.

Lunch and afternoon tea are available on Tuesdays.

Lunch and (early) dinner on Wednesdays.

For more details phone, 9919 8708; online bookings can be made here.

For lunch, I am joined by Megan and Denise from the VU marketing department and we have a very nice time.

 

 

The first surprise comes in the dining room.

Instead of the canteen-like vibe I am expecting, VenU is a real-deal restaurant with snappy, on-the-ball staff (students) and even linen napkins.

The food?

We have everything offered in the lighter fare found on the day’s lunch menu – and it’s all lovely.

 

 

Owing to countless unfortunate incidents in my childhood, pumpkin is pretty much my least favourite vegetable.

But the VenU pumpkin soup with cooconut ($5) wins me over – completely – with ease.

 

 

My housemade potato gnocchi with a “cream reduction” ($12) look like they’re they’re going to be oh-so-stodgy.

They’re far from it – they’re light, fluffy and delicious.

Though I do consume only as much of the rich sauce as is necessary to enjoy the pasta pillows.

 

 

My companions enjoy their seared pork belly with pickled vegetables ($12) and …

 

 

… roasted onion and goat cheese tart with red pepper relish and greens ($12) every bit as much.

The apple strudal with vanilla cream ($4, top photo) is a cracking dessert dream.

The cafe latte I have with it is excellent.

(Consider The Sauce dined at VenU as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. VenU management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Snag mission

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A&L Gugliotta and Sons Butchers, 314 Blackshaws Road, Altona North. Phone: 9391 1606

After noting the front-of-house upgrade at Gugliotta and Sons in the most recent edition of Westie eats goss, I have been invited back to observe the making of sausages.

The old joke goes that after watching sausages being made, you’ll never want to eat one again.

In this instance, that is definitely not the case.

I am impressed by the simplicity of the process and the freshness of the ingredients.

The odours are likewise fresh and clean – if odours can be clean!

I love watching Nick and his offsider, Anthony, at work as their colleagues hussle about us taking care of other meaty chores.

 

 

The business makes quite a big range of sausages, but the main task today is a big batch of your basic Italian-style pork snags.

They start with two tubs of cut-up pork, one leaner and …

 

 

… one that includes a good deal more back fat.

As Nick says, a sausage without fat is a tasteless sausage.

 

 

The two tubs of meat are put through the mincer.

This is one of three machines used in the sausage-making process.

The machines are all simple affairs and, really, provide quite close facsimiles for what would take place if the whole process was done by hand.

 

 

To blend and bind, the meat is then put in the mixer.

At this stage, salt, pepper, some wine and a little water are added.

That’s it – that’s your basic pork sausage!

 

 

Given the homespun approach taken here, you’ll be unsurprised to learn Gugliotta and Sons use natural casings.

 

 

They are delivered to the Blackshaws Road shop packed in salt.

So while the meat is being prepared, the casings are being rinsed in lemon-infused water to remove the saltiness.

 

 

The minced-and-mixed meat is placed in an air pump and the meat forced into the casings.

The comes the most magic part – and the most manual!

With flashing dexterity, Nick ties off the long tube of sausage into near-equal lengths.

Here it is the thinner pork sausages that are being created.

Nick looks for all the world like a grandad making balloon animals for the grandkids.

 

 

Also being made today is a smaller batch of Sicilian sausages.

 

 

The provlone, chopped fresh and canned tomatoes and endive are mixed into the same meat base.

 

 

Anthony tells me it took a while for him to fully get the knack of the tying off process, but that these days he could pretty much do it in his sleep.

 

 

Here’s Nick with a water pump/sausage filler of the kind used in an earlier era.

Thanks for inviting me, guys!