Indonesian for the west

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Spice Klub, 4/203 Ballarat Road, Footscray. Phone: 0439 159 417

There are many interesting things for us to try when we return to Spice Klub.

On the menu (see below) are noodles, rice, desserts and more.

But it’s going to be tricky.

Because I simply can’t see us hitting Spice Klub without ordering the beef rendang.

It is brilliant – and I strongly suspect those with a deeper knowledge of and experience with Indonesian food will concur.

Called here rendang sapi, it costs $13 and is served with plain rice.

In modern parlance, this meat would be referred to as “smashed” or even, heaven forbid, “pulled”.

But let’s go old-school and refer to it as cooked down.

It is meat of high quality; no gristle or globs of fat here.

It’s quite sweet, has a nice chilli kick and is just sufficiently oily for the recipe to work.

Best of all, the flavour is a full-on orchestral blast of blended spices.

Gosh.

 

 

Bennie and I do good with the rest of our meal, too, though unsurprisingly not quite as spectacularly.

(We are guests of management – see full disclosure below.)

Lumpia semarang (chicken and prawn spring rolls, $10) are gorgeously lumpy in a way that denotes house-made food.

The chunky prawn and chicken mince inside, quite fishy in flavour, is equally rustic.

Our rolls are served with nice tamarind sauce with a strong whiff of ginger.

 

 

Nasi bakar ayam ($13) is “BBQ rice” cooked in banana leaf and studded with boneless chicken pieces.

It’s served with a crunchy mix of toasted coconut, chilli and salt, along with a sticky soy/chilli concoction.

It’s enjoyable, though probably better categorised as an entree than as a main.

Despite Spice Klub’s official address being on Ballarat Road, it’s actually on the strip of shops on Gordon Street familiar to all in the inner west as home to … not much.

But now there’s a cool Indonesian joint in place, hopefully we’ll be more frequent visitors to the neighbourhood.

Bizarrely, given the technicolour multitude of food riches in Melbourne’s west, Spice Klub is – as far as we can ascertain – our only Indonesian restaurant.

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

 

 

Food truck spice welcome here

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The Flavour Institute, Watergardens Town Centre, Taylors Lakes.

Just a couple of summers ago, Somerville Road at Yarraville Gardens was sporting anywhere between 15 and 20 food trucks of an evening – every weekend!

Those times have certainly changed.

In fact, it all seems a little bonkers now.

Posting a link to this story on food trucks on the CTS FB page elicited some interesting feedback and comments.

Some supported my long-held belief that food truck mania in the inner-west was always destined for a short life once the novelty wore off.

Another theme that arose in the conversation was one that perhaps should have been obvious all along – that food trucks would actually find more of a happy, and more popular, home in the outer west.

The outer west – where there is good food, but where it’s generally not found in high-intensity settings such as Footscray, Yarraville, West Footscray, Williamstown, Sunshine, St Albans and Kensington.

Which is why I pricked my ears up when I heard about The Flavour Institute.

This is a brand new food project at Watergardens Town Centre in Taylors Lakes.

Yes, it’s what is called these days a pop-up venture.

However, my understanding is that while the space being used is destined for other uses in the longer term, The Flavour Institute will be around for quite a few months.

The space itself is rather nice – there’s heaps of seating and toilets are right handy.

Not all the stallholders have food truck heritage.

But many of them do.

Regardless, these are all small businesses it’s good to see getting a leg up in an outer west setting in which they may prospser.

When CTS visits for a mid-week lunch, some stallholders have yet to move in.

But I enjoy perusing what’s available – certainly way ahead, for my tastes, of what’s to be had in one of the centre’s regular food courts, with the usual suspects, about 200 metres away.

The Flavour Institute line-up is:

  • Blonde Chilli
  • Drums
  • El Paletero
  • Food Symphony
  • Fury & Son Brewing Company
  • Gorilla Grill
  • Hofstra’s Hives
  • Honey Dee
  • Hop Nation
  • La Revolucion
  • Levain
  • Loaded Gourmet Popcorn Chicken
  • Mini Indulgences
  • Refresher Truck
  • Senor Churro
  • STIX
  • Sweet Forbidden Journey
  • The Pie Life
  • Tiramisu Lift Me Up
  • 99th Monkey Nut Butter

As well, there are smaller stalls with various interesting products for sale.

And there will cooking classes and other entertainment.

And certainly, I really enjoy my curry plate from Drums ($12) – goat curry, dal, potato curry, rice and papadums.

Check out The Flavour Institute website here.

French for sandwich

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Small French Cafe, 157A Barkly Street, Footscray.

For a few years now, Stefan Armentano has been running Small French Bar on Barkly Street in Footscray, bringing a wonderful touch of all sorts of French food and wine to the already wondrously diverse Footscray table.

Now he’s spread his wings – but not very far.

His new cafe/sandwich shop is directly opposite his restaurant.

Fittingly, it’s called Small French Cafe.

Fittingly – but somewhat inaccurately.

Tiny French Cafe might have been more appropriate.

Inside, there’s room for some high stools, a coffee machine and a display cabinet – and that’s about it.

Outside are a couple of tables and chairs.

But who cares about the scale of enterprise?

Let’s feel the quality … which is very fine.

 

 

The substance of the blackboard menu is all about baguette sandwiches, the varied line-up of five all priced at $9.50.

 

 

I go for the saucisson with salami, cheese, cornichons and butter, while …

 

 

… Bennie opts for the canard with duck confit, greens, grain mustard and cornichons.

This is simple and tasty eating that is right up there with the many other cheap lunch options in this neighbourhood.

Best of all is the bread – oh my!

This not your usual crusty baguette.

Stefan tells me it’s what called “pain aux cereals“.

“It is a whole-grain bread, typically the first alternative choice instead of white bread in France for sandwiches,” he says.

It’s wonderful!

Wonderful and chewy.

Cool burgers; heaps of parking

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Burger Freaks, 656 Somerville Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 0403 595 189

Cruise up the outer end of Somerville Road of a night and you’ll not find a lot open.

Just about all the many commercial operations of many kinds have shut up shop until tomorrow.

Sure, some of the freight places work way outside 9-to-5 routines.

But the tradie-style cafes on almost every block are most certainly not open.

But Burger Freaks is.

 

 

Roshan Altendorff has been running Burger Freaks for about three months, with the daytime trade all about the local, hungry workforce.

Come night-time, though, it’s all about burgers – and home delivery. Burger Freaks is on both Menulog and Uber.

But why sit at home – and gamble with the fickle travelling ability of burgers – when you can pay a visit?

The Burger Freaks dining area is as unadorned – and virulently non-hipster – as you’re likely to find.

It gets points from us for that – but it would all be for nowt if the food isn’t up to scratch.

It is.

 

 

The chips ($4) are good and hot.

The Mate (top photo) – with beef patty, cheese, caramelised onion, beetroot, bacon, lettuce and BBQ sauce – costs $10.50 or $14.50 with chips and a can of drink thrown in.

It’s beaut.

 

 

The California ($11.50, $15.50) – with beef patty, double cheese, double bacon, BBQ sauce and American mustard – is a bit more flashy.

But just as good.

These are both really admirable and enjoyable solid, no-fuss burgers with nicely charred and good-quality meat.

 

 

As well as burgers, this place sells a revolving range of frozen meals for $4.50 and $5.50 depending in size, as part of the UrCommunity – Feeding Australia Meal Deals project.

They run to curries, pasta, stews and the like.

Burger Freaks is open for evening dining every night except Mondays.

See the Burger Freaks website, including menu, here.

 

Vegan cafe shines

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One For The Crow, 9 Commercial Street, Maidstone. Phone: 0420 275 747

One For The Crow is located in a rather sleepy strip of shops – other than a cafe, there’s dance and martial arts operations and a few others more anonymous.

Its neighbourhood – in and around Dobson reserve – is itself rather sleepy.

And certainly not known for commercial activity of any kind.

But the west – inner, outer, inbetweener – is all changing so fast, so why not residential Maidstone for a cafe?

One For The Crow is vegan – though we are very happy to see regular milk available for coffee purposes.

And it is very, very kid-friendly.

It’s a lovely place, with a modest plant nursery going at the front and a handful of outdoor tables.

For all its vegan-ness, our menu (see below) choices are the sort of thing found in cafes all over.

 

 

My friends chooses the Thai curry veg pie ($6).

It is, of course, a Ka Pie – and it goes down a treat.

She likes the pasta-pesto-spinach salad ($5), too.

Though she is firmly of the opinion a sprinkling of crumbled feta would make it even better.

 

 

My waffle dish ($16) is good.

It comes with house-made nutella, maple syrup, caramelised banana and soy ice-cream.

 

 

A most excellent soba noodle bowl ($16) – enjoyed on a previous, reconnaissance visit – rather more reflects One For The Crow’s vegan credentials.

It’s packed with marinated tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, spinach, pickled daikon and kimchi, and dressed with a tahini-miso concoction.

Every mouthful is a delight.

 

 

Our coffees are fine, too.

One For The Crow appears to have quickly made itself an indispensable and treasured part of its community.

The locals have every reason to be stoked.

 

After-school Chinese BBQ

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Williams Landing Wok Wok BBQ and Chinese Cuisine, Shop 24B, Williams Landing Shopping Centre, 100 Overton Road, Williams Landing. Phone: 9972 5692

After perusing the Wok Wok menu, both while ordering and later at home, it’s easy to suspect this story will be doing the place something of an injustice.

So packed is the menu with wonderful Chinese food – especially of the seafood variety – that we suspect it most likely offers one of the really spectacular options for Chinese food in the western suburbs.

But when we visit, that’s not the path we take.

It’s after school; we have a 6pm appointment in Point Cook; we have time to kill; we are hungry.

And Wok Wok is open.

 

 

So we resort to our cheap ‘n’ cheerful default setting in such settings – the roast meats.

But, hey, that works just fine, too.

Because what better way to assess a Chinese place than its house-made BBQ birds of various kinds?

And, golly, what a fine time we have.

 

 

I doubt Wok Wok is a real-deal serious yum cha place, but there is a nice list of dumplings and “others”.

So as we really are hungry, we are happy to start with one of Bennie’ faves – a pair of steamed BBQ pork buns ($7).

They are hot and fresh, with a good and sticky filling.

Though even this good they will always be more favoured by son rather than father.

 

 

We take different yet overlapping routes to our consumption of the roast meats.

Bennie takes the two BBQ combination soup noodle ($14.50) pathway.

 

 

With it come his selections – roast duck and BBQ pork.

 

 

His dad, too, goes the double combination – BBQ pork and soya chicken – but this time with rice ($14.50).

 

 

I get a side bowl of chicken broth on request.

Both our meals have much in common …

The chicken broth/soup broth is hot, tasty, a bit salty (we like it like that) and peppery.

There’s good bok choy on hand to make us feel we’re covering the veg department despite eating sinful food.

And – most importantly – the meats are excellent.

The BBQ pork is a tad tough and chewy, but not enough to be a problem.

Wok Wok is handily located and appears to be on the ball.

 

Meal of the week No.42: Kensington Food Hall

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One of these days, we’ll take Kensington Food Hall and its regular menu for a spin.

We were actually very close to doing so a few months back, but we were waylaid by a very different – and fine experience – at food truck just up Macaulay Road.

And we like the look of the vegan feasts KFH is running.

But tonight we’re here for the $10 Monday paella special.

Kensington Food Hall (520 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone:9078 5248) has taken over the premises formerly inhabited by Korean joint Frying Colours.

It’s been so long since we were in that eating house, that we can’t surmise about how different the new fit-out is.

It is, however, very gloomy (we arrange our own mobile lighting) – though it’s also a cheerful place, with the wall-to-wall ’70s/’80s hits struggling to penetrate the happy hubbub.

Now, when it comes to variations on the universal rice dish, we have our prejudices.

Biryani – oh yes!

Risotto?

No so much.

Paella?

Well, in the past that way has provided us with mostly disappointment.

So we are keeping our expectations well in check.

Happily, wonderfully, that turns out to be entirely unnecessary.

The Kensington Food Hall paella is a smashing winner.

Our serve-for-two is mildly, deftly seasoned with – I surmise – just the right hint of saffron.

It is brimming with seafood – shellfish and calamari – along with chicken and smoked sausage.

Wow – what a score for $10!

 

 

We are having such a fine time, we hesitate not about ordering churros ($12).

Served with two scoops of vanilla ice-cream and choc sauce, they are fresh, fat and fabulous.

We arrived soon after the start time of 5.30pm; when we leave about an hour later, the joint is rocking and very busy – the Monday night paella project is an obvious success.

So we suggest arriving early, as we did, or late.