Burgers go boom

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Balkan Grill, 57 St Albans Road, St Albans. Phone: 0438 887 017

Bennie: “This is stupidly good!”

Kenny: “Wow … mmmmmm!!!”

Bennie: “Absolutely top tier!”

Kenny: “Why would anyone ever want a regular burger again after having these?!”

These are some of the comments uttered by Team CTS as we chow down on two utterly fabulous burgers at the newly re-located Balkan Grill.

We met Danilo Majmunovic when he was ensconced in the clubrooms of an Ardeer soccer club.

With the football season completed, he has moved on – to a small shopping strip on St Albans Road, one we’ve whizzed by countless times on the way to Alfrieda Street.

As we head this way for a Tuesday lunch, we’re truthfully not that optimistic the new Balkan Grill will be open and running.

But it is – and there even a few other customers in and the odd delivery going out the door.

This augurs well, we reckon, for the ongoing prosperity of Dani’s new project, offering a wonderful contrast to the more Asian-inclined food to be found up the road a few blocks.

True, at this early point some of the more earthy items on the menu (see below) – potato pie, beef ragu, stuffed cabbage leaves – are yet to be offered. But they’re on the way for sure.

But the grill is running so we’re happy to grapple with that in the form of a couple of super-dooper Balkan burgers ($15).

We each have half of the two burgers we order.

Bennie prefers the plain burger patty (above) with its mixture of beef and pork.

I prefer for the more charry flavours of the beef chevapi sandwich (top photo).

In the both cases, the meat is excellent.

But that is just part of the story here.

Because the dressings – ajvar, just the right amount of chopped white onion, excellent tomato and greenery, some mayo – are absolutely spot on.

And the glory that is the Balkan Grill burgers doesn’t end there.

We are well used – as, I’m sure, are all our readers – to considering burger buns/bread as little more than an after thought.

And that goes for the trashiest of fast food right up to the most hipsterised brioche.

Here, the house-made “buns” – sarajevski somun – are a real-deal part of the meal and simply superb and chewy in their own right.

Real food!

Given that significant substance and the size of the burgers, $15 is an excellent price – even without chips.

But we order some anyway at $3 a pop and they’re fine.

As well, for review purposes, we re-acquaint ourselves with Dani’s cabbage salad ($5) – it’s as vinegary and excellent as ever.

There’s nothing else for us to say.

Except this: Get thee to Balkan Grill and burger up!

Regal on the rice front

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Biryani King, 552 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 7013 9347

There have been several Indian eatery tenants at 552 Barkly in the past half dozen years.

So the arrival of a new player here in the very keen Indian eats scene in West Footscray could quite easily pass with little notice by us.

Even one with the word “biryani” in its name.

Except we DO notice the prices.

Here, bone-in chicken curries cost $10, a masala dosa $8 and a basic chicken biryani $10 (menu below).

These fees are significantly below those of most other places hereabouts and further afield.

But they count for nowt if the quality isn’t there.

And the quality, it appears, IS very much present.

CTS pal Nat Stockly has become something of semi-regular since his first visit a few months back – and that’s big thumbs up from a staunch biryani fan boy.

So up Bennie and I rock.

Nat’s endorsement is given extra credence by the number of customers – and delivery drivers – coming and going so early in a Saturday lunch hour.

We both have simple, basic meals – and they are very good.

 

 

Bennie’s masala dosa is nearing on perfection, though the dosa itself is a little thicker than is customary.

The accessories are fresh and pretty.

And the spud filling is a glorious, turmeric-yellow jumble of near mush.

So good is his dosa that he returns the next day with his mother, with both ordering the same dish!

 

 

Upon arrival at our table, my chicken dum biryani is sans gravy – a situation rectified a few minutes later.

But I confess to Bennie my lunch looks, at first blush, like a bowl of plain rice into which a few pieces of chook from a curry have been buried.

But the spilling of biryani to plate reveals a most excellent restaurant-style biryani, all the usual seasoning and two notably flavoursome and tender pieces of chicken.

It’s a winner, winner, chicken … lunch.

We’re likely, like Nat, to become regulars here for good – and seriously affordable – Indian goodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fine fit for Footscray

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Roman’s Original, 50 Leeds Street, Footscray.

We’re quite the salt fiends here at Consider The Sauce HQ.

This is not a boast – it’s a simply statement of fact.

Something a bit “meh” about one of our many home-made soups or stews?

Not enough salt!

And, hardly a surprise, we eat out quite a lot so are well used to salty restaurant food.

So it IS a surprise to have too much salt be a problem for us at Roman’s Original – and not just concerning one dish, but both we order.

 

 

Bennie’s first comment, upon trying his fried chicken sandwich ($15) is: “Wow – this is like really flash KFC!”

That’s a compliment!

But then: “It’s way too salty, though!”

Yeah right, I figure, suspecting he’s playing a bit too much the food critic.

But then he proceeds to pick the flour-based coating from his chook and enjoy the rest of his meal.

I try a couple of bits of the discarded coating.

He’s right.

It IS too salty. By a lot.

 

 

I hope there’ll be no such problems with my fish sandwich ($16), featuring a good-size piece of ling.

My sandwich is dressed and prepared the same way, so far as I can tell, as Bennie’s chicken effort – some herby mayo, lettuce, an ineffectual cheese slice, pickles.

It’s a terrific meal, a real nice handful with the crispy fish a treat.

But hold on …

Yes, my fish coating – panko crumbs this time – is ALSO way too salty.

And, as above, for us that’s saying quite a lot.

What is going on here?

I’m told, when we’re finished our meal and paying up, that today there have been some new arrangements in the kitchen.

We feel assured this is a one-off happening.

And that makes us happy.

Because we like Roman’s Original.

A lot.

We love the whole vibe, from the way bits, pieces and walls from the old deli have been retained in this place’s minimal-yet-elegant fit-out right through to the funky music.

And we love that this bar/eatery fits right into Leeds Street in particular and Footscray central in general.

Just like that – sound of fingers snapping – it looks a part of the furniture.

 

 

And, naturally enough, we also dig the equally minimalist menu – there’s no printed versions; just this simple list parked on the wall behind the order/pay counter.

 

 

We get two servings from the dishes listed under “sides”.

The pickles consist mostly of al dente carrots rounds with a mildly sour yet very intriguing flavour. They’re a bargain at $2.

The potato salad is even more of a steal – the $7 serve is pretty damn big, so much so we don’t finish it.

Our salad is divine – a mayo-rich extravaganza that is perfect in every way.

Despite the salty hiccups, we are eager to return to Roman’s Original.

 

Goodness gracious!

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Karomi, 15/1 Duncans Road, Werribee.

Karomi is a cute cafe just of Watton Street in Werribee’s CBD.

Here you can get a range of sandwiches, toasties and sweet treats (see menu below).

 

 

But there is no doubt that the main action at Karomi – and the desire of 99 per cent of the place’s patrons – concerns the wonderful Greek doughnuts mostly known as loukoumades.

Here they’re called lokma – and you can have them, if that is your thing, with a variety of toppings such as M&Ms, Oreo and Kit Kat.

Nah.

Bennie and I go for the classic ($10 for 10).

We love them – golden orbs with crisp exteriors and hot, airy interiors.

They are swimming is syrup imbued with crushed/chopped pistachios.

Our cafe latte and iced coffee are just right, too.

 

 

 

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.