Burger doubleheader

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Slider Diner, 82 Charles Street, Seddon.
Fugu Fish Bar, 11 Wests Road, Maribyrnong. Phone: 7015 8733

In handful of months, Consider The Sauce will turn nine.

Much has changed in that time for western suburbs food talk.

A few westie-oriented blogs have come and gone, while the coverage in the MSM and other media outlets based on the other side of the Maribyrnong remains haphazard and selective.

Yet it seems to me the tempo of ongoing discussions about western suburbs food has actually increased.

I attribute that to the enthusiastic embrace of a plethora of community Facebook pages right across the west.

It’s a regular thing to see posts and photos of new places opening (and closing) and long threads of comments responding to recommendations for pizzas or coffee or vegan tucker – and much more.

For that reason, I long ago realised that aspiring to cover everything that is happening – and being eaten – across the west is the stuff of nervous breakdown.

So we go our merry way – and enjoy immensely, and participate in, the broader conversations.

For instance, very few of the bars that have bloomed in the inner west in the past few years have received coverage here.

And it’s for that reason that Slider Diner was not really on our radar.

Just another burger joint, hey?

But visit it we do when our Seddon eating destination of choice turns out to be closed.

That’s a fine outcome, for we enjoy Slider Diner.

 

 

Located in the premises formerly occupied by Ajitoya, the place is done out in nice and bright retro diner style.

And the slider angle?

Well, that seems to be all about the availability of half-size burgers in a menu (see below) dedicated to classy fast food – with a few twists along the way.

Usually, half portions cost significantly more than half the full price.

So Slider Diner deserves much kudos for the fact its “sliders” cost precisely half of their full-portion equivalents – and they’re generous to boot!

This means an individual customer can enjoy some diversity without paying a price in terms of quantity or money.

 

 

Bennie is well pleased with slider cheeseburger ($7) and kim cheezy ($7) with crunchy fried chicken, kim chi slaw, smoked cheddar and gochujang sauce (Korean red chilli sauce).

My fish burger ($15, top photo, not available in half size) is damn fine.

The deep-fried rockling fillet, juicy and flavoursome and meltingly tender, is accompanied by lemon dill mayo, lettuce and just the right quantity of finely sliced pickled onion.

 

 

We are utterly incapable of ordering the likes of burgers or gyros without also summoning chips.

But all we want is a taste, really.

So we wish more places would offer said chips in appropriately sized – and priced – portions.

Slider Diner does just that for $5.50 – though these are just OK.

Will we return to Slider Diner?

Yes – quite possibly to build a meal out of sides such as chicken wings, popcorn chicken, Tex-Mex corn cob, truffled mac n cheese and pulled pork doughnuts.

 

 

“Dad, your patty looks like it’s a frozen one!”

Such is Bennie’s gloomy visual assessment of my wagyu burger at Fugu Fish Bar.

A fresh-faced fish and burger joint, Fugu is located at the nexus of Hampstead and Wests roads, a few blocks from Highpoint and in a long-standing small shopping precinct that houses another dedicated burger joint.

This is an area undergoing rapid change as more and more people move in.

We both “combo” our meals for $3 extra, so my burger deal clocks in at $17 with the addition of coleslaw.

My burger is better than indicated by Bennie’s scorn – but it’s acceptable without being memorable.

The coleslaw is outstanding.

 

 

Bennie is happy with his southern chicken burger ($15 with chips), even though it appears a little crumpled.

The chips are OK. Just.

 

 

On an earlier, reconnaissance visit, I enjoyed my blue grenadier with chips and coleslaw, the latter again superb.

The little things count!

In this case, I was not offered a combo set-up so my lunch costs more through the addition of $6 worth of salad on top of the $12 for the classic fish/chip deal.

The fish was bigger than it looked at first glance and good eating, though the batter was a bit doughy.

Fugu has been recommended to us by friends/readers, so we are disappointed to be a little underwhelmed overall.

If we lived in the area, we’d be regulars, for sure – in the process, getting to know the menu and what really sings.

 

 

Servos of the old west

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They’ve been, with very few exceptions, stomped out of existence by mega-servos that come with car washes, shops and fast food outlets.

But like the corner shops that have met a similar fate, their ghosts linger.

Often they’re still in use for automotive purposes.

Sometimes they’ve been utilised for other uses.

Sometimes they lie idle.

And sometimes all traces are gone save for the memories of locals.

This survey is not meant to be comprehensive or methodical.

Basically, it’s the result of a day’s driving that took in those old servos of which I was already aware, with a happy stumble of a couple of neat surprises thrown in.

If readers send me photos, I’ll do a follow-up spread!

 

 

Douglas Parade Bait and Tackle, Douglas Parade, Spotswood (near The Warmies).

 

 

Francis Street, Yarraville.

 

 

Corner Barnet Street and Pentland Parade, Yarraville.

Bowsers intact, but I’m told the auto repair shop that operated here for many years is no longer doing so.

 

 

Sunshine Road, Tottenham.

 

 

Sunshine Road, Sunshine.

 

 

Andy’s Servo, corner Anderson and Glengala roads, Sunshine.

 

 

Sunshine Social, Glengala Road, Sunshine West.

 

 

Ballarat Road, Footscray.

 

 

Corner Napier and Whitehall streets, Footscray (opposite the Reverence Hotel).

The proprietor of the mechanics shop here told me the tanks remained intact and that he reckons it was servo until some time in the 1950s.

He showed me an invitation to exhibition launch featuring the work of signwriting outfit Lewis and Skinner. See details here.

And the boss also informed me the premises/property operated as a Cobb & Co depot in the early 1900s!

 

 

Corner Charles and Gamon streets, Seddon.

I was unsure of servo status of this building.

So I dropped in to visit my friends Deborah and Roger, who have lived right opposite for a long time.

As far as we can figure, a very rough chronology of the building’s uses runs like this:

Bery’s Charcoal Grill until the mid-90s
The Bowser
Sabroso
Charles and Gamon (current).

So The Bowser name leads us to conclude it was indeed a servo at one time.

The charcoal grill, serving Macedonian food, was much loved and has been discussed in comments on previous CTS stories.

 

 

Anderson Street, Yarraville.

A final surprise!

Deborah flipped through the relevant pages of the history of Yarraville she and Roger produced in conjunction with the Footscray Historical Society.

And there they were – a couple of very old bowsers stationed outside this building, which is these days a health services centre, located right next door to Coracle (formerly happy Four).

CTS 2018 – the highlights reel

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Singaporean seafood stew with Mongolian rice at Fusion Ceylon.

 

Consider The Sauce gives thanks to two groups equally for being the mainstays of another fine year of western suburbs dining.

Firstly, thanks to the readers.

Thanks to them for the many comments, both here and on Facebook, and the hot tips, humour and support.

Secondly, thanks to the many fine, hard-working and creative people who make the food – they are legends one and all.

 

 

Fusion Ceylon

Is Werribee too much of a stretch for citizens of the inner west – never mind the rest of Melbourne?

Because, frankly, I am surprised these guys haven’t – yet – garnered more attention, including in the media.

No problem – they seem plenty busy dealing with their robust local popularity.

In the meantime, Fusion Ceylon is a shining beacon of sensational, spicy and imaginative food.

 

 

Parotta Station

This eatery in the unlikely location of Millers Road, Brooklyn, provides simple and affordable Indian food with a Tamil Nadu influence.

Don’t miss the homely perfection of parotta with saalna – wonderful house-made flatbreads (parotta) with a fried egg and curry gravy.

The price has inched up a little since our story – but is still under $10!

 

 

Co Thu Quan

Reborn and back in a new location following the Little Saigon Market fire, Co Thu Quan serves many familiar Vietnamese dishes – and, fabulously, many less so.

It’s a shining Footscray star.

 

 

Bakhdida Cafe and Restaurant

We have yet to return to this singular enterprise in industrial north Sunshine – but chowing down on its spirited Iraqi take on Middle Eastern food remains profoundly memorable.

 

 

Farang Thai BBQ

Highpoint food has never tasted better than the zesty Thai street food offered by Farang Thai BBQ.

Shopping centre soul.

 

 

Tina’s Dumpling House

Offering more than just dumplings, this St Albans establishment is doing good things on Pier Street.

 

 

El Toucan Cafe

Colombian food at Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre – who knew?

We did!

Kudos to Frank Frank Torres and his crew for delivering a fine range of Latin American tucker.

 

 

Tanoor

Oh, how we love having Tanoor just down the road in Hoppers Crossing!

Not just for the in-house platters, but also for the Lebanese pizzas and pies, which have become a quick meal staple at home.

 

 

African (various in various locations)

There has been less focus on the Somalian food of Flemington this year on CTS – simply because new story-generating angles have, for the meantime, been tapped.

Rest assured that wonderful stuff remains a mainstay of the CTS diet.

Closer top home, we very much enjoyed two new arrivals of the Ethiopian variety – House Of Injera in Footscray and GeBeta in West Footscray.

 

 

BBQ

We also enjoyed the offerings of two new BBQ joints in the west – Houston’s Barbecue in Keilor Park and Tex-Oz Smokehouse in Werribee.

 

 

Fish and chips

Batterbing in Williamstown is the best.

In our deep-fried opinions.

 

 

House Of Cannoli

Tucked away in residential Avondale Heights, discover sublime, Cannoli Bar does great things when it comes to perfect cannoli and other Italian treats.

 

****

 

Finally, thanks to the members of Team CTS for joining Bennie and I on so many occasions – and putting up with my photographic delays!

 

A is for Alfrieda Street. And awesome.

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Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

On a blazing hot Melbourne day, is there any better place to be than luxuriating in the AC-cooled confines of Phi Phi?

Nope.

It’s been a while since we’ve been here for a feed.

The place has had a bit of a makeover and there’s some new faces around.

But all else appears much the same – including the superb food.

We’re in the house to enjoy it with Brimbank councillors Duyen Anh Pham and Virginia Tachos.

We play it safe when ordering – nothing in the way of boundary testing for us during this lunch.

But what we do order is AMAZING.

Virginia originally wanted Vietnamese coleslaw, but is delighted nevertheless with the rare beef salad with lemon juice ($25, top photo).

More in a Thai style than Vietnamese, it’s just as tangy as expected and turbocharged with all sorts of greenery.

The meat is rare as promised and excellent.

 

 

Good thing we ordered the small version of the combination fried rice ($10), as it’s very generous.

It’s also momentously fluffy and studded with many plump and good-sized prawns.

This lives on another planet from fried rice of meh bain marie infamy.

 

 

Silky tofu done in salt and pepper style ($14) is Bennie’s choice – and it doesn’t disappoint.

The tofu chunks are profoundly plump and delicious.

 

 

A large serve of roast pork ($18) is incredible.

But that’s no surprise, as the barbecue meats here are deservedly a source of pride.

It’s all good and mostly tender, with just enough gnarly crunch to keep things interesting.

Phi Phi is a jewel of St Albans and the west.

 

Meal of the week No.48: Somali Star

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It’s always a nifty pleasure to visit the Footscray Hub arcade – a key component of what makes Footscray central such a cracking place to be.

But today we have another motive.

We’d heard that Somali Star was for sale – or perhaps even under new management?

So we’re here to find out what the go is.

Well, it turns out all is much the same.

The lovely Johara is still running the joint.

She tells me she was considering selling up for a while, but has since dug in for the long haul.

That means Somali Star remains a happy place that is very popular with the locals, especially those seeking the world famous sambusas.

For eating in, there is an appealing mix of Somalian and Ethiopian fare.

 

 

There being no pasta immediately on hand, Bennie is thwarted in his ambition to have such like with “beef curry”.

So he joins me in having a simple meal of “tips” with injera ($15).

The “tips” are wetter, and more tomato-based, than we normally get in this neighbourhood, but we still enjoy our lunches very much.

Somali Star is on Uber, though last orders are taken at 6.30pm when the arcade closes.

 

Westie eats goss 19/12/18

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The former home of once-loved, now-gone Michael The Deli at 50 Leeds Street, Footscray, is getting a revamp and a new life.

 

 

According to the building permit notification in the window, the new business here will be “a cafe during the day” and “a bistro during evening hours specialising in European cuisine”.

How intriguing!

 

 

In Stephen Street, Yarraville, the old takeaway shop at No.127 (opposite Yarraville Village Animal Hospital) is getting a makeover that definitely suggests “cafe”.

I am reliably informed this will be a second cafe for the owners of the popular and classy Kodama Coffee in Williamstown.

I wonder what’s become of the shark?

 

 

On Vernon Street in Kingsville, Dukkah has opened – though I’m told they won’t be running at full strength until a week or so into the new year.

 

 

The menu has the expected Middle-Eastern content, but also some touches of North African/Moroccan that have us even keener to try.

Review/story coming!

Get updates here.

 

 

At Central West in Braybrook, the ongoing saga of the fresh produce space will see an outlet of the Sacca’s chain “opening soon”.

 

 

In Moonee Ponds, the former home of the Ripples F&C joint – subject of the first ever CTS story – is being remade.

 

 

It will be taken over by Gourmet Kitchen Cooking School, which has been living a few doors away for years.

 

 

Right next door, Kingyo Izakaya has opened.

Run by the same folks who captain I Dream Of Sushi, also on Margaret Street, I’m told it’ll be more along the lines of grills/Japanese “tapas”.

 

 

Also in Moonee Ponds, the Pratt Street place once home to a Chinese eatery and (before that) a branch of China Bar, is now Dee Dee Thai Cuisine.

 

 

What looks like it may be a temple of mediocrity surprises Bennie and I when we drop in for lunch.

Choosing from the $15 lunch deal menu (which includes a can of soft drink), we are delighted by the sticky, rich panang beef curry with rice and …

 

 

… the papaya salad with Dee Dee wings.

Fresh, good, cheap.

 

Fusion on Union

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Fork & Fingers, 230 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9041 2436

Consider The Sauce and one of its regular dining pals had been vaguely talking about a visit to Fork & Fingers to try its Indian fusion food for more than a year.

In the end, though, it was with four other regular members of Team CTS that the deed was done.

As the arrangement were being made, one of them quipped: “Butter chicken lasagne – that place has piqued my interest. I feel it’s either going to be really good or terrible.”

Did our experience of that dish, and the food in general, attain for us such polarised extremes?

No.

Perhaps it would’ve been preferable for it to have done so.

 

 

Union Road, a few years back, was a regular haunt for CTS, but ebbs, flows and new horizons have subsequently taken us elsewhere.

So it’s good to be back; I check out some of the eating spots and their menus before joining my dining companions.

Fork & Fingers lives in a long room done out lovely, featuring exposed brick and all sorts of visual stimuli such as posters and murals.

Half the menu here is dedicated to familiar Indian dare such as paani puri and beef madras.

But the other half is dedicated to Indian fusion dishes – and it’s for them we’re here.

We toss up various ways of going about ordering.

My suggestion that two orders each of the five main courses would see us right is discarded.

Instead, we order the whole menu – one each of the three starters and likewise the five mains.

That turns out to be just right in terms of quantity for we five.

The service is very good and I appreciate the willingness to up the lighting at our table so photography can happen.

Here’s what we have:

 

 

Skinny vegan tofu meatballs ($14) are two spheres of tofu and vegan cheese.

They sit on a salan gravy, are topped by grated radish and are good in a crumbly way – though the flavours are low volume (this will become a recurrent theme).

 

 

Crab roll with Indian pesto and asparagus ($16) is another good-looking dish.

Going by the texture, we conclude there is real crab involved, though there is no discernible asparagus.

The accompanying “spicy soya Bollywood masala chutney” and fruit chutney are fine, serving as a flavour boost for the mostly tasteless roll itself.

 

 

Bery Indian falafel ($12) taste less like anything with Middle Eastern roots and more like the pakora they resemble, with a rather doughy interior.

They sit on a a zingy, gingery and lemony sauce/gravy that is excellent.

A good “strawberry spinach salad with bold sesame sauce” sits alongside, housed in a parmesan bowl.

 

 

So what of the butter chicken lasagne ($20)?

The menu describes it thusly: “Our version of Italian lasagna, battered chicken with fresh basil, mushroom, our special tangy butter sauce, melted three cheese.”

I find it a muddle of muted flavours that cancel each other out.

 

 

Lamb vindaloo tacos ($19) are simply that and good in a no-fuss way.

 

 

Lamb rogan josh shepherd’s pie ($19), like the lasagne, falls short of expectations.

It’s OK, but the lamb filling is rather dull.

And the topping appears to have very little potato content; instead it’s very cheesy, strands stretching away from the bowl like mozzarella from a pizza.

 

 

I’m no fan of paneer, so unsurprisingly the charms of the paneer tika sliders ($19) elude me.

The cheese is stuffed between black brioche buns with coleslaw.

The “Indian poutine” on the side is lacklustre.

A lot of thought and work has gone into creating these dishes.

But I can’t help but feel that it has been misdirected.

All meal long I was crying out for more striking flavours, a much higher degree of zing, big hits of tongue-tingling excitement.

We’ve had a lovely night of good friends catching up.

But I do not recall at any stage, anyone at our table exclaiming …

“Oh, wow!!!”

Or …

“OMG – that’s amazing!!!”

Instead, it was more a case of:

“Hmmmm, OK, next …”

Would any of us re-visit Fork & Fingers?

Not for the fusion line-up.

The regular Indian fare?

Maybe.

And the Tuesday night buffet for $22 sounds like it may be worth a look-see-eat.

The pricing?

Some of it may seem a tad on the steep side – two tacos for $19?

But it all evens out somehow, our meal – including one drink each – rounding out at a fine $30 per head.

Writing this gives me no pleasure at all.

If you cast around for reviews online – Google, Facebook – you’ll find it is very much a minority view.

And this excellent review on another Melbourne blog provides quite a different perspective.

Check out the Fork & Fingers menu – including menu – here.