Food life looks up at Keilor Park?

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The D’s Souvlaki @ Fury & Son Brewing Company, 46 Concorde Drive, Keilor Park. Phone: 0404 818 137

Could it be?

That the parched desert that is eating in Keilor Park – and surrounding the Star Weekly office, in particular – is giving way to new blooms?

Yes – it is so.

In coming weeks, CTS will chronicle a sooper dooper Greek bakery/cake shop that has opened up in Keilor Park – and walking distance from my office.

In the meantime, The D’s Souvlaki has taken up residence in our resident brewery.

We’ve been meaning to try The D’s souvlakis for a while, as they’re apparently highly regarded.

But its long-time location on Matthews Avenue over in Airport West proved tricky for us Yarraville boys – no lunch service and a night-time drive too long when similar options abound closer to home.

But the D’s crew is now on the same block as Star Weekly, lunch and dinner is being served on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – and the the joint has hit the ground running.

Indeed, it seems this classy souvlaki operation is an even better fit for the area and its brewery than the previous tenants, the Houston’s barbecue team.

The D’s Souvlaki is tapping into the plethora of Keilor Park and environs workers, presumably as tired as I of the tawdry fare of the many local tradies cafes.

As well, the D’s move to a new location has pulled regular night-time customers right along.

The menu (see below) is a simple, compact list absent such accessories as chips.

That’s fine by us – and no doubt helps with turnaround times.

 

 

My first visit, on the second day at the new location, does, however, prove to be something of a trial.

It’s hosing down with rain, I arrive at an unusually (for me) late, post-noon hour and the crowds are building.

 

 

But all becomes good and fine when contemplating and eating my medium lamb souvlaki ($12).

This is excellent stuff – good, ungristly meat, all the usual souvlaki bits in good order.

 

 

I return the following Friday and enjoy a much earlier and sunnier outcome.

 

 

This time I go the medium chicken – also priced at $12.

Now, chicken souvlaki – or doner or shish – is not normally my style, but journalistic duty requires variance from the previous week.

But I’m happy as this, too, is a winner.

If, in both cases, I have wished for more flame-induced salty crustiness, I understand that souvlaki is a dice roll of luck and timing.

In any case, continued visits to The D’s Souvlaki for this lad’s Friday lunch are a safe bet.

 

Winter Warrmer Fundraiser

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Katerina says: “Roll up, roll up!”

Winter Warmer Fundraiser, Fig & Walnut, 11 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE.

Great food, lovely people and a splendid good cause.

Yes, Consider The Sauce is happy to throw its lot in with another westie fundraiser.

And once again, the recipient of all these good vibes will be Climate for Change.

In some ways, this is a reprise of a similar event organised by Vera Xanthis of Fig & Walnut and CTS a little under a year ago.

That event – you can see the wrap here if you’re interested – was a winner.

But the flash new Winter Warmer Fundraiser promises to be even more fun.

And delicious.

In this case, Vera and Katerina are doing the heavy lifting.

Me? All I have to do is hoist up a blog post and help drum up some publicity and ticket sales for a party being billed as “a night of climate-friendly food, mulled wined and community building”.

Even better, Vera will be providing the food and its preparation at no charge.

And the cool crew at Fig & Walnut will be donating their time on the night.

That means every cent raised will go to Climate for Change to help it continue its important work – you know, stuff like saving the planet.

Here’s what Vera and the Fig & Walnut team will be serving up:

  • Grazing table on arrival
  • Choice of two soups
  • Spanish paella (sustainable seafood or vegan)
  • Choice of two desserts
  • Complementary Glass mulled wine

The night’s speakers will be Colleen Hartland and Climate for Change founder and CEO Katerina Gaita.

Tickets cost $55 plus service fee.

See you there?

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE.

To find the event Facebook page, go here.

For more information about Climate for Change, go here.

If you can’t make it to the fundraiser, but you’d like to support the good folk at Climate for Change who are working hard to make sure we get the action we need from government on climate change, them please support their annual crowdfunder. They need to raise $180k by June 7. Every bit counts. Go here to donate.

 

Balkan up

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Balkan Grill, 8-14 Helene Street, Ardeer (entry via Yallourn Street). Phone: 0438 887 017

A Balkan restaurant.

Affiliated to a soccer club.

In Ardeer.

Could anything be more western suburbs – or more perfect for a CTS adventure?

No.

As well, and putting aside geographical and sports factors, the Balkan Grill menu (see below) is stuffed with all sorts of interesting food offerings – some of them familiar, but many with tongue-twisting names.

And the prices hit the CTS sweet spot – a few things over $20, but not many.

Balkan Grill is located in the clubrooms of Westgate Sindjelic FC and is just a few weeks old when we – myself, Bennie and Nat – pay a dinner visit.

The ambience is footy club through and through – and that’s something about which we simply don’t care.

 

 

Balkan Grill is the brainchild of Danilo Majmunovic.

He’s an experienced chef who’s cooked all over Australia.

And now he’s set up shop in Ardeer – and we reckon that’s a smart move.

It’s not like there’s a lot of competition in this rather lovely residential backwater that surely boasts as many hungry people per block as anywhere else.

And we even more reckon it’s a smart move after Danilo feeds us good.

 

 

Nat goes with the cevapi u slanini ($20) – Danilo’s cevapi wrapped in bacon and served with chopped onion on a “Sarajevo somun” roll.

 

 

Nat likes his cevapi plenty, accompanying them with a side serve of good fries ($3.50).

 

 

Bennie selects gurmanska pljeskavica – 285 grams of homemade minced pork and beef, seasoned with secret ingredients, filled with triple smoked ham and cheese ($20).

Again, this is superb meat and Bennie loves it.

Moreover, the cheese and ham really is top-grade stuff.

Think of this as an inside-out parmigiana – and way better than most parmas dished out across Melbourne.

 

 

Bennie, too, gets a side of chips with his meat offering – and also a side of Balkan Grill’s cabbage salad ($2).

Knowing that cabbage salad was going to grace our table, Bennie and I had discussed this issue as we drove to Ardeer.

We agreed that – forget the meat – it is cabbage salad that is the true benchmark for food such as this and establishments that serve it.

Bennie, rightly, counts himself an expert on account of frequent food gifts from his ace WeFo neighbour, Draga.

And he gives the Balkan Grill version a hefty two thumbs up – even though it is more coarsely chopped than Draga’s.

I like it heaps, too.

And as Nat points out, it actually looks oily, but is not – instead, it boasts a fetching vinegary tang.

 

 

I order the mixed grill ($28) – and to be honest, I’m not quite what the hell I was thinking.

I mean, this half-kilogram vegetarian’s nightmare is ridiculous; preposterous.

In fact, better to think of it as a share platter for two – and at $14 each, that’s a dead-set bargain.

As well as slight variations of the meat deals ordered by Nat and Bennie, it also features BBQ sausages (rostiljska kobasica), pork neck medallion and dimljena vesalica (smoked pork tenderloin).

The meat is served with kajmak (a sort of creamed feta), ajvar (red pepper relish) and cabbage salad.

It’s all very good, but even with nibble assistance from Nat and Bennie, I am utterly defeated – about half my mixed grill goes home with us.

That ALL our meat has been offered up to us unadorned and rather well done is no surprise to any of us three, as we all are at least somewhat familiar with this style of cooking.

But be warned – it is what it is; if you want something more lubricated and juicy, it may be better to look to the menu’s soup and salads and sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves).

As we will do when next we visit!

 

 

There’s a final delicious surprise in store for us at Balkan Grill.

Finding Balkan grilled fare at an Ardeer soccer club is thoroughly wonderful, of course, but that not much of a stretch by western suburbs oddball standards.

But finding all that AND that the chef also creates all his own desserts – including cakes and baklava – is superbly shocking.

Bennie nods enthusiastically during his consumption of Danilo’s Ferrero Rocher cake, allowing his father a few lusty mouthfuls along the way.

The price is $4.50.

Gosh.

Check out the Balkan Grill website here.

 

 

Pantry entry

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Ammas Pantry, 33 Parker Street, Footscray. Phone: 0439 902 384

Meet Deanne Thiedeman, on the left, and Beth Lavelle.

Ammas Pantry is their first foray into the hospitality industry, having taken over the premises on the corner of Parker and Hyde following the closing of relatively short-lived predeccesor.

They met when their two Sri Lankan-background sons attended, and became pals, at the kinder opposite their new cafe.

As you’d expect, that kinder and the next-door school play a fairly big part in the life, and prospective prosperity, of Ammas Pantry – but there’s lots here for a broader audience, too.

So while there’s the muffins and sandwiches and coffee you’d expect of an establishment right opposite two education institutions, Ammas is also delivering fine lunch-time meals that are delicious, affordable and of just the right heft for a daytime feed.

As I find out to my pleasure and satisfaction during two lunch visits.

Both my meals are built around brown rice, something that would cause Bennie to get a tad sniffy – but which I enjoy, especially when two differing sets of Asian flavours are so adeptly harnessed.

 

 

This fine, mild chicken curry, for instance, at $15.50.

It’s handily accompanied by that brown rice, a veg-studded dal, chutney, raita, a Sri-Lankan-style dry coconut jumble and a papadum

It’s excellent.

It makes me happy.

 

 

Same deal with this identically priced lunch bowl of brown rice, pickled ginger, carrot, cucumber, radish, avocado, wasabi, mayo and smoked salmon.

At first glance, this appears to be considerably more strident in terms of earnest brown rice-iness.

But there is just the right amount of seasoning and lubrication to make the whole thing sing – and not seem like a wholesome chore.

Deanne and Beth tell me the line-up will be tweaked as we move into winter.

Meals such as the two above will remain, but will be joined by some things of the “comfort food” variety.

 

A new Laksa King

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Laksa King Kitchen, 328 Racecourse Road, Flemington.

A regular sight that bemuses us when where seeking a feed in Flemington is people queuing up for a table at Laksa King.

On the footpath outside on Pin Oak Crescent.

Sometimes in chilly mid-winter.

And sometimes, even, in the rain.

Such is the allure of the Laksa King name.

Sure, the food is good.

But the place’s popularity lends it a somewhat rushed, impersonal vibe – and we’re not alone in thinking that.

Good luck to them, but the CTS ethos usually leads us to going where the crowds aren’t.

And where the food is as good, if not better.

In Flemington and for Malaysian, that invariably means M Yong Tufu – a place we dearly love.

But we are happy and keen to check out the new Laksa King family establishment – Laksa King Kitchen on Racecourse Road.

This is actually the second Laksa King Kitchen – there is another at Westfield Southland Shopping Centre.

 

 

The new Laksa King Kitchen in Flemington boasts a chic-but-small dining area, though there is more seating upstairs.

The staff are keen, happy and all a-bustle.

The menu (see below) is a solid gathering of Malaysian staples divided into small/big bites, noodles, rice dishes, laksas and vegetarian.

There is a nifty twist – laksas are offered in two sizes.

This makes good sense, as regular laksas are always a big meal.

Not that we can envisage a day when we would order the smaller size!

 

 

Selections can be ascertained using the printed menu or on the laptop at each table, but the actual ordering is done via the latter.

 

 

Bennie and I share a starter and have a bigger dish each.

Lobak ($8.60) is less gung-ho on flavour and crinkly beancurd skin than we would like, but it’s a fine beginning that delivers us three porky chunks each.

 

 

In a fine break with boring CTS practice, it is Bennie who orders a laksa – in this case, the bigger version of the angus beef outing ($13.50).

It’s a big an handsome bowl-full.

But he is so-so about the laksa as a whole – perhaps a higher spice level may have won him over?

He does give, however, an enthusiastic 10/10 for the many tender beef chunks.

And I get to try one of the eggplant pieces – it is wonderfully luscious and memorable.

But still … for us, when it comes to laksa hereabouts, M Yong Tofu will remain our go-to.

 

 

That leaves me ordering the Hainan chicken rice $13.50).

The photos of the dish didn’t really inspire and that unease increases when I realise my rice meal will be eaten without the usual bowl of chicken soup on the side.

But all is forgiven from the first mouthful of perfectly ginger-perfumed rice and onwards.

This is a triumph and one of the best of this personal favourite I’ve had for a long time.

There’s a lot of chook – it’s double layered in the photo above – and it’s tender and expertly boned.

The ginger mash, chilli sauce and soy accompaniments are excellent and in generous quantities.

And the wilted bean sprout/veg offering is likewise top notch.

My mouth is doing a high-stepping boogie as we depart.

 

Cafe imagination

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Bruger, 487 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Our post-kung fu Saturday routine usually runs along the lines spicy Vietnamese, Indian or African food.

But today we try something a little different – Bruger, which is located just down Barkly from Sims and 504 Receptions.

It’s a sister cafe to the nearby West 48 in Essex Street – but it has quite a different feel.

 

 

The long room is all about high stools and heaps of wood and stone.

It’s classy – and perhaps more like a bar than a cafe.

We take note of the breakfast options and then ignore them.

But the sparks of imagination that show in our lunch meals are in evidence, too, on the breakfast list.

Sambal chilli eggs for, example.

Or – more hearty – polish sausage with fried egg, gruyere, gherkin relish and kewpie mayo.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his daily special of eight-hour pork belly on a soba and papaya salad with nam jim dressing ($18.50).

He makes special mention of the shredded pork – “very soft”, says he.

In addition to the listed ingredients, there’s a stack of bean sprouts and peanuts and a nifty slab of crackling.

Salad Boy invariably gives papaya salad and related dishes serious consideration when we’re out and about elsewhere, so that’s why he orders this at Bruger.

But while it pleases, it’s fair to record that this cafe outing is notably muted in terms of the sort tang, zing, sourness, heat and bite he expects and welcomes at various Thai or Vietnamese places.

Still good, though!

My brisket rice bowl ($18, top photo) is something of a masterpiece.

The ingredients – pilaf rice, brisket, coriander chutney, pine nuts and cumin “hommus” – are familiar.

Yet here they are teamed in a magical way, the contrasting flavours bouncing off each other with tasty glee.

Often, when pine nuts are listed, they end up constituting little more than a garnish.

Here they play a plentiful and significant role.

The brisket is superb – high on smoky flavour, yet distributed through the rice in small pieces.

Want to grab some of that great barbecue vibe without going full carnivore?

Right here, with this dish, is your solution.

I know there’s those who’ll question the prices.

But they’re very fair for food of such good quality and the serves are suitably filling for not-too-heavy lunchtime fare.

 

Expanded taverna

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Olive Oil & Butter, 196 Somerville Road, Kingsville. Phone: 9315 1060

Before there was Eleni’s, Meat The Greek or Brother Hood, there was Olive Oil & Butter.

Yes, the renaissance of Greek eateries in Yarraville and nearby suburbs was spearheaded by this Somerville Road institution.

We’ve done two stories on it, but they’re getting old now.

And in the meantime, Olive Oil & Butter has become a regular for us, but mostly for takeaway coffee and treats.

Eating in?

Not so much.

Time for another look?

Yes.

Because we feel like it for a post-kung fu Saturday hoot and lunch.

And because it’s worth recording that Olive Oil & Butter has expanded considerably, the dining area stretching down the back to an outdoor area.

These days it’s got a lovely feel of a real-deal Greek eatery with happy bustle all about.

Of course, this is Melbourne, so coffee and breakfast are front, centre and popular.

But the menu (see below) also features a nice round-up of rustic Greek dishes for lunch.

It’s for them we’re in the house.

 

 

Bennie opts for the open souvlaki ($23).

All present and accounted for as per the menu – two fine skewers of lamb, herbed pita bread, chips, tzatziki, tomato and onions.

He loves; he clean it all up.

I suspect he’s probably making unkind comparisons of the price-to-quantity ratio kind with his beloved Brother Hood in Seddon.

Buddy, that’s unfair – this is a sit-down restaurant situation and you’ve just had a lovely feed.

I get, as recommended by our wait person, the fasolakia lathera ($22, top photo).

Oh boy, this is so wonderful – green beans slow cooked in tomato, onion, garlic (and, I’m sure) a heap of olive oil.

Again, I can hear naysayers proclaiming: “What – $22 for a plate of overcooked beans?”

Ah, but there’s so much more here than that – this is rich and complex, the lemon potatoes and olives fit right in and it’s an ample serve for an all-veg dish.

So delighted am I, that I have another look at the menu and take note of the other home-style meal available here – spanakorizo, moussaka, yemista, fakes – for future consumption.

It’s these sorts of dishes that are the heart of Olive Oil & Butter.

We spy only one seafood dish on the menu, for instance, and the lavish mixed grills you’ll find at other Greek eateries are absent.

But, for me at least, that makes the place all the more appealing.

 

 

All of the above AND the outstanding sweet treats, many of them syrup-drenched, and …

 

 

… the equally terrific spanokopita, tiropita, kreatopita and bougatsa and …

 

 

… and a nice line in Greek groceries make this a Very Cool Place.

And the staff are always on-the-ball and smiling.

See earlier stories here and here.