Footscray’s new spicy place

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Spicy Chef, 359 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7224

This was something of an impromptu CTS gathering that came together very easily.

A spare Sunday night, a new Indian place to try, who’s in?

So it was that six of us gathered with just one aim in mind – to take for a spin the Spicy Chef opening special of biryani, starter, salad and drink for $11.95.

We had good meals but I suspect there’s plenty more to explore at Spicy Chef in the coming weeks and months – certainly the pricing (compared with other Footscray Indian places) is very reasonable on the menu proper across the usual range of curries and dosas.

 

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The best thing about our meal deals was that they were served on thali trays and that constituted excellent all-round meals for one.

Like many people, perhaps even most, I usually struggle to go even close to finishing a regular, inevitably huge serve of biryani.

So having a smaller portion mixing it with a starter and salad (even if it is just some slices of carrot and cucumber) and a drink thrown in is a fine thing.

Perhaps other restaurateurs could take this idea and run with it!

Our biryanis were uniformly fine, with good raita and spicy gravy on the side and enough fried onion strands to make the rice dishes sing.

We mostly chose goat biryani and it was good, with quite a lot of meat that came from the bones quite easily.

The starters didn’t quite reach the same standard but were OK, ranging from onion bhaji (top photograph) to …

 

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… egg bhaji to …

 

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… eggplant fritters to …

 

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… chicken 65.

This latter was Bennie’s choice and he probably did the best of us.

 

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West Footscray and the winds of change (2)

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Could West Footscray eventually rival Footscray proper – not only in residential terms but also in terms of commercial activity and what I’ll simply call buzz?

I’ve been pondering this for a few weeks, spurred on by a couple of stories written by my Star Weekly colleague Benjamin Millar.

The first concerned the 501 Receptions site on Barkly Street.

When the news broke almost a year ago the paperwork was in on an attempt to get permission to build almost 200 apartments on the site, the general understanding was it was the reception centre owner who was going to do the developing.

Now, as Ben reports, the site is on the market.

The second story concerned the revamp that is going to happen at West Footscray station to accommodate the Melbourne Metro rail project.

And never mind that the station could hardly be more shiny or new as it is!

That, I reckon, makes the mostly vacant land at the CBD end of the station (top photograph) area very valuable, strategically and otherwise.

 

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The land, owned by VicTrack, is home to the Western Emergency Relief Network and the fine people who sail in her.

 

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Right across the road, the building and land that once housed a motor mechanic outfit, has a for sale sign out front.

 

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It lists among the property’s virtues town planning permits for a “4 level complex comprising 30 apartments and 2 shops”.

 

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Right next door to that is Potters House church.

One whisper I’ve heard is that rezoning efforts are being made for this land.

Maybe some residential development is in the longer term future there.

But my understanding is that the church, on a site that was once a sugar factory, has a lease that has about five years to run.

 

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Banbury Village, meanwhile, is seeming more like a regular part of the neighbourhood rather than the closed-off bubble it has seemed for several years.

This is because there are now a number of village roads fully connecting to surrounding streets such as Barkly, Cross and Warleigh.

 

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Switching our gaze to the other side of railway tracks …

I’ve been told the reason there’s a monster hardware store there is because there are toxic soil concerns for much of the land in the area, rendering it unsuitable for housing.

 

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The means the area bounded by the Geelong Road, Geelong Street and Sunshine Road will presumably stay as a home to some fairly gnarly industrial undertakings – rubber, iron and paint among them.

 

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Another whisper I’ve heard is that the council is keen on preserving the jobs capacity of the properties on Sunshine Road from the bus depot up to the wool stores.

One of the wool stores, the one that runs parallell to Roberts Street, is used for I know not what – but when I choose that route to get to work there are always many, very large trucks coming and going.

The other wool store is being used as storage depot/warehouse for Dimmey’s and the associated import/export business, Starite.

Beyond there is a surprisingly large amount of residential neighbourhoods about which it is easy to forget.

A lot of the older houses in this area – bounded by Sunshine and Paramount roads and Stony Creek – were built after World War II by a developer named Hansen, using many recycled materials because of war-time shortages.

 

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His company name and/or motto is still emblazoned on one the Tottenham shops – the one that housed a sub-continental grocery for a few years.

 

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I learn the above information from Evan, who I meet when step foot – for the first time – into the Tottenham mobility scooter shop.

Actually, Evan runs three business on the premises – Mr Mobility, Hamilton Street Antiques and Mr Mannequins.

If I had been previously aware of these diverse enterprises, it was only very dimly.

 

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So I am knocked out the range of old stuff Evan has in here – this is easily the most impressive antique/vintage shop I’ve seen in the western suburbs.

The antique side of the business is named after Hamilton Street in Yarraville, where Evan was located before moving to the Tottenham shops 25 years ago.

 

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In the course of good old chinwag, Evan tells me the bottom has fallen out of the antique biz, mostly – he reckons – because of Ebay.

As well as many houses in the streets behind the Tottenham shops, there is a very big vacant lot – on Cala Street, right next to Opera Australia Props & Scenery Hire.

But perhaps there are soil issues there, too?

 

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Crab burger and hot desserts

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George Jones Eatery, 15 Pascoe Street, Pascoe Vale. Phone: 9304 2917

One of the most pleasurable times of the CTS week is Saturday lunch.

Chores and blogging done, it’s time to hit the road, coffee to go and cool tunes rocking both the car and us.

Such Saturday outings regularly involve travel beyond the bounds of the western suburbs, even given the geographically generous drawing of those boundaries in the world of Consider the Sauce.

And quite often, those Saturday outing involve a romp up Pascoe Vale Road, those outings almost always ending up in Coburg and Sydney Road.

Today, though, and for the first time, we are headed to Pascoe Vale itself.

 

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We’ve been invited to dine at George Jones Eatery (see full disclosure below), and for that we end up being very grateful as without that invite this fine establishment may have escaped our attention for, well, pretty much forever.

George Jones Eatery has been open for about 12 weeks and is already a bona fide hit.

I could be glib and imply that’s because of a lack of dining options in Pascoe Vale.

I’m sure the locals around here are grateful for its presence but the truth is George Jones Eatery would be hit wherever it went.

The room is big and divided up into a variety of sections, some with communal seating.

 

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When we visit we’re told it’s a less-busy-than-usual Saturday yet the place is still hopping – and despite that, the noise levels are fine.

The staff members are many, working hard and very good.

Best of all, from a punter’s point of view, is the menu (see below).

George Jones Eatery is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a separate though not much different list for night-time.

But here’s the thing: The lunch menu – ranging from breakfast with many appealing dishes through to a kids menu, a handful of lunch mains and another handful of burgers (with chips) – features just a single dish priced beyond $20.

That there is right smart pricing – the kind that goes a long way to encouraging repeat visits.

 

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Bennie goes with the soft-shell crab burger with kewpie tartare, coleslaw and citrus dressing ($17.90).

If, somewhat inevitably, he ends up rather wishing he’d plumped for one of the meatier (chook, mushy, cow) burgers, he enjoys his nevertheless.

He should know by now that soft-shell crab – in any guise – is akin to chicken feet: It’s less about the ostensible Crab Prince and more about his courtiers.

Going by the tastes I am offered, this burger and its crab are lovely things, the Asian seasonings coming through strong.

The chips come in a huge serving – more than enough for his dad to eat of them freely – and are excellent.

 

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My seared yellowfin tuna with green beans, “heirloom tomato”, kipfler potato and romesco salsa ($21.90) is a nifty, delicious take on salad nicoise.

The gorgeous fish is barely seared, rimmed with black sesame seeds and served at room temperature.

The salady attendants are very good and all in perfectly complementary proportions.

Best of all, in terms of my own personal preferences, there is a total absence of the usually ubiquitous capers.

 

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We order two desserts, one a special, the other from the regular menu.

Choc tart surprises us – instead of the expected gooey filling cupped in a pastry base we get what seems to us more like a block of fudge.

It has fine, deep chocolate flavour and the raspberry sorbet, salted caramel sauce and honeycomb are beaut.

 

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But banana parfait with salted peanut caramel, chocolate mousse and choc rice crisp ($13) steps up to another level entirely – this is a momentous dessert!

The mousse is mindblowingly intense in terms of chocness and the parfait has a tangy edge that seems almost citrus in nature.

All is rich, sexy and memorable.

(Consider The Sauce dined at George Jones Eatery as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. George Jones Eatery management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to this story.)

 

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Meal of the week No.28: Tahini

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A mid-week appointment finds me in a good place to check out a newish CBD joint of Middle Eastern persuasion, Tahini Lebanese Diner (518 Little Bourke Street, off Guests Lane).

While the other end of Melbourne’s CBD has Chinatown and more going for it, the Spencer Street end teems with eateries and cafes in what seems like hundreds of alleys and laneways.

Trouble, in our experience most of them are average tending towards mediocre.

As I discover, Tahini is neither – it’s hot and cool, and if I lived or worked or both in this area, I’d be eating here at least a couple of times a week.

In the process of nailing down my fine lunch, I also discover that Tahini is tricky to find.

A few twists and turns, though, and I’m there.

 

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I discover a rather lovely cafe-style diner.

Lunch hour is just beginning and there’s a heap of on-the-ball staff members taking care of business.

It’s with a foot-weary sigh that I happily peruse the menu (see below), upon which I find listed very many familiar favourites from our many visits to Coburg, Brunswick and even – these days – various locations in the west.

Feeling like something light, I bypass such meaty items as the shish tawouk and kafta and even the reportedly world-class felafel, though it is fun watching the latter being made.

Zing goes my fatoush ($12)!

It is excellent, every piece of the jumble of cos, tomato, radish, red capsicum, onion, parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds singing with lemony joy.

A bowl of the same herbed pita chips that are in my salad is presented on the side.

Baba ghanouj ($6) is the real-deal, too, my rather modest portion – I mind not, as it’s all I’m wanting – tap-dancing all over my tastebuds with the expected and desired smokiness and lemon and garlic.

 

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Nice place for Indian

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Dosa Plaza, 20 Adelphi Bvd, Point Cook. Phone: 8334 4100

Dosa Plaza is situated in Soho Village, a small, crammed-in commercial/apartment development just off Sneydes Road.

It’s a lovely place – there’s plenty of light and part of the restaurant looks out on to a small park.

There are Dosa Plaza joints also in Camberwell, Preston and Dandenong, while the company website has a section for those interested in checking out franchise opportunities.

The restaurant’s big strength is that it is entirely vegetarian.

On the other hand, the menu (see below) is so very long that a Sunday lunch for a CTS trio is little more than a snapshot of what is available.

 

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Pani puri ($8) are presented to us as separate components and we have a ball combining them.

The rotund puri are crisp-as yet we easily and without mishap crack holes into each into which the stuff the rice puffs, a superb potato mash and the tamarind sauce.

The result is all-round excellence.

 

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Bennie’s mum orders palak paneer $12), a dish on which she’s a self-professed expert.

She likes this one but it is more creamy than she prefers and lacks a bit of zing.

Her naan is fine though it is soft and pliable rather than crisp.

 

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From the Indo-Chinese selections, Bennie picks “paneer schewzan noodles” ($11.50).

He describes them as being OK and falling somewhere between what one may find in a food court or in one of our fave West Footscray spicy haunts.

 

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My Punjabi thali ($13.50) looks a treat but ultimately disappoints.

The best of it are a lovely raita, the rice with peas and a fabulously moreish carrot halva studded with sultanas.

The three curry dishes – the above mentioned palak paneer, a tomato-based vegetable stew and an aduki bean dal – are dull.

 

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We enjoy our time at Dosa Plaza even if our food selections mostly fail to wow us.

We can’t help but wonder if there’s greater wonders in that huge menu.

If we lived around here we’d be in this place at least a couple of times a week finding out!

 

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Tip-top Vietnamese in Yarraville

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Hoa Sen, 8 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9078 5448

Well, that was certainly quick …

Consider The Sauce has become used to new eateries taking an eternity to reach fruition – stop-and-start fit-outs, the legal need for more loos, booze licence problems, proprietors doing it all themselves; there are any number of reasons.

Hoa Sen has gone about things very differently.

One day Yarraville had a Nando’s shop, the next day it didn’t; then – just a few weeks later – this second Vietnamese restaurant for our suburb had opened.

 

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Hoa Sen is a whole different thing from Friend or Pho, its Viet cousin around the corner in Ballarat Street.

Where the latter is all about groovy cafe-style, Hoa Sen is straight-up Vietnamese eatery – sit inside and you could be sitting in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.

But they both have excellent food.

Hoa Sen’s front area is all about seating, including some larger tables and street-gazing seats at the window.

 

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Past the serving/staff area, the kitchen takes up much of what is left of the premise’s space, so the rest of the customer seating is effectively in a long corridor with many tables for four.

We’re told the menu (see below) will gradually expand but in the meantime there four starter and four main dishes available.

And that’s fine by us – taking a new Vietnamese place for a spin is always going to be about trying the fundamentals, both by choice and because it’s the food blogger thing to do.

 

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Bennie loves his com ga rang mui ($13.80, rice with salt and pepper chicken spare ribs).

The chooks bits are big, fat and delicious, with a whiff of garlic – they seem more like whole wings rather than the abbreviated version.

The trimmings are all good and the tomato rice better than that.

 

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Ahh, that first, all-important slurp of pho ($12.80) broth – yes, this is very good, a little sweet and with bucketloads of lusty flavour.

Instead of brisket I get beef ball chunks; and the sliced beef is cooked through when it arrives rather the advertised rare and still cooking in the broth.

But I care not – this is excellent; a 9/10 pho.

Be warned, though: This serve is huge – no way I can eat it all.

This could pass muster as a sharing meal for two, especially if combined with one of the entrees.

 

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Is there room for both these fine Vietnamese restaurants in Yarraville?

Yes, very much so.

It almost seems like the people behind both have intuitively chosen different yet complementary styles.

Yet the important things are common to both – terrific food and happy, smiling staff.

We’ve been quipping for years that we love living in Yarraville but dig eating everywhere else.

The arrival of these two Vietnamese joints changes that equation considerably.

They’re scratching a profound itch of which we’ve paradoxically been largely unaware.

 

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Latin Foods & Wines – now in Deer Park

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Visiting Latin Foods & Wines – or La Morenita as we’ve mostly called it – in the shabby industrial wilds of Berkshire Road in Sunshine North has been one of the greatest pleasures in Consider The Sauce’s existence.

Those days are over – but that’s no cause for sadness.

Because Marco and Maria are still very much in business – in fact, they’re in business bigger and better than before.

 

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They have moved into the very roomy premises that was formerly occupied by Blu Cow Deli on the commercial strip on Ballarat Road in Deer Park.

 

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And in a grand sign that some things will never change, the gorgeous blackboard from Berkshire has been replicated in Deer Park in whiteboard style but using the same handwritten style.

 

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Yes!

That means all our fave sandwiches and empandadas and churros and the like are still very much on the menu.

They reckon siting themselves in Deer Park puts them even more at the centre of widely dispersed Latin/South American community in the west.

 

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But going bigger also means getting broader, so there’s now also a touch of Italian and Maltese about some of the bakery, grocery and deli lines, while the booze range has been widely expanded.

 

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Their arrival in Deer Park means that strip is looking more and more like a cool foodie destination, with Latin Food & Wines and a recent Ethiopian arrival joining two Turkish joints, three Vietnamese and a Malaysian.

There are plans for breakfasts and proper, sit-down South American-style dinners at Latin Food & Wines but in the meantime the hours are  8am-8pm daily.