Prime pizza & more

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Charles & Gamon, 2 Gamon St, Seddon. Phone: 9995 8868

The box-shaped building on the corner of Gamon and Charles has a colourful history – one that has been discussed on various comment threads here at Consider The Sauce.

It goes something like this: Servo, Balkan restaurant, cafe (The Bowser?), Sobraso, Charles & Gamon and – bringing us right up to date – Charles & Gamon once more. There may be missing stages in that list!

 

 

Visiting to check out the newest iteration, I am thrilled to bits to have it pointed out to me that evidence of the Balkan grill part of the building’s history remains on the brickwork in the form of “Bery’s charcoal grill” signage.

How cool is that?

We’ve driven/walked past a gazillion times in the past couple of decades and never noticed!

Anyone who has passed in the couple of months will likely have noticed that the outdoor garden area remains VERY popular.

Inside, new management has wrought many changes.

While retaining the C&G name, the new look is much brighter and lighter.

We like the way the seating arrangements are so diverse – a big communal tables, several smaller, some armchairs, a few tall tables with stalls.

They say: “Step in and linger a while.”

Disclosure: One partner of the new team running C&G is my accountant – and a top bloke he is, too.

But he knows me quite well  enough to know that I will cut him no slack when trying out the food – even if we aren’t paying.

We are expecting glorified bar food and a pizza list.

What we get is better than that – and sometimes wonderfully so (see menu below).

 

 

We never boil/steam asparagus at home – it always gets the high-heat, flash-fry treatment; and we love it that way.

So we have no hesitation in ordering the charred seasonal greens of asparagus and broccolini with pecorino and lemon zest ($11).

It’s excellent, though I’m told asparagus prices will dictate a replacement ingredient very soon.

 

 

We are a little wary of ordering hummus is such an establishment on account of the fact we eat so much Lebanese and related food elsewhere.

But the C&G version is recommended to us by our server so we take the plunge – and end up delighted.

The C&G hummus ($15) has a seasoning tang that is utterly alluring.

Cumin?

Nope, it’s all about dukkah we are informed.

Topped with walnut crumbs and half a dozen roasted tomatoes, this is a winner.

 

 

From a list of seven pizzas, the margherita ($22) is also recommended to us.

It’s beautiful in its simplicity – fior di latte, basil, cherry tomatoes, love.

We reckon this as good a pizza as you’ll find in the inner west.

 

 

Bennie is more enamoured of the buttermilk chicken sandwich ($20) than I.

And he is, after all, the CTS expert.

He digs the crunchy and juicy chicken, the mustardy dressing and even the iceberg lettuce.

The chips are good enough, though could be bit hotter.

We like that they are festooned with rock salt and chopped parsley.

We’ll be back at the new C&G – particularly to explore in more dept the pizza list.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Charles & Gamon as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Charles & Gamon management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

 

Filipino surprise

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Enelssie Cafe & Grill, 102 Tenterfield Drive, Burnside Heights. Phone: 0449 775 107

On a heatwave mid-week day, we’ve enjoyed the drive.

But despite having a firm destination in mind, it seems somehow surprising to apparently stumble across Enelssie.

This is most definitely the first CTS review harking from Burnside Heights.

It’s quiet, but we know from numerous Facebook posts that this a popular spot, particularly with the cycling fraternity.

Enelssie?

According to Anthony, the owner: “It came from the root words New Life Cycles NLC – New Life in Aussie = Enelssie. Also As my personal belief that It’s originally New Life In Christ!”

 

 

It’s ostensibly a Filipino restaurant, without being too ardent about it.

There’s no bain marie for starters – everything is cooked fresh.

We enjoy two good meals.

Bennie goes the more orthodox Filipino route with his tapa ($15.50, top photo).

It’s beaut and he loves the plentiful supply of marinated beef cubes.

Alongside are good garlic rice, tomato salad and a small bowl of broth.

And a fried egg – giving further impetus (maybe) to us one day doing a story about all the various dishes we enjoy across the west that involved fried or hardboilded eggs.

 

 

My own fried chicken ($16) is less Filipino in substance – but it has the spirit.

And it’s very, very fine.

The price may seem a little out of whack for (just) two pieces – but these are large. No problem from us about the cost.

Even better, we agree this is the best fried chicken we’ve enjoyed for a long while.

The coating sticks to the meat, which is wonderfully juicy and flavoursome.

There’s something sort-of wonderfully tangy and almost piquant about the coating.

We’re told it includes a proverbial mix of “herbs and spices”.

Maybe it’s the onion powder?

No matter – this is prime fried chook.

Plain rice accompanies the chicken, as does a simple leaf salad and some really fine chicken gravy.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available at Enselssie – check out its FB page for further enlightenment.

 

Episodic poultry

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Chicken Episode, 522 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9593 9929

Chicken Episode lives in premises that previously housed a long-standing Indian eatery in Kensington, right next door to Kensington Food Hall.

A younger sibling for an identically named restaurant in St Kilda, Chicken Episode is a tributary temple to pop culture, Korean style.

There’s what seems like thousands of rubber chicken in here.

 

 

And meme-like humour abounds.

I’m tempted to suggest this would be a cool place to bring bored or easily entertained teens – but some of humour on the table place mats is a little on the raunchy side.

Along with fried chicken and myriad burgers, the menu (see below) features some Korean comfort food such as bibimbap.

We can live with the kooky surroundings, but it’s the food that interests us.

We are a little wary.

That’s because we’re dropping in early in the week, early at lunch hour – not, in our experience, the best of times to interact with deep-fried food.

So how do we go?

Well, part truly excellent and part just so-so.

 

 

Bennie’s supreme chicken burger ($14.87) looks a little on the sad sack side.

He likes it well enough and tells me most of the ingredients – including sweet chilli sauce, melted cheese, tomato, ham, caramelised onions – are of a perfectly acceptable standard.

But he finds the chicken coating to be more of the soft kind found on battered fish, his final verdict being that his burger the kind of thing he’d expect to get at his now former high school.

The chips are excellent.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, he is frankly envious of my lunch.

And so he should be – it’s very, very good.

The solo deal, costing an amazing $14.50, consists of the same excellent chips, four pieces of fried chicken, a side serve of coleslaw AND a can of soft drink.

The chicken pieces are ungreasy and wonderful, the coating crisp and powdered with white pepper.

The coleslaw is fine and just the right size for such a meal deal.

 

 

Unfortunately, the coleslaw includes a tine from a plastic fork.

After this too-crunchy ingredient is pointed out to the staff, we receive an apology.

And that’s good enough for us – we never make too much of an issue out of such things or make a play for having the bill waived and/or a freebie future meal.

It will be interesting to watch how Chicken Episode goes on Macaulay Road.

We’ll happily return for more of that fried chicken.

 

Meal of the week No.51: Cornershop

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The long-time Yarraville fixture that is Cornershop (9/11 Ballarat Street) is one of our locals – but not really one of our regulars.

Yet here we are on a lovely Saturday, dining on the footpath with our pal, Al Fresco.

We’re not close friends with Al, as eating outside while eating out is a rarity for us.

But today it feels just right.

I’m eager for Bennie to try a Cornershop dish I tried a few weeks back.

For some reason he has been showing an increased interest in – and liking for – dal after years of it being a fixture for us both home and out and about.

Maybe it’s been just background noise for him all that time.

But he heartily agrees with me – the Cornershop’s coconut dahl with idlis, poached eggs, lime and curry leaves ($16.50) is extraordinarily good.

The dahl itself – made with yellow split peas, I think – is lusciously creamy thanks to the coconut content.

The fried curry leaves, coriander and red chilli bits add colour and excitement.

We’re not eggy people by any means, so we’re both bemused that the perfect poached eggs are such a winning and – to us – unlikely addition.

The idlis?

We’re used to the near-mushy consistency of steamed idlis.

The Cornershop versions are magnificent – fried, crisp, a tad salty, amazing.

Solid Vietnamese

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Pho Ngon, Shop 11/330 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 0426 210 714

Our abode closeness to Yarraville village dictates, to quite a large degree, where and how we do our household shopping.

But we are not loyal in that regard – so are quite happy to shop around, depending on where we’re at or, more frequently, where we’re coming from.

So with some life bureaucracy chores dispensed with in Sunshine, we are curious enough to step inside the Ballarat shopping centre that replaced an unsuccessful hardware/homeware establishment quite a while ago.

A search for “Braybrook shopping centre” turns up the long-time retail/service hub on the corner of Ballarat Road and Ashley Street – so I’m not sure if this new  one further up Ballarat has a name.

But nope, nothing there’s for us in terms of grocery shopping.

Or any other kind of shopping.

Food?

Some fast-food options that don’t exactly leap out at us in terms of enticement.

But wait – there is right here a good Vietnamese restaurant, one with a far more comprehensive menu (see below) than most people may expect.

So we settle in for lunch.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his “bun thit nuong + cha gio” (rice vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls, $13)  – it’s a good, solid rendition.

 

 

But my com ga Nha Trang (Nha Trang farm chicken rice, $16) is significantly better – and it’s a surprise to find such a dish at a rather generic suburban shopping centre.

The soup is just warm, quite sweet and flavoursome; the rice is nice.

The chicken is, as I’d hoped for given the “farm” part of the menu listing, more chewy and higher in flavour than typical Vietnamese restaurant chook.

The salady jumble in which my chicken is entwined and the similar salad alongside have plenty crunch and sweet ‘n’ sour flavour contrasts.

There’s places in Footscray and Sunshine I’d expect a zingier version of this rice dish, but this is fine.

If this centre was our local shop stop, we’d be eating at this joint at least once a week.

 

That’s my gel

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Gelati by d’Asporto, 3/11d Murray Street, Yarraville.

As if we aren’t spoiled enough in the inner west for ice-cream and gelati … along comes Gelati by d’Asporto.

Under the auspices, of course, of the namesake pizza/pasta/Italian joy restaurant just around the corner and – also very much part of the same family business – another eatery at Rifle Range shopping centre and the fabulous kiosk at Williamstown Beach.

The new gelati shop is all smiling business and no fuss – just ice delights and a couple of standing/leaning tables to enjoy them.

Given the plethora of eating – and coffee – options in Yarraville village, this streamlined approach makes all sorts of sense.

I make my first visit, as a guest (see full disclosure below), with high expectations that are easily met and even surpassed.

Prices range from $4.80 for a single scoop and upwards – pretty much regulation gelati prices, in other words, but on the excellently cheap side given the quality at hand.

My twin scoop deal for $6.80 strikes me as a fine deal.

The flavour line-up (see below) is agreeably concise.

My first-up selections …
Mascarpone and fig – creamy, heavenly.

And mildly flavoured, as is usual with this ingredient combo.

Bacio – really, really superb.

Largely thanks to the inclusion of wonderfully crunchy hazelnuts.

I pay another visit the next day and go for the choc mint – and it, too, is lovely.

Will we be back?

Yes.

Over and over and over …

Opening times are 2-10pm Mondays-Thursdays and 11am-10pm Fridays-Sundays.

(Consider The Sauce enjoyed Gelati by d’Asporto as a guest of the management and we did not pay for our sweet treat.)

Wass up?

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Wasshoi Sunshine West, 1-9 The Avenue, Sunshine West. Phone: 7020 7966

If driving into these parts of Sunshine West is an unusual occurrence for Team CTS, then …

… heading this way for Japanese food at a restaurant that is open for lunch on a Wednesday is positively surreal.

Wasshoi Sunshine West is tucked into a rather unlovely conglomeration of businesses at the corner of The Avenue and Fitzgerald Road, within earshot of the Ring Road.

Before its arrival, we had been unaware of the sibling business in Prahran and the fame of its founder, Ikuei Arakane, and his role in Iron Chef.

Japanese food?

Well, yes – of a kind.

There’s no sushi, sashimi or chawanmushi here.

There’s not even chopsticks – we are provided wood sporks with which to navigate our lunches.

And the basic menu (see below) features what look like banh mi.

Wendy, the sparkly and very welcoming boss lady, suggests the fare is “Japanese street food”.

Hey, that’ll do us!

Eat-in facilities are of a basic fast-food variety, but perfectly fine.

 

 

Miso soup is advertised in a sign on the counter as costing $3.

But we suspect that just about everyone who comes in during these early times – our lunch takes place on the shop’s fourth day – is getting a complementary cup by doing the social media “like” routine.

In any case, it’s perfect and delicious.

 

 

There’s three don/rice dishes available – beef, chicken and pork.

I go with the pork belly ($15.90).

 

 

Bennie chooses the beef brisket ($15.90).

We enjoy our lunches.

The meat is very good – definitely a step up from what usual expectations may be for this kind of fare in this kind of fast-food setting and location.

Though I reckon the pork has the upper hand in terms of tender and tasty.

The kimchi is OK, but rather bland.

There is one simple change that could lift these meals from merely to good to verging-on-great – ditch the iceberg lettuce and replace it with shredded cabbage!

 

Aussie burgers supreme

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Not Just A Burger Cafe, 30 First Avenue, Sunshine. Phone: 9310 1568

Over the years, Consider The Sauce has fallen into the habit of comparing and contrasting burger styles.

Between the new wave – for want of a better term – and old-school Aussie burgers.

We’ve done this without ever detailing just what the differences are.

So how does this work?

New wave – American style, hipster, trendy?

A thicker patty; flasher dressings; perhaps barbecue sauce of some sort.

And sometimes a whole dill pickle – perhaps even skewered to the top of the bun.

Aussie style?

A thinner, wider patty, sometimes involving meat of a questionable quality, sometimes frozen – or so we reckon.

Dressings: Chopped iceberg lettuce; perhaps beetroot.

Even an egg or – God help us – pineapple.

 

 

Always in this imperfect delineation effort is the feeling that we have also been talking about quality – meaning less of it in the Aussie renditions.

Well, at Not Just A Burger we find we can happily dispense with such dull figuring.

The burgers are just plain great.

Improbably, Not Just A Burger Cafe is located in a neighbourhood  in which we would never have reason to look – a back water of light industrial action off Sunshine Road, about right opposite J.R. Parsons Reserve and the silos.

We heard about this place and its work via Sunshine Locals.

Paul and Maria (pictured above in pre-lunch repose) are on to a good thing here – they service the many local workers, but are also a building a reputation for night-time fare and deliveries.

This a bare-bones tradies place that offers many of the usual food choices (see below).

But the burgers are where the action is at.

And Bennie and I could not be happier with our lunches.

 

 

We both go for the N.J.A.B. Inferno ($12) with bacon added.

It’s all terrific – lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, with jalapeno slices, N.J.A.B hot sauce and some Sriracha deftly combined for the just-right degree of heat.

Yes, the meat is thinner and wider in the Aussie fashion, but it tastes of real-deal beef.

My choice is regular bun.

 

 

Bennie opts for brioche.

Ha!

I can imagine various smarty pants quipping that the presence of brioche here marks this place as not a true Aussie-style burger joint.

Who cares, though, when the burgers are this good?

 

 

The crinkle-cut chips ($4) are fine and hot. We are provided a serve of Sriracha for dipping.

 

How we ate great in 2019

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August of 2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of Consider The Sauce.

There will be a party.

The outlines of what I have planned are, at this stage, very hazy.

I am open to suggestions about a venue or any other ideas.

Likewise, I remain open to suggestions for employment – paid or not.

For the time being, Consider The Sauce IS my job – and that’s a pretty cool place to be.

As for 2019, for the Consider The Sauce family it has been a momentous year, one filled with loss and several varieties of pain, but also one full of wonderful life, love and surprises.

Thanks as always to our readers, the many friends who lent us their eating and the small business people of the western suburbs, without whom etc etc!

The following wrap-up by no means covers all the fine food we enjoyed this year – if I were to bash this out tomorrow, the outcome would quite likely be different!

 

 

Cannoli Bar

This Avondale Heights treasure has become a firm favourite – not just for sweets, but also for pasta and other lunchy delights.

 

 

On The Bone

Nat and I finally made it to One The Bone in Maidstone and had an incredibly super time of it.

We lucked into the very first of their Sunday lunch deals.

The advice is simple and adamant – once the Sunday lunches resume in the new year, just go.

 

 

Kites

Away from the western suburbs, we loved our visits to Kites in Clayton South for top-notch Sri Lankan tucker.

 

 

Fusion Ceylon

Just before Christmas, Bennie and I struck out in search of Lebanese food in Hopper Crossing.

The place, our destination, was boarded up.

And definitely not serving lunch.

So we headed for an old fave – Fusion Ceylon in Werribee.

He had one of their fabulous fried rice dishes.

I opted for the $9 “curry in a hurry” bain marie deal – and it was a lot more glamourous and sexy than that sounds.

“I’d forgotten how good this place is,” Bennie enthused.

Yes indeed – absolutely a star of the west.

 

 

Chi Bao

We welcomed Chi Bao to Yarraville – and loved its dumplings and more.

 

 

Balkan Grill

We first made the acquaintance of Danilo Majmunovic at Balkan Grill when it was set up in an Ardeer soccer club.

After he moved to a more orthodox eatery premises in St Albans, we adored his brilliant take on burgers.

 

 

Biryani King/Barwachi

Welcome, too, to two new additions to the West Footscray Indian scene.

We had happy times at both Biryani King and Bawarchi.

 

 

Panjali/Annapoorna

For a different take on curry, we very much enjoy having the banana leaf meals and more from Panjali in Sunshine and Shri Annapoorna in Braybrook as part of our regular fare.

 

Doug The Barber

In the course of food-related research, I discovered Doug, formerly of Williamstown Road and Francis Street, had set up shop in Brooklyn.

Getting a haircut from Doug is always a pleasure.

 

 

Tanoor

No story about Tanoor this year, yet this Hopper Crossing purveyor of Lebanese tucker remains one of our leading regulars – both for eat-in dips and accessories AND for takeaway pies and pizzas.

 

 

Mama Lor

Our troubled relationship with Filipino food was given an affirming filip thanks to the arrival of Mama Lor in Werribee.

Love that crackling and roast pork!

 

 

Kingyo Izayaka

The best Japanese food we had this year was provided by Kingyo Izayaka in Moonee Ponds.

And it was very, very good.

 

 

Mun Kitchen/Mumchan

Korean food?

Oh, yes, we were right amongst that, too.

Mun Kitchen at Williams Landing and Mumchan in Laverton both served us great fried chicken and more.

 

 

Cafe d’Afrique

We were excited and delighted to welcome Faisel Pkesy and his Cafe a’Afrique back – here be the heart of Footscray.

And excellent food, too.

 

 

Cheezy Pizza

“Making Aussie pizzas better” is the motto of Cheezy Pizza in Yarraville.

And that’s precisely what they do.

Make ours a large American plus whatever.

 

 

Laksa King Kitchen

For several reasons, we do not favour the main Laksa King on Pin Oak Crescent in Flemington.

Yet we are returning regularly to the new branch office on Racecourse Road – particularly for the various chicken rice options.

 

 

Olive Oil & Butter

We are looking forward to the forthcoming provision of evening meals at Olive Oil & Butter in Yarraville.

In the meantime, it has become another much-loved CTS regular.

 

 

Karlaylisi

Hand-made noodles, cumin lamb and many other spicy delights – there is nothing not to love about Karlaylisi on Gordon Street in Footscray.

 

 

 

Second Ave Grocer

It’s gone from Altona Fresh to Second Ave Grocer – but we continue to love this place, which has become a big part of our weekly routines.

 

 

Ragusa

We enjoyed a number of swish meals this year – none better than that served to us at Ragusa in Williamstown.

Croatian joy on many plates!

 

Sunday roast feast – magical

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On The Bone, 128 Mitchell Street, Maidstone.

On The Bone has been going for just on a year.

In that time, every social media comment, all utterances and several reviews I have seen have been, without exception, very glowing in their assessments.

That’s one of the reasons Consider The Sauce has taken so long in checking the place out, we being naturally inclined to seek out those places unfairly standing in the shadows.

Another reason is On The Bone’s general vibe and pricing has suggested to us special occasion rather than a mere meal.

But now the CTS stars have aligned.

They’re throwing a lamb lunch.

Nat Stockley and I are up for another catch-up – and it’s a Sunday roast.

And we both love Sunday roasts.

 

 

The former home of Los Latinos has been done out in simple, elegant style.

We subsequently learn the restaurant’s endeavours to introduce its Sunday lunches have been delayed a couple of weeks because of private function bookings – so we are partaking of the very first.

There’ll be one more this year – on Sunday, December 22 – with the concept to be carried on into the new year.

The going rate is $35.

Amazing.

We enjoy (understatement) a superb lunch in which the surprises and delights keep on coming.

They start with the menu (see below).

What I had expected to be a three-course list offering a choice of entree or dessert turns out to be a locked-in, straightahead menu – what you read is what you get.

(BTW, On The Bone is a very meaty establishment, but the service is so obliging and cheerful and the talents of the multicultural kitchen so rareified, I suspect those of non-carnivore inclinations could easily be embraced and welcomed through a quick conversation upon booking.)

 

 

We start with a simple appetiser of two chunks of crusty bread with beef bone marrow butter.

It’s very good and very flavoursome.

This reminds of the Kiwi habit of my childhood of pouring bacon fat into an egg cup for use later on as a butter substitute, spread sparingly on toast with a very little salt.

Did or does anyone else ever do this?

Next up are chicken herbed croquettes with onion soubise, aioli and herb salad (to photo).

The dainty orbs are crunchy, with mildly tasting innards that look like the sort of thing offered at Sri Lankan eateries, utilising canned tuna. Or East African sambusas of the same ilk.

 

 

Next up – a righteous antipasto spread.

Chargrilled zucchini is a lacking in char character, but still good – as is the similarly prepared eggplant.

Two kinds of mushroom are nicely vinegary.

Romesco sauce is mirrored on the other side by a chunky raita that is more like coleslaw.

Neat trick that, one I may try at home.

But a little oddly, it is the chargrilled bread that most takes my fancy – a great ingredient done just right.

 

 

All of the above is mere undercard limbering-up, however, for the main event.

How majestically awesome does this spread look?

It eats and tastes every bit as good as it looks.

And then some.

I am on a giddy food high.

 

 

Shoestring fries …

 

 

… jewel-like honeyed carrots residing in a minty sauce and …

 

 

… and a flawless green salad are all wonderful, especially the latter two.

We enjoy them, though fail to consume all of each.

 

 

The final piece of this perfect feed is the lamb leg.

That such a big hunk of meat is beautifully tasty and so tender reeks to me kitchen perfection.

Or maybe some kind of voodoo alchemy.

But most likely just plain hard work and talent.

It falls from the bone with the merest prod of cutlery.

And there is plenty of it.

The various bits and pieces take the lamb into gloryland.

Hommus, pinenuts, fatoush, jus, mint herb salad – all just so right and delicious.

This has been a sensational lunch; it’s one that will feature for sure in the CTS wrap-up of our 2019 highlights that will be published some time between Christmas and New Year.

 

Much more than cannoli

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Cannoli Bar, 23 Riviera Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 93377049

In the months since CTS first wrote about Cannoli Bar, the place has become wildly famous.

A great big bunch of media coverage has ensued, but I’d like to think it’s the sheer outstanding quality of what is on offer that is the main driver of all this feverish fandom.

Since then, too, Cannoli Bar has expanded its fare.

There’s a much longer range of cannoli available, many of them of a colourful and creative bent.

And that expansion means lunch.

 

 

Lunch options include really good-looking pizza slices.

And a couple of daily pasta selections.

I decide against the cannelloni with beef, opting instead for the eggplant parmigiana ($18, top photo).

Oh my, my, my – this is heaven.

It arrives in a very hot bowl, its contents still bubbling.

It’s a glorious mix of eggplant, the top bits nicely crunchy, tomato and cheese.

Perfect.

My lunch is wonderfully enhanced by a parade of hardcore blues classics – Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign, Bobby Bland’s Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, Sonny Boy William’s Help Me and more.

Thank you very, very much.

 

 

My wonderful lunch is completed by biscotto cherry ($2) and cafe latte – both equally fine.

I had originally intended this outing to be the basis of a story about panettone – more precisely the merits of the cheap, mass-produced ones we get from the supermarket compared to more rustic renditions.

 

 

But all that seems a bit redundant in light of the fact that I grab the very last of Cannoili Bar’s pistachio amaretto panettone ($25) and that the eight remaining choc chip versions will likely be gone by the time you read this.

 

 

Back home, Bennie and I soon discover that all panettones are most definitely not the same.

Yes, the pistachio crust is super.

But it’s the “cake” itself that truly wows us.

It’s chewy, much more fibrous than the cheapo versions we’re familiar with, delicious.

We won’t be casual about this one.

No hacking off a slice at a mere whim.

This is something to be savoured.

Cannoli Bar is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.

If you can make it, I suggest week-day visits, as I suspect this place gets crazy busy at the weekends.

There is something ridiculously fine about tootling down a rather ordinary suburban street, headed for this very cool Italian establishment.

 

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.

 

More banana leaf yum

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Shri Annapoorna Srilanakan Restaurant, 290 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 8528 0064

We wrote about Annapoorna several years ago – a short piece based on a single, solitary meal.

But thanks to a weekend Facebook post – thanks, Chee Chin Lee! – Nat and I front up for Sunday lunch to see what changes have been wrought.

There’s new management and a new approach.

We’re told a written menu is in the works and that at dinner time the full regalia of South Indian/Sri Lankan tucker as channelled through Malaysia is available – think idlys, noodles such as mee goreng, house-made rotis, dosas and so on.

For lunch, we can have a banana leaf meal from the bain marie … or nothing.

But that’s fine by us as that’s what we would’ve ordered anyway!

 

 

The routine is familiar – the basic (vegetarian) meal costs $9.50, with most customers adding protein as chosen from the whiteboard.

 

 

I append my leaf combo with chicken curry ($6) and enjoy my meal heaps.

All is most enjoyable.

The cabbage retains some crunch – not always the case in such places and with such food, where cooking down is often the norm

The dal is studded with vegetables and the eggplant is as silken as it looks.

 

 

Nat happily goes the fish curry ($7) route for his add-on – the sea creature, pomfret, is surrounded by okra.

I envy him his wise selection – it looks better than mine.

 

 

Cafe does a soul strut

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Sadie Black Cafe, 31 Perth Avenue, Albion. Phone: 9312 1869

We’ve taken our time getting to Sadie Black in Albion.

But since it opened, we have followed its story on Facebook and had to suppress the drool as an endless parade of eats pics unfolded.

So we find it no surprise that we eat well when we do finally visit.

Nor are we surprised to learn that Sadie Black has become first-rate joint of the neighbourhood nirvana variety.

 

 

It’s a happy and delicious place.

 

 

And this gorgeous back garden will be a popular spot in the warm weeks and months to come.

 

 

Bennie is a bit meh about his SB burger with fries ($17).

This is perplexing – it looks bloody fine to me.

And tastes that way, too.

He does give a hearty thumbs hoist to the very fine Istra bacon ($2 extra).

He voted at the last federal election. He’s done with school, save for a few exams. The future is his.

So on the drive home, I suggest he may want upgrade his menu choices with a more wide-ranging and less burger-teen philosophy.

 

 

There’s not the slightest equivocation when it comes to my pig and potato croquettes ($18) – this is wonderful in every way.

The croquettes come with beaut roasted cauliflower, pickle slices, a mustard sauce and toast.

 

 

Beneath the crisp exteriors, the tubby parcels explode with the flavour of ham hock meat and peas, all immersed in a roux gooeyness.

 

 

We’d already ticked this lunch off as a dessert dead cert on the basis of the obvious pride the cafe takes in its baking and sweets.

We are not disappointed.

 

 

This upside down pear and berry pudding ($7.50) is a joy that has us grinning and smirking.

How lucky are we?

The coffees we have with it are very good.