Fig & Walnut – winter menu

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Since its early days, covered by us here, one of the loveliest things to observe about Fig & Walnut in Seddon is what a relaxed and lovely retreat it has become.

It all fits with relaxing ease – including the superb garden area outside.

Fig & Walnut has become one of our regulars, for coffee mostly and sweet treats, with the occasional more hefty meal included.

So we’re only too happy to accept Vera’s invitation (see full disclosure below) to take her new menu for a spin.

 

 

New menu?

Perversely, I ignore it and go for one of the revolving specials – Brazilian seafood soup ($17, top photo).

With its sprigs of coriander, I firstly think this going to be a dish with an Asian bent.

But, no, this seems firmly in the Mediterranean mold despite its South American attribution.

The sensational foundation is a tomato-based broth that is extremely deep in flavour – it’s simply brilliant.

In it are blobs of fresh tomato and red capsicum.

In it, too, is generous bounty of seafood – medium-size prawns of superb, large-size flavour; pipis and mussels; and several nice chunks of barramdundi.

This is high-quality seafood cooking, especially given the price.

 

 

Danya’s vegan bowl ($19) is a bit of an odd choice for us, but we like it a lot anyway.

Somehow, the apparently disparate ingredients come together to create a satisfying whole.

At its base are a heap of cold noodle and a fine house-made satay sauce, abetted by bok choy and eggplant.

Even the pumpkin, normally a no-go area for us, plays a handy role by being so tender that it seems to become part of an extended dressing/sauce, with chilli shavings adding just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Rob is plenty happy with his crushed avo with Meredith goat’s cheese, pomegranate syrup, toasted seeds and two perfectly cooked poached eggs ($19).

It’s a fine variation on a theme that shows no signs whatsoever of fading from the cafe scene.

 

 

Fig & Walnut is a sweet treat haven, though it takes a different tack to most places by putting the accent on an oft-changing range of smaller offerings instead of a line-up of regular cakes.

For example, these almond crescents.

We’ve all had them before – but rarely are they of such crumbly freshness and lemon-scented joy.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Fig & Walnut as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was a mix of items chosen by management and mains chosen by CTS and guests. Fig & Walnut management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Very socially adept

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Sunshine Social, 64 Glengala Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 9312 0223

Sunshine Social is a hit and hoot and we love it to bits.

This is the biggest thing to hit Sunshine West for years – the adjacent Glengala Road shops barely seem to have changed for the best part of a decade.

In fact, this may be the biggest western suburbs food story of the year.

We bowl up just a few days after opening day, eager to check out the vibe, try the food and see if the widespread community interest and hopes are being fulfilled.

The answer is a rousing “yes” – albeit with a couple of food mis-steps noted below of the very easily forgivable these-are-very-early-days variety.

 

 

The old servo has been done up a treat, the swish fit-out preserving the old-time feel of the building and, best of all, the wonderful roof that once sheltered filling-up motorists from the elements.

It would be easy to describe the furniture, fittings and general ambience as “industrial”, but there is a bit more warmth to the place than that might imply.

As well, even on a busy Friday night, the noise levels are surprisingly subdued.

Three of us have drinks, two starters, three mains with various sides and a single, cheapo dessert and pay just a tad over $100 – so Sunshine Social represents good value for money as well as a whole heap of fun.

We arrive early after having dithered about a later start time involving a bigger assemblage of Team CTS, but are glad we’ve reverted to 6.30pm kick-off as the place rapidly fills up after that.

Sunshine Social doesn’t take bookings – it’s not that sort of place – so while it’s as hot as it is right now and the curiosity factor is high, it would be wise to pick your time with some thought.

Loosely based on the concept of old-school charcoal chicken shops, Sunshine Social goes from there to offer a menu that broadens out to take in some multicultural ideas, all the while offering a cohesive gameplan.

 

 

Marinated olives and chargrilled vegetables ($7.50) are a delightful way to get our meal underway.

It’s a deceptively big serving of beaut olives of various colours and dimensions and long strips of gorgeous red capsicum, zucchini and eggplant.

 

 

We try two of the five dips at $4.5o a pop (punters can get the lot for $16).

I am outvoted in my desire to try the beetroot and whole bean number.

Instead, we get the eggplant and pistachio/pea/mint versions.

The former is rather dry and crumbly but has robust roast cumin flavour.

The latter has little by way of nuttiness, the pea and mint dominating in a smooth operation.

 

 

Given the charcoal chook inspiration going on here, I was only ever going to order one thing – the very same thing that I ALWAYS order in chicken shops: Half a chicken with slaw and chips ($28.50).

The price here is higher, of course, but no more than expected.

The chicken near the various bones is excellent, moist and delicious.

The breast meat is dry – as it so often is, no matter the price.

But it’s not terminally so, and certainly all this could easily be fixed up with a small pot of gravy as per charcoal shop tradition.

The chips are very fine and the slaw – much drier and different in style from the usual – a crunchy, lightly-dressed delight.

 

 

The meat served with Nat’s order of “lamb shoulder with Mediterranean herbs” ($22.50 with one side) is tasty.

But we are both surprised the sheep meat is sliced and more like your regular lamb roast than the fall-apart epic the phrase “lamb shoulder” automatically suggests to us. And there’s not much sign of the advertised herbs, either.

In both the cases of my chicken and his lamb, neither of us feels the sweetish coating (chicken) or sweetish sauce (lamb) do anything to enhance our meals.

Chicken options with more high-powered seasonings taking in lemon, chilli and turbo-herbs would be a good move, we reckon.

 

 

The no-hesitation thumbs-up of the night goes to Bennie’s fried chicken burger ($13.50).

He loves the big, succulent, crisp chunk of fried chicken and gives his burger – abetted by slaw, cheese and jalapenos – an 8 out of 10.

He gets chips with his sandwich and an extra order of slaw on the side that is plenty big enough for both himself and Nat.

 

 

During the course of our meal, we’ve pondered dessert.

But predictably, we’ve loaded up plenty on the savoury segments of the menu, so treats such as choc ripple biscuit cake with peppermint slice shavings and cream will have to await a return visit.

I do grant Bennie his wish for a house-made choc top for $4.50.

He likes it.

You can tell by his unbridled display of passion and delight and enthusiasm for the camera.

We decide that there is nothing else quite like Sunshine Social in all of Melbourne – not that we know of anyway.

Sure, there’s a gazillion hipster burger places and almost as many barbecue joints and similar.

But a self-described “grill” that has no steaks and little seafood?

Nope.

On the basis of community reaction and our experience just a few days into its life, the place will endure and then some.

It is destined to become something of a second home to many.

And next time, we may expand our ordering horizons to the likes of pork ribs, grilled calamari, a range of meat on sticks or Moroccan lamb snags.

Check out the Sunshine Social website (including menu) here.

Vegan feast

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Mankoushe, 323 Lygon Street, Brunswick East. Phone: 9078 9223

It was only after the relatively recent discovery that Mankoushe had long since evolved from a hole-in-the-wall Lebanese-style pizza/pie shop to become a real, live bona fide restaurant that I ensured I was within their social media loop.

And it is only by doing that I find out they’ve been running semi-regular vegan feasts – and that another is scheduled very soon.

We – as in three members of Team CTS – are in!

 

 

A wild vegan spread of food under a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spell sounds grand to us, especially at what sounds like a bargain price of $25 per person.

On the drive there from the west, we speculate about what a Middle Eastern vegan line-up may look like.

 

 

I have long believed that were I to move to a meat-free diet, then going largely or even wholly going the Middle Eastern route would be an obvious direction in which to move.

Such wonderful food!

 

 

But vegan?

That does make it a little trickier – no yogurt or cheese, just for starters.

 

 

So … lots of nuts, seeds and grains, we surmise.

Lots of “meaty” vegetables such as eggplant, cauliflower, beetroot and potato.

And that’s how it is – with a few twists along the way.

Including a wonderful and chewy kibbeh made of various nuts.

 

 

The food is not served to us in the multi-course fashion we may have been wishing and (secretly) hoping for.

Instead, two sharing platters are brought to our table laden with goodies laid out buffet-style at the back of the dining room.

When we’re done with them, another is brought – this time with our top picks from the previous serves and with a few things we missed out on first time round.

 

 

And we could’ve gone on from there, had we had any more room to fill.

The food is as we have been expecting – both in quantity and quality.

It is very, very good.

 

 

And if it’s been buffet-style rather than the out-and-out banquet the phrase “vegan feast” tends to suggest, $25 is still a bargain.

I’d be happy to do this again anytime.

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz

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PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT.

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz,

Searz, Tuesday, May 16, from 7pm.

Price: $30 per person.

Ticket price includes food but not beverages. There is a good chance management may have wines matched to the food available on the night.

Searz is not a big place, so seating is limited!

****

As described in our story launching the Consider The Sauce Western Suburbs Food Festival, a big part of making events a going concern is finding restaurateurs who are receptive to the idea.

In Gopi from Searz in Newport, I could not wish for a better partner.

Searz has become something of a regular for us – see stories here and here.

To my very great delight, when presented with the idea of co-hosting an event with CTS, Gopi’s eyes lit up.

My enthusiasm for this particular outing was already high but became much higher when he sent me the menu.

Check it out!

How good is it?

MENU

Sharing plate as starter


Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

Main courses (choice of one)

Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.

Miso braised baby back ribs in a bento box.

Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

Desserts (alternate drop


Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.

The Consider The Sauce Western Suburbs Food Festival

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Consider The Sauce experienced something of a hiatus in terms of running events last year.

No particular reason – although me running out of puff and needing a bit of break was certainly part of it!

Now we’re back!

Hopefully, throughout the rest of this year, there will be a number of events.

Much will be as it was with previous events, albeit under a new banner – a bit of rebranding that reflects how I’ve come to see these gatherings: A rolling celebration of the food of Melbourne’s western suburbs and the people who make it.

So, for those who have yet to attend a CTS event, how does it work?

Well, the food will be very good for starters.

These events are, after all, endorsements by CTS of particular eateries, their proprietors and their food.

Beyond that, each event bespeaks a strong level of mutual high regard and trust between restaurateurs and CTS.

Not all restaurateurs understand what CTS is all about, and even if they do doesn’t mean they’re interested in doing an event.

And finally, some places are simply not suitable – no matter how much we love them!

For most events, the lowdown will be as follows:

Tickets will go on sale about four weeks before the event.

Ticket prices will be on or about $30 per person – with $20 going to the restaurant to help cover their costs and $10 going to CTS for organising.

Menus will typically be published with the event announcement story.

As with the many previous events, eateries featured are likely to the sort of under-the-radar joints that mostly get ignored by media big and small.

And as in the past, and as per the CTS ethos, this is very much in the style and philosophy of alternative, underground and/or fringe festivals the world over.

I am in no way opposed to business, government or other support for the CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival.

But as it stands, it’ll all be a matter of a handshake deal, sort out a view seating and menu logistics, set up the TryBooking details and away we go!

For the restaurateurs involved, there’s no profits to be had.

Rather, these events are opportunities to strut their stuff for enthusiastic people, many or most of whom have never visited their eateries before.

For you, the guests and potential guests, it’s all about enjoying terrific food at low prices in the company of fellow food nuts – from the west and elsewhere.

First event announcement for 2017 will go up in about a week!

Lovely cafe tucker

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Junie Moon’s, 511 Spencer Street, Melbourne. Phone: 8354 8426

Anyone who lives in the Melbourne’s west – particularly the inner west – knows a profound truth about our relationship with the rest of Melbourne.

It is this: Unlike the those who live in the eastern or northern suburbs, Melbourne’s CBD and other inner-city locales are, for us, neighbours.

It’s so simple, so easy – a quick drive over the bridge or down Footscray or Dynon roads, and there we are.

And that means West Melbourne is very much in play for eating adventures for Consider The Sauce and its readers.

The area bounded by King Street and the railways lines, with Spencer Street in the middle, is easy to take for granted.

But it is actually quite heavily residential.

Those residents have a slowly growing range of cafes, and a few pubs, from which to choose.

But almost all of those options are closed at night and at the weekends.

Junie Moon’s, by contrast, is these days open for breakfast and lunch at the weekends.

 

 

So good is the food we enjoy, you can bet we’d be there once – and maybe twice – each and every weekend if we lived hereabouts.

Even better, so far as I can tell all of the lunch offerings clock in at about the $15 mark price-wise.

Junie Moon’s is very cool cafe with a nice vibe and run by a crew who take real pride in the food they turn out.

The front dining room, which fronts Spencer Street, and a lovely garden out back sandwich the kitchen-and-coffee area.

Junie Moon’s more substantial meals are rostered through a revolving list that is updated weekly on their Facebook page, so the food discussed here is only broadly representative.

The list invariably includes dishes of Asian or Middle Eastern inspiration and also house-made pasta.

Seeing what’s new every week has become, for me, something to look forward to – even if I have no immediate plans to visit.

 

 

The fig and pig salad is a zesty, light delight.

Nestling among all those spinach leaves are fresh figs, grilled peaches, goat curd and prosciutto, all doing a lovely tango with a toasted walnut dressing with good nutty flavour.

 

 

It’s a notably odd thing to be served a burger without the option of fries – but it’s no problem as we simply accept that Junie Moon’s is not a deep-fryin’ kind of place.

And certainly Bennie has no complaints at all about his smokey braised brisket burger with cheese and citrus mayo ($16.50).

He rates the plentiful, juicy, tender meat very highly.

 

 

It’s very unusual for me to order pasta with a cream-based sauce.

This photo of my house-made gnocchi with chicken and mushrooms in a garden tarragon, wine and cream sauce ($16) would seem to be a good illustration of why that is so.

It is a perfectly accurate reflection of what is served – but in just about every regard this photo is a lie.

Because … yes, it is a very rich sauce, but it is divinely tangy and ripe with tarragon flavour.

The pan-fried dumplings buried therein are gorgeous and light.

And the equally plentiful chicken breast pieces also defy the stodgy visuals by being both tender and flavoursome.

 

 

We enjoy excellent coffees and half each of a wonderful gluten-free chocolate brownie ($4).

Finally, every bit as good as anything we’ve eaten is the pot of superb raspberry, vanilla and orange jam we take home.

It’s brilliant.

 

Real good Malaysian

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Ya’Salam Restaurant, 2/14 Lavinia Drive, Tarneit. Phone: 9748 6860

We enjoyed our visit to Ya’Salam when the premises was being used to operate a Somalian eatery – though truth be told it was a bit too much of a drive to become a regular haunt.

Now there’s new management in the place.

They’ve retained the name – and even a page of Somalian food at the back of their new menu.

But the rest is all about terrific Malaysian food.

In fact, based on two visits we reckon this is some of the best, cheapest and most authentic Malaysian food you’ll find in all of Melbourne.

And word appears to have gotten out – we note with assured pleasure the happy, hungry tables on our visits.

 

 

Chicken laksa ($10, top photograph) is unlike any I’ve eaten – and as good as any, too.

The chicken is so finely shredded that it’s pretty much subsumed into the gravy, but that’s fine when the soup base is so funky, house-made and delicious.

Protein oomph is provided by two hardboiled egg halves and there’s plenty of cucumber and other veg bits to provide texture and crunch to go with the fat, short udon-style noodles.

 

 

Roti canai ($5) is a wonder.

Accompanying a just-right bowl of runny chicken curry (with a dob of sambal paste) are the two lightest, flakiest and best flatbreads of the Malaysian style we’ve ever eaten.

Simply: Wow.

 

 

Char kuey teow ($10) is a bit like our laksa – unlike any we’ve before tried.

This one comes in a bowl and – appropriately – is more like a hearty, thick soup than the drier dish we’ve been expecting.

No problems, though – because while the wok hei factor is predictably muted, there’s no doubting the flavours and all-round yumminess.

 

 

Given the obvious real-deal vibe of everything served us thus far, we are keen to try the Ya’Salam satays.

They’re unavailable, though, so we happily settle for these two fine curry puffs ($1 each).

Again, these are a far cry from your usual curry puffs.

The rich short pastry is stuffed with an extremely toothsome jumble of chicken mince and vegetables.

They could’ve been a tad hotter, however.

The Ya’Salam food we’ve tried has been really fine.

We’re usually not much concerned about notions of authenticity – but they have heaps of it here.

Next time we’ll be sure to try one of the many nasi goreng variations.

Check out the Ya’Salam menu here.