Phat & phunky

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Phat Chicks, 549A Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 3030

Consider The Sauce loves the Indian vibe of Barkly Street in West Footscray.

We remember, profoundly, the pre-Dosa Hut, pre-Aangan days on the street when there wasn’t much at all.

It always seems surprising to us that there are those who complain about “too many Indian restaurants”.

And, shoot, it’s not like the Barkly Street precinct, or the neighbourhood in general, is ALL Indian.

However, the diversity factor is about to get a grand boost with the arrival Phat Chicks Fried Chicken, which is taking over the “right-hand side” of Thai Angels and should be open in a couple weeks.

And who better to be leading this charge than Jenny Nguyen?

She’s of Vietnamese family background, born in Hong Kong and raised in our western suburbs – how’s that for westie lineage?

Even better, Jenny is full of high-spirited charm and fun.

 

 

Bennie and I have dropped in for mid-week chat about this exciting new operation, to have a taste of Jenny’s wares and find out about the thinking behind WeFo project.

This is going to be some serious, but fun, fried chicken place – no hamburgers or sandwiches or “other” here.

And there’s no set meals, either.

Punters will customise their meals from the wonderfully simple menu (sadly not quite locked in in time to be published with this story).

The chicken will come in breast, “thunder” thighs, wings, drumsticks and “pimped up” ribs.

The overlapping range of coatings will include original, sweet chilli garlic, sesame soy, cheese, spicy, mi goreng noodles, salt n vinegar chips and chilli chips.

And, yep, those last three are created from instant noodles and crisps being given a good old pounding!

There’s a couple of salads on the list, and sides such as fries (cajun and sweet potato), onion strings and corn cheese.

 

 

We both dug these mi goreng ribs – very nice, very crunchy.

 

 

If anything, though, I loved these “original recipe” drumsticks even more – simple and delicious.

 

 

With the new wave of barbecue places and the like, we’ve tried quite a few variations of mac ‘n’ cheese in the past few years.

And, blimey, many of them have ranged from average through to horrid.

So it was a pleasure to chow down on Jenny’s rendition.

Again, there’s nothing flash or sophisticated here – just simple ingredients beautifully cooked.

Best of all, it’s plenty moist and gooey.

Jenny tells us that while she eats at Vietnamese eateries virtually every week, she wanted to do something different in the western suburbs and has always had a thing for fried chicken.

She wants her new baby to succeed but happily confesses that success, to a significant extent, will be adjudged on whether Phat Chicks becomes a place where folks look forward to going to hang out with her!

To that end, she’s also taking care of business away from the deep-frier.

There’s a couple of old-school video games in the house.

Away from the seated/eating area, is a comfy lounge set-up.

And Phat Chicks will be fully licensed.

Goodies on tap will include Hop Nation pilsner and West City Footscray Ale.

 

 

Other phun facts about Phat Chicks:

  • The bear in the restaurant logo is because Jenny’s nickname is “Bear”.
  • One English definition of the Vietnamese word “phat” is luck.

 

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE
CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser,
Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194
Date: Wednesday, July 19. Time: 6-10pm. Ticket price: $45.

 

Not all eateries, for any number of reasons, fit right with the regular CTS business plan for holding events.

One such is Fig & Walnut in Seddon.

When, while trying the new winter menu there, I put this to Vera, she took the words right out of my mouth.

“Let’s do a fundraiser!”

Truth is, I hadn’t thought much beyond sounding her out about such a project – the details were fuzzy in my mind.

But then she came up with a brilliant idea.

“Let’s do it for Katerina!”

Yes!

It all fits!

I met Katerina – and a whole bunch of other lovely, friendly and spirited people – while involved in the campaign, a few years back now, to save Footscray’s Dancing Dog building.

It was from her that I first learned about a forthcoming cool cafe soon to open in her Seddon neighbourhood – the joint that would be Fig & Walnut.

Back then, Katerina was working very hard on another project – an activist organisation called Climate for Change.

Since then, she and many other have built this into something really special – a righteous grass-roots group doing great work on behalf of our planet and our children.

You can read about their work here.

Climate for Change has just completed a mammoth fundraising exercise – but Vera and I are only too glad to do our bit in topping up that war chest.

We hope you will be, too.

We have tried to keep the ticket price for this event below what is commonly charged for many fundraisers.

At the same, time we hope that – after deduction of Vera’s generous costings and booking fees – to hand Katerina and her crew a handy chunk of change.

This will, we hope, be a grand occasion that will taste great, be a great opportunity to network and a gathering of old friends and new.

Vera and her crew will prepare for the evening a lavish vegan banquet that will include the following and much more:

  • Mediterranean paella
  • House-made vegan dips and breads
  • Amazing salads:
  • Ancient grains with garden herbs nuts and pomegranate
  • Mapled sweet potato and carrots with cumin, coriander
  • Roast eggplants and pumpkin with almond creme dressing
  • A variety of vegan antipasto
  • Chargrilled veggie salad with whipped tahini

Wine will be available by the glass, bottle and case under the auspices of Climate for Change’s Kook’s Labor of Love vino arrangements and glassware will be provided.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE

WeFo Ramadan specials

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Dosa Hut, 604 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8592 4900
Dosa Corner, 587 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8528 5120

Those of us who love Indian food owe the Dosa Hut crew a big vote of thanks.

As far as I am aware, they were the very first to brings dosas to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

These days, there are five Dosa Hut branches at various parts of the Melbourne.

But the change that first shop in West Footscray helped initiate extends well beyond dosas and extra branches.

It’s taken the best part of a decade, but in that time Indian eating-out in Melbourne has changed dramatically.

Not just dosas, but also the likes of idlis and vadas have become common.

And it’s not just about those dishes, mostly associated with South Indian food – now Dosa Hut, and their many competitors, do Indo-Chinese, biryanis and sometimes even thalis.

What this transformation means is that where once eating in Indian restaurants was once mostly rather formal, and correspondingly expensive, it is now informal and very affordable.

Even those places that would perhaps have preferred to stick with more formal a la carte offerings have been forced by sheer demand and expectations to cater to this market.

And hooray for that, we say!

I still eat at the original Dos Hut on occasion – and was definitely interested in trying out their Ramadan specials.

These include haleem, of which I am not a fan, and a couple of biryanis – lamb shank and “gutti vankaya dum biryani” (eggplant biryani).

Unfortunately, on the day I visit for lunch, the lamb shank number is unavailable.

But fortunately, settling for eggplant is by no means a case of second best.

My biryani ($13.95) appears at my table (top photo) looking pretty much like any other biryani.

Rice, gravy, raita – but no hardboiled egg.

 

 

But the proof is, as always with biryani, is hidden.

For within my rice are to be found two fat, rotund, tender and very tasty eggplants.

This dish makes for a nice change from my usual biryani order of chicken or lamb, though it is of rather high spiciness.

 

 

 

Right across the road at Dosa Corner, they’re also doing haleem for Ramadan.

And another dish I am most eager to try – paya ($9.99, roti $2 each).

This is a soup/stew made with sheep trotters.

There’s not a lot of meat involved, but as is so often the way, the flavour is of immense meatiness, along with being tangy and having a nice chilli burn going on.

In many ways, the broth/soup reminds of the equally meaty-but-meatless broths routinely served at many East African places, of which this Flemington establishment is our current fave.

The couple of pieces sheep trotter?

Well, no, not a lot of meat; but, yes, a whole bunch of gelatinous matter.

Not, in other words, a cup of tea for everyone.

Personally, I love it as something different and delicious.

And I reckon anyone with a fondness for equally fiddly and bony chicken feet will feel the same!

Bank on it

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Vault Cafe Bar Restaurant, 13 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9041 3361

Consider The Sauce’s senior partner spent much of last year’s grand final day in and around the Vault.

Given that sort of context, you’ll be unsurprised to learn I was way more concerned about where the next beer and the next goal were coming from rather than about chowing down.

But I did notice that there were many happy customers enjoying a range of food – mostly, IIRC, burgers and the like.

Maybe, I thought, the latest outfit to inhabit the old bank on the corner of Ballarat and Canterbury streets has shaken of the bad location karma that had seen a couple of previous businesses come and go.

It took us a while, but we’re back to find out.

We’re doing so early on a week night on which a couple of special offers are going around.

But even without them – a burger deal with drink for $18, parmigiana for $15 – we reckon the Vault is a good thing.

 

 

There’s nothing ambitious or innovative going on here.

It’s a cosy (and warm) room, the staff are on the ball and we eat well for very little outlay.

We’re not sure how anyone would go here with some of the more exotic fare, but for your more straightforward offerings, the Vault is reliably feeding people and making them happy.

Think of it as a pub-not-pub.

 

 

I check to make sure the parmas on offer – there are four – are made with real-deal chicken.

They are.

And how.

My traditional outing is as thick as any I’ve had – yet is still superbly juicy throughout.

This is top-shelf parmigiana – big, even a little crisp around the extremities, the flavour of the ham and tomato sauce coming through in turns.

Criticisms?

The chips are fine but could’ve been hotter.

And with such a magnificent star of the plate, all that was needed salad-wise was some simple leaves, tomato and cucumber.

Those three are all present, but so are plenty of things – including sweet potato and eggplant – that put this salad in the try-too-hard bag.

Still, at $15 this is a red-hot bargain; I’d happily pay full whack.

(Bargain parma nights at the Vault are Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

 

 

Bennie reckons – from an ultra-hardcore, fussy, expert perspective – his southern fried chicken burger ($16.50, $18 Monday-Thursday with a pot of beer or cider) doesn’t reach any ecstatic heights.

But he is well pleased anyway.

There’s a nice slab of chook in there, along with sriracha mayo slaw, plenty of pickles and cheese.

He allows me a sample – and its tastes good.

He gets the same chips as accompanied the parma.

 

Meal of the week No.38: Magic Mint Cafe

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Magic Mint Cafe is one of those old-timers in the Puckle Street precinct – been around so long, it’s easy to overlook.

I’d have continued to do so – thinking it’s not open for lunch or that the food would be old-school average, and thus not of much interest – had not the ever diligently researching Nat Stockley discovered otherwise.

So on the basis of pikkshas he’d sent of an earlier lunch he’d enjoyed at the place (9 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds, phone 9326 1646), I am very happy to join him for another.

And for our purposes, lunch is the key – the lunch special list includes a nice line-up of curry dishes that are accompanied by dal, rice, naan and a papadum.

The same sort of deal is offered for biryani or chicken sizzler.

All of them cost a few cents under $15, that fee also covering a glass of wine or a soft drink.

Which would count for nothing if the food was average or worse.

But that’s not the case here – the food is significantly better than that found at many places offering similar deals.

The boneless chicken is plentiful in our curry bowls, submerged in a lovely gravy, the appealing tartness of which has me thinking it’s like a vindaloo without the heat factor.

The dal is wonderful, simple and earthy.

If anything, it is our naan that best express the difference between our lunches and your typical curry-and-rice quickie around town.

These naan are fresh, pliable and shimmering with a ghee coating.

$15?

A very swell deal!

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz,  39 Challis Street, Newport

Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

For sure, I thought, most of the attendees at Searz would go for the bento of miso-braised baby back ribs.

I was wrong.

The ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth won the day by a comfortable margin.

 

 

I was among those who enjoyed them – they were very, very fine.

As was everything else.

 

 

Thanks to Gopi and Joyce (in the kitchen) and Michael and Reyner (out front) for ensuring a lovely evening was enjoyed by all.

 

 

Thanks to all the various friends and regulars who fronted up for the first CTS event in about a year.

It was fun to be doing it again.

 

 

Thanks, too, to the half-dozen guests who’d probably never heard of Cosnider The Sauce but who – as Searz regulars – knew a very good thing when they saw it!

 

 

THE 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.

 

 

Old-school fish and chips

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The Little Chippy, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 7379 7065

Is there a word for what happens when restaurants tart up old-school food?

Hipsterised, yuppified, gentrified – like that, but meant specifically for food?

I enjoy eating in pleasant surroundings, but the CTS ethos holds that our dining experiences are about the food and the people who make it, with daylight between them and the likes of decor, ambience and on-trend.

But there is one of our fave kinds of food where the opposite is true.

We love new-school fish and chips.

We like the crisp, shiny places; we like the effort that is made with salads and the like; we love that often there is a variety of fish and other seafood available, matched by different methods of having it cooked.

And we absolutely love that such places tend to operate as restaurants proper – and that means tables, chairs, and crockery and cutlery of the non-plastic variety.

We have no interest in revisiting the “good old days” of fish and chips.

But for some people, that does hold appeal.

And a sub-set of such people involves those for whom old-school fish and chips ideally have a particularly British bent.

The Little Chippy could’ve been created for them.

 

 

It’s old-school from the ground up.

Mind you, half the menu (see below) is dedicated to burgers and the like.

But the other half of the food list tells the story.

No potato cakes or dimmies here.

But there is curry sauce and mushy peas and battered sausages.

The place is done out in minimalist takeaway style, with in-house eating restricted to pozzies available at the window bench and its tall stools.

Oddly, the servery and prep area is obstructed from customer view.

I’m not sure what that’s about – we all love watching our food prepared; it almost seems like part of the admission price.

But I’m definitely up for giving it a go!

And if that’s the case, I am may as well go whole hog.

So I order the North Atlantic cod with chips ($16), with a tub of Little Chippy’s coleslaw ($3) on the side.

It’s been a long time since I settled in for a fish-and-chip feed wrapped in paper!

 

 

I like the chips – there’s plenty of them and they’re defiantly old-fashioned and a long ways from shoestring fries and beer-battered chips.

The fish?

Well, it’s a mixed bag.

I can tell just by looking at it that there are going to be problems.

I’m right – sure enough, as soon as I try to pick it up, it falls apart into several different pieces, with some of them losing their batter in the process.

I’m unsure if this is a characteristic of this particular fish species, or if it’s something to do with the fact that as an import, it’s presumably been frozen.

Whatever its cause, it’s not something I want to see in my fried fish and detracts from my enjoyment.

The fish, however, is very nice indeed – mild of flavour, well cooked and with just the right amount of al dente meatiness.

 

 

The surprise of my meal is the coleslaw.

What looks like a regulation version of the gloopy and over-dressed takeaway joint salads found the length and breadth of the land turns out to be superb – fresh, crunchy, a little on the lovely salty side and a bargain at $3.

I can understand the attraction Brit-style F&C has for some people.

But we’ll be sticking to new-school.