A Footscray institution

1 Comment

 

Jim Wong Restaurant, 259 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 5971

It’s all very easy to take the likes of the late Jim Wong’s establishment – and the nearby Poon’s – for granted, surrounded as they are by colourful, delicious and affordable options of the more recently arrived Vietnamese, African and even Indian varieties.

They can conjure up, in the minds of the world weary or cynical, mental visions of tiresomely old-school food that has passed its use-by date.

Daggy?

Sure, but as regular readers will know, that has never stopped us.

On top of the funky, spicy, worldly western suburbs tucker that is the very core of our eating-out endeavours, we’re not averse to an RSL or bowls club roast lunch and the like.

So we’re very happy indeed to front for a mid-week dinner at Jim Wong, something that is somewhat belated in terms of the history of CTS.

And a fine time we have.

We love it – the menu, the decor, the furniture, just about everything.

We love it that there is real linen on the tables – and we even love it that we have to request chop sticks.

The food?

Well, mostly we love that, too.

We  like the possibilities evoked by the nicely priced banquet line-up that ranges in price from $25 and upwards.

But the meat courses feature dishes with satay sauce, in which we are not interested.

Likewise, we know – based on unsatisfactory experiences in other places and at other times – not to order dishes with a South-East Asian heritage, so we ignore the Jim Wong offerings of char kwai teow and Hokkien noodles.

 

 

Short soup ($5) is, as Bennie declares, “plain but good”.

Of the two wontons I try, one is doughy, the other is lovely, with the very austere broth being quite different from those found in the nearby Vietnamese joints.

 

 

BBQ roast pork ribs ($8) are fabulous.

There’s only a couple of pieces of bone and/or gristle.

The meat is well-cooked, but nicely short of dry and the flavours are a kick, all abetted by a rich, dark sticky sauce.

 

 

Beef with black bean sauce ($23) is just OK – we’d like quite a bit more sharp zing from the sauce and the price seems a bit steep.

But we eat it all anyway …

 

 

No such problems with the greens with garlic sauce ($13.50).

This is the dish we have been most eagerly anticipating and we are not disappointed.

It is, of course, simplicity itself.

But there’s less oil involved than in many other versions we’ve had, some of which cost more than we’re paying, so this actually seems like a bit of a bargain.

We’ve eaten well and enjoyed what are, for us, unusual circumstances.

And while we’ve paid a little more than we would for an equivalent spread elsewhere in Footscray, we’re happy to have done so, taking on board a tasty reminder of a still-thriving emblem of Footscray heritage.

 

 

Westie eats goss 3/8/17

Leave a comment

 

The Greeks are coming!

Not long after CTS published an unflattering profile of Buckley Street, Footscray, in October, 2014, we were told that street’s Orthodox Greek bookshop was destined to become a Greek eatery of some sort.

It’s taken a while but it IS happening.

An opening appears to be some way off, however, as the gas was being connected when I dropped around for a look-see this morning.

 

 

The Brother Hood Yiros & Grill is actually located on Admiral Street, at the rear of, but as part of, the same property as the bookshop.

 

 

Much excitement has already been occasioned by the soon-come arrival of the Meat The Greek Souvlaki Bar on Victoria Street, Seddon.

 

 

Meanwhile, major works continue on the comprehensive makeover of the property next to Andrew’s of Yarraville in Anderson Street that will eventually become another Greek establishment, Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar.

 

 

When, for a few years, Bennie attended Footscray City Primary, we often enjoyed the quirky window displays of the old shop on the corner of Parker and Hyde street.

And we always considered the place would make a fine cafe.

And now it will!

 

 

Tom and Steve tell me Parker & Hyde will be a breakfast/lunch place with a focus on great coffee and, given the place’s relatively small footprint, quality takeaway options for workers and residents from the surrounding neighbourhood.

That neighbourhood has not, until now, been serviced in such a way so their location would seem to be a winner.

And the trade from happy school pupil parents should be significant, too.

Expect an opening in late August or early September.

 

 

When Dinh Son Quan was part of the now sadly destroyed Little Saigon Market, it had two faces – a regular Vietnamese a la carte eatery on the street and a lengthy bain marie of vastly interesting dishes from within the market itself.

Now Dinh Son Quan is back – at 102 Hopkins Street.

 

 

For space reasons, the bain marie offerings aren’t as extensive but the food is still good.

 

 

This mix of two of my favourite Vietnamese dishes – bo kho with wonderful fall-apart beef and divinely luscious chicken curry – cost me $9.

And it was most excellent.

 

 

On Leeds Street, what was once the long-standing Chinese joint called Golden Harvest is undergoing a massive makeover.

 

 

According the notice in the window, it would seem the restaurant that will replace Golden Harvest will be under the same management.

It will be interesting to see just what “modern Australian cuisine” means!

 

 

 

Across the road in Footscray Market, the supermarket at the city market’s city end is undergoing an overhaul.

 

 

 

On Nicholson Street, work continues on the Cafe D’Afrique.

A few weeks before this new boarding was put up, CTS got a peek of what was happening inside and can report that the property has been well and truly gutted.

 

 

On Barkly Street in West Footscray, what was once Jellybread will soon become that strip’s first Sri Lankan eatery.

We are excited about trying it!

 

 

In Tarneit, and just adjacent to Wyndham Village shopping centre, the short-lived Malaysian place Ya’Salam has been replaced by the Indonesian flavours of Aroma Spices Kitchen.

As with Dinh Son Quan, here’s a place the proves bain maries can be A Good Thing.

 

 

The menu is tight and the prices right.

 

 

This $13 combo was a knockout.

Fine beef rendang, a spicy-dry potato jumble and superbly silky eggplant cooked with tomato.

I loved every mouthful.

Shiny grill time

2 Comments

 

DeGrill, Sunshine Marketplace, Sunshine. Phone: 0402 189 860

A small, single-frame cartoon in the Sunday Age a few years back always makes me chuckle when I think of it.

Two blokes are surveying the Sunshine Marketplace shopping centre.

One says to the other: “Wow – this really is the United Nations of bogans!”

I like it because it’s bloody funny.

But I also like it because I like it that Sunshine Marketplace is like that.

We may live in Yarraville, hit the new fried chicken place in WeFo as soon doing so is viable and even frequent hipster places in Footscray proper … but we love all the west and its people and food.

Which is why CTS loves venturing to not only Sunshine, but also Werribee, Deer Park and beyond – and will continue to eat and review and tell stories from well beyond the ribbon that is the inner west.

 

 

So we applaud the opening of DeGrill at Sunshine Marketplace.

It’s a bold and adventurous move – it is situated, after all, right opposite Maccas and right next door to the cinemas.

I could say that DeGrill is aiming for the same sort of focus as Grill’d or Nando’s – but that would be doing DeGrill a disservice.

Because the menu is significantly more broad than such a comparison might imply.

I suspect the menu may have to be tweaked over time to find out what really works in this particular setting.

But over two visits, CTS and friends enjoy some good food and good service at (mostly) good prices.

The style is classy fast food and proper cutlery and crockery are in use, as are fine salt and pepper grinders.

 

 

There are three hot dog options on the menu, two featuring kransky or chorizo.

But the classic ($7.50) is constructed using a standard frankfurter.

So all is regulation here, but its recipient is pleased enough.

 

 

“Crispy” chicken ($9.50) has the wow factor aplenty.

The serve consists of three superbly cooked wings anointed with a tangy sauce.

Very good!

Especially when served with …

 

 

… a side of mash and gravy ($6).

This a rarity is Melbourne in general, let alone in a Sunshine shopping centre.

It’s OK, we all like it – but it’s not spectacular.

 

 

The menu’s “between the buns” section lists nothing that could be described as a beef burger, but based on our table’s orders of the cheese steak ($9, above) and …

 

 

… the only marginally different philly cheese ($9.50), this may be the way to go here.

Both are keenly priced and boast good ingredients and dressings.

The steak is thicker than routinely found in steak sandwiches and, best of all, is so well cooked that biting through for a mouthful is done with ease and without the whole sandwich falling apart.

Big thumbs up for that!

 

 

Under the heading “from the grill”, DeGrill offers dishes such as a flat iron steak ($17 and $26) and chicken ($16 for half, $29 for full).

These and others may fulfill the implied promise of more hefty meals.

Sadly, the beef short ribs ($16) do not.

It’s common knowledge ribs are expensive to secure and are inevitably at the upper end price-wise wherever they appear.

It’s common knowledge, too, the beef ribs can be fatty.

But these are very fatty indeed, and the three segments amount to not much more than a brief meal of not many more mouthfuls.

As well, as per the eatery’s name, these rib bits are grilled and not smoked, as you’d generally find at the numerous barbecue-style places across the city.

The coleslaw ($4.50) lacks crunch – maybe because its main component is savoy cabbage?

It’s under-done in the seasoning/flavour department, too, though some quick work with the salt and pepper grinders soon fixes that up.

 

 

CTS is over the mega shake thing – too often they seem to involve poor quality ingredients and unjustifiably high prices.

This DeGrill brownie shake ($9) defies both factors – good price, nice shake.

We wish DeGrill well.

Maye its arrival will inspire others to hang out their shingle in the same locale.

Thanks to Annie and Ali for helping us with this story!

Check out the DeGrill website – including full menu – here.

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut: The wrap

Leave a comment

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser, Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon,  Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

A swell time was had by all at the CTS/Fig & Walnut fundraiser for Climate for Change.

 

 

The food was, naturally, excellent in every way.

So a big round of applause for Vera and her crew for turning it on for us.

 

 

And it was simply terrific to meet and talk with such a broad range of westies.

The final sums remain to be done, but a nice chunk of cash will soon be headed the way of Climate for Change.

So thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

 

And a final thanks to my partners in this enterprise, Vera and Katerina – it was fun!

Read more about Climate for Change here.

 

Get on board

2 Comments

 

Station Hotel, 59 Napier Street, Footscray. Phone: 9810 0085

These days, there are a handful of inner-west pubs that appear to aspire to offering very good pub tucker or fare beyond that.

But in some ways, the Station Hotel is the grand old dame of that scene.

It’s been around a goodly while, has had at least one management change of which I’m aware and – more recently – experienced a fire that closed the joint down for a few months.

We enjoy a lovely Tuesday night there, with good service and a happy atmosphere in the mostly full dining room and more raucous goings on in the bar.

We like it very much that the Station aims high but stays a pub.

It’s a birthday night at CTS HQ, so there’s a sense recklessness in the air – this is one of the very, very rare times in which “cheap eats” does not join “melbourne” and “western suburbs” as an automatic tag for a story.

Wheee!

 

 

Good bread and room-temperature butter are complementary; this is mostly for Bennie’s sake – given the weight of food we plan on enjoying, I leave it alone.

 

 

We love cauliflower so have no hesitation in ordering the cauliflower croquettes with romesco sauce ($14).

And are disappointed.

They are expertly cooked, ungreasy and chockers with gooey rich goodness.

But they are largely tasteless and certainly bereft of cauliflower flavour, according to both of us.

 

 

Much more impressive – and tasty – is the tuna tataki with “miso mayonnaise” and pickled cucumber ($19).

Every mouthful is a zingy, ever-lovin’ jumble of top-notch contrasts.

The mayo is confusing, though, as we taste not miso but do detect a nice wasabi tang.

Not that it matters!

 

 

One of us was always going to order steak – and that turns to be, well, me.

That order being in the form of this knock-out “rib eye, 500g Great Southern, (Vic) British breeds” ($55), cooked medium rare.

Now look, as is no doubt obvious from the now many years of CTS, we are not really steak men.

So this proclamation by both of us may not be based on much.

But …

BEST.

STEAK.

EVER.

The meat is quite heavily seasoned and is quite salty, but that’s fine by both me and he, who also gets quite a good go at it.

The spuds and salad are fine, but are largely superfluous to the carnivore carnival – as are the pepper and bearnaise sauces on hand.

 

 

By comparison, Bennie’s pan-fried pork fillet with apple and apricot stuffing on pearl barley and peas with cider jus ($35) is rather demure.

He enjoys it plenty, however, and the meat is superbly moist and tender.

He’s less impressed with the barley base, which seems like a touch of brilliant to his father.

 

 

“Tastes of chocolate and caramel” ($14) is perhaps a tad too fiddly for the likes us apple pie guys, but we enjoy it anyway.

Underneath that dome of “chocolate mirror glaze” is a globe of caramel parfait – not quite ice-cream, not quite cake, all wonderful.

 

 

More appropriate for us is the luscious vanilla panna cotta with a berry and meringue topping and a fresh berry and cream shortbread off to the side.

This being a once-a-year kind of splash-up meal for CTS, we order cafe lattes to be enjoyed with our desserts even though it’s a mid-week evening.

The barista’s first go is deemed unworthy, with the second attempt missing our long-completed desserts by quite some margin.

They’re good, though, and we are not charged for them.

It’s been a fine night, a special night for the CTS lads.

Check out the Station Hotel website – including menu – here.

 

Phat Chicks taste good

1 Comment

Julian customises his order; further back in the line, beanie-clad Josh is thinking: “Mmmmm – fried chicken!!!”

 

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

The arrival a specialist fried chicken eatery in West Footscray has generated spectacular interest.

Partly this has been because it’s a novelty in an area that largely – though far from exclusively – is Indian when it comes to food.

As well, there’s been a preview story in CTS and coverage in other media outlets.

Unsurprisingly, the word we heard was that Phat Chicks was extremely busy right from the moment the doors opened.

So the members of Team CTS cooled their heels for a week – and even then, six of us hit the place a couple of hours later on a Friday night than would normally be the case in hopes the rush hour would be over.

That ploy works, but only just, with boss lady Jenny squeezing us all on to a four-seater table.

Thanks!

Our crew places three separate orders – for Bennie and I, ours looks like this:

 

 

Minus drinks and the like, and ignoring for this inaugural visit the only greenery/salad available, we all end up paying about $20 each.

 

 

I’m delighted to find the thighs ($4 each) are of the bone-in variety.

These are beaut, though I suspect better is to come than the sesame soy coating we get with these.

 

 

It’s true!

I’m really impressed by our sole breast ($6.50).

Not just because of the chicken and its admirable non-dryness, but also because the ordered spicy coasting is itself dry – unlike our other selections – and delivers a nice spice wallop.

 

 

Like all our chicken, these ribs ($6) are skillfully cooked, though we find there is little by way of the zing and tingle we are expecting from the vinegar part of the “salt and vinegar” coating.

 

 

Another hit!

These buffalo wings ($5) are tremendous – gloriously sopping wet with a zesty Sriracha-based sauce.

So good are they that we completely ignore the blue cheese sauce with which they are served.

(Just BTW, of the other sauces ordered by our table, we all like the pickle-infused Bear sauce very much …)

 

 

For sides, cajun fries ($6.50) and onion rings ($6.5) do us just great.

The serves are generous and the quality high.

Bennie opines that the onion rings are lacking onion flavour.

I disagree, but in any case retort: “Mate, onion rings are just an excuse to eat deep-fried batter!”

 

 

In our collective book, Phat Chicks is a great, big, phat winner.

It’s not just that it’s all about fried chicken – there’s a heap of places doing that around Melbourne.

It’s more that the range of coatings is innovative and delicious, with details such as sauces and sides also excelling.

We reckon it’ll take a few visits for us to be able to zero in on what works best for us.

The vibe during our visit has been happy and the staff members are dealing with such profound instant popularity very well.

And the wait times were briefer than I had been expecting.

As well, Phat Chicks is doing good for beer drinkers – my pint of 2 Brothers Kung Foo rice lager goes down a treat.

Lebanese heaven aboard the Starship Riviera

6 Comments

 

Riviera Cafe & Restaurant, 55 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 5534

The beautifully located, enormous restaurant room at Edgewater’s Lakehouse had been empty and unloved for so long that we’d pretty much lost interest in checking up on the place to see if there’d been any activity.

But then, after a hamburger meal further up the hill, I recently swung by once more – and got quite a surprise.

Wow – the place looked like it was all set up and ready to roll.

After parking, in I went – with more surprises awaiting.

The place looks a million bucks!

But it was deserted at a Sunday lunch hour, save for a couple of nattily-dressed waiters.

A greater surprise came upon perusal of the menu (see below).

For Riviera is serving traditional Lebanese food – and not just your dips and kebabs, either, but rather the entire restaurant routine.

Still, I found it easy to restrain my excitement.

I mean, how good could it be?

Full-on Lebanese food in a space that has often seemed like a combo of white elephant and black hole in the western suburbs food scene?

Best, thought I, to return that night by myself to check the food out first-hand before I started getting a group CTS hardliners together for a visit.

 

 

So return I did – and got the biggest surprise of all!

Early on a Sunday evening, Riviera was about half full – and in a room this big, that’s a handy number of people.

There were kids everywhere and going in all directions.

Also in evidence were a heap of hijabs, and there were even hookahs going at some tables.

So while Riviera, which has been going several months, may have – until now – flown under the radar of western suburbs food nuts, it seems the word is well and truly out among Melbourne’s Lebanese community.

And I took that as the best evidence possible – short of eating the food myself – that what is being served here is most excellent.

So it proved to be – my meal was very, very good within the limits of what a single soul can tackle.

On returning home, I hastily organised a CTS get-together and was happy that a bunch of enthusiasts were up for joining Bennie and I the following Sunday.

So thanks to Chris, Catherine, Nat, Justin and Will for doing CTS duty!

****

This time around, we find the room rather sparsely populated – there’s a nifty video on the Riviera Facebook page of the place rocking a pretty much full house.

But the welcome and service are fine.

Even better, the food arrives with such speed that it may have startled us had we all not been in such a lather of happy anticipation to try it all.

For simplicity’s sake, we quickly come to a collective decision to go with banquet option No.1 at a cost of $35 a head for the six adults in our group.

It turns out to be a most memorable Lebanese feast.

It is all good, very good or outstanding.

Here’s what we had/inhaled:

(And please keep in mind that the dishes pictured here represent just half of what is brought to our table – except where noted, two of each dish are provided to us.)

 

 

Crisp, moreish pita chips.

 

 

Also wonderfully crisp – the commercial but delightful pickled cucumbers and turshi.

 

 

Excellent dips – hummus, labneh, baba ghannouj.

 

 

Fattoush.

 

 

Glorious chicken wings – perhaps THE hit of the night.

 

 

Chips – perfectly acceptable, but a little shy of the perfection I expect in such a setting.

 

 

Makanek – Lebanese-style lamb sausages.

Others enjoy these more than I – for me they’re a little too sweet and rich.

And with their dark red colouring, they remind me – somewhat bizarrely – of black pudding!

 

 

Kibbaybat – deep-fried pastries with a filling of lamb and pine kernels.

These, too, are sweetish – and also juicy and very good.

 

 

Excellent meat on sticks – shish tawouk and shish kafta as advertised on the menu, and shish kebab as a surprise.

 

 

A single, big serve of this simple dish of lamb chops on rice is an unannounced addition to our banquet line-up – and is the same dish I tried on my solo exploration the previous weekend.

At first, I suspect this is going to be largely ignored by our lot in favour of the more glam kebab meats at our table.

But, no, in the end we all give this more humble dish a pretty good crack as well.

With its fragrant rice studded with currants, peas, cashews and more serving as a bed for beautifully cooked meat, this reminds me very much of the sort of Somalian meat ‘n’ rice dishes found at places such as this.

But I suspect variations on this theme can be found right across North Africa and the Middle East.

 

 

Finally, our fabulous meal winds down with super slices of chilled watermelon.

Just right!

That Riviera is serving top-notch Lebanese food – at Edgewater’s Lakehouse, of all places – fills me with profound happiness.

There is nothing cutting-edge, hipster or fusionesque about the fare here – and nor would I want there to be.

We all vow to return – and soonish.

It’s an interesting indication of how a place like Riviera can exist and prosper on its own terms and within its own community, yet fly entirely under the radar in the wider world – it has no Zomato listing!