Very Lux

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LUX afghan KEBAB Werribee, 3/49 Cherry Street, Werribee. Phone: 8714 6019

We are delighted to see the sort of Afghan food hitherto available in Sunshine and Footscray make its way to Werribee.

Lux is a lovely set-up – the dining room sparkles with welcome, the menu (see below) covers all the bases (including going beyond charcoal-grilled meats), the prices are almost absurdly low.

And the food is grand – so much so the very minor hiccups noted below barely register as any sort of speed bump.

 

 

Barley chicken soup ($7) is just as homely and satisfying as it looks. It is, though, very plain of flavour – if you’re like us, you’ll be reaching for the salt shaker.

 

 

Mantu ($13) are superb.

The delicate dumplings are festooned with two complementary sauces – a mincey/lentil number and one of minty yoghurt.

 

 

It’s taken us several years to fully get with the swing of the Afghan take on stews/curries.

But now we’re fully there, happily appreciating them in their own right.

Lamb qorma ($12) is a doozy – both runny and rich, with plentiful tender meat that falls away from the bones with ease.

CTS knows that all of the above food is pre-prepared, so happily accept some reheating is the order of the day.

However the soup and mantu are barely warm enough, the qorma not so – it is returned to the kitchen for a blast.

 

 

Our qorma arrives without rice, so we have to order that extra – and it’s very good.

 

 

We suspect most Lux customers go for the charcoal meats, as opposed to our wanderings detailed above.

We love those kebabs ‘n’ things, too!

Mixed kebab ($14) is a treat of two skewers of classy chicken and one each of cubed and minced lamb.

 

 

Afghan bread is invariably so flamboyantly large that we applaud the Lux move to offer half-size portions – for $1. Full size goes for $2.

Lux runs a buffet every Thursday for $25 per person – which sounds like a bloody good deal to us.

Going by the clips on the joint’s Facebook page, it’s popular, so booking is advised.

 

A Sunshine Star

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Afghan Star Restaurant, 251 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone 0431 970 348

There are – I believe – three places serving the food of Afghanistan in Sunshine.

Amid the (mostly) Vietnamese hubub around Sunshine central and Hampshire Road, they are easy to miss – and Afghan Star is perhaps the most anonymous of them.

It looks, from the outside and inside both, like a humdrum takeaway joint of non-specific origins.

You can get a pizza here – with pineapple, if that’s your kind of thing.

The decor is utilitarian.

But after sporadic visits over the recent couple of years, I reckon it’s time for a CTS story.

Because I really do like this place.

And if the review visit – with Bennie Weir and Nat Stockley in tow – doesn’t quite reach the heights of my previous (solo) visits, I nevertheless remain enamoured of Afghan Star.

Here is less proper restaurant routine and more a place to grab some quick and very cheap Afghan food.

There’s a range of stews/curries called qorma. I’ve tried a couple of them; they’re good.

But really, the top action here is all about grilled meats.

 

 

But first let me note a couple of happy details – the sort of thing that tickles the CTS soul and makes us love places beyond the main gist of the food.

One is the wonderful fruit salad tablecloth with which we are blessed.

And, no, I am not being facetious.

 

 

The second is the stupendously wonderful flatbread – it’s hot, freshly made and enormous.

On each and every visit I have made to Afghan Star, I have taken at least half one of these home with me.

So good!

 

 

And if I order charcoal chicken, I end up taking some of that home, too.

Because a whole, excellent chook – with flatbread, some salady bits/pieces and a minty dipping sauce with a subtle yet important chilli kick – costs $14.99.

That’s a for-sure bargain!

The chicken is very, very good, best and most juicy/succulent on the bone, though inevitably a bit dry in the heart of the breast.

That’s what the minty sauce is for.

 

 

It’s a fine thing that there’s plenty of my chicken to go around, because Bennie is disappointed with his doner mix kebab platter ($10).

For starters, he doesn’t believe it accurately reflects the colour photo at the serving counter upon which he’s based his selection.

It’s OK – but amounts to HSP on a plate.

 

 

Much better – and returning to the heart of the Afghan Star matter – is Nat’s mix kebab platter, another $14.99 steal served on rice and with the same flatbread, salad and sauce.

The tikka/shish lamb meat is very tasty, though a tad on the dry/tough side. Just a tad …

The kobida/kofta minced lamb meat is much better – chewy and nicely (mildly) seasoned.

But really, these are minor quibbles – this kind of food/meat usually sells for more, and sometimes way more, than here.

Afghan Star gets the job done nicely and with smiling, efficient service – and all with a comprehensive lack of on-trend or hipster angles.

For that alone, I love it.

 

Food on sticks – Afghan Master Kebab for Footscray

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Afghan Master Kebab, 131 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0201

Team CTS bowls up for the opening party of BigWest an hour after advertised start time and find the whole shebang and everyone involved is pretty much just getting over the rain.

What to do?

Eat!

So we adjourn to nearby Nicholson Street and the recently opened Afghan Master Kebab, a sister restaurant to the popular eatery of the same name in Sunshine.

 

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Sister Restaurant?

More like identical twins.

The menu line-up (see below) appears to be the same, save for the addition of such stuff as fish and chips.

Mind you, the Footscray edition is done out in perfectly fine and plain cafe style that in no way matches the flamboyant interior found up in Sunshine!

 

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Three of us choose the mix kebab ($13.99) and a delight it is.

Four skewers – two of superbly juicy chicken and one each of the minced kebab kobida lamb and the diced lamb cubes of tikka kebab.

They’re all wonderful.

Elsewhere around town, in restaurants that vary from Greek and Turkish to barbecue, it’s easily possible to pay significantly more for meat that is not so fabulous.

As in Sunshine, acceptable yet largely superfluous salad bits and two dipping sauces accompany.

The chilli and mint number is a doozy while, here, the yogurt dip seems a bit more tangy and has a richer dairy flavour.

 

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Our meals come with heaps of the wonderful Afghan Master Kebab bread – a bit like naan but chewier and just right slathered in the sauces.

 

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After a slightly underwhelming experience with chargrilled chook earlier in the week, it’s a giddy pleasure to inhale the Master Kebab half chicken ($14.99).

A bit pricier … but THIS is charcoal grilled chicken.

 

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On an earlier visit, I’d tried the chicken qorma ($12), one of a handful on non-grill offerings on the menu.

It’s nice enough, mildly seasoned and of generous serve.

But if anything, it serves only to reinforce the notion that food on sticks is the way to go here.

 

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Cool tandoori in Hoppers

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Kabul Kebab & Curry House, Shop 12A Woodville Park Shopping Centre, 70 Warringa Crescent, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9749 0944

Between and around the riches of Watton Street in Werribee and Barkly Street in West Footscray, there are lots of Indian or curry restaurants hidden away in all sorts of places.

In the case of this Hoppers Crossing find, it’s a matter – ostensibly – of Afghan food.

On a cold week night, Woodville Park Shopping Centre presents a rather bleak prospect but the glowing lights of this place draw us in.

 

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The series of events – post-school volleyball, guitar lesson, traffic congestion – that have brought us here find us also of robust appetite, so we’re happy to be in a nice, warm, cheap eatery.

Given the location and lack of research, it’s a throw of the dice but we are not disappointed.

The place is done in typical, basic ‘burban ethnic and we’re the only customers – but we are re-assured by the number of locals coming and going for takeaway that there is something worthwhile going on here.

 

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While we await our meal, we are greatly entertained not only by the Bollywood music clips on the telly but even more by the cornball old-school adverts that accompany them.

The pricing is attractive and there’s a range of your usual korma, kofta, vindaloo, masala and other curry dishes.

But we choose breads and the kebab offerings.

 

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First, though, onion pakoras ($6) are a rapidly devoured, well-fried treat.

 

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Potato bolani naan ($5) is fantastic and almost a meal in itself.

 

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Garlic naan ($3) shows scant traces of garlic but is good, too.

 

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Instead of having to select from the kebab/tandoor line-up, we go straight for the “Sizzler Special” ($22).

The menu says it consists of kebab items numbers one through six and comes with salad and dips.

We’re not sure about that – and there are no dips.

But we’re more than happy, anyway.

We’re not about to pretend this is the best or best-cooked meat of this kind we’ve had but it does the job for us.

The minced-lamb sheesh kebabs have a bit of a bitter flavour to them.

The chunks of lamb kebab could be a bit more tender.

But the chicken tikka pieces and two chook parts of tandoori chicken are real good.

We’re happy to have paid only $36 for a satisfying meal.

Do readers have any out-of-the-way faves?

New Afghani in Sunshine

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Afghan Shaheen, 231 Hampshire Road, Sunshine.

The success of Afghan Master Kebab in Sunshine has seemingly inspired others to try their luck with likeminded eateries.

Further afield, in Fooscray, Kebab Surra has made its mark.

In Sunshine, it appears there will be three new kids on the block.

One, already open, is situated in the food court at Sunshine Plaza and yet to be investigated.

Another, on the wider bit of Hampshire Road, still has newspapered windows.

Afghan Shaheen is up and running on the narrower part of Hampshire, heading towards the station.

 

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It’s done out in cheerful cafe style with ornate and shiny furniture.

It’s an Afghani eatery with a few twists thrown in.

You’ll find the chargrilled meats that are the principal reason of the much-love for the already established places.

As well, though, the menu (see below) features a longish list of straight-up Indian dishes and even an Indo-Chinese section.

Additionally, Afghan Shaheen is big on baking.

 

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One display contains a glistening range of Indian-style sweet treats that go for $18 a kilogram.

 

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Another cabinet displays many biscuits that look just like Italian-style biscotti.

I’m told, however, that they really are Afghani!

Rest assured, though, they contain heaps of butter.

They sell for a terrific $16 a kilogram – I’m surprised how many I get for $7.

A bowl namakpura (top photograph) – cumin-seasoned strips of deep-fried pastry – are brought without being ordered.

Playing the same sort of teasing role as papadums, they’re yummy.

 

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Lamb kebab ($13.99) has superb chargrilled meat of high quality – the de-skewered chunks shown here are only half of what is served.

The bread is good but unlike either regular naan or the more chewy, crusty bread delivered at Afghan Master Kebab or Kebab Surra.

 

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What I first mistakenly take to be some kind of soup turns out to be an excellent mint dipping sauce – a vinegary version of the pale green version often served.

It’s piquant and delicious.

 

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Curry and rice for $13.99 doesn’t sound like such a crash-hot deal but qabuli palaw is excellent.

The same, good bread.

The same salad bits

Fluffy white rice studded with moist currants and festooned with cooked, tender and sweet carrot strands.

The lamb “qorma” itself is mildly spiced but as deep in flavour as it is deep in brown.

The lamb is of the same high quality and tenderness as found in the kebab serving.

With its many bits and pieces, this $15 dish could easily suffice as a meal for two.

 

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Meal of the week No.7: Kebab Surra

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There are three – THREE! – new restaurants of the Afghani/Iranian/Persian persuasion CTS is keen to get cracking on …

In the meantime, Footscray’s own, Kebab Surra, has become a regular since our initial write-up.

I’ve become used to getting a most welcome bowls of lamb/barley soup with my meals here.

That isn’t forthcoming when I order chela kebab ($14) – but that’s OK because what I do get is terrific.

Nice rice.

Two sublimely juicy, meaty skewers of marinated chicken; no such thing as too-dry chook breast meat here!

Tangy yogurt with cucumber and dried mint.

Most excellent fresh bread – like a cross between Turkish bread and naan.

Chewy and excellent.

And – instead of the usual mixed salad – a much more finely diced effort in the Indian style.

No wonder Kebab Surra has become a very firm favourite of Joe.

 

Yes! It IS Afghan kebabs for Footscray!

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The fit-out at 241 Barkly Street, Footscray, is coming along – and there’s a menu up!

The fluorescent lights constituted a photographic nightmare when I stuck my nose in, but you can get the drift …

As you can see, Footscray really is soon to get its first Afghani eating house.

I note with excitement the presence of not only skewered meats but also …

… pulaos, including one with red beans and another with lamb shanks and broad beans, and …

… also the marvellous Afghani dumplings callled mantoo.

Oh boy!

 

 

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Afghan kebabs for Footscray?

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Consider The Sauce pal Juz has alerted us to something interesting happening on Barkly Street – at number 241 to be precise.

My first thought on looking at the pic he sent me was: “Afghanistan!”

As in the sort of kebabs found at Master Afghan Kebab in Sunshine and Rezah Afghan Kebab in Brunswick.

The best I can do with some sleuthing is to discover that Surra is a residential area of Kuwait – which appears to be, perhaps coincidentally, the home of the Afghanistan embassy.

A lunchtime Saturday visit by myself fails to reveal much more – just a couple of blokes working on the windows.

So … not a lot go on.

Yet.

 

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A bleak night in Brunswick

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Rezah Afghan Kebab, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

It’s a very odd few hours that end in sheer delight.

Good pal Nat Stockley and I have fronted for the launch of a new food truck, one that excites us both.

As he points out, whenever we tee up a foodie excursion, neither of us arrive at the appointed location early – but we are ALWAYS on time.

In this case, that is bad timing indeed.

The scene in a Brunswick back street is bleak.

It’s pissing down with rain and the dub music issuing forth from the venue is doing strange, unpleasant things to my internal organs.

Now look, I’m someone who has always fully embraced volume as a music asset – but this is just no good and no fun.

About three-quarters of an hour after the announced starting time, and with food seemingly no closer to appearing, we give it up and head for Sydney Road.

Our first stop, a perennially popular Lebanese joint, is chockers like I’ve never see it before – and will require a 15-minute wait for a table. If we’re lucky …

So we amble on up the Sydney Road hill and settle on Rezah.

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I’ve been here before, so know what I’m getting into. Nat has his reservations, but is soon won over.

We have a really, really fine meal in a restaurant that has now climbed onto the list of Melbourne places I most warmly regard.

Perhaps the love that unfolds is because of my previous visit. Or, more likely, the folks who run this joint are just extremely lovely people.

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Whatever … I soon start a dialogue with Firoz.

Firoz tells me the restaurant has been running for nine years and that he and wife Aasiah have lived in Australia for 16.

I’m even invited into the kitchen to see our dinner being prepared – so cool!

Nat and I, being of robust hungriness, go for the mixed kebab set menu that’ll cost us $20 each.

It’s terrific!

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The rudiments of our feast are the same as on my previous visit …

Wonderfully vinegary pickles of carrot, onion, cauliflower and even a plump, round chilli.

A minty chilli dip of only mild hotness and a stiff, tasty yogurt dip.

Chewy, hot Afghan naan – so different from the Indian variety.

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Our chicken one way and lamb two are fab, especially the lamb and chicken pieces – tender and extremely tasty, with that charcoal thing really going on.

The minced lamb sausage is nicely chewy but I find it a bit bitter in the garlic manner.

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The rice, festooned with currants and carrot strands, is every bit as good as that we love eating at this Westies winner.

It’s made, Firoz tells me, with stock made from long-simmered lamb bones and spices including two kinds of cardamom, cinnamon and cumin, as well as salt and pepper.

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In a testament to what kind of restaurant this is, Aasiah provides us with a complementary serve of aushak.

The green onion dumplings, smothered in yogurt and a pulse stew of some sort, are wonderful.

As we are wrapping things up, smiling Firoz several times places his hands over his heart to demonstrate his appreciation of our enjoyment of his family’s food and cooking.

He does so again when he makes clear his desire that we not pay for our dinner.

With gentle determination, we eventually persuade him that there’s no way we’re going to allow that to happen.

After a shaky start to our evening, Nat and I have had a fine old time.

And I even got to hear previously unheard – by me – details of my friend’s sordid rock ‘n’ roll past.

What do you reckon?

Would it be completely out of order for Consider The Sauce to arrange a CTS Feast in such a non-western suburb of Melbourne?

 

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Kebab nirvana in Sunshine

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Afghan Master Kebab, 3/20 Devonshire Road, Sunshine. Phone:  9311 9277

OK, forget your local old-school charcoal chicken, definitely your Nando’s and maybe even your favourite local tandoori chook.

Here’s what you need …

Half a gloriously chargrilled chicken, mouthwateringly juicy and tangily seasoned.

Served with generous portions of freshly baked flatbread that’s nice and chewy and something like a cross between pita and Turkish bread, along with some salty yogurt sauce and a beaut chilli-infused one of sublime mintiness, and some OK salad bits.

It’s a superb meal and at $8 is an instant westie cheap eats classic.

This plate is just one of the highlights of our Cup Day lunch at Afghan Master Kebab, which has recently taken over the Devonshire Road premises from Eat And Love, an Indian joint we never made it to.

The new Afghani crew has bedecked the place out in wonderful, almost psychedelic finery and the prices on the tightly-structured menu are all under $15.

Lauren from Footscray Food Blog has already posted a story about the new enterprise and in the days following I frankly became quite droolingly besotted with the evocative kebab photo she posted.

But she, knowing well my fondness for rice dishes from this broader part of the world, tells me I’m likely to be drawn towards that segment of the menu.

And that is indeed where I head on a first visit, sans son.

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“Zerishk palaw” ($14) comes with the same accessories as the kebab dishes.

Fluffy white rice topped with tangy berberries goes swell with the a side serve of “lamb qorma” of mildly spicy, good tomato-and-onion gravy with two largish chunks of tender but stupendously meaty lamb.

It’s all fine and homely fare, but it does leave me a little like, um, “Is that all?”

So when I return with Bennie we head straight to the kebab action, snagging the aforementioned half-chicken meal and also the mix kebab ($13.99).

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Lamb skewers of the cubed and minced variety are real nice.

But once again it’s the plentiful chicken that really knocks us out.

These cubes are big, succulent and tremendously well seasoned with, we’re pretty sure, cumin and other goodies.

This is breast meat that comprehensively defies the stereotype of this part of the bird being dry and tasteless.

There’s so much of the fantastic bread on our table that we are able to take half of it home to have that evening with spicy chick peas.

Afghan Master Kebab is surely destined to become a magnet for chargrilled meat fans from all over …

 

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Rezah

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Rezah, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

Meet my new favourite things.

They’re aushak, they’re Afghani dumplings and they’re incredible.

I’ve ordered a half serve of them ($15), instead of one of the $20+ kebab mains, so I can get a taste of other bits of the menu at this lovely Afghani restaurant.

It’s a tactic to which I often resort when eating by myself, one that can often go wrong and worse.

But tonight I feel like a bleeding genius of ordering.

Encased in silky pillow casings, each of the dumplings is stuffed with splendidly vivid green sliced spring onion.

The distinctive bitter flavour of the onions goes absolutely divinely with the slightly sweet, slightly but just rightly chilli glow of the meat sauce and the minted yogurt around the fringes.

I can’t remember the last time I deliberately slowed my eating to linger over every mouthful.

But by the time I’m down to my last dumpling, it’s stone cold.

Yes, that good.

Accompanying my meal is a serve of toorshi ($3.50), described as “pickled vegetables in vinegar”.

These watery pickles, too, are just plain fantastic – mouth-puckering sour, there’s onion, cabbage, potato, chilli, cauliflower, cucumber, all of it soft to the point of mushiness but so fine.

Watery, sour and excellent, too, is the dip/chutney of “fresh tomato, coriander, garlic, fresh crushed green hot pepper” ($3.50) I order, which is joined by a regulation mint/yogurt raita, which I haven’t.

The aushak sauces, the dips and the pickles are all gleefully mopped up by nicely chewy fresh flat bread, which is like a cross between the Turkish and Lebanese varieties.

Rezah is decorated with Afghani artwork and photos, the service has been lovely and the food delivery as prompt as can be expected.

Frankly, I’m drooling at the thought of returning.

There’s plenty of meat on the menu (see below), including familiars such as tandoori chicken and various biryanis.

But there’s some points of difference, too, such as asheh lubia – homemade noodles with red kidney bean sauce and yogurt.  Sounds pricey at $25, but you never know …

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