Ethiopian … in Fitzroy?



Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant, 328 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Phone: 8589 0442

Of the foodie friends we break bread with, Marketa and Nick are two lovely folks whom we see too little of.

So I am only to happy to agree to a proposal to join them at a new Ethiopian eatery … in Fiztroy.

Turns out that Marketa and the Saba after whom the restaurant is named know each other from another place – a gym!

For Marketa, this will a first try of Ethiopian tucker; not so for Nick, though his single encounter is just a fading memory.




But even for me, veteran of so much western suburbs Ethiopian food, there will be something new.

As recounted in this story about Lemat Injera Bakery, for most of the Ethiopian community’s time in Australia, the grain from which injera is made – teff – was not allowed to be imported.

So the injera makers – as cultures have done through the ages – experimented and adapted, using a mix of grains, until they created something like, well, injera.

Those import restrictions have been lifted now but as far as I know this will be my first ever encounter with teff injera.

I arrive early so have time to talk with Saba and her staff about injera and Ethopian food in Melbourne.




The eatery – smack dab in the middle of Brunswick Street’s hipster heaven – is bright and light and the staff do a fine job.

As we’re enjoying our meal, people are being turned away.

Seems like Saba’s is going to fit right in in Fitzroy!

But Fitzroy isn’t Footscray so I have been bracing myself for prices way above what I’d pay for similar food much closer to home.

So, upon perusal of the menu (see below), I am pleasantly surprised.

Yes, the prices are above what we all pay on Nicholson Street or thereabouts – but not ridiculously so.

I’m happy to be in the house and catching up with my friends.




Other differences between Saba’s and the western suburbs Ethiopian eateries are the names of the dishes.

I don’t get around to asking Saba why this is so – but can tell, reading between the lines of the dish descriptions, that I am going to be eating in familiar territory.

Saba places a restraining hand on our eagerness in terms of ordering too much.

So what we end up with is a splendid Ethiopian meal of one meat dish, one pulse offering and two vegetable dishes.




It’s all very good, including the carrots-cabbage-spuds of dinish ($16) and the “side dish” beetroot, here called key sir ($12).

Our meat selection, keyih sebhi ($23.50) is a wonderfully rich, deep red stew of lamb with just the right chilli kick.

It’s almost like an Ethiopian bolognese!

As for injera made from teff, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice much difference – maybe this injera was a bit plumper.





‘Wow!’ in Tarneit




Ya Salam Cafe and Restaurant, 20 Lavinia Drive, Tarneit. Phone: 9748 8660

The Arabic “ya salam” translates as “that’s fantastic!” or “wow!” – and that’s pretty much how I feel upon visiting and enjoying a brand new African eatery in Tarneit.

Taking the scenic route along from Laverton and along Sayers Road, what awaits me in Tarneit – what kind of operation, what kind of food – has been a mystery.

So I am delighted to discover a new and brightly appointed eatery that has been open just a few days.

It’s located on a small retail strip that looks out to the Wyndham Village shopping centre, home to a newish branch of Dosa Hut.

Ya Salam shares the Lavinia Drive space with an Indian eatery (on one side) and (on the other) what appears to be a charcoal chicken place but is in reality a full-on Lebanese place.




How’s that?

Instant foodie destination!

Ya Salam proprietor Mohammed tells me business, so far generated by little more than word of mouth, has been good.

He’s finding his new project is appealing to not just the local east African community of about 300 families but also the Muslim folks and the community generally.

The heart of what he and his team are doing at Ya Salam is Somalian food but the menu (see below) also features a hefty Middle Eastern component along with dishes that display Mediterranean and even European influences – breakfast, too!

Readers can rest assured, though, that this sensible, broad-sweep approach in no way diminishes the quality of what’s being served.




I am served a complementary bowl of soup to go with my main dish – it’s listed on the menu as “Yasalam soup” on the menu, so I am not sure if this is going to be part of the regular routine.

Does it look familiar?

It is!

It’s basically the same lamb broth-based concoction that is served at our beloved Safari in Ascot Vale.

This version may not be quite as tangy but it is equally rich in flavour.




“Slow-cooked lamb shoulder” ($16.95) is also familiar, with its trademark and super cooked-in-stock rice.

Perhaps it may have been more visually appealing had the meat been browned off a bit.

But as with all places who cook these kinds of lamb cuts this way, I love the undeniable depth of meaty flavour.

And there’s lots of it.




Moving on over to the more Middle Eastern aspects of the menu, mixed grill is a bargain at $12.90.

It comes with the same rice and salad, a “chapati” and a tub of exuberantly garlicky dip.

There’s a skewer apiece of lamb, chicken and …




… lamb kofta, which is served separately as it takes a little while longer to cook.

They’re all terrific.





Meal of the week No.18: Walia Ibex




A lively FB discussion – inspired by a fellow blogger’s story about a Seddon institution and concerning the pros and cons of various Footscray African eateries – has me very much in the mood for injera and the stuff that goes with it.

But I’m not in Footscray.

I’m in Sunshine.

So I very happily hit Walia Ibex (197 Hampshire Road, 9312 3090).

This is a sister enterprise to the one a few blocks away.

That one is, I’m told, dedicated entirely these days to coffee and billiards.

If you want Ethiopian food, it’s to the Hampshire Road one you should head.

And you should.

While I continue to find it surprising that AFAIK this is the sole African eatery hereabouts, based on my profoundly enjoyable lunch, it’s at least a fine thing to know it’s a good one!




It’s a cosy place with an upstairs dining room.

Upon my arrival, the vapid nonsense of commercial TV is blaring forth.

Soon after, the audio is extinguished – leaving me and the other customers happily with just the familiar sounds of low-key, funky Ethiopian jazz.

The longish Walia Ibex menu has all the usual Ethiopian staples, and while I don’t check too closely, there may even be a few unusual items in there.

The standard vegetarian combo of yetesom beyayneto costs $12.




But I’ve a hankering for something lighter, healthier, cheaper – so foul it is.

I know there’s folks who would consider $10 a bit too much to pay for such a humble dish.

But so good is the Walia Ibex rendition that I consider it a bargain.

The creamy beans are hot and plentiful, anointed with onion, tomato, capsicum, egg, cheese and just enough chilli to make things even more interesting.

I’m provided, by request, injera instead of bread.

It’s a magical lunch.

Sometimes, often, that’s how it goes with the simplest of dishes.



All’s well at Awel



Awel African Restaurant Bar & Cafe,  2/250 Hight Street, Melton. Phone: 9746 6483

Ahhh – a free-hearted romp up the highway to Melton.

Somewhere along the way, I’d learned that an African restaurant had been established in Melton.

My impromptu journey is aimed at checking it out.

This is a trip I’ve been wary of undertaking even just a few weeks earlier.

Since then, new tyres all round and a long overdue service had been booked and paid for, so I’m a happy chappy heading into the sunrise.

Especially with Millie Jackon, backed by the pride of Muscle Shoals, wailing at length about the woes of her love life.

Once parked in Melton’s High Street, I find Awel no problem.

The restaurant is a breezy, casual affair, with a different and bright tablecloth on each table.

A couple of those tables are occupied as I peruse the menu.

It’s a mix of Ethiopian dishes – there’s wats and tibs and the like – and dishes I suspect have a Sudanese flavour.




I go Ethiopian, though, with zilzil alicha ($12.90), which is described as diced lamb and seasoned vegetables slowly cooked in a green pepper sauce and seasoned with ginger and jalapenos.

It’s a typical Ethiopian meat dish, like a wet tibs.

The serve looks modest of size but is more than filling enough.

And best of all, it has a big chilli kick of the kind often promised by East African food but not always delivered.

The simple, crunchy salad, for which I am charged a little extra, is very good.

After my dinner, I chat for a good while with Amiol, who runs the restaurant with his wife, who happen to be in Africa catching up with the rellies.

Like her, Amiol is of Sudanese background.

He tells me Awel has been going for about five months and that the reaction of locals has been favourable.

But he is bemused by the outlook of some in the significant Melton East African community.

“In their heads, when it comes to food, they’re still back in Footscray,” her says. “They like our food but say, ‘Oh, if only you were in Footscray …'”

People can be so nutty!

Come on Meltonites – support this colourful and fine addition to your culinary line-up!

As I cruise on to the Western Highway home, Millie and the Swampers kick in to a funkified version of Feel Like Making Love.

I cackle and pound the steering wheel.

What use doing anything else?



Super Somalian in Flemo

1 Comment



East African Restaurant, 28 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0434 518 867

What a pleasure it is to welcome a new place to one of our favourite eats strips, Racecourse Road in Flemington.

Mind you, the premises that house East African Restaurant have hosted some sort of hospitality industry activity as long as I can remember.

But that activity always seemed to be of the coffee house/social club/meeting point of the blokey kind that is a staple of all sort of multicultural communities across the west … so we never paid it much interest.

Then, a few weeks back, new signage went up that strongly seemed to indicate the place was making a more concerted effort at getting its food out to a broader public.




Issa (pictured at top) has owned the business for about a year and is indeed setting out to win more customers.

The place is charming in its ethnic cafe simplicity of trestle tables and relaxed vibe.




During my time there, a number of regulars come and go … all of them, save a pale-skinned mum and son, are African gents, some wearing various degrees of traditional attire and some wearing taxi driver garb; there’s a few kids in among the mix, too!

I suspect Issa may be working on a menu proper, but in the meantime I like it a lot that there is none and that the boss man comes to my table to run down the food line-up for me verbally.

Who needs menus?

After quizzing Issa a bit about such things as soup, I tell him I will have whatever is the most popular.

This turns out to be an excellent move – what I get is not only very good but reassuringly familiar.


east 1


What Issa calls “mixed food” ($12) he also calls “federation” … ah, yes the same federation as found at Ascot Vale’s Safari just up the road apiece, and every bit as good.

It’s all there and in good, delicious nick …

Tangy broth/soup that in this case has a touch of the curry powder about it.

Wonderful stock-cooked rice.

(As with the many previous times I have eaten this food, it seems like the soup and the incredible rice are the standards by which the meal should be judged.)

Heaps of dry-sauced spaghetti.

The pan-fried lamb with onion is actually rather wet, making it a bit like a stew – and that’s good, too!

The two lamb chops appear to be on the small side and as if they may be a bit tough. They’re not, and as for size … well, I fail to complete my meal anyway, so large is it, so they’re fine.

I could have done with a bit more the sautéed veg, but it’s been a great feed, indeed.




Halfway through my lunch, however, I realise something is missing … and am duly presented with a cup of chilli sauce.

It looks like hot stuff, so I dab it on my meat and rice rather sparingly.

It’s a wise move.

Issa tells me a broader range of food, including injera-based meals, is available during the week.

I plan on trying some of them soon.

Wonderful Ethiopian




Ras Dashen, 121 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 3293

A chance Sunday night encounter in the Yarraville IGA finds me dining out in downtown Footscray on a Tuesday night with friends and friends of theirs.

Ethiopian is the preference and Ras Dashen is my suggestion.

I’ve been here a couple of times by myself though not recently.

So I’m a little concerned about how we might go so early in the week with a table of five that includes two vegetarians.

I need not have fretted as what we receive is magnificent.

The beyaynetu veg selection is provided at an amazing $10 per head – so the wonderful spread pictured above costs us $50.

Two kinds of lentils – aspicy and rich red number and a yellowish dal-like mix.

A jumble of mixed vegetables, a bowl of delightful beetroot and a typically zingy salad.

It’s all delicious.

On the side, I order the fitifit or beef rib soup ($10) enjoyed on a previous visit.

If anything, if it seems bigger, more meaty and wonderful than before. The broth is pungent – it comes across a bit like an Ethiopian version of pho, but without the star anise and so on.

It’s my new Favourite Thing.

Finally, our table snags a serve of zilzil tibs ($12, sorry no pic usable!).

This is unlike any tibs dish I’ve previously encountered.

It’s very dry, with pan-fried beef strips that have been rubbed – and I’m pretty much guessing here – cumin, a little chilli, salt, pepper and garlic.

It, too, is excellent.

The service we have been given has been beaut and it’s been a fine thing to see a Footscray Ethiopian joint bustling with activity so early in the week..

So very Footscray




Cafe D’Afrique, 137 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 9411

Consider The Sauce was once a regular – a few years back – at Cafe D’Afrique.

But for coffee only.

It was excellent coffee at an equally excellent price.

But I never got a handle on the food situation.

Sometimes there seemed to activity in the kitchen, sometimes not.

Sometimes some customers were eating, more often – IIRC – no one was.

Certainly, there was no menu or blackboard.

So I gave it up, and even moved on from coffee visits as work and other activities had me looking elsewhere.




But today, having completed a few chores nearby, I spy at least half the 20 or so customers chowing down.

“This is ridiculous,” thinks I. “There’s food here – and I want to try it”

So I initiate a to-and-fro discussion with genial gent I take to be the owner.

“Beans,” says he.

This would be the foul I see being happily consumed by several customers.

“Anything else?”

“Meat …”

“How much?”



Ordering done, I take a seat at a back table and wait.

But not for long.




I’m very happy with my lunch.

The salad is typically African – fresh, zingy and powdered with pepper.

The lentils are mush, mild and nice.

The lamb is fantastic – lean, pan-fried, free of fat and gristle, seasoned with something that could be just plain curry powder but definitely includes turmeric.

It’s a beaut, light, tasty and satisfying lunch.




An ultra-low coffee price means nothing if the brew isn’t good.

Still, I’m stunned to discover the admission price for my cafe late is STILL $2.50 – same as it was several years ago.

Best of all, my coffee is utterly excellent.

I’m told the name of the Sudanese dish I’ve just enjoyed is cheya. From what I can gather from Mr Google, this means something like “fried meat”.

As I depart, I see a recently arrived customer served what appears to be tibs and injera, so there’s more going on here than the absence of a menu might seem to indicate.

But you do need to ask.

Personally, I enjoy this sort of scenario – it requires enjoyable engagement that can be missed by merely pointing at a menu entry.

It feels good to be fed and back on familiar terms with such a righteous Footscray fixture.

EAHA/Kokeb/CTS party – the wrap





EAHA/Kokeb/CTS fund-raising party for Eritrean kids, Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Tuesday, July 22.


It was an evening to raise funds to support the work of Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid.

It was held at Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe in Footscray.

It was beaut!

Thanks go to many people …




Thanks to everyone who supported the event through their credit cards and their presence.

Thanks to the Kokeb family – Helen, Melaku, Naeb … and, most particularly, thanks to Demet, who spent the whole day cooking the wonderful food we enjoyed so much!




Thanks to Louise and Noray from EAHA for telling us about Eritrea and the group’s work.

Thanks to the rest of EAHA gang – Wafa, Namarek, Aziza and Amira – for providing smiles, great ginger-infused Eritrean coffee and popcorn, dates and sweet cake hombasha to go with it.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for his as-always fantastic pics. He really saved me. Maybe it’s time to face reality – that hosting these events AND taking good blog pics is too much of a stretch!

Thanks to Matt from Westgate Party Hire for providing the serving platters free of charge.




What we enjoyed food-wise:

 Yebeg wat: Freshly made beef stew served with injera.

Doro wat: Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in dense stew of onions, berbere and Ethiopian butter. Boiled eggs are knife-poked and simmered in the stew. A high holiday treat in Ethiopia.

Misir wat: Split lentils stewed with onion, garlic and a blend of Ethiopian herbs.




Alecha: Potatoes, carrot and split peas cooked in onion, garlic and olive oil. A mild dish with a touch of turmeric and a subtle blend of herbs and spices.

Salad, injera.

$1000 has been deposited in the EAHA bank account.












A sharing thing





Cooking Connections at Yarraville Community Centre, part of the Care To Share Project

CTS missed the first, Vietnamese outing of the Care To Share Project’s Cooking Connections program, but was very happy to make the weekend pairing as host.

Thanks to the Care To Share crew for granting me the opportunity (see link below for more information).

Thanks, too, to the punters – many from the west but more than a few from all over Melbourne.

But most of all, warm thanks to the families and individuals who shared their cooking and food with us.

There will be photos and comments about the food in this post, but really they’re only part of the story …

First up on the Saturday were Jamshid from Afghanistan, Sara from Iran and the family of Ebi, Roya and Maryam, also from Iran.

All these folks are on bridging visas.




Maryam did a fine job of splitting the dates and inserting walnuts in them for the Persian sweet rangenak.




But in the digital age, some things are universal with young folks.




The guests lost no time in leaving their chosen seats to talk to the asylum-seeking cooks.

Jamshid was busy making korme koftas, chicken biryani and Afghan pulao.




Along with a stack of finely chopped greens – spinach, coriander, dill – dried limes went into the ghormeh sabzi prepared by Roya and Ebi.




Jamshid’s lamb meatballs and Afghan pulao were fab …




The ghormeh sabzi – with its greens, potato, lamb and red beans – was piquantly amazing.




Everyone thought so!




The walnut-stuffed dates were drizzled with pan-roasted flour mixed with oil and, finally, coconut for a suave “grown-up” post-meal sweet treat.




On the Sunday, it was time for Rosa, her mum Nigest and niece Betty to present their Ethiopian cuisine.

The guests were split about 50/50 between those who had tried Ethiopian food and injera and those who had not.

The dishes cooked were lamb dishes key wat and tibs, and the cabbage, potato and carrot of key wat.




Having long admired and respected the fresh zing with which our African cooks imbue their salads-on-the-side, I was tickled to discover how one family at least does it – marinating sliced green chillies in lemon juice and using it as a dressing.




Once again, the guests lost no time in getting up close and personal with the cooks and the dishes they were cooking.




For more information on the Care To Share Project, check out their website here and “like” their Facebook page here.






Care To Share?

Leave a comment



The Care To Share project is a fine community initiative that aims to “connect residents with local refugee communities through simple acts of sharing”.

There are three strands to this project started by westerners Bree Anastasi, Danielle Entwistle, Kerry Sanders and Nikii McCoppin – two of them involve food, so naturally CTS pricked its ears up.

The Welcome Table sees “families from the inner west of Melbourne to open their homes and dining tables for one evening to a local refugee individual or family” for the purposes of eating, sharing and conversation.

CTS, on account of the restricted space of our tiny pad, had to beg off from this one – as excellent an idea as it is!

Cooking Conections will see “cooking classes delivered by members of the refugee community to individuals from the inner West” at the Yarraville Community Centre.

Our interest in this aspect of the project was rewarded by a request that we host those events we are able to – a request we were very excited to agree to!

The three Cooking Connection sessions thus far planned are:

Tuesday, June 17, 6-9pm – Vietnamese
Vy Cardona, Vietnamese foodie extraordinaire will take you on a culinary journey – and you’ll learn to make beef pho, rice paper rolls, spring rolls and lotus root salad.

Saturday, June 21, noon- 2.30pm – Afghani and Iranian
Jamshid and friends will share some their stories and some of the staple dishes of their Afghani homeland. Qabli pulao, Afghan biryani and the sweetness of sheer pira may be some of the lunchtime delights.

Sunday, June 22, noon-2.30pm – Ethiopian 
Abdi from Konjo restaurant in Footscray will take your tastebuds on a sub-African journey – their famous kitfo, tibs, injera amongst others –  and hopefully their specially roasted Ethiopian coffee makes an appearance, too!

Consider The Sauce truly will be hosting the last two of those.

There is a maximum capacity of 12 guests for each session.

Tickets cost $48 per person and all ticket monies go towards costs associated with holding the classes. Yours truly and the chefs are volunteering their time.

Visit the Care To Share Project here, or you can go straight to the booking page here.

And you can read the story written by my Star Weekly colleague Benjamin Millar here.

The third aspect of the Care To Share Project is I Hear You, “an art installation comprised of letters, pictures and various story telling mediums contributed by individuals of the local refugee community that are participating in ESL classes”.

It will run at the Footscray Community Arts Centre from Thursday, June 12, to Sunday, June 29.

eat.drink.westside – a fab preview



Heaven forbid Bennie and I should ever, through sheer familiarity, take the riches that surround us for granted.

Heaven forbid, too, we should ever become blase and unappreciative of the marvellous opportunities continuing to be afforded us because we are, by now, well-established food bloggers.

A media/blogger “famil” to promote eat.drink.westside, for instance, is something we could easily blow off as it is to cover ground with which we are very familiar – in a general sense, if not specifically.

But front up we do – and have a brilliant time, seeing ‘Scray central through new eyes.

eat.drink.westside, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, is a suite of really fine food events in and around Footscray presented by Maribyrnong City Council.

They include the famed and fabulous Rickshaw Run – for which volunteers are still being sought.

Other events include Dancing with the Tides, Malt Hops Yeast and Water, A Trio of Astrological Bites and Melbourne’s Fish Mongrels.

eat.drink.westside runs from February 28 to March 16, and further details can be discovered here.

Of course, much of the intense enjoyment of our several hours in Footscray is down to the food we eat and the people who make it that we meet along the way.

But we take much pleasure, too, from rubbing shoulders with a bunch of fellow food nuts, including a number of familiar faces and friends.

Among those we do the Footscray Boogie with are food scribe Cara Waters, Ros Grundy from Epicure, Sofia Levin of Poppet’s Window, awesome foodie-about-town Nat Stockley, Cindy and Michael from Where’s the Beef, Dan Kuseta of Milk Bar Mag, Charlene Macaulay of the Star newspaper, Benjamin Millar, my colleague at the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Weekly, Claire from Melbourne Gastronome, and last but far from least Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog, who does a typically top-notch job of being our guide and host.


We start at 1+1 Mandarin Dumpling Restaurant, where Amy and Julia take us through the rudiments of making dumplings.

The restaurant’s food is based around the Xinjiang province of northern China, which has a large Muslim population, so our dumplings will be of the lamb genre. For those among us of vegetarian bent, there is a filling of cabbage, mushrooms, fried tofu and spring onions.

Amy and Julia show us how to carefully roll out the dough balls of plain four and water so there is a lump in the middle for the filling to sit on.

Gloved and aproned, we have a grand time having a go. We’d all hate to be making enough to feed a hungry family, never mind a busy restaurant!

But we do surprisingly well – mostly the results look like dumplings of a suitably rustic (ugly) variety.

Later, we boil ours up as per the instructions. They hold together really well and taste amazing!

Next stop is a few doors’ up and a real treat – a visit to the legendary T. Cavallaro & Sons.


Here I finally get to meet Tony Cavallaro (pictured with Sarina).

We try some amaretti and – oh my! – some of the joint’s heavenly and freshly-made canoli.


Even better, Tony takes us out back where he shows how he makes his Sicilian specialty marzipan lambs using 100-year-old plaster casts.


On our way to inhale the heady sights, sounds and smells of Little Saigon Market, our group ambles to the sugar cane juice/iced coffee stand for beverages of choice.

Then it’s onward and up Barkly Street for our final destination – Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar.


Here, Mulu has prepared a magnificent Ethiopian feast – I mean, how ridiculously, enticingly superb does this look?

As is unlike the case with many other Ethiopian eateries hereabouts, Mulu makes her own injera, which joins rice, a typically zesty and simple African salad, three pulse stews, four meat dishes and two of vegetables.


I could be flip and say I happily content myself with a non-meat platter.

But “content” would be a lie – this is simply fabulous Ethiopian tucker.

I particularly like it when African cooks meet beetroot.


To complete our journey, Mulu prepares traditional Ethiopian coffee – and as Bennie turns teen in a matter of days, I allow him his first serious taste of this forbidden fruit.

It’s strong, hot and sweet.

I’m horrified to note that he lustily knocks it back like pro!

Thanks for having us – we always learn something new in the west!

And it’s always a pleasure doing so.

Sudanese in Sunshine





Home Town Sudanese And African Cuisine, 231 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9364 8154

Sunshine has long been a favoured hunting ground with us.

The arrival Home Town hot on the heels of Afghan Master Kebab and Westie winner Xuan Banh Cuon just enhances our appreciation of the neighbourhood.

Home Town is, as far as we are aware, only Sunshine’s second African restaurant and is of Sudanese nature, as opposed to the more familiar Ethiopian of Footscray town.

Based on enjoyable experiences at Ascot Vale’s Safari, another Westie winner, that’s right fine by us!

Bennie and I arrive in a good mood for a rendezvous with our good pal Nat Stockley, enjoy our meals and also talking with the Home Town crew about their food and eatery afterwards.

The team includes Shafie, his wife Nora, mum Maryam and Juma.

We find their welcome and service also very enjoyable.

All three of us order meals that are of the stew or braise variety, which means we miss out on major aspects of Home Town thing – ranging from foul presented in different ways to pasta and meats grilled and served with rice and salad.

Most meals cost in the $10 to $12 range, with spiced prawns and the Khartoum mixed grill topping $20.

Our bain marie meals are barely warm, but we don’t let that get in the way of our eating pleasure.


Nat enjoys his meaty, handsome lamb shank, while the serve of okra stew he gets on the side taste real good to me.

The rice that accompanies all three of our selections is quite different from that served at Safari – it’s turmeric-tinged but still studded with cardamoms.

The salady aspects are pretty good, too, fresh and crunchy.


Bennie orders malokhia, named after the vegetable of same name.

He loves the lamb chunks, rice and salad, but is rather less enamoured of the gravy’s viscous, okra-like consistency.

One man’s delight is another boy’s slime, I guess!


I order chicken curry fully expecting it will no more be like an Indian curry than the lamb “curry” recently enjoyed at a Footscray eatery with similar food – Khartoum Centre.

In truth, it IS somewhat like an Indian chicken curry but still boasts a distinctive African flavour.

This is achieved, Juma tells me, by combining a commercial butter chicken sauce with dill, peanut butter, onion and capsicum, salt and pepper.

I like it, and like my two companions I pretty much clean my plate of the sticky gravy.

The use of a commercial, pre-made sauce sparked an interesting conversation when Nat posted a pic of our meal on Facebook.

One of his friends opined that such a move was somewhat “iffy”.

I understand where she is coming from, but OTOH I’m not going to get hung up on notions of authenticity.

As I pointed out, without condensed milk there would be little by way of Indian sweets, the Vietnamese have long made French baguettes part of their cooking traditions, and the Thais – so I’m told – make frequent use of pre-made curry sauces.

I get two dips with my meal – a rather stodgy and bland hummous and lemony, tangy mix of grated vegetables and yogurt that is wonderful.


Somewhere along the way, Bennie has requested injera.

No injera here, he’s told, but they do have kissra – the Sudanese equivalent.

It’s very similar but thinner than injera, house-made and really fine.

As already stated, it could be that in ordering the dishes we have, we may have missed a big part of what Home Town is all about.

Its arrival is of sufficient import for us, that we’ll happily do follow-up story on their BBQ goodies and the likes of foul or pasta.





A Footscray playground



Khartoum Centre Restaurant & Cafe, 143-145 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 0452 639 329

Sometime soon after an early CTS story on  Khartoum Centre, we stopped considering the place as an eats option.

This was largely due to service that was genial but disconcertingly haphazard and a confusing menu that was difficult to navigate in terms of options and prices.

That’s all changed.

The place has been given a makeover, the food choices and their prices are clearly laid out in a big back-lit menu behind the serving counter, and there is a reassuringly routine process for ordering, receiving and paying.

This is great!

Because while this eatery is nominally Sudanese, the menu ranges across quite a broad spectrum.

This is illustrated by the fact that much of the menu is available in alternates based on injera, Lebanese bread, spaghetti or rice.


And the super grilled-meat-with-rice dishes are very similar to those to be had at Sunshine’s hot new kebab spot.

This diverse approach and a more user-friendly experience mean CTS is likely to use Kartoum Centre as a playground in coming months.

There’s one dish here that is clearly the most popular – at lunchtime anyway.

Foul is delicious, nutritious, dirt cheap and at Kartoum Centre comes in configurations that range from plain to the more ritzy that include extra vegetables, salad and so on.

A complementary bowl of lamb broth with chunks of aromatics is nice enough but plain as can be and defiantly under-seasoned.

Ordering lamb curry ($12) in African restaurant may appear to be folly.

But I’m so comfortably secure with the level of food here that I’m happy to give it a go – on the basis that it will be good and that this Footscray curry will bear little or no resemblance to a West Footscray curry.


I’m certainly correct on the latter count – no orthodox curry is this.

The tomato-based gravy seems to be seasoned with little more than salt and pepper. And certainly not with any of the spices we routinely think of as being curry.

But as for being good goes, I’m dead wrong – it’s very, very good!

All is richness and deep flavour, with the lamb pieces – some of them on the bone – ultra-tender and the fat easily discarded.

Forget curry – this is more like a fantastic stew or goulash.

With heaps on injera and good salad bits on the side, it’s a winner.

See our earlier story here and a more recent one at Footscray Food Blog here.



A West African adventure in Sunshine

1 Comment


Foodafric, 24 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0413 168 759

Foodafric is situated on City Place, just few doors from Dragon Express.

Like all the other African businesses hereabouts, it’s nature is West African.

The signage outside is subtitled “Flavours of African & South American Cuisine”, the latter part of that phrase referring to some former South American employees of the place – and thus those words are scheduled for removal to avoid confusion.

The West African aspect refers mostly to Nigeria but also to countries such as Liberia.

Today I am mostly restricted to the half-dozen or so stews arrayed in the bain marie at the front, but I am told a much more comprehensive menu is on the way.


Jollof rice is wonderful – of medium-high spiciness, semi-moist and laced with peas and onion.

The tomato-based stew that comes with it is sticky, good and has two biggish pieces of goat meat embedded in it.

They’re bone-free and quite tough – though nothing to phase me at all.


When Bennie and I had dropped by a few days previously to scope the place out, it was the sight of a customer’s serve of okra stew that had me vowing to return at the earliest possible opportunity.

After all, I’m ostensibly an okra fan and what I had seen looked just like a very good variation of gumbo.

However, the side serve of stew I am served with my meal doesn’t work for me at all.

Look, I know there’s a slime factor with okra – but this is SLIMEY! And fishy, too …

The staff member who has been serving me, Bukka, laughs when I tell her this, saying: “We like it that way … and the okra is fried so it becomes even more like that.”


She’s been patient and good-humoured in answering my questions, but is no doubt happy to hand that particular baton over to her boss, Nda, who also happens to be her brother.

He tells me his idea with the restaurant is to offer home-style Nigerian and West African cooking with a certain amount of tweaking, including with presentation, to make it more acceptable to Western palates.

He tells me that, yes, there is a certain kind of smoked fish, chopped finely, used in the okra stew and some of the place’s other dishes.

And he confirms the full menu should be up and running in a month or so.

Among the dishes and food on offer will be (links are to Wikipedia entries):

I’ve had a nice lunch, with one mis-step, but am happy to consider it research and a foretaste of more interesting things to come from this welcome and welcoming addition to the African options available in Melbourne’s western suburbs.



Bulsho Cafe


Bulsho Cafe, 303 Racecourse Road,  Kensington. Phone: 9372 3557

In this case, the food and – presumably – the clientele is Somalian.

But individual differences and quirks aside, Bulsho Cafe could be Italian.

Or Polish or Croatian or Chinese or other African or Turkish or Vietnamese.

In its own way, it epitomises what I think of as “working men’s cafes”.

Or, more accurately, community hubs, hang-out joints and coffee stops for men, whether they be working or not.

You’ll rarely see women in such places.

You’ll rarely see them blogged or on Urbanspoon, either.

If they serve food – and it’s a big if – there’ll likely be no printed menu; just a hand-scrawled list, if that.

You’re mostly required to ask.

Such places can be quite daunting, but I’ve found often enough that perseverance and friendly inquiries can lead to fine food done dirt cheap and served with a welcoming smile.

My Sunday lunchtime experience at Bulsho, right next door to Flemington Kebab House, mirrors those experiences – and I’m eventually glad I hang in there.

Upon I entering, I see just a single customer, who is eventually joined by a mate, and no staff anywhere.

I hear sounds of activity emanating from the rear of the premises, but there’s no bell or other way of alerting the staff to the presence of willing customer.

I wait a few minutes and a few minutes more before deciding to split. That’s the way it goes at these sorts of places sometimes.

But as I am in the process of departing, I actually cop an eyeful of what the solitary customer is eating.

“Gosh,” methinks. “That looks good.”

So good, in fact, that I summon up some more perseverance by directing a robust, “Hello!” to the so-far unseen staff.

I am rewarded by a smiling young chap who is only happy to help ease my lunchtime fervour.

From there the process is easy …

“I want what he’s having,” I declare, gesturing towards the other customer.

It’s lamb curry with rice ($13).

Except, it’s not a curry at all. Or not in the way it’s generally understood.

Instead, it’s a lamb pieces on the bone – mostly shank, I think – in a clear broth of the same fashion as served by Safari in Ascot Vale or Ras Dashen in Footscray.

If the soup isn’t quite of the same spicy, piquant succulence as found in those two fine establishments, it’s good enough nonetheless.

Somewhat unexpectedly, given the nature of the meal and my previous experiences with similar feeds, the meat itself is quite different from the fall-from-the-bone kind I am expecting.

The meat is pleasantly chewy, comes from the bones easily enough with just a little effort and is ace in its own way. And there’s plenty of it.

A small pot of mild curry gravy is brought to my table after the rest of my meal, lubricating things nicely.

But the monarch of my meal is the plentiful rice – done in a way I am familiar with from other Somalian eateries, but here strongly perfumed with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Not for the first time, I have been handed a lesson – that good food in the west can sometimes require a bit more chutzpah than merely walking in, grabbing a  menu and ordering.

And I think that’s a fine thing.

I would really love to hear other food hounds’ experiences – good, bad, indifferent, puzzling, frustrating, whatever – at such places as Bulsho.

There’s plenty of them, that’s for sure.

Yet they’re a part of our cultural and food landscape that goes largely unremarked.

As for women being rarely seen in them, I reckon that’s just an entrenched tradition – one I’d like to think is not based on any religious or cultural dogmas or taboos, such is the surprised delight I’ve invariably come across whenever I’ve chosen to make the effort.

Bulsho Cafe on Urbanspoon

Walia Ibex


Walia Ibex, 2B Clarke St, Sunshine.

It seems a little odd that the flowering of African culture and food that has occurred in the past decade or so in Footscray has not been mirrored in Sunshine or even slightly further afield St Albans.

Well, Walia Ibex – named after a threatened Ethiopian species – is making a start in Sunshine.

The place is kitted out in such a way that it could be interchangeable with any one of half a dozen African eateries in Footscray. No bad thing, that!

A lunch here about a year ago was quite nice, but more in the meat-and-rice Somalian tradition.

These days, the place is more like a proper organised restaurant, with a menu and all!

And the food is a whole lot more focussed – this is Ethiopian tucker through and through, with three different kinds of tibs, doro wot, kitfo and gored gored all featuring on the list.

All meals are a very reasonable $12.

I order the vegetarian combo – “yetesom beyaynetu” – not because it’s cheaper, it’s the same price as the rest, but because I don’t feel like a meaty meal.

The serve looks quite modestly sized but proves more than adequate for a lovely lunch. The single piece of injera is matched just right with the food in terms of proportion.

There’s lentils three ways –  a dry and crumbly mix of small brown lentils studded with slices of fresh green chilli; smoother and wetter red lentils that look like they’re cooked with tomatoes but are actually made, I’m told, with a special “Ethiopian chilli powder” (it’s very mild and unspicy); and finally a luscious and turmeric-yellow mix that looks likes it’s made with moong dal or channa dal but which is described as being made with “African beans”.

I love the way these three pulse components complement each other with contrasting colours and textures and flavours.

A highlight is the gorgeously multi-coloured mix of beautifully cooked beetroot and potato – I wish there was a whole lot more of it – while the stalwart mix of cabbage and carrot is tender and just about as lovely.

This is plain, homely food and I love it. It’s a little less oily than similar fare I’ve enjoyed elsewhere, too.

Walia Ibex already has the feel of being something of an African community hub, with lots of folks coming, going, chatting.

If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d be there on a weekly basis.

Khartoum Centre Restaurant

Leave a comment

145 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 0452 639 329

Khartoum Centre is a popular place – groups of friends, young families and extended families come and go.

It seems the perfect place for Saturday lunch – especially after I had discovered a sensational new barber in “Little Khartoum Arcade”. So gentle, thorough, professional!

We’d been to Khartoum Centre once – for a nice falafel plate.

One young family near us is having fish with rice and salad, but most of the larger tables around us are tucking into big communal bowls of ful.

But we know that we’re going to be taking our pulses that night in the form of  homemade dal, so we head off in a different direction.

There’s certainly a lot from which to choose. There seem to be no written menus – the food range is displayed in photos and lists at the end of the room, where customers place their orders adjacent to the kitchen. Unfortunately, the many intriguing photos have no captions, so it’s hard to place a dish’s name with its pic.

There’s Sudanese dishes, of course, but also an Ethiopian section, dips, salads, soups – and even a kids menu. A lot of the dishes seem to be close kin to those served by the likes of the Iraqi joint across the road and other Middle Eastern places.

Since our initial visit, we’d walked in and walked out several times, finding no one much interested in explaining the menu to us or taking our order. There seems to be an expectation that customers already know what they desire.

Today we soldier on – with an order of meat soup and mixed grill.

As expected, the meat soup, thoughtfully served to us in two small bowls, is a sibling to those found at our Ascot Vale friends Yemeni Restaurant and Safari Restaurant – meat soups in which nary a strand dead sheep is to be found but which are explosively, deeply meatly flavoured. But where those efforts are clear, tangy and spicy, the meat soup at Khartoum Centre is cloudy – but the depth of flavour is no less impressive.

The mixed grill is a delight.

Bennie declares the boneless pieces of fish – fluffly, light, mellow of flavour and with a soft (eggy?) batter – the best he’s ever had.

They share the plate with a handful of garlicky, pan-fried lamb cubes, some equally garlicky and charred pieces of chicken thigh and three similarly charred and tasty lamb chops.

Attending the lot are a small serve of finely chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and more, rice of no great distinction and good dollops of humus and cucumber/yogurt dip

(BTW, the Khartoum mixed grill was adjudged one Ms Baklover’s top five dishes when she was covered, with us, by Leader newspapers.)

The Khartoum mixed grill is a fine dish to share. Unless you’re a shearer taking your lunch break!

Satisfied, we arise to pay our bill. And discover that instead of the $3 listed for the soup, we are being charged $5. And instead of $16 for the mixed grill, we are charged $18. We don’t make a big deal of it, as at $25 including two cans of soda it’s still a fine cheap eat.

There’s so much food to explore at Khartoum Centre, but we’d feel happier about repeated return visits if we didn’t feel like we are somehow out the eatery’s loop. Maybe the fault is ours – maybe we need to be a little more assertive in such circumstances.

On the way back to the car, we meet the most friendly and beautiful tabby kitten. Gorgeous!