Steak in a motel

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Blazed Bar & Grill, Sunshine Motor Inn, 608 Ballarat Road, Aredeer. Phone: 9363 1717

We’re not real big on steaks.

Maybe because so much of the new-world food we love chops beasties up into bits more akin to bite-size.

But maybe, also, because we’ve had some very average steaks in the west, ones that have sat lumpen and leaden in our tummies.

But we can be persuaded.

During the most recent lockdown, for example, a couple of times we indulged in the Monday night $30 special from Romanee in Yarraville – perfectly cooked steak, fries, slaw, whipped home and being consumed within a couple of minutes.

I believe the same deal – eat in or eat out – continues to be offered.

Then there is Blazed Bar & Grill.

This has become a scratch that demands to be itched and I eventually co-opt Justin into a visit.

Part of it is the online reviews – though I know well enough not to lend them too much credence.

Part of it, too, is the constant CTS desire to eat and blog in the less congested eating spaces of the west.

But mostly, I confess, I am simply tickled about the idea of chowing down in a motel – especially one located on an otherwise mostly inedible, “nowhere” part of Ballarat Road, just south the ring Road.

My slightly dodgy hunch and enthusiasm end up being fully vindicated – and Justin, too, is won over, despite initial bemusement-verging-on-wariness.

We are impressed right from the start thanks to the friendly staff and, soon thereafter, the presence of chef Varun Mathur.

Varun explains the sourcing and grading of the house specialty – steaks – and dispenses advice with genuine warmth that sets us at ease.

We are seated in the huge dining room, which is deserted on an early week night. There’s a few customers in the adjacent bar who presumably belong to the numerous trucks parked all over.

Then – steaks for two it is.

Justin is very happy with his sirloin ($36), remarking that it is very, um, unusual to be presented with his steak cooked precisely rare as ordered and in this kind of setting.

The chips are good and the salad much more varied, crisp and colourful than predicted.

We’d cynically expected a typically sloppy balsamic-based dressing, but instead he gets a good mix of coriander, lime, mint, chilli and vinegar.

My ribeye ($38) delights in every way – cooked medium rare, juicy, delicious.

I would’ve preferred the chips/salad combo to accompany, but choose the veg option simply for variety’s sake.

And I am stoked about that.

The saffron mash and chargrilled mushroons and asparagus are excellent.

Blazed has been a wonderful – and somewhat unexpected – experience.

But there are aspects here worthy of a return visit or three.

The dessert list’s vanilla slice for one.

And the $20 burger-and-chips combos available in the bar.

In the meantime, we depart with a simple conclusion – Blazed does meat biz every bit as well and in every way as at least three inner-west pub-type venues of high repute we can think of.

Hot stuff!

Balkan up

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Balkan Grill, 8-14 Helene Street, Ardeer (entry via Yallourn Street). Phone: 0438 887 017

A Balkan restaurant.

Affiliated to a soccer club.

In Ardeer.

Could anything be more western suburbs – or more perfect for a CTS adventure?

No.

As well, and putting aside geographical and sports factors, the Balkan Grill menu (see below) is stuffed with all sorts of interesting food offerings – some of them familiar, but many with tongue-twisting names.

And the prices hit the CTS sweet spot – a few things over $20, but not many.

Balkan Grill is located in the clubrooms of Westgate Sindjelic FC and is just a few weeks old when we – myself, Bennie and Nat – pay a dinner visit.

The ambience is footy club through and through – and that’s something about which we simply don’t care.

 

 

Balkan Grill is the brainchild of Danilo Majmunovic.

He’s an experienced chef who’s cooked all over Australia.

And now he’s set up shop in Ardeer – and we reckon that’s a smart move.

It’s not like there’s a lot of competition in this rather lovely residential backwater that surely boasts as many hungry people per block as anywhere else.

And we even more reckon it’s a smart move after Danilo feeds us good.

 

 

Nat goes with the cevapi u slanini ($20) – Danilo’s cevapi wrapped in bacon and served with chopped onion on a “Sarajevo somun” roll.

 

 

Nat likes his cevapi plenty, accompanying them with a side serve of good fries ($3.50).

 

 

Bennie selects gurmanska pljeskavica – 285 grams of homemade minced pork and beef, seasoned with secret ingredients, filled with triple smoked ham and cheese ($20).

Again, this is superb meat and Bennie loves it.

Moreover, the cheese and ham really is top-grade stuff.

Think of this as an inside-out parmigiana – and way better than most parmas dished out across Melbourne.

 

 

Bennie, too, gets a side of chips with his meat offering – and also a side of Balkan Grill’s cabbage salad ($2).

Knowing that cabbage salad was going to grace our table, Bennie and I had discussed this issue as we drove to Ardeer.

We agreed that – forget the meat – it is cabbage salad that is the true benchmark for food such as this and establishments that serve it.

Bennie, rightly, counts himself an expert on account of frequent food gifts from his ace WeFo neighbour, Draga.

And he gives the Balkan Grill version a hefty two thumbs up – even though it is more coarsely chopped than Draga’s.

I like it heaps, too.

And as Nat points out, it actually looks oily, but is not – instead, it boasts a fetching vinegary tang.

 

 

I order the mixed grill ($28) – and to be honest, I’m not quite what the hell I was thinking.

I mean, this half-kilogram vegetarian’s nightmare is ridiculous; preposterous.

In fact, better to think of it as a share platter for two – and at $14 each, that’s a dead-set bargain.

As well as slight variations of the meat deals ordered by Nat and Bennie, it also features BBQ sausages (rostiljska kobasica), pork neck medallion and dimljena vesalica (smoked pork tenderloin).

The meat is served with kajmak (a sort of creamed feta), ajvar (red pepper relish) and cabbage salad.

It’s all very good, but even with nibble assistance from Nat and Bennie, I am utterly defeated – about half my mixed grill goes home with us.

That ALL our meat has been offered up to us unadorned and rather well done is no surprise to any of us three, as we all are at least somewhat familiar with this style of cooking.

But be warned – it is what it is; if you want something more lubricated and juicy, it may be better to look to the menu’s soup and salads and sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves).

As we will do when next we visit!

 

 

There’s a final delicious surprise in store for us at Balkan Grill.

Finding Balkan grilled fare at an Ardeer soccer club is thoroughly wonderful, of course, but that not much of a stretch by western suburbs oddball standards.

But finding all that AND that the chef also creates all his own desserts – including cakes and baklava – is superbly shocking.

Bennie nods enthusiastically during his consumption of Danilo’s Ferrero Rocher cake, allowing his father a few lusty mouthfuls along the way.

The price is $4.50.

Gosh.

Check out the Balkan Grill website here.