Solid Vietnamese

5 Comments

 

Pho Ngon, Shop 11/330 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 0426 210 714

Our abode closeness to Yarraville village dictates, to quite a large degree, where and how we do our household shopping.

But we are not loyal in that regard – so are quite happy to shop around, depending on where we’re at or, more frequently, where we’re coming from.

So with some life bureaucracy chores dispensed with in Sunshine, we are curious enough to step inside the Ballarat shopping centre that replaced an unsuccessful hardware/homeware establishment quite a while ago.

A search for “Braybrook shopping centre” turns up the long-time retail/service hub on the corner of Ballarat Road and Ashley Street – so I’m not sure if this new  one further up Ballarat has a name.

But nope, nothing there’s for us in terms of grocery shopping.

Or any other kind of shopping.

Food?

Some fast-food options that don’t exactly leap out at us in terms of enticement.

But wait – there is right here a good Vietnamese restaurant, one with a far more comprehensive menu (see below) than most people may expect.

So we settle in for lunch.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his “bun thit nuong + cha gio” (rice vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls, $13)  – it’s a good, solid rendition.

 

 

But my com ga Nha Trang (Nha Trang farm chicken rice, $16) is significantly better – and it’s a surprise to find such a dish at a rather generic suburban shopping centre.

The soup is just warm, quite sweet and flavoursome; the rice is nice.

The chicken is, as I’d hoped for given the “farm” part of the menu listing, more chewy and higher in flavour than typical Vietnamese restaurant chook.

The salady jumble in which my chicken is entwined and the similar salad alongside have plenty crunch and sweet ‘n’ sour flavour contrasts.

There’s places in Footscray and Sunshine I’d expect a zingier version of this rice dish, but this is fine.

If this centre was our local shop stop, we’d be eating at this joint at least once a week.

 

We bustle to the Hustle

Leave a comment

Hot Dog Hustle, 252 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

Well golly and gosh – haven’t we been very good boys!

CTS HQ has been awash with vegetables, salads, legumes, unmeaty pasta dishes and all manner of righteous eating for what seems like weeks.

Now I reckon it’s time to go a bit crazy.

I say to Bennie: “C’mon buddy – we’re going!”

Says he: “Where???”

“It’s a surprise – one you’ll like!”

Hot Dog Hustle, a Braybrook-based food truck operation, has been on our list for yonks – it’ll be a pleasure to tick this one off our to-do list.

It’s a dim and drizzle early evening, so we are happy to find some rudimentary – and covered – seating is available for our dining pleasure.

Bennie orders the “Furi” ($12) and its teriyaki sauce, caramelised onion, jalapeno, spicy mayo, Hustle mayo, chilli flakes, furikake and shichimi peppers.

Two mouthfuls into his meal and the Bennie verdict is in.

It’s supremely unequivocal.

“This is truly great,” he enthuses.

But he is a little envious of my bulgogi cheesesteak ($15) and its sliced steak, caramalised onion, grilled capsicum, melted cheese and Hustle mayo.

And so he should be.

This is magnificent!

It’s an awesome fast-food feast packed with a variety of intense flavours.

The sliced beef is tender, easily devoured and tasty.

A “free” fried egg is included with each of hot dogs and the fries and onion rings ($5 each) are good accompaniments, though the latter constitute a rather small serving.

The hot dogs themselves are far from the top-notch smoked kind we have at home, bought from Andrew’s Of Yarraville, but they’re quite adequate for the food here.

Seeing the Hod Dog Hustle pics on FB, I had been wondering how customers eat such creations when the toppings outweigh the dogs and buns beneath.

And the buns are the real fluffy hot dog kind – a far cry from the Vietnamese banh mi baguettes we use for hot dogs and kranski at home.

With their hands?

Nah, don’t think so – I reckon they do what we do and go the knife and fork.

Check out the Hot Dog Hustle website here.

Right on time @ Braybrook

7 Comments

 

Braybrook Stn, Shop 23, 65-67 Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9005 1977

Central West shopping centre, perched on Ashley Street, has long seemed to struggle to build a character of its own.

Along with a couple of supermarkets, it has a variety of servicable traders.

But there often seems to be a revolving cast of empty shops, both in the centre proper and in the surrounding hub.

So even as the parking lot invariably seems quite full, there never seems to anything particularly memorable about the whole place.

And – until now – that has been true, too, for the food situation there.

But this fine new cafe is most worthy of being a food destination.

 

 

Apparently run by the same folks who operate a similarly titled establishment in Northcote, Braybrook Stn is offering casual cafe dining that is classy and affordable.

The menu (see below) runs through breakfast and lunch, with some dishes easily capable of doing duty as both.

Wasabi milk chicken soba noodles ($18, top photograph) are rather spectacular and delicious in every way.

If the “soba” nomenclature and pickle signal Japanese origins, the dish also sports something of a green curry vibe suggesting another Asian country.

There’s plentiful amounts of tender sliced chicken and broccolini in there, along with green onion, ginger and turmeric.

My suspicions about the wisdom of adding of poached egg to such a bowl are wiped out in dramatic fashion by the perfect “poachie”.

It all works and has nice-and-mild spice kick!

 

 

Orecchiette ($17) works just fine as a warm salad kind of dish.

The asparagus and broad beans are wonderful, with cherry toms providing random blasts of sweetness and contrast, with mint and chilli assisting.

It’s a very dry dish – with nary a trace of the menu-listed salsa verde – that is nonetheless a light delight.

My cafe latte is on the strong side and of the top grade.

According the joint’s Facebook page, Braybrook Stn is open on Thursday and Friday nights; it is also on Uber Eats.

 

Nice to meet CTS reader Viv and her pals, looking oh-so-chic despite lunching straight after their Sunday run.

 

Strong contender in the westie burger stakes

1 Comment

nomics5

 

Burgernomics, 286 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

These days, it seems, Wednesday night is burger night for Consider The Sauce.

So off we trek to Ballarat Road in Braybrook.

We’ve tried Burgernomics previously – a few days after the joint opened – but it was all too busy and crazy.

On a lovely mid-week night, things are a lot more orderly and we’re keen to see what’s on offer.

What we find is a small, tidy fast-food cafe with a fairly typical menu of burgers and variously souped-up fries – think cheese, bolognese, nachos and so on.

The small crew on hand are upbeat, smiling and doing a top-class job.

Turnaround time – from ordering to eating – is about as brief as possible and thus way shorter than some places we could mention.

 

nomics4

 

While I mostly disapprove of the many leaning towers of customised burgers I see splattered across social media these days, I choose not to deny Bennie when his eyes light up at seeing the blackboard Burgernomics special of the Bulldog Burger ($14.90) of beef, fried chicken, double cheese, bacon lettuce, tomato, mayo, BBQ sauce.

 

nomics6

 

In truth, while his Bulldog Burger is substantial it is still a burger of manageable proportions.

Bennie’s unsure about the compatibility of the cow ‘n’ chook – but is thrilled with his burger nevertheless, and particularly the wonderfully crisp and big slab of chicken.

He downs the lot.

My own Baconator ($10.90) with extra beef patty ($3), too, is excellent – though the extra patty is hardly warranted given I don’t quite manage to finish eating my meal.

The beef is plain but good and all the trimmings and dressings are fine.

We’ve become a little cynical about the use of brioche – or brioche-style buns – in burgers, finding them often either dry or used as an excuse to go small.

These are both fresh and of regular burger dimensions – yay!

Our “beer-battered” fries ($3) are fine but somewhat superfluous given the girth of our burgers.

 

nomics2

 

So … we’ve enjoyed a very good burger dinner.

But as Bennie says: “They’re only burgers.”

So we’re not going to claim “best in the west” status for the Burgernomics fare.

But we are happy to include them among our short list of faves in the west alongside Burger Business, Gemelli and Zigzag.

 

nomics3

West of Kin: Winter menu

Leave a comment

wok23

 

West of Kin, 17 Lacy Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9317 7553

West of Kin in Braybrook has quickly established itself as something of a star.

And it continues to defy the cynics by making “Asian fusion” something that works and delights.

I know, because I respond in the affirmative to an invite for Consider The Sauce to be guests of management again in order to try out the new lunch/brunch menu (see full disclosure below).

But instead of resorting to the usual routines in such cases, for the first time (and not the last) I throw open the invite to CTS readers through the blog’s Facebook page.

And the prize goes to … reader Lisa, who rocks up for Saturday lunch with brother Phong, sister Nikki and the latter’s daughter, Jasmine.

A more interesting, gregarious and talk-happy crew I could not dream of – so I thank them sincerely for joining me!

Given we are effectively five hungry adults, and that the new lunch/brunch menu is as compact and succinct as that which greeted CTS on its earlier visit, it’s no surprise we give the list a very solid workout.

Here’s what we enjoy in the course of our lovely meal:

Lap cheong and beetroot arancini with scrambled egg ($8, top photo) are muffin-like treats that are both delicate and chewy – and a very vivid purple inside.

 

wok21

 

The Hunan-style sticky lambs ($8) are fine – and a holdover from the previous menu.

 

wok22

 

Japanese croquette with red capsicum and pea and mint relish ($5) is crunchy on the outer wonderfully molten in its core.

 

wok24

 

For sides, there are beaut, crunchy and unoily wonton fries ($6) …

 

wok29

 

… a very good Asian slaw ($6) and …

 

wok210

 

… and kimchi ($6), though this gets a little ignored because of the profusion of food with which we are presented.

 

wok211

 

The big hit of the day is the prawn burger ($28).

Served on a “steamed black brioche bun”, the patty is chopped-up prawn that nevertheless has the same pop and texture and flavour as the whole variety.

It’s the same clever, and delicious, style that we found in the prawn toast of that earlier meal.

The burger is attended by another bowl of wonton fries, “yuzu” mayo and pickles.

This is a winning twist on “burger”!

 

wok25

 

The recipients of the egg noodle ramen with braised pork belly, slow-cooked duck egg, nori and spring onion ($19) and …

 

wok27

 

… the “Korean rice bowl bibimbab” ($18) of braised semi-dry mushrooms, pork, carrot, daikon and more enjoy their meals.

But both seem a little on the routine side when contrasted with the fantasia of sharper flavours and colours that surround them.

 

wok28

 

The soft-shell crab bun mei with lemon-cured spring onion and gochujang mayo ($14) is a sexy treat that is necessarily light of weight – and is thus gone in a flash.

 

wok26

 

The master stock shredded duck with egg noodles, fried quail egg and all the trimmings ($28), another survivor from the earlier menu, goes down well – particularly with Jasmine!

But it does seem a little on the dry side to me.

 

wok212

 

Desserts?

We try all three!

Panna cotta with scorched fruit and saffron syrup ($12) and …

 

wok213

 

… the choc mousse with freeze-dried fruits and mint sugar ($10) are just as smooth, tasty and wonderful as we expect them to be.

 

wok214

 

The Taiwanese pineapple cake with yuzu granita ($9), however, is an enigma that leaves us a little bemused.

Maybe the word “cake” leads us to expect more – or, at least, something different.

This has good pineapple flavour but seems more like a “slice” that loses out somewhat on the perhaps unfair basis of visual perceptions alone.

There’s no doubting that granita, though – it’s brilliantly tangy flavour explosion!

As ever, I have endeavoured here to be honest – even when the food is provided without money changing hands.

So … yes, a couple of flat spots.

But nevertheless, West of Kin impresses me – and my new friends – as something special.

My understanding is that the heritage factor prevents signage – but that just makes West of Kin even more of a slinky, oh-so-Melbourne gem.

It’s a gorgeous place to spend some time and the staff and service are very good.

(The Consider The Sauce crew dined at West of Kin as non-paying guests of the management. CTS chose the food involved and West of Kin neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

wok215

Asian-fusion for Braybrook

8 Comments

kin1

 

On Ballarat Road in Braybrook – right opposite La Porchetta – is a rather unlovely commercial edifice.

The new part houses a couple of furniture outlets and a gym.

At its glassy and more interesting and two-storied end are a childcare centre and the offices of a certain MP.

This building, as I’ve discovered through reader feedback to this post, has a venerable history.

It’s at that end, the official address is actually 17 Lacy Street, that West of Kin is taking shape.

 

kin3

 

It is the baby of Andy (above) and Tram Tran, who run Kin in Chapel Street, Prahran.

But where that eatery is pretty much an orthodox Vietnamese place, it’s sister restaurant in Braybrook will be of the Asian-fusion persuasion.

Andy tells me there’ll be tapas-style dishes (priced $7 to $10, or three for $20), as well as offerings with Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese influences.

The menu will be developed by consulting chef Sam Pinzone, who has earned his stripes from his time working under Neil Perry at Rockpool, Jacques Reymond and most recently as executive chef at the refurbished The Rose Upstairs in Fitzroy.

 

kin4

 

The location is a whirl of carpenters and fitting out at present, but Andy reckons they’ll be up and running in about a week.

West of Kin will be no humble ethnic eatery quietly slipping into the neighbourhood.

It’s going to be surprisingly large and very swish, encompassing in an L shape a bar/kitchen area and a more dedicated dining zone.

Those areas will wrap around a “beer” garden, while Andy says the place will be very friendly when it comes to kids and pets.

 

kin5

 

Andy and Tram figure this is a good location – and I reckon they’re right.

In terms of eating/drinking, there’s not much to be had between Footscray (in one direction) and Sunshine (in the other).

In terms of eat/drinking any time after about 9pm any night of the week, there’s very little – aside from the nearby kebab shacks – for many kilometres around.

Andy and Tram live just a few minutes away so are well aware of all this.

Andy tells me he’s looking for ward to “doing something for the west” by opening a business that means his friends won’t have to travel to the likes of Brunswick for entertainment purposes.

Plans are that West of Kin will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and until 11pm.

Tropical garden in Braybrook

1 Comment

blue5

 

Blue Bamboo, 156 Churchill Avenue, Braybrook. Phone: 8394 2617

The Churchill Avenue shopping strip opposite Braybrook Community Centre has a perpetual rundown look.

We’ve noticed a few shops come and go over the years at a strip we presume caters to a strictly local clientele in a low-key way.

As for eats, Consider The Sauce has had little reason to stop as we cruise to or from Sunshine or beyond.

Until now …

Blue Bamboo is a three-week-old Vietnamese restaurant that’s set out in orthodox Viet style up front, with a lovely outdoor “tropical garden” area out back with gold fish.

It’s still too cold for that but it’ll be a sweet spot once spring kicks in.

 

blue6

 

The staff tell me business has been slowly growing.

It’s the sort of place where, until now, paleskin customers have been rare so chop sticks are not routinely provided.

When I ask for a pair, a minor language contretemps sees me almost handed the tooth pick dispenser.

Much laughter ensues!

Bennie and I pass by the further reaches of the menu (see below) – the hot pots, clay pots and sizzling plates – and go strictly for the familiar.

 

blue1

 

Chicken spring rolls ($8) are regulation and fine – hot, ungreasy and a little bit peppery.

 

blue2

 

Bennie’s had a thing lately for “shaking beef” ($10.50), so I’m happy for him to have it here – with the requested tomato rice.

All is good, though the serve seems not overly generous to me.

He prefers a drier interpretation of this dish but is only a little bit disappointed.

 

blue3

 

No such problems with my pho of sliced beef and brisket ($9.50).

I had endeavoured to keep expectations in check, as I generally adhere to the notion that pho ordered away from Vietnamese centres such Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans can often be mediocre or worse.

But this is a winner – as attests the first slurp of broth, high in flavour and not too sweet.

The sliced beef is of excellent quality and the brisket, only a little bit fatty, provides a fine contrast.

 

blue7

blue8

blue6

Cool cafe for Braybrook

1 Comment
mist1

 

The Mist Factory, corner South Road/Duke Street, Braybrook.

There was a quite a buzz going on when Quan Viet opened in 2011 on the South Road shopping strip in Braybrook.

Quite rightly, too, as their Vietnamese tucker was very good.

Sadly, it closed quite some time ago now, replaced in the first instance by a generic-style noodle shop (I had a single, very mediocre meal there) and in the second instance by a new Vietnamese place, the quality of which we have yet to ascertain.

Happily, still on the strip – though currently undergoing renovations – is the home of Gerry’s Pittes.

Our 2012 story on Gerry’s continues to be read regularly, confirming these flatbreads’ cult status!

Now, in good news all-round but especially for Braybrook locals, the South Road shopping strip boasts its very own cool cafe.

 

mist7

 

I love the fit-out of The Mist Factory – there’s wood and enamelled chairs and stools; the vibe is elegant and simple.

(The name, BTW, comes from the “vape” business run by the same folks, with some of the products available down the back of the cafe.)

Having a hunch The Mist Factory would not be a serious lunch place, I did not soak muesli the previous night so am happy to step out for a rare breakfast engagement.

 

mist2

 

My breakfast ($12.50, from the handwritten list presented with printed menu – see below) is very nice.

The eggs are expertly scrambled and sprinkled with just right amount of dukkah.

There’s a bunch – so to speak – of lovely spinach under those eggs, while the sourdough toast is fine and the bacon of high quality.

 

mist8

 

For lunch or other non-breakfast times, there’s a range of filled Turkish rolls, panini, slices and cookies.

My two cafe lattes are good.

One of The Mist Factory crew, Peter, tells me it’s very early days for their cafe and that they consider the present situation pretty much “a soft opening”.

He hopes the place will become something of a late-night hang.

 

mist5

mist4

mist6

mist9

 

 

 

 

 

Good Vietnamese in an arid area

1 Comment
an1

 

An Phat Pho Restaurant, 65a Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9077 7984

Where do all the newly arrived residents of West Footscray’s Bunbury Village do their shopping?

Sims doesn’t seem to be all that much busier – and we visit there often.

Nor do they appear to be hitting Braybrook’s Central West Plaza shopping centre, which appears to have had the same moribund vibe for years.

As well, food-wise Central West has never kicked any goals for us.

So that makes the arrival of An Dat Pho well worth celebrating.

 

an2

 

It’s situated on the other side of the car-park from Central West central, sharing a smaller business precinct with a fish and chippery, a charcoal chicken shop, a kebab/pizza place, a noodle shop, a TAB and a Subway.

I’ve tried them all except the latter two – nothing disastrous eventuated but nor did anything that inspired me to post on CTS.

So An Dat Pho is good news for locals – Vietnamese food in an area about midway between the riches of Footscray and Sunshine.

This is especially true as the very good Quan Viet, just up the road a bit on South Road, has closed, seemingly to be replaced in due course by some sort of noodle cafe.

On our visit, Bennie and I enjoy some good, solid if not spectacular Vietnamese food.

 

an3

 

Grilled pork skewers (nem nuon, $7) are yummy wrapped in lettuce leaves with herbs and dunked in dipping sauce.

 

an5

 

Com ga nuong (grilled chicken with tomato rice, $10) is a hit, with nicely flavoursome chook and fine chicken broth to accompany.

 

an4

 

Combination stir-fried thick rice noodles ($12) lets the meal down somewhat.

It’s OK but almost swimmingly wet – in fact, you could just about call it soup!

No problem – we like An Dat Pho and where it’s at, and the service has been grand.

We suspect gravitating towards the vermicelli, pho and rice dishes is the go here.

 

an6

World Cup: Hope lives

Leave a comment

cup1

 

In the face of all available evidence, I am – like no doubt many thousands of people around the country – falling once again for World Cup optimism.

Here’s how my thinking goes: “Well, let’s see now … if the Socceroos can sneak a win against the Netherlands – another country with a young, inexperienced team … and if, somehow, they can sneak a draw against either Spain or Chile … well, who knows?”

It’s completely ridiculous, of course.

But I can’t help myself.

Actually, considering the utterly odious nature of both FIFA and a lot of what is going on in Brazil, the best result for Australia may well be three straight losses, homeward bound and bring on the Asian Cup.

In the meantime, though, there is much football to be watched.

So far, I have found three different venues offering a more social way than a living room sofa to take enjoy the spectacle.

Anyone know of any others?

 

1. Spot On Kebab Station

Just how the playing times will work with this late-night joint, I do not know.

Food: Yes.

Booze: Nope.

Coffee: Unknown.

Check out their Facebook page for updates.

 

2. Village Cinemas, Sunshine.

As far as I am aware, this is only for the Socceroos’ opening game against Chile on Saturday, June 14.

Doors open 7.15 am, kick-off at 8am. Entry is free

This sounds pretty cool!

More information here.

Food: Unknown.

Booze: Nope.

Coffee: Unknown.

 

3. Mozzarella Bar

Seddon’s new Italian establishment is throwing parties for Australia v Chile and Italy v England on Sunday, June 15.

The cost is $40 a head.

Food: Yes – “Unlimited Pizzas & Drinks”.

Booze: Yes.

Coffee: Yes.

Bookings: 9687 0097

 

4. Hyde Street Hotel

Yarraville’s newest foodie pub is opening it’s doors from 7.30am for the Soccerooes-Chile game for an 8am kick-off. As far as I can tell from their FB page, admission is free though table bookings can be made.

The cost: Free

Food: Yes – “$7.50 Egg & Bacon rolls!

Booze: Yes.

Cofee: Yes

Table bookings: 6892163

Fine dining in Braybrook

6 Comments

spot9

Spot On Kebab Station, 263 Ballarat Road, Braybrook. Phone: 0449 545 786

A blog I have started following recently is called Mon’s Adventures.

I like Monique’s writing style and perspective, and she ventures into the western suburbs occasionally.

And while she covers food and places that are normally outside the scope of Consider The Sauce, she also is happy, as she puts it, to get “down and dirty” – as when she visited a Ballarat Road kebab shack.

Moreover, it’s a kebab joint that has hitherto escaped our notice.

Initially, and prompted slightly by Mon’s photos, I presumed this was because the establishment concerned is set back from the busy thoroughfare and next to La Porchetta.

And I found it of great interest that in Mon’s opinion, she would choose the Spot On “Bomba Burger” above “the overrated Huxtaburger any day”!

So it is that Team CTS – comprising, for this outing, yours truly, Bennie and by-now regular CTS helper Rob – heads for Braybrook in high spirits and replete with robust burger appetites.

 

spot3

 

Turns out Spot On Kebab Station has escaped notice by us until now not because it’s set back from the road – quite the opposite.

It’s sits right beside the road, with cars and trucks whizzing by just a few metres away.

It’s set up pretty much like your typical kebab shack.

But there’s a covered, turfed dining area with a wide-screen TV and heating facilities, should they be necessary.

There’s plenty of cheerful, obliging staff on hand, and even early in the evening there’s a steady flow of customers coming and going.

 

spot4

 

In some ways, we know that by being here so early in the night and early in the week, we are missing the point of this place.

Going by upbeat postings on its Facebook page, the Spot On team has already established its venture as something of a westie social hub.

Later at night, perhaps even on this night when game 1 of State of Origin kicks off, or in a few weeks time when the World Cup starts – this may be a very cool place to hang.

There’s certainly something that delights we three about chowing down right here.

 

spot8

 

Bennie and Rob both go with the chips-in Bomba Burger ($8.50), upgrading for an extra $2 each for more chips on the side and a can of soft drink.

According to the sign menus, the Bomba includes a 140-gram beef patty. As well, this being a solid halal joint, instead of bacon there’s a “rasher” of lamb doner kebab.

Chips, salad and dressing complete the picture.

Both my companions are very impressed with their meals, Bennie nodding enthusiastically after just a few mouthfuls and eventually giving it a 8/10 thumbs up.

 

spot7

 

I go the cevapi route, my large sandwich ($11) generously stuffed with swell-cooked sausage cubes and simply dressed with sour cream and onion slivers.

It tastes great and goes down a treat – or most of it, so hefty is my meal.

As with my mates’ burgers, the bread is fresh and lighter than might be expected from an eatery of Turkish derivation – and this no doubt helps elevate our combined experience.

Quite apart from our food – which we have really enjoyed – we simply like the very fact of Spot On’s existence.

Just one suggestion …

Come on, guys, make the switch – ditch the polystyrene for cardboard!

 

spot2

spot1

spot6

Collectors Aircraft Models

Leave a comment

WARNING: Explicit non-food content!

We firstly stepped into this shop with a view to grabbing a quick, quirky photo for our new play thing, Snap West. But what we found was so cool we figured it was worthy of its own more detailed post.

For those from the broader community who come here for the eats, we apologise.

For fellow westies, we hope you are tickled at least a little bit as much as we were …

******

Collectors Aircraft Models Australia, 40 Cranwell St, Braybrook. Phone: 9318 1276

It was only a few weeks into the new routine of school in Sunshine that Bennie and I altered our route.

Instead of heading up Ballarat Rd and confronting the sometimes white-knuckle stress of turning right against the incoming rush hour, we started going straight ahead at the Ashley St lights and on to Cranwell St, past car yards and factories and beyond to school.

This may not be faster, but it’s more fun and far more relaxing.

We pass parks, a huge Buddhist temple complex and even a couple of junkyard dogs for whom we feel sorry.

And it has brought riches – most notably some classic graffiti that cracks us up still on an almost daily basis and the tasty South American delights of La Morenita.

But it’s very unusual for us to be cruising this neighbourhood later than about 8.15am or on a Saturday.

But that’s certainly the case today as we’re on our way to pick up our mate Daniel.

Thus it is we pass a sandwich-board sign outside an older style industrial property that immediately has us parking and going or a look-see.

Given the premises, I envisage some sort of makeshift operation – maybe something like Dirt Cheap Books with wings.

Instead, what we discover is a well-established shop that has been in place for about 13 years.

The lovely room is crammed with aircraft models of many different sizes, shapes and configurations.

There’s even a couple of airports!

I figure this is some sort of blokey refuge along the lines of anoraks and train spotters, and that the average age of the customers is somewhere between 45 and beyond.

But proprietor Terry Mahoney tells me his customer base is a lot broader than that, and that business is pretty good.

As with a lot of niche operations these days, Terry finds a lot of his business comes from the online direction.

Consequently, he finds the lack of passing trade a small price to pay for the comfort and minimal overheads his unusual Braybrook location provides.

He tells me that the old-school factory set-up of which he is a tenant also houses an operation that produces gut tennis strings and surgical sutures.

Check out Terry’s website here.

We may never step foot into Terry’s shop again … but we dig the hell out of the fact it’s there!

Gerry’s Pittes

41 Comments

133 South Rd, Braybrook. Phone: 9311 9383

Exchanging dough for baked dough at Gerry’s Pittes – “First & best in Australia since 1969” – is an odd experience even by the sometimes quirky standards of the western suburbs.

I’ve been alerted to Gerry’s and the wisdom of investing in some of his bread, by Consider The Sauce friend Rich, who wrote:

Ever done fresh Gerry’s Pittas from the factory/shop front in South Road, Braybrook? Just down from that Viet place (Quan Viet) you covered a little while back. $7ish for a fresh bag of 20! Awesome for pizzas and brilliant with a lil’ butter and pan fried for a minute, a tiny squeeze of lemon goes well too. They’re open early till about 3 or so during the week … I know its a lot but thing is you can freeze ’em and they still come up well after 20 secs in the micro. They freeze well for me … but @ $7 for a bag of 20 … and the fact they have made me salivate in a ridiculous manner for many years – it’s worth the gamble.

Suzy, another Consider The Sauce buddy, chimed in, too:

You should check out Gerry’s Pitas in the same strip. Ring the bell to buy direct best Greek pitas going.

So here I am, standing in front of a plain, unwindowed shopfront in Braybrook.

I do as the signage instructs me and depress the busted-up bell.

A minute or so later the door is opened by a flour-dusted bloke who utters a few words in Greek to me then inquires in English what it is I want.

“I want some pita bread.”

“How many?”

“How do you do them?”

“Bag of 20 for $7.”

“OK.”

The doors closes, preventing me from inhaling any more the of delicious baking aroma coming from inside or trying to get peek of the operation, leaving me somewhat bemused.

Have I ever gazed upon a flour-stained footpath before?

I don’t think so.

A few minutes later, the bloke is back.

He takes my money, gives me my bread and makes change.

Surely, since this operation has been in operation since 1969, this guy is too young to be Gerry?

I ask him.

“No – I’m the supervisor,” he says before briskly consenting to having his photo taken and closing the door once more.

This transaction has been singularly lacking the sort of warmth I value so much, but that’s kind of neat in its own way.

If or when you ever have a late-night kebab from one of the kebab shacks/caravans, I reckon there’s a pretty good chance this is where its wrapping will have come from.

But saying that seems like doing these breads something of a disservice.

The freshness is the thing.

My breads are still warm when I get them home a few hours later, and when opened the bag emits a tantalising reminder of the previously enjoyed bakery aroma.

It’s a lot heavier than Lebanese-style pita. Eating one straight out of the bag is quite a lot like eating ordinary bread.

This is certainly value for money, with half of them going straight into the freezer.

I like Rich’s idea of giving them the frypan treatment. That’ll go sensationally well with the Greek salads that are among our favourite meals.

And with quite a hefty density, I can see them standing in for the supermarket rotis, parathas and naans we’ve been seriously unimpressed by whenever we’ve tried them.

One’ll get a test run with tonight’s dal.

And I know Bennie will love them a whole lot more for school lunches than the breads and rolls that have been our routine to this point in time.

The Pie & Pastry House

Leave a comment

166 Churchill Ave, Braybrook. Phone: 9311 3388

Gotta love an old-school pie shop – and it’s a delight that there’s so many in the western suburbs, happily holding their own amid the multicultural swirl.

The Pie & Pastry House, operating since 1952 according the its business card, certainly fits the bill right from the decor and screen door to the milkshake machine and technicolour display of doughnuts.

It lives in a Braybrook shopping strip that features a couple of Filipino places awaiting our further exploration and opposite a park and adventure playground at which we’ve attended many a birthday party.

I order my standard lunch in such places – a plain beef pie and a sausage roll.

The plastic cutlery is a bit of a downer, offset by the tomato sauce coming in squeeze bottle form rather than the a horrid sachet.

The pastry outer of my sausage roll is incredibly flaky, and soon the whole table is flecked with it. It’s just OK, tending towards blandness – as sausage rolls tend to do.

The pie, pastry not so flaky, is better, though in need of a seasoning boost by my way of thinking.

I like my lunch items, and I sense that they and the other lines the shop sells are perfectly suited for its loyal and long-term customers, quite a few of whom come and go as I am going about my lunch business.

The vanilla slices look scrumptious.

The ginormous family-size pasties, at $9.50, look like an outright bargain and destined soon for a test run on our dinner table. Visual appraisal suggests that with a bit of help from salad on the side, they’d feed two adults and two kids no problem

All I take away with me though are a single lemon tart ($1.25) and a single cream shortbread ($1).

The former is, fittingly, old-school, with a slightly chewy filling.

The latter is a sensational taste grenade – two pieces of light, fresh shortbread, joined by a smooth vanilla cream and dusted in icing sugar.

It’s not just the highlight of the day – it’s the best of the week.

Such a simple, affordable pleasure!

Quan Viet

7 Comments

 

103 South Rd, Braybrook. Phone: 9312 1009

For many years, every time we drove past the slightly ramshackle yet high-potential shopping strip on South Rd, Braybrook, we would scan the shopfronts eagerly.

Why not? After all, it’s just the sort of precinct that regularly delivers us food gratification.

We have always been disappointed, though.

A locked-up premises going by the splendid name of Extreme Pizza & Kebab, a couple of beauty salons and groceries but little more to inspire us to explore further.

Until a few weeks’ back, when there it was – bingo! – right on the corner: A brand new Vietnamese eatery.

Our mid-week visit is our first, the place is companionably busy but the service is great.

The vibe is nice – about midway between your standard, tiled, formica-laden pho joint and some of the swisher joints in Footscray central.

We are first seated at a tiny table for two, but then invited to move a bigger option near the front window that affords us more room for all the bits and pieces, including Bennie’s lurid drink.

The menu seems to throw up few real surprises or points of difference.

There is pho, the usual rice dishes, spring and paper rolls, although there is also beef stew on rice or egg noodle (hu tieu/mi bo kho, $9) and crab meat fried rice (com chien cua, $11).

Despite that, we manage a combined order that is unusually innovative for us.

On the illustrated menu Bennie stabs a digit at the Quang style rice noodles (mi Quang, $9) and says: “I want that!”

This is very, very fine, though Bennie is put off slightly by the presence of two hard-boiled egg halves.

A popular dish from the provinces of Quang Nam and Da Nang in the south central coast of Vietnam, this is built on a hearty handful of very wide, slippery and delicious rice noodles coloured/flavoured with turmeric. The effect is just like the kind of sexy artisan pasta you might get in a posh Italian joint like Grossi Florentino – and pay about $30 or so for the privilege!

Also on board are a fish-based stock, chicken that seems to be stewed rather than steamed or fried, two fat prawns still in their crunchy shells, peanuts and strips of juicy, fatty pork, the lot topped by a couple of commercial prawn crackers and some mint.

It’s all good and I covet it. It’s a refreshing option to the many other soup/noodle options – a bit like Assam laksa is to its Malaysian soup/noodles colleagues.

Bennie likewise covets my order – Vietnamese pan-fried crepe (banh xeo, $11).

This has less stuffing than I’ve had at the likes of Pho Hien Saigon in Sunshine or Wild Rice in Williamstown. In some ways, this is no bad things as it allows the flavour of turmeric-tinged rice flour pancake to come through.

As Bennie memorably opines: “It’s fried and floppy at the same time!”

The filling of the same pork strips as in Bennie’s soup, fine small/medium shell-on prawn tails and bean sprouts is fine with the pancake, fish sauce/chilli dipping concoction and voluminous plate of leafy wonders and mint.

Halfway through our dinner, Bennie and I do swappsies, though I then discover the lad has slurped all the fangtastic noodles. No fair!

Quan Viet seems likely to prosper and thrive not only based on its fine food, which we’re keen to try again soonish.

Like Minh Hy, just up the road apiece in Sunshine, Quan Viet stands out for being the only outlet of its kind in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Check out a much more in-depth review at Footscray Food Blog here.

Quan Viet on Urbanspoon

Ashley Hotel

2 Comments

226 Ballarat Rd, Braybrook. Phone: 9317 9257

Like La Morenita, the Ashley Hotel is part of our daily school routine  – so much so that it seems like a case of the more we see it, the more invisible it becomes.

It was on our “to do”, list, however, with the lure of $15 roasts holding appeal.

As we set off on our bikes – Bennie giving his brand new three-quarter machine its first workout – it is the last thing on our minds, with a loose target of Sunday lunch in Sunshine lodged in our minds.

But by the time we get to the junction of Ballarat Rd and Ashley St, we decide that’s enough serious exertion for the day. It’s sunny, yes, but not too hot; and there’s a nice cool breeze helping out. But, frankly, we just can’t be bothered with the whole trek up to Sunshine from there.

We consider the Sri Lankan place just up the road, but decide the Ashley is the go – the final clincher being the big billboard outside talking up $10 lunches.

After locking up our bikes, we meander inside and check the place out. It’s big and spacious, with the pokies hard to ignore but not particularly overbearing in terms of ambiance.

Already, just a touch past noon, there are a number of tables in lunch mode, including some taking advantage of the seniors special offers.

We order – fish and chips for me, calamari and chips for him. Two pots of that Coca Cola stuff ramp the price up to $27 and beyond cheap eats boundaries.

I do the right thing, asking if it’s OK to take photos. “No”, comes the firm reply. I try some halfhearted arguments, but give in graciously – I seriously want to enjoy my lunch. The thought of surreptitiously snapping off a few pics crosses my mind, but I can do without the aggro – or even the potential aggro.

As we wait for our meals, we adjourn to the adjacent Sportsbar, which looks like a pretty cool place to take in a big game, with its comfy couches and bank of telly screens – even if about half of them are showing nothing more than various odds concerning that afternoon’s cricket match at the MCG.

The Sportsbar menu is a little pricier, with likes of chicken parma, burger and rump steak clocking in at $12.

The main menu is far more extensive, with salads at around $15, mains $17 to $24, pan-cooked fish about $22 and grills from $26 up to $32.50.

The usual suspects are available on the kids menu for $8.50.

Our meals arrive and a look of befuddlement accosts our faces.

I wander over to once more take in the large poster, with prominent photographs, that describes the $10 meal line-up. Sure enough, the photos representing our respective meals contain salad offerings.

Our meals are thoroughly minus greenery of any kind, but still OK. However, they look like bare-bones takeaway feeds, which makes the $27 price tag a little galling

Chips, very good.

Fish, modestly proportioned but with a nice crispy batter.

Calamari, a nice sized serve with crunchy crumbed coating, but lacking flavour.

Tartare sauce, whether house made or not I know not, but tasty and a whole lot better than sachets.

As we leave, Bennie points at the poster and says: “Dad, look!” He’s pointing at a narrow strip of relatively small type that runs along the poster’s bottom.

It says, with no equivocation, served with “chips only”.

I have no doubt that the colour scheme –  orange type on a red background – is deliberately chosen so that eyes already diverted by the colour photos above will simply slide past the warning without even seeing it. Bluntly, our meals did not match the large photographs, while the written warning that such would be the case was hidden in plain sight.

There may be bargains at the Ashley, but I figure they’ll take some serious pondering to unearth – and certainly there’s no guarantee that bargains, should they indeed exist, are the “bargains” the establishment goes to such trouble to advertise.

As with the plainly-spoken but slyly camouflaged warning about the lean ‘n’ mean nature of the $10 meals, I seriously doubt that anything about the Ashley – pricing, signage, menu wording, the lot – comes about by accident.

The hotel is owned by the AHL Group, which is 75 per cent owned by Woolworths Ltd, with the balance held by the Bruce Mathieson Group.

They’re in it to make money, of course, and I have no problem with that. But it’s hard to feel well disposed toward it when we a feel not so much like guests or even customers … and more like units of potential profit.

We truly love to love the places we eat at, but when pushed we, too, can bring a semblance of scientific calculation to decisions about where we spend our money.

On the way home, we take the opportunity to have a a quick wheel around Ashley Gardens BIG4 Holiday Village. Wow, it’s really spiffy – lots and lots of real nice looking cabins and units, and a cool pool, too.

I ask the staff if they allow non-guests to use the pool – for a suitable fee, of course.

Receiving a negative answer, I yell out to Bennie: “No go, mate – we’ll have to sneak in at night!”

Just kidding, folks!

Closing in on Yarraville, we stop for coffee at Africa Taste Bar. We know well taking photos is fine with the management, but in this case they oblige by taking one of us.