Sanger champs

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Butcher 128, 128 Roberts Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9318 0975

Yarraville is a big suburb.

For several reasons, much focus falls on the maze-like collection of streets in and around Anderson and Ballarat.

But Yarraville stretches a long way towards Geelong – well, to Cemetery Road anyway.

And certainly to Roberts Road, where Butcher 128 is located.

Perhaps its far-flung location is why it’s been off our radar for so long.

Even now, it’s pure happenstance that takes Bennie and I there for a quick Sunday meal.

Much of the previous tenant’s infrastructure has been kept in place – hence the name – and combined with contemporary cafe gear.

There’s a beaut covered outdoor area and play space down the back.

It’s busy in the brunch/lunch peak hour, but the staff are smiling and efficient.

One side of the menu (see below) is mostly dedicated to breakfast fare; we mine the other.

Bennie’s The Meat Hook ($15.50, top photo) is superb.

Right from the first bite, he’s nodding in enthusiastic acclamation of its braised pork belly, BBQ, Sriracha mayo and cabbage/herb slaw.

My The Baron ($14) is just as good.

The house-made salted beef, tender and thinly sliced, is about an inch thick.

It’s joined by cabbage slaw, Swiss cheese, pickle and house mustard sauce.

The bread is the just the right light, perfectly toasted, to house it all.

There surely can be no matter better argument for positing “mere” sandwiches as bona fide meals than our 10/10 pair.

So impressed by the sandwich department, I return a few days later for a bowl dish from the breakfast side of things.

XO crab ($18) has egg noodles, a fried egg, crispy shallots, house XO sauce and a soft shell crab.

It’s a modest serve and a light meal.

And it’s very dry, though the sauce flavour is happily present.

Best of all is the soft shell crab – easily the best I have had.

Well, in Melbourne anyway.

It’s crisp and sweet, and thus a far cry from the drab specimens that have helped make us un-enamoured of this particular specialty.

Our coffees, over both visits, are crazy good.

A whole lot of good

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Eka Wholefoods Cafe, 129 Buckley Street, Seddon. Phone: 0412 485 132

At Consider The Sauce HQ, we figure if we ever went completely meat-free, our diet would be based mostly around the foods of the Mediterranean – African, European, Middle-Eastern.

Your actual “vegetarian food”?

Not so much.

Yes, we are cynical about such stuff.

Some of that is down to probably unfair baggage and previous bad experiences, including some with vego slop right here in the west.

Why have any truck with such food when the various national cuisines deliver meat-free food so effortlessly and with such delicious panache?

No doubt that’s why we’ve gone so long without trying Eka Wholefoods.

And why, after ordering, we are a mix of anticipation and crossed fingers.

We need not have had any fears, as what we lunch on is very fine.

 

 

The joint is the expected mix of one half wholefoods of many kinds and one half gorgeous cafe, a tranquil space in which we enjoy stopping for a while.

 

 

Bennie loves his bao tempeh sliders ($12.9).

The crispy but seemingly rather salty tempeh dances with organic kimchi, house-made peri-peri sauce, grilled shitake mushrooms and caramelised onion.

This pretty food goes down a treat.

 

 

My soba noodle salad ($16.50) is even better.

Joining the organic noodles are cherry tomatoes, chopped toasted almonds, black sesame seeds, cinnamon-crusted organic tofu and a sesame-lemon dressing.

This salad is expertly done and a pleasure to consume.

We depart without trying the good-looking range of sweet treats but with some brown rice and tamari in hand.

It’s been wonderful to have our skepticism so wonderfully rendered daft.

Check out the Eka website here.

 

 

God, what a cool cafe

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Apollo Cafe, 109-111 Hawke Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 0990

What an intriguing neighbourhood is West Melbourne – with its haphazard mix of small worker cottages, more stately two-storey homes, old warehouses and, inevitably, some new apartment action going on.

For all that it is tucked away, if you live here … the inaccurately named North Melbourne station is your rail stop and, with a bit of a walk, Vic Market is your local shopping.

And, of course, CTS is happy to bestow upon West Melbourne honourary western suburbs status.

You know it makes sense – just look at a map!

Melburnbians of all stripes and locations should be grateful that West Melbourne has pottered along at its own pace while other locales that rub shoulders with the CBD – Fitzroy and Carlton in particular – have changed so much.

But the modern world is catching up with this backwater – at that means, among other things, more places are opening that seek to fulfill the eat-drink needs of locals.

Among them is Apollo Cafe.

It’s housed an ancient, gorgeous old building that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century.

The most famous of its residents was the Mighty Young Apollo, Paul Anderson, whose name adorns the building to this day.

The cafe is run by wife-and-husband team Cassie and Russ, formerly of Carter Smith Devlin and Co in Williamstown.

Their punt to stay open all Easter appears to have paid off, as on the sunny, lovely Monday we visit, the joint is jumping.

Earlier in the day, I had spotted the day’s special on Facebook – lamb shoulder with mashed potato, roasted carrots and snow peas ($23) – and dutifully issued a mental memo to myself: “Mmmmm – that’ll do me!”

And so it does – it’s all excellent.

About 80 per cent or more of the lamb CTS eats these days comes from Somalian eateries, the rest from various Mid-East places.

So the Apollo lamb is, by contrast, austere in terms of seasoning.

But that lets the flavour of the wonderfully tender meat fully star.

Mashed potato at our place means rough-chopped spuds – real rough, more like what is called potato salad in some parts of the US.

Seasoning? Just salt, pepper and a dollop or two of olive oil while the potato is still steaming, blistering hot.

So the mashed potato that accompanies my lamb shoulder is another contrast – an enjoyable one, though not something I’d want to do too often.

This is smooth, rich mashed spud that is enlivened texture-wise by a scattered handful of roasted hazelnuts.

Is the $20 cafe burger a “thing”?

Yeah, we reckon so.

And the Apollo Cafe version is sooper dooper exemplar of its type, so much so that Bennie – whose burger it is – and his father happily concede that the above photo simply does not do it justice.

Its simplicity – beef, cheese, a couple of onion rings, bacon, lettuce – lets the sublime, high-quality flavours flow.

It’s a lot heftier than the above picture suggests and the chips are excellent.

During an earlier visit, as guests of management (see full disclosure below), Bennie revels in the beef meatballs on creamy truffle polenta with tomato-basil sauce, and shaved parmesan ($19).

It’s both sophisticated and rustic – and Bennie wipes the bowl whitely clean.

Not being so hungry, I order the poached chicken sandwich with truffle duxelle, which is normally served with eggs benedict and vintage cheddar for $18.

It’s all fine and fresh, though in hindsight I overtly envy my son’s meatballs!

On both our visits, our coffees have been perfect, hot and strong.

Check out the Apollo Cafe website here.

(For the first of two visits, Consider The Sauce dined at Apollo Cafe as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered whatever we wanted. Apollo Cafe management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Korean fried chicken and a whole lot more

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Be.K, 3/21 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 8596 4292

Be.K looks like the kind of cafe where you’ll get a good coffee and a decent breakfast.

Those are available, but as we discover – on a Saturday lunch visit for Bennie’s birthday – there’s much more going on here.

A glossy colour photo menu runs from ritzy breakfast dishes through to sangers, Korean fried chicken and on to luscious Asian desserts.

A simpler printed list has more breakfast items, a couple of burgers, ribs and tempura prawns.

 

 

The place is done out in simple cafe style and business is quite brisk – especially on the outside tables.

Notably, Be.K’s advertised opening hours are seven days a week – until 11.30pm.

 

 

Papaya salad with prawns is pricey at $20.90, but the quality is there.

The veg components are fresh and crunchy, the dressing tangy and the head-on prawns are a fresh-grilled delight.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his pulled pork burger, with chips and costing $17.90.

Served in a beetroot brioche bun, it’s generously stuffed with meat, slaw and pickled cucumber.

I’m surprised to hear him adjudge it a rather modest good, as – going by my taste – it’s definitely among the better versions we’ve had.

The chips are fine, but the chicken salt-style seasoning they’ve been daubed with is way too sweet for me.

 

 

Deb’s sanger is described as “Philly cheese steak sandwich” ($13.90) – fans of that American classic would no doubt be bemused.

But it work on its own terms, the thin-cut meat making it easy to eat and the onions and other veg, cut wok-style, are fine.

 

 

Of the four varieties of Korean fried chicken listed, we opt for the original.

We get five pieces in our half-chook serve ($16.50).

Oh boy, this is great stuff – simply terrific fried chicken, unoily, hot, perfectly cooked and moan-out-loud delicious.

Just as good are the accompanying house-made pickles of onion, celery and more.

A little sweet, not too sour and a whole heap of crunchy – excellent!

 

 

The birthday boy goes for it by ordering bingsu of the nutella banana variety.

His is the $10.90 small rendition; there are medium and large versions available.

Blimey!

He loves the refreshing base of shaved milk ice.

But, yes, he pours the side serve of condensed milk right over the top right from the get-go.

 

 

His dessert is the very epitome of richness restraint when compared with the Vietnamese coffee tiramisu ($8.90).

With its dark chocolate and crunchy granola (at first I thought it was pecans), this would puzzle tiramisu purists.

But we reckon it is sinfully, explosively awesome.

We’ve had a fine time that has been in no way diminished by a certain degree of distraction in the service department.

But we are a little bemused …

No fault in two of our initial choices being unavailable. If anything, that’s a good sign indicating brisk turnover – and it meant we end up ordering the fried chicken, and that turned out to be a very fine thing.

But my coffee is brought to a table covered – really covered – with chicken bones, empty receptacles and soiled serviettes.

My sincere question about the precise nature of the vegetables used in the wonderful pickles is met with stony-faced recalcitrance.

More broadly, despite there being what appears to be half a soccer team of staff scurrying around the place, we do find it difficult a few times to make eye contact or attract attention, even resorting to raised hands and waving arms before approaching the counter.

Right on time @ Braybrook

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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.

 

Yarraville cafe tastes fine

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Mantra Studio Kitchen and Bar, 10A Campbell Street, Yarraville. Phone: 0419 329 936

The location and setting of Mantra is both a surprise and just right: In a light industrial enclave way over in the Yarraville back waters near Francis and Hyde.

Inside, the warehouse has undergone a gorgeous cafe transformation.

There’s lots of space, high ceilings and plenty of room to grow.

Which makes me think that Mantra will continue evolving to become something of a multi-faceted community asset.

In the meantime, there is food.

Very lovely food.

The menu (see below) runs to breakfast items such as sweet corn fritters, breakfast ramen and jasmine rice pudding.

Lunch choices range from a falafel burger to what sounds like a delectable salad of heirloom carrots, beetroot hummus, dukkah and sweet potato.

CTS visits twice within a couple of days and has a swell time lunching.

The service is cheerful and efficient and the wait times good.

 

 

Visiting on my own for reconnaissance purposes, I go with the wagyu burger with chilli relish, cos lettuce, tomato, baco and fries ($24).

Now, $24 is quite a lot to pay for a cafe burger in these parts.

On the other hand, this is a terrific specimen of the burger art.

Simplicity is a virtue here.

It’s a two-fisted joy, juicy and redolent somehow of Middle Eastern seasoning.

The chips are good, though those on the outer reaches of the mound are barely luke warm and the rest could be hotter, too.

 

 

For a return visit of the family Sunday lunch kind, Deb gets the same burger with an equally agreeable outcome.

Here, though, she substitutes the regular fries with crumbed eggplant chips.

They are superb.

And hot.

 

 

I’ve already seen enough – and eaten enough – to rather wish the “poke bowl” fad fades away with some haste, seeing as it widely seems to be an excuse for slopping mediocre ingredients in a bowl and charging richly for it.

The Mantra Bowl ($18), by contrast, shows how it should be done and how good such an offering can be.

The ingredients are top-shelf in every way and – just as importantly for this kind of meal – they are beautifully arranged in the bowl with skill and talent.

Rice ‘n’ black beans, heaps of robustly crunchy pickled cabbage, several kinds of mushroom, bean sprouts, tender asparagus – and even a trans-national touch through brown baba ganoush and flatbread: All wonderful, alone and/or together.

 

 

Bennie muchly enjoys his BBQ duck waffle with mango chutney, lychee gel and grilled asparagus ($23).

The meat is juicy yet nicely chewy, though it seems to me his meal would benefit from a greater sauce/liquid component.

He disagrees.

Apart from the  breakfast and lunch routines, Mantra is already happily experimenting with Friday evening events of the “beer and dumpling” and “beer and sliders” variety.

There is some parking available right outside the cafe, while the surrounding streets are subject to time limits.

Be careful!

Check out the Mantra website here.

 

Not your usual cake

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The Usual Joint, 32 Furlong Road, Sunshine North.

Consider The Sauce has a liking for short menus.

Compact, succinct, brief.

The Usual Joint, however, takes tight to new heights.

Sure, at this friendly, spacious, new Sunshine North cafe you can get a range of sangers and there’s a display cabinet of rolls and even lasagna.

And there’s marvellous sweets – more on those later.

But they appear to have settled into a  groove of offering just a single lunch-time made-to-order meal – and even then only at weekends.

That’s cool – we can roll with that.

I’m told these meals have and will run to the likes of pho and curries.

But at the first of two visits, CTS enjoys …

 

 

… a lovely serve of won ton noodles for $12.

It’s a simple and soulful, and packed with fine ingredients: A single, plump dumpling, a wafer, a fat prawn, pork both sliced and minced – and good, hot broth.

 

 

At our subsequent visit, we enjoy the wagyu sliders ($15).

Now, we be no great fans of sliders – they often seem too fussy to us.

But these wow with panache.

A big part of the winningness is down to the accessories – cornichons, shoestring fries and a tub of super rich and fabulously yummy Japanese-style potato salad.

But the sliders themselves are no slouches, either.

The rolls are stuffed with well-cooked beef, mushies, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and bacon.

They eat bigger than they look.

And the ingredients, particularly the beetroot, convey a likeness to a regular Aussie burger – only better.

 

 

But there is much more going on at The Usual Joint than the single-offering savoury roster.

The place has quickly become a community focal point, with a happy crowd hitting the place to eat, meet and sup on a range of specialty teas and coffees.

The punters are mostly of the young and Asian variety.

I’m tempted to call them young, Asian and hip – but that might give them big heads and stuff.

As well, there is a very sexy range of sweets.

The highlights in that regard are the crepe cakes.

 

 

Oh boy, these are so good – multiple layers of tender crepes soaked through with your flavour of choice.

Keenly priced at $8, they’re quite filling and superbly inhabit our favourite dessert niche – that of decadence without being sickly sweet.

We love the pandan (above) most of all, but also enjoy …

 

 

… the Thai milk tea and …

 

 

… the matcha.

Our crepe cake slices are matched with excellent cafe lattes.

Best bet is to “like” The Usual Joint on Facebook so you’ll know what’s cooking in terms of those hot meals.