Bank on it

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Vault Cafe Bar Restaurant, 13 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9041 3361

Consider The Sauce’s senior partner spent much of last year’s grand final day in and around the Vault.

Given that sort of context, you’ll be unsurprised to learn I was way more concerned about where the next beer and the next goal were coming from rather than about chowing down.

But I did notice that there were many happy customers enjoying a range of food – mostly, IIRC, burgers and the like.

Maybe, I thought, the latest outfit to inhabit the old bank on the corner of Ballarat and Canterbury streets has shaken of the bad location karma that had seen a couple of previous businesses come and go.

It took us a while, but we’re back to find out.

We’re doing so early on a week night on which a couple of special offers are going around.

But even without them – a burger deal with drink for $18, parmigiana for $15 – we reckon the Vault is a good thing.

 

 

There’s nothing ambitious or innovative going on here.

It’s a cosy (and warm) room, the staff are on the ball and we eat well for very little outlay.

We’re not sure how anyone would go here with some of the more exotic fare, but for your more straightforward offerings, the Vault is reliably feeding people and making them happy.

Think of it as a pub-not-pub.

 

 

I check to make sure the parmas on offer – there are four – are made with real-deal chicken.

They are.

And how.

My traditional outing is as thick as any I’ve had – yet is still superbly juicy throughout.

This is top-shelf parmigiana – big, even a little crisp around the extremities, the flavour of the ham and tomato sauce coming through in turns.

Criticisms?

The chips are fine but could’ve been hotter.

And with such a magnificent star of the plate, all that was needed salad-wise was some simple leaves, tomato and cucumber.

Those three are all present, but so are plenty of things – including sweet potato and eggplant – that put this salad in the try-too-hard bag.

Still, at $15 this is a red-hot bargain; I’d happily pay full whack.

(Bargain parma nights at the Vault are Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

 

 

Bennie reckons – from an ultra-hardcore, fussy, expert perspective – his southern fried chicken burger ($16.50, $18 Monday-Thursday with a pot of beer or cider) doesn’t reach any ecstatic heights.

But he is well pleased anyway.

There’s a nice slab of chook in there, along with sriracha mayo slaw, plenty of pickles and cheese.

He allows me a sample – and its tastes good.

He gets the same chips as accompanied the parma.

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz,  39 Challis Street, Newport

Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

For sure, I thought, most of the attendees at Searz would go for the bento of miso-braised baby back ribs.

I was wrong.

The ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth won the day by a comfortable margin.

 

 

I was among those who enjoyed them – they were very, very fine.

As was everything else.

 

 

Thanks to Gopi and Joyce (in the kitchen) and Michael and Reyner (out front) for ensuring a lovely evening was enjoyed by all.

 

 

Thanks to all the various friends and regulars who fronted up for the first CTS event in about a year.

It was fun to be doing it again.

 

 

Thanks, too, to the half-dozen guests who’d probably never heard of Cosnider The Sauce but who – as Searz regulars – knew a very good thing when they saw it!

 

 

THE MENU

Sharing plate as starter
Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

 

 

Main courses (choice of one)
Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.
Miso-braised baby back ribs in a bento box.
Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

 

Desserts (alternate drop)
Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.

 

 

Fig & Walnut – winter menu

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Since its early days, covered by us here, one of the loveliest things to observe about Fig & Walnut in Seddon is what a relaxed and lovely retreat it has become.

It all fits with relaxing ease – including the superb garden area outside.

Fig & Walnut has become one of our regulars, for coffee mostly and sweet treats, with the occasional more hefty meal included.

So we’re only too happy to accept Vera’s invitation (see full disclosure below) to take her new menu for a spin.

 

 

New menu?

Perversely, I ignore it and go for one of the revolving specials – Brazilian seafood soup ($17, top photo).

With its sprigs of coriander, I firstly think this going to be a dish with an Asian bent.

But, no, this seems firmly in the Mediterranean mold despite its South American attribution.

The sensational foundation is a tomato-based broth that is extremely deep in flavour – it’s simply brilliant.

In it are blobs of fresh tomato and red capsicum.

In it, too, is generous bounty of seafood – medium-size prawns of superb, large-size flavour; pipis and mussels; and several nice chunks of barramdundi.

This is high-quality seafood cooking, especially given the price.

 

 

Danya’s vegan bowl ($19) is a bit of an odd choice for us, but we like it a lot anyway.

Somehow, the apparently disparate ingredients come together to create a satisfying whole.

At its base are a heap of cold noodle and a fine house-made satay sauce, abetted by bok choy and eggplant.

Even the pumpkin, normally a no-go area for us, plays a handy role by being so tender that it seems to become part of an extended dressing/sauce, with chilli shavings adding just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Rob is plenty happy with his crushed avo with Meredith goat’s cheese, pomegranate syrup, toasted seeds and two perfectly cooked poached eggs ($19).

It’s a fine variation on a theme that shows no signs whatsoever of fading from the cafe scene.

 

 

Fig & Walnut is a sweet treat haven, though it takes a different tack to most places by putting the accent on an oft-changing range of smaller offerings instead of a line-up of regular cakes.

For example, these almond crescents.

We’ve all had them before – but rarely are they of such crumbly freshness and lemon-scented joy.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Fig & Walnut as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was a mix of items chosen by management and mains chosen by CTS and guests. Fig & Walnut management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz

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PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT.

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz,

Searz, Tuesday, May 16, from 7pm.

Price: $30 per person.

Ticket price includes food but not beverages. There is a good chance management may have wines matched to the food available on the night.

Searz is not a big place, so seating is limited!

****

As described in our story launching the Consider The Sauce Western Suburbs Food Festival, a big part of making events a going concern is finding restaurateurs who are receptive to the idea.

In Gopi from Searz in Newport, I could not wish for a better partner.

Searz has become something of a regular for us – see stories here and here.

To my very great delight, when presented with the idea of co-hosting an event with CTS, Gopi’s eyes lit up.

My enthusiasm for this particular outing was already high but became much higher when he sent me the menu.

Check it out!

How good is it?

MENU

Sharing plate as starter


Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

Main courses (choice of one)

Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.

Miso braised baby back ribs in a bento box.

Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

Desserts (alternate drop


Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.

Lovely cafe tucker

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Junie Moon’s, 511 Spencer Street, Melbourne. Phone: 8354 8426

Anyone who lives in the Melbourne’s west – particularly the inner west – knows a profound truth about our relationship with the rest of Melbourne.

It is this: Unlike the those who live in the eastern or northern suburbs, Melbourne’s CBD and other inner-city locales are, for us, neighbours.

It’s so simple, so easy – a quick drive over the bridge or down Footscray or Dynon roads, and there we are.

And that means West Melbourne is very much in play for eating adventures for Consider The Sauce and its readers.

The area bounded by King Street and the railways lines, with Spencer Street in the middle, is easy to take for granted.

But it is actually quite heavily residential.

Those residents have a slowly growing range of cafes, and a few pubs, from which to choose.

But almost all of those options are closed at night and at the weekends.

Junie Moon’s, by contrast, is these days open for breakfast and lunch at the weekends.

 

 

So good is the food we enjoy, you can bet we’d be there once – and maybe twice – each and every weekend if we lived hereabouts.

Even better, so far as I can tell all of the lunch offerings clock in at about the $15 mark price-wise.

Junie Moon’s is very cool cafe with a nice vibe and run by a crew who take real pride in the food they turn out.

The front dining room, which fronts Spencer Street, and a lovely garden out back sandwich the kitchen-and-coffee area.

Junie Moon’s more substantial meals are rostered through a revolving list that is updated weekly on their Facebook page, so the food discussed here is only broadly representative.

The list invariably includes dishes of Asian or Middle Eastern inspiration and also house-made pasta.

Seeing what’s new every week has become, for me, something to look forward to – even if I have no immediate plans to visit.

 

 

The fig and pig salad is a zesty, light delight.

Nestling among all those spinach leaves are fresh figs, grilled peaches, goat curd and prosciutto, all doing a lovely tango with a toasted walnut dressing with good nutty flavour.

 

 

It’s a notably odd thing to be served a burger without the option of fries – but it’s no problem as we simply accept that Junie Moon’s is not a deep-fryin’ kind of place.

And certainly Bennie has no complaints at all about his smokey braised brisket burger with cheese and citrus mayo ($16.50).

He rates the plentiful, juicy, tender meat very highly.

 

 

It’s very unusual for me to order pasta with a cream-based sauce.

This photo of my house-made gnocchi with chicken and mushrooms in a garden tarragon, wine and cream sauce ($16) would seem to be a good illustration of why that is so.

It is a perfectly accurate reflection of what is served – but in just about every regard this photo is a lie.

Because … yes, it is a very rich sauce, but it is divinely tangy and ripe with tarragon flavour.

The pan-fried dumplings buried therein are gorgeous and light.

And the equally plentiful chicken breast pieces also defy the stodgy visuals by being both tender and flavoursome.

 

 

We enjoy excellent coffees and half each of a wonderful gluten-free chocolate brownie ($4).

Finally, every bit as good as anything we’ve eaten is the pot of superb raspberry, vanilla and orange jam we take home.

It’s brilliant.

 

Cheeky, cheap and excellent

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Cheeky Chewies Cafe, 18 Aviation Road, Laverton. Phone: 9369 9913

Asian fusion?

We’ve been won over by this concept, particularly by West of Kin in Braybrook.

But there, the food is ambitious and the prices tend to reflect that.

At Cheeky Chewies, a bright new arrival in Laverton, the vibe is more everyday cafe, with asking prices to match – there’s nothing above $20 and most of the more hefty dishes clock in at about $16.

Actually, while Cheeky Chewies is self-described as offering “Asian fusion”, truth is this place is more about mixing, on the one hand, Western-style fare (a parma, fish and chips) with, on the other, pretty much straight-up Asian offerings.

 

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Over two lunches on successive days, Bennie and I eat very well indeed, with only a couple of minor flat spots.

The service is top-notch and we like this place a lot.

On our first visit, we tackle a bunch of the “small dish” offerings listed on the menu (see below).

Chilli wontons (top photo, five for $10) are dynamite, the delicate casings housing a lovely pork mince filling, with both doing a lovely tango with the zingy vinegar chilli sauce.

 

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“Super Crispy Chicken Wings” (four for $8.90) could more accurately be described as wingettes, but are excellent.

Nothing flash is served up here – simply superbly cooked, unoily chook.

My heart sank a little when I saw a bottle sweet chilli sauce being wielded in the kitchen, but thankfully that jam-like concoction is served on the side and is ignored.

 

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“Cheezy Pumpkin Bags” (three for $8) display the same expert frying skills, but we detect none of the advertised cheesiness – just pumpkin.

And the dipping sauce tastes like plain old mayo to us, though we are assured it really is “homemade honey mustard sauce”.

The lesson here for Bennie and me is, I suspect, never order anything involving pumpkin.

 

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The “What-A-Burger” ($16.90) is OK, the nice slab of pork having a good lemongrass kick.

But for the price, this offering seems a little on the austere side when there are so many high-powered burger options across the west at similar prices.

 

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The Cheeky Chewies nasi lemak ($14.90) is listed in the breakfast section of the menu, but can also, of course, do lunch duty.

It’s wonderful – better, fresher and more interesting than most equivalents you’ll find in regulation Malaysian eateries.

If there’s one thing that prevents nasi lemak being as popular with us as, say, pho or Hainan chicken rice, it is the inclusion of anchovies.

Invariably, they seem to us stale, nasty blemishes.

Here at Cheeky Chewies they are prepared in-house and the result is winning.

Blonde and crisp, they enhance the dish.

The sticky chunk of chook rendang is fine.

But the real triumph is provided by the house-made sambal.

It’s of only mild spiciness, but has a rich, deep flavour with a touch of smoky about it – wonderful!

 

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Our Thai-style pork/noodle salad ($14.90) is a quality assemblage of excellently fresh ingredients with the just the right, spirited mix of chilli and lemon.

The cafe lattes ($3.90) that complete our second meal here are superb.

 

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Birdcage Cafe – opening today!

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Birdcage Cafe Altona, 7 Harrington Square, Altona. Phone: 0414 224 821

Running a little ahead of time, I decide to take the scenic route to Altona’s Harrington Square.

But as I pass Bezirk cafe on Millers Road, I feel a twinge of guilt.

You see, I exchanged email a while back with one of Bezirk’s proprietors with a view to doing a CTS review/story – but we simply haven’t got around to it yet.

Now here I am, heading to another Altona cafe to do the biz on the eve of its big opening!

Oh well …

 

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Happily, after I enter Birdcage Cafe Altona, I discover the couple behind it, Adrian and Cath, are the very same folks who run Bezirk.

Problem solved!

Or rather, no problem at all!

 

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Adrian tells me their initial focus when looking to open a sister joint for Bezirk ran more along the lines of a hole-in-the-wall operation.

But when they found and secured 7 Harrington Square, they decided there was no other way for it than to run with gusto with the greater space at hand.

And a lovely space it is, too.

It’s kinda minimalist, but in a warming way.

 

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There’s a cute kids area.

 

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And these rustic, concrete-topped stools are surprisingly bum-friendly.

The table base is constructed from a papadum machine, maintaining a link with the premisies’ previous carnation as a curry house.

 

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Naturally, Birdcage Cafe is doing a fine line in brekkies, including the likes of breakfast pumpkin gnocchi and apple crumble pancakes.

But with more room, and more room to cook, Birdcage Cafe is going further than Bezirk in terms of lunch offerings, running to – for instance – a Thai beef salad and grilled salmon.

I’m told the menu (see below) testing has all been done and I’m on hand for a sort-of softish opening for friends and family.

So my lunch options are limited to the burgers – no matter.

 

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Now, take it on board that my lunch has been prepared in the knowledge it is to be eaten by a food writer and that I did not pay for it.

That said … IMO this fried chicken burger ($17) is a sensation!

There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about it, but …

A massive slab of crisp, juicy and tasty fried chook; cheese; rough-cut, excellent coleslaw; a single rasher of very good bacon.

Excellent chips on the side.

Really top stuff, it all is.

 

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And so substantial that I have no room left for a chunk of Nutella baklava.

Adrian tells me they’re creating some of their sweet treats in-house, but are sourcing others from local specialists such as Fresh Prince of Baklava.

Also keeping righteous local vibe going are meat from Paddock to Table in Laverton and hams and the like from Sycamore Deli in Altona.

 

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My straight-up cafe latte is marvellous.

 

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