Solid Vietnamese

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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.

 

That’s my gel

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Gelati by d’Asporto, 3/11d Murray Street, Yarraville.

As if we aren’t spoiled enough in the inner west for ice-cream and gelati … along comes Gelati by d’Asporto.

Under the auspices, of course, of the namesake pizza/pasta/Italian joy restaurant just around the corner and – also very much part of the same family business – another eatery at Rifle Range shopping centre and the fabulous kiosk at Williamstown Beach.

The new gelati shop is all smiling business and no fuss – just ice delights and a couple of standing/leaning tables to enjoy them.

Given the plethora of eating – and coffee – options in Yarraville village, this streamlined approach makes all sorts of sense.

I make my first visit, as a guest (see full disclosure below), with high expectations that are easily met and even surpassed.

Prices range from $4.80 for a single scoop and upwards – pretty much regulation gelati prices, in other words, but on the excellently cheap side given the quality at hand.

My twin scoop deal for $6.80 strikes me as a fine deal.

The flavour line-up (see below) is agreeably concise.

My first-up selections …
Mascarpone and fig – creamy, heavenly.

And mildly flavoured, as is usual with this ingredient combo.

Bacio – really, really superb.

Largely thanks to the inclusion of wonderfully crunchy hazelnuts.

I pay another visit the next day and go for the choc mint – and it, too, is lovely.

Will we be back?

Yes.

Over and over and over …

Opening times are 2-10pm Mondays-Thursdays and 11am-10pm Fridays-Sundays.

(Consider The Sauce enjoyed Gelati by d’Asporto as a guest of the management and we did not pay for our sweet treat.)

Wass up?

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Wasshoi Sunshine West, 1-9 The Avenue, Sunshine West. Phone: 7020 7966

If driving into these parts of Sunshine West is an unusual occurrence for Team CTS, then …

… heading this way for Japanese food at a restaurant that is open for lunch on a Wednesday is positively surreal.

Wasshoi Sunshine West is tucked into a rather unlovely conglomeration of businesses at the corner of The Avenue and Fitzgerald Road, within earshot of the Ring Road.

Before its arrival, we had been unaware of the sibling business in Prahran and the fame of its founder, Ikuei Arakane, and his role in Iron Chef.

Japanese food?

Well, yes – of a kind.

There’s no sushi, sashimi or chawanmushi here.

There’s not even chopsticks – we are provided wood sporks with which to navigate our lunches.

And the basic menu (see below) features what look like banh mi.

Wendy, the sparkly and very welcoming boss lady, suggests the fare is “Japanese street food”.

Hey, that’ll do us!

Eat-in facilities are of a basic fast-food variety, but perfectly fine.

 

 

Miso soup is advertised in a sign on the counter as costing $3.

But we suspect that just about everyone who comes in during these early times – our lunch takes place on the shop’s fourth day – is getting a complementary cup by doing the social media “like” routine.

In any case, it’s perfect and delicious.

 

 

There’s three don/rice dishes available – beef, chicken and pork.

I go with the pork belly ($15.90).

 

 

Bennie chooses the beef brisket ($15.90).

We enjoy our lunches.

The meat is very good – definitely a step up from what usual expectations may be for this kind of fare in this kind of fast-food setting and location.

Though I reckon the pork has the upper hand in terms of tender and tasty.

The kimchi is OK, but rather bland.

There is one simple change that could lift these meals from merely to good to verging-on-great – ditch the iceberg lettuce and replace it with shredded cabbage!

 

Aussie burgers supreme

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Not Just A Burger Cafe, 30 First Avenue, Sunshine. Phone: 9310 1568

Over the years, Consider The Sauce has fallen into the habit of comparing and contrasting burger styles.

Between the new wave – for want of a better term – and old-school Aussie burgers.

We’ve done this without ever detailing just what the differences are.

So how does this work?

New wave – American style, hipster, trendy?

A thicker patty; flasher dressings; perhaps barbecue sauce of some sort.

And sometimes a whole dill pickle – perhaps even skewered to the top of the bun.

Aussie style?

A thinner, wider patty, sometimes involving meat of a questionable quality, sometimes frozen – or so we reckon.

Dressings: Chopped iceberg lettuce; perhaps beetroot.

Even an egg or – God help us – pineapple.

 

 

Always in this imperfect delineation effort is the feeling that we have also been talking about quality – meaning less of it in the Aussie renditions.

Well, at Not Just A Burger we find we can happily dispense with such dull figuring.

The burgers are just plain great.

Improbably, Not Just A Burger Cafe is located in a neighbourhood  in which we would never have reason to look – a back water of light industrial action off Sunshine Road, about right opposite J.R. Parsons Reserve and the silos.

We heard about this place and its work via Sunshine Locals.

Paul and Maria (pictured above in pre-lunch repose) are on to a good thing here – they service the many local workers, but are also a building a reputation for night-time fare and deliveries.

This a bare-bones tradies place that offers many of the usual food choices (see below).

But the burgers are where the action is at.

And Bennie and I could not be happier with our lunches.

 

 

We both go for the N.J.A.B. Inferno ($12) with bacon added.

It’s all terrific – lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, with jalapeno slices, N.J.A.B hot sauce and some Sriracha deftly combined for the just-right degree of heat.

Yes, the meat is thinner and wider in the Aussie fashion, but it tastes of real-deal beef.

My choice is regular bun.

 

 

Bennie opts for brioche.

Ha!

I can imagine various smarty pants quipping that the presence of brioche here marks this place as not a true Aussie-style burger joint.

Who cares, though, when the burgers are this good?

 

 

The crinkle-cut chips ($4) are fine and hot. We are provided a serve of Sriracha for dipping.

 

How we ate great in 2019

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August of 2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of Consider The Sauce.

There will be a party.

The outlines of what I have planned are, at this stage, very hazy.

I am open to suggestions about a venue or any other ideas.

Likewise, I remain open to suggestions for employment – paid or not.

For the time being, Consider The Sauce IS my job – and that’s a pretty cool place to be.

As for 2019, for the Consider The Sauce family it has been a momentous year, one filled with loss and several varieties of pain, but also one full of wonderful life, love and surprises.

Thanks as always to our readers, the many friends who lent us their eating and the small business people of the western suburbs, without whom etc etc!

The following wrap-up by no means covers all the fine food we enjoyed this year – if I were to bash this out tomorrow, the outcome would quite likely be different!

 

 

Cannoli Bar

This Avondale Heights treasure has become a firm favourite – not just for sweets, but also for pasta and other lunchy delights.

 

 

On The Bone

Nat and I finally made it to One The Bone in Maidstone and had an incredibly super time of it.

We lucked into the very first of their Sunday lunch deals.

The advice is simple and adamant – once the Sunday lunches resume in the new year, just go.

 

 

Kites

Away from the western suburbs, we loved our visits to Kites in Clayton South for top-notch Sri Lankan tucker.

 

 

Fusion Ceylon

Just before Christmas, Bennie and I struck out in search of Lebanese food in Hopper Crossing.

The place, our destination, was boarded up.

And definitely not serving lunch.

So we headed for an old fave – Fusion Ceylon in Werribee.

He had one of their fabulous fried rice dishes.

I opted for the $9 “curry in a hurry” bain marie deal – and it was a lot more glamourous and sexy than that sounds.

“I’d forgotten how good this place is,” Bennie enthused.

Yes indeed – absolutely a star of the west.

 

 

Chi Bao

We welcomed Chi Bao to Yarraville – and loved its dumplings and more.

 

 

Balkan Grill

We first made the acquaintance of Danilo Majmunovic at Balkan Grill when it was set up in an Ardeer soccer club.

After he moved to a more orthodox eatery premises in St Albans, we adored his brilliant take on burgers.

 

 

Biryani King/Barwachi

Welcome, too, to two new additions to the West Footscray Indian scene.

We had happy times at both Biryani King and Bawarchi.

 

 

Panjali/Annapoorna

For a different take on curry, we very much enjoy having the banana leaf meals and more from Panjali in Sunshine and Shri Annapoorna in Braybrook as part of our regular fare.

 

Doug The Barber

In the course of food-related research, I discovered Doug, formerly of Williamstown Road and Francis Street, had set up shop in Brooklyn.

Getting a haircut from Doug is always a pleasure.

 

 

Tanoor

No story about Tanoor this year, yet this Hopper Crossing purveyor of Lebanese tucker remains one of our leading regulars – both for eat-in dips and accessories AND for takeaway pies and pizzas.

 

 

Mama Lor

Our troubled relationship with Filipino food was given an affirming filip thanks to the arrival of Mama Lor in Werribee.

Love that crackling and roast pork!

 

 

Kingyo Izayaka

The best Japanese food we had this year was provided by Kingyo Izayaka in Moonee Ponds.

And it was very, very good.

 

 

Mun Kitchen/Mumchan

Korean food?

Oh, yes, we were right amongst that, too.

Mun Kitchen at Williams Landing and Mumchan in Laverton both served us great fried chicken and more.

 

 

Cafe d’Afrique

We were excited and delighted to welcome Faisel Pkesy and his Cafe a’Afrique back – here be the heart of Footscray.

And excellent food, too.

 

 

Cheezy Pizza

“Making Aussie pizzas better” is the motto of Cheezy Pizza in Yarraville.

And that’s precisely what they do.

Make ours a large American plus whatever.

 

 

Laksa King Kitchen

For several reasons, we do not favour the main Laksa King on Pin Oak Crescent in Flemington.

Yet we are returning regularly to the new branch office on Racecourse Road – particularly for the various chicken rice options.

 

 

Olive Oil & Butter

We are looking forward to the forthcoming provision of evening meals at Olive Oil & Butter in Yarraville.

In the meantime, it has become another much-loved CTS regular.

 

 

Karlaylisi

Hand-made noodles, cumin lamb and many other spicy delights – there is nothing not to love about Karlaylisi on Gordon Street in Footscray.

 

 

 

Second Ave Grocer

It’s gone from Altona Fresh to Second Ave Grocer – but we continue to love this place, which has become a big part of our weekly routines.

 

 

Ragusa

We enjoyed a number of swish meals this year – none better than that served to us at Ragusa in Williamstown.

Croatian joy on many plates!

 

Sunday roast feast – magical

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On The Bone, 128 Mitchell Street, Maidstone.

On The Bone has been going for just on a year.

In that time, every social media comment, all utterances and several reviews I have seen have been, without exception, very glowing in their assessments.

That’s one of the reasons Consider The Sauce has taken so long in checking the place out, we being naturally inclined to seek out those places unfairly standing in the shadows.

Another reason is On The Bone’s general vibe and pricing has suggested to us special occasion rather than a mere meal.

But now the CTS stars have aligned.

They’re throwing a lamb lunch.

Nat Stockley and I are up for another catch-up – and it’s a Sunday roast.

And we both love Sunday roasts.

 

 

The former home of Los Latinos has been done out in simple, elegant style.

We subsequently learn the restaurant’s endeavours to introduce its Sunday lunches have been delayed a couple of weeks because of private function bookings – so we are partaking of the very first.

There’ll be one more this year – on Sunday, December 22 – with the concept to be carried on into the new year.

The going rate is $35.

Amazing.

We enjoy (understatement) a superb lunch in which the surprises and delights keep on coming.

They start with the menu (see below).

What I had expected to be a three-course list offering a choice of entree or dessert turns out to be a locked-in, straightahead menu – what you read is what you get.

(BTW, On The Bone is a very meaty establishment, but the service is so obliging and cheerful and the talents of the multicultural kitchen so rareified, I suspect those of non-carnivore inclinations could easily be embraced and welcomed through a quick conversation upon booking.)

 

 

We start with a simple appetiser of two chunks of crusty bread with beef bone marrow butter.

It’s very good and very flavoursome.

This reminds of the Kiwi habit of my childhood of pouring bacon fat into an egg cup for use later on as a butter substitute, spread sparingly on toast with a very little salt.

Did or does anyone else ever do this?

Next up are chicken herbed croquettes with onion soubise, aioli and herb salad (to photo).

The dainty orbs are crunchy, with mildly tasting innards that look like the sort of thing offered at Sri Lankan eateries, utilising canned tuna. Or East African sambusas of the same ilk.

 

 

Next up – a righteous antipasto spread.

Chargrilled zucchini is a lacking in char character, but still good – as is the similarly prepared eggplant.

Two kinds of mushroom are nicely vinegary.

Romesco sauce is mirrored on the other side by a chunky raita that is more like coleslaw.

Neat trick that, one I may try at home.

But a little oddly, it is the chargrilled bread that most takes my fancy – a great ingredient done just right.

 

 

All of the above is mere undercard limbering-up, however, for the main event.

How majestically awesome does this spread look?

It eats and tastes every bit as good as it looks.

And then some.

I am on a giddy food high.

 

 

Shoestring fries …

 

 

… jewel-like honeyed carrots residing in a minty sauce and …

 

 

… and a flawless green salad are all wonderful, especially the latter two.

We enjoy them, though fail to consume all of each.

 

 

The final piece of this perfect feed is the lamb leg.

That such a big hunk of meat is beautifully tasty and so tender reeks to me kitchen perfection.

Or maybe some kind of voodoo alchemy.

But most likely just plain hard work and talent.

It falls from the bone with the merest prod of cutlery.

And there is plenty of it.

The various bits and pieces take the lamb into gloryland.

Hommus, pinenuts, fatoush, jus, mint herb salad – all just so right and delicious.

This has been a sensational lunch; it’s one that will feature for sure in the CTS wrap-up of our 2019 highlights that will be published some time between Christmas and New Year.

 

Much more than cannoli

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Cannoli Bar, 23 Riviera Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 93377049

In the months since CTS first wrote about Cannoli Bar, the place has become wildly famous.

A great big bunch of media coverage has ensued, but I’d like to think it’s the sheer outstanding quality of what is on offer that is the main driver of all this feverish fandom.

Since then, too, Cannoli Bar has expanded its fare.

There’s a much longer range of cannoli available, many of them of a colourful and creative bent.

And that expansion means lunch.

 

 

Lunch options include really good-looking pizza slices.

And a couple of daily pasta selections.

I decide against the cannelloni with beef, opting instead for the eggplant parmigiana ($18, top photo).

Oh my, my, my – this is heaven.

It arrives in a very hot bowl, its contents still bubbling.

It’s a glorious mix of eggplant, the top bits nicely crunchy, tomato and cheese.

Perfect.

My lunch is wonderfully enhanced by a parade of hardcore blues classics – Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign, Bobby Bland’s Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, Sonny Boy William’s Help Me and more.

Thank you very, very much.

 

 

My wonderful lunch is completed by biscotto cherry ($2) and cafe latte – both equally fine.

I had originally intended this outing to be the basis of a story about panettone – more precisely the merits of the cheap, mass-produced ones we get from the supermarket compared to more rustic renditions.

 

 

But all that seems a bit redundant in light of the fact that I grab the very last of Cannoili Bar’s pistachio amaretto panettone ($25) and that the eight remaining choc chip versions will likely be gone by the time you read this.

 

 

Back home, Bennie and I soon discover that all panettones are most definitely not the same.

Yes, the pistachio crust is super.

But it’s the “cake” itself that truly wows us.

It’s chewy, much more fibrous than the cheapo versions we’re familiar with, delicious.

We won’t be casual about this one.

No hacking off a slice at a mere whim.

This is something to be savoured.

Cannoli Bar is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.

If you can make it, I suggest week-day visits, as I suspect this place gets crazy busy at the weekends.

There is something ridiculously fine about tootling down a rather ordinary suburban street, headed for this very cool Italian establishment.