Meal of the week No.33: Up In Smoke General Store

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We checked out the dinner routine at Up In Smoke (28 Hopkins St, Footscray, phone 9689 8188) very early in the piece, and Bennie I have been back a couple of times – most recently to share very happily the Big Tray.

But it’s taken this long for me to try the lunch-time fare at the adjoining store.

The shop has a range of beer, hot sauces, pickles and condiments and the like, and has a range of ready-to-toast sangers on hand.

But I’m here with hopes of seeing how they integrate the restaurant’s barbecue fare with a more low-key, quick-bite and affordable lunch philosophy.

What’s available is listed on a blackboard.




Chips ($5) are fine, though I reckon halving the serve and charging $3 might better serve those wanting to top up their lunch orders without going overboard.




My beef brisket roll is a knock-out!

Here’s the thing – it’s something of fusion of the Up In Smoke barbecue thing and the banh-mi scene of a few blocks away.

The banh-mi-style roll is stuffed with a very Asian, finely chopped coleslaw, cucumber batons, fresh red chilli discs and coriander.

But it’s also handsomely filled with thick slices of very tasty and wonderful smoked brisket.

The price is $9 – which is, of course, almost precisely twice the going rate for Footscray central banh mi.

But it’s also a good handful of dollars LESS than such a high-quality sandwich/roll would cost you in a hipster cafe.

Given how much I enjoy it, I consider the $9 fee a bargain.





Searingly good Friday dinner

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Searz Caffi, 39 Challis Street, Newport. Phone: 9399 2393

Some of our hottest meals are deeply rooted in the most whimsical decisions.

So it is tonight.

Turn left at the end of the street – that means Spotswood, Newport, Williamstown, Altona.

It’s as we’re tooling along Williamstown Road, vague notions of pizza fomenting in our minds, that inspiration strikes.

Friday night!


We’ve been to this Newport cafe before, but since then a friend has keenly recommended the joint’s Friday Indian-style specials.

We enjoyed our earlier visit, but so terrific is what we have during our second that we decide there is no better cafe in the west – and we are left with a serious case of dead-set envy because it’s not in OUR neighbourhood.

A big part of Searz’s appeal, for us anyway, is its Asian outlook.

So many other cafes – across the west, across Melbourne – come across as dilettantes when it comes to incorporating Asian influences and dishes into their menus.

Sometimes this results in enjoyable food – but without ever quite nailing the funky spicy factor.

There’s no such problems at Searz – a wide range of deftly handled Asian dishes and flavours are on hand and Asian-ness is the very beating heart of the place.




Take Bennie’s Thai beef salad ($14), for instance.

From our table’s vantage point, we enjoy watching this being constructed, so by the time it arrives we know exactly what’s in it and how it was done.

It’s very good – and in terms of quality, portion size and pure yumminess, leaves most equivalent dishes at your average Thai eateries behind.

I try a piece of the beef and am very impressed – it’s tender, charry, wonderful.




But his salad is definitely aced by my Friday night curry special ($20).

The mix of biryani rice, chicken curry, dal with veg, fried hardboiled egg and apple/mango chutney is simply fabulous.

And while it looks to me, at first, a little light on for the price tag, such proves most certainly to not be the case.

Best of all, each and every component displays most admirable evidence of loving preparation and determination to produce a range of individual flavours.

The boneless chicken is more South-East Asian than Indian, but is superb with its salty, smoky seasoning.

All the rest is every bit as interesting and delicious.




By now, we’re having such a grand time we decide to indulge in dessert.

There’s two on the blackboard – we order both.

Banana nutella tart with banana fritter and chocolate mousse (above) and …




… peach and raspberry croustade with creme fraiche ice-cream and peach/rum coulis are both orgasmic and have Bennie and I doing our usual oooh-ing, aaah-ing, swooning and eye-rolling when presented with such finery.

These are the sorts of sweet treats we would normally only expect in more formal – and expensive – settings.

The price?

$8 each.


It seems only fitting in a sort of synchronicity way that the pal who tipped us to the excellence of Friday nights at Searz – Daniel of Woven and Container Cafe fame – turns up with his crew as we’re embarking on dessert.



Strong contender in the westie burger stakes

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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.




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.




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.




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.



An unplanned review



Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3300

A “whoops, wrong day” scheduling misunderstanding meant I could not take Tony and his son, Nick, to the Somalian place I had planned for them as I’d had lunch there about six hours before.

So off we went, ending up – after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on my part – in Essex Street.

CTS has written bout Ebi a number of times – the last more than a year ago when new management had recently taken over.

But we’re happy to do so again in order reassure readers that things are running smoothly and Ebi is still, well, very much Ebi.

The menu, and the specials board, appear to be unchanged.




The staff are smiling and engaging.

At first, early on a Saturday evening, we were seated outside, but it was a little on the chilly side so when bar stools became available we were happily ushered inside.

Most importantly, the all-important attention to details – things such as a crisp lotus root chips and the many kinds of pickle – remain very much in evidence.

I turned my back on the superb Ebi fish and chips I have been eating here for years and chose instead the chicken katsu curry rice bowl ($17).




It was sooooo good – pretty much the best Japanese rice-bowl meal I’ve ever had.

Rich curry gravy boosted by a tantalising just-right whiff of bonito flakes, lots of pickles and lots of perfectly cooked, crunchy chook, the equilibrium between rice/gravy/chicken balanced so all “run out” at precisely the same time.

My friends’ choices of the fish-three-ways bento and the chilli prawn bento (both $19) seemed the usual Ebi spot-on.

What a gem this is – small, friendly, neighbourly and miles from any of the established food strips.

I really enjoyed seeing somewhere so familiar, however briefly, through the eyes of visitors to the west.

More dosa room in Tarneit

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Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

We’re in Tarneit for the opening of Dosa Hut.

Well, not quite – we’ve been here before and this Dosa Hut branch has been open for a while.

But Dosa Hut Tarneit IS having something of an event to celebrate the unveiling of its extended premises.

There’s a buzz about the place, there’s VIPs and music and some speechifying.

Dosas – or, more accurately, dosas and the range of other Indian food that such places offer – are big business in the west these days.

So much so that even those Indian places that have generally long focussed on more regular curry fare have been forced to extend their menus to encompass dosas … and idlis and vadas and Indo-Chinese goodies.




Competition is fierce – there’s four Dosa Hut joints across the city now.

And here in Tarneit, Dosa Hut is going head to head with Dosa Corner – just as they do in West Footscray.

But it’s worth remembering that it was Dosa Hut West Footscray that first brought dosas to the west – and it’s on that basis that we’re happy to drop into the Tarneit office on this auspicious evening.

The menu appears to be the same, longish affair – and with quite a number of dishes struck out.

But nevertheless, we have a ball ordering a couple of dishes that offer points of difference and find everything delicious.




Beaut idlis are brought to our table soon after we have ordered – and on the house.

They make a nice light start – though at this point we fear way too much food may be coming our way.




Pav bhaji ($9.95) is a Mumbai-style snack dish – and utterly simple and wonderful.

The potato-based, mild vegetable curry is tremendous while the buttered rolls belie, I suspect, a lingering influence of English colonial days.




After experiencing some overly damp and flaccid Indo-Chinese food in recent times, it’s a joy to lay eyes on and devour this crispy goat ($12.95).

It’s dry, chewy, boneless and fragrant, the jumble of diced veg resembling the sort of trimmings that come with salt-and-pepper dishes in Malaysian and Chinese places.




Regular chicken biryani ($11.95) is really fine, as expected, all the bits and pieces in good order.

We depart full and very happy, only to discover a red carpet has been laid out since our arrival.

We give it a strutting, opening-night whirl anyway.



Westie eats goss 30/9/16





Village Cantina in Ballarat Street, Yarraville, is for sale.

The agent’s listing points out that buyers will have the opportunity “to continue current cuisine or redevelop into a hipster café”.




A few doors along, and also on Ballarat Street, Naked Egg (in the premises formerly filled by Hausfrau) is now doing dinners, the menu featuring a line-up of solid, old-school Italian dishes at good prices.




At the other end of Ballarat Street in the village, Friend or Pho will soon be licensed.




On Barkly Street in Footscray, right next to Ames, will soon be an bar/emporium of the craft beer variety.

It’ll be called Bar Josephine.




Also on Barkly, right next to Nando’s, the big, new Indian place Sankranti has furniture in the house – but it still looks like a lot of work is to be done.

Nonetheless, one of the chefs told me they’re planning on an October 10 opening.




Big is definitely not better in the world of CTS, of course, but I am looking forward to taking this place – and its massive menu – for a spin.




On Nicholson Street in Footscray, Cafe D’Afrique is a coffee/food stalwart of the African scene.

It is closed for renovations – we’ll be very interested to see what eventuates.




Across the road, at the entrance to the Footscray Hub, Kulan Eatery has opened.




It is a halal place that is offering a line-up of Footscray-themed burgers.

CTS soon try!




At Harrington Square in Altona, Waffee is closed for renovations.

The spot next to the Maltese cakey establishment Borg’s will soon be an ice-cream shop – though CTS has been unable to discover, yet, if it is going to be gelati or regular ice-cream, or whether it will be house-made or of the more commercial and/or brought in variety.

Also opening at Harrington Square, in the premises formerly occupied by Altona Curry House, is Birdcage Altona Cafe.

A great (halloumi) cheesy evening

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Cypriot halloumi pormotion, Bahari, 179 Swan Street, Richmond. Phone: 9427 7898

How many of the many invites, spam, deals and inducements Consider The Sauce receives worthy of further investigation?

One in 50?

I don’t keep count, but the number is probably closer to one in 100 or even higher.

But the invite from Bella at Progressive PR and Publicity impressed.




For starters, it was boldly, unapologetically stated right upfront in the covering email: “Our client is the Cypriot agricultural organisation Panagrotikos.”

Kudos for that when so many such communications are sly or even deliberately misleading.




And I was for sure interested in halloumi cheese – I eat it, mostly in Lebanese pies and pizzas, but know next to nothing about its history, how it’s made or where it comes from.

So this event looked like a nice chance for knowledge to be gained.




Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was this an event being held at a restaurant or venue that I would otherwise be interested in checking out?

The answer in this case was an emphatic yes – the event’s venue was the Bahari restaurant of Philip Vakos, an alumni of MasterChef.

Not that that impressed CTS at all – as I’m sure most readers will know.

But Cypriot food?

Oh yes.




I threw the “plus one” chore out there to CTS readers …

… and so it was that regular CTS reader and leaver of comments Mitchell and I rocked up to Bahari, surprised to actually arrive early given the peak-hour traffic we were forced to negotiate.




We met Bella as we entered – and then unfolded a most pleasant surprise.

Because in the logistics of ensuring our attendance at this event, I had not twigged – as I should have – that Progressive PR was the business of very good and lovely old friend from my Sunday Herald Sun days, Jodie Artis.




Jodie was one of record company stars when I was doing the Sunday Herald Sun entertainment thing. I put a lot of store in family, networks and connections.

My jaw pretty much hit the ground when Bella said: “But you know Jodie …”

But of course!




After that, I knew this was going to be a very cool night.

And it was.

Mind you, the place was packed – but only with a few of my fellow bloggers.




And I learned precious little about halloumi, though chef Vakos did create Cypriot/Greek sausages called sheftalies.

There was speechifying by various dignitaries – Anastasis Yiapanis (Panagrotikos Association of Cyprus),  Theodoros Ahhas (Cyprus Cattle Farmers Organization), Georgios Kyprianou (Pittas Diary Industries) and George Stogias (Economotechniki LTD).

And fair enough, too, after all they were paying for this bash!




But right from the start the food kept coming and – the reason I have chosen to perpetrate this so-far rather long-winded post – it was magnificentl.

Really, seriously this was super good – and far, far better than I would normally (and cynically) expect from a PR-generated event.

Onya, Bella and Jodie!





There was no stinting on portions – when a platter was exhausted, it was replaced with more of the same.

It was all excellent.

See the menu below.