Footscray star’s makeover

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Hien Vuong Pasteur, 164 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 9698

The many shoulder-to-shoulder eating houses of Footscray are forever in a state of flux.

Old ones close, new ones open, stayers are overhauled, new names and a lick of paint are applied to the tired – and some disappear forever.

It’s a fascinating cycle, one experienced – often subliminally – by anyone who spends time there.

And so it is that our fave pho joint has had a makeover.

We’ve always favoured Hien Vuong Pasteur – for the high-quality of its food, but also because it’s a smallish family operation that can relied upon to always have a seat or table to spare.

So in some ways we’re sad to see its old-school formica/utilitarian/white classic pho house appearance give way to something hipper.

But in truth the revamp here has been done with more class than most in this neighbourhood – its stylish and welcoming, a central high table with stools surrounded by orthodox tabling.

And it appears to be working!

On both our recent visits here, the place has been bustling.

 

 

And the food?

Well that hasn’t changed – still top-shelf pho house classics.

Including superb medium pho with sliced chicken and beef ($12).

 

 

Like most of its kind, Hien Vuong Pasteur has a smallish range of more exotic dishes, including bo kho (beef stew, $12).

This one – served with both egg and rice noodles at my request – is a bit different from others in the west, in that the beef pieces are smaller and there are no bones.

But the keys, as always with this dish, are the soup/broth (very good) and the carrot.

The carrot is invariably in big chunks – and hopefully holding together yet on the verge of disintegration.

As is the case here!

 

Bar won

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Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

What an ornament to Foostcray Littlefoot has become.

Was it the first bar to set up shop in Footscray central?

I think it was.

In the years since, it has been joined by a bunch of others – and they all appear to have something of their own to contribute to the local scene.

But Littlefoot continues to set a high standard – not only in food and drink, but also through deep immersion in the community through live music (beyond covers), a plethora of DJs and all sorts of “special” events.

As well, Littlefoot continues to carry a kitchen, unlike most of its neighbouring bar fellows. The Cheeky Pint, a few doors away, also cooks.

We are happy to accept an invitation to take the new winter menu for a run (see full disclosure below).

On this night, Team CTS consists of myself, Bennie, Justin and Will.

We eat well and deeply, coming away happy and satisfied.

Some of the tucker is right there in bar food mode – the sort of things you’d be happy to get a bite of if you were imbibing at Littlefoot anyway.

But some things we think are on another, higher level – making Littlefoot a food destination in its own right.

 

 

The charcuterie board ($25) is a good starter for us – tonight we are hungry lads.

It’s mix of  sour, salty, oily and chewy would also be an ideal light meal for two.

 

 

The DIY taco board ($18) is a hit – the undoubted highlight that elicts admirational comments all round.

The fours fish pieces – snapper – are superbly crumbed and deep-fried, holding together beaut even under the strain of taco construction. The flesh is both firmish and delicate.

Of the bits and pieces, it’s the red cabbage that adds tangy contrast. It’s is joined by guacamole, jalapenos, lime and swathes of fresh coriander.

This is a bargain – and zooms into Great Dishes of the West reckoning.

 

 

Just as expertly fried are the mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes ($12) – this is glorious stodge. Could’ve done with a bit more seasoning, IMO.

 

 

My friends seem a little less enamoured of our two burgers than I.

Perhaps we’re all a little burgered out?

But I reckon they’re both good, solid efforts.

The burgers are available in three modes – Littlefoot, Wild West and Bulldogs.

The beef burger ($20) comes in Bulldog garb of cheese, pickles, red onion, pickle, lettuce and “special burger sauce”.

This handy handful is accompanied by good chips.

 

 

If anything, our jackfruit burger ($20) is more noteworthy for the simple reason it offers an alternative to lentil patties and the like.

It’s done out in Wild West style – and that means a zingy combo of jalapenos, sriracha, caramelised onions, mustard, cheese, tomato and lettuce.

 

 

Another flavour hit – of the snacky variety – is provided by the lip-smackingly good edamame ($7) with garlic and black pepper.

Beer food supreme.

 

 

Unfortunately, amid this avalanche of food, the nachos ($14) and the fries loaded with pulled pork and slaw ($16, not pictured) get a bit lost.

Perhaps at another time with liquid redreshment in hand?

(Consider The Sauce dined at Littlefoot as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Littlefoot management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Pantry entry

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Ammas Pantry, 33 Parker Street, Footscray. Phone: 0439 902 384

Meet Deanne Thiedeman, on the left, and Beth Lavelle.

Ammas Pantry is their first foray into the hospitality industry, having taken over the premises on the corner of Parker and Hyde following the closing of relatively short-lived predeccesor.

They met when their two Sri Lankan-background sons attended, and became pals, at the kinder opposite their new cafe.

As you’d expect, that kinder and the next-door school play a fairly big part in the life, and prospective prosperity, of Ammas Pantry – but there’s lots here for a broader audience, too.

So while there’s the muffins and sandwiches and coffee you’d expect of an establishment right opposite two education institutions, Ammas is also delivering fine lunch-time meals that are delicious, affordable and of just the right heft for a daytime feed.

As I find out to my pleasure and satisfaction during two lunch visits.

Both my meals are built around brown rice, something that would cause Bennie to get a tad sniffy – but which I enjoy, especially when two differing sets of Asian flavours are so adeptly harnessed.

 

 

This fine, mild chicken curry, for instance, at $15.50.

It’s handily accompanied by that brown rice, a veg-studded dal, chutney, raita, a Sri-Lankan-style dry coconut jumble and a papadum

It’s excellent.

It makes me happy.

 

 

Same deal with this identically priced lunch bowl of brown rice, pickled ginger, carrot, cucumber, radish, avocado, wasabi, mayo and smoked salmon.

At first glance, this appears to be considerably more strident in terms of earnest brown rice-iness.

But there is just the right amount of seasoning and lubrication to make the whole thing sing – and not seem like a wholesome chore.

Deanne and Beth tell me the line-up will be tweaked as we move into winter.

Meals such as the two above will remain, but will be joined by some things of the “comfort food” variety.

 

Cafe imagination

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Bruger, 487 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Our post-kung fu Saturday routine usually runs along the lines spicy Vietnamese, Indian or African food.

But today we try something a little different – Bruger, which is located just down Barkly from Sims and 504 Receptions.

It’s a sister cafe to the nearby West 48 in Essex Street – but it has quite a different feel.

 

 

The long room is all about high stools and heaps of wood and stone.

It’s classy – and perhaps more like a bar than a cafe.

We take note of the breakfast options and then ignore them.

But the sparks of imagination that show in our lunch meals are in evidence, too, on the breakfast list.

Sambal chilli eggs for, example.

Or – more hearty – polish sausage with fried egg, gruyere, gherkin relish and kewpie mayo.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his daily special of eight-hour pork belly on a soba and papaya salad with nam jim dressing ($18.50).

He makes special mention of the shredded pork – “very soft”, says he.

In addition to the listed ingredients, there’s a stack of bean sprouts and peanuts and a nifty slab of crackling.

Salad Boy invariably gives papaya salad and related dishes serious consideration when we’re out and about elsewhere, so that’s why he orders this at Bruger.

But while it pleases, it’s fair to record that this cafe outing is notably muted in terms of the sort tang, zing, sourness, heat and bite he expects and welcomes at various Thai or Vietnamese places.

Still good, though!

My brisket rice bowl ($18, top photo) is something of a masterpiece.

The ingredients – pilaf rice, brisket, coriander chutney, pine nuts and cumin “hommus” – are familiar.

Yet here they are teamed in a magical way, the contrasting flavours bouncing off each other with tasty glee.

Often, when pine nuts are listed, they end up constituting little more than a garnish.

Here they play a plentiful and significant role.

The brisket is superb – high on smoky flavour, yet distributed through the rice in small pieces.

Want to grab some of that great barbecue vibe without going full carnivore?

Right here, with this dish, is your solution.

I know there’s those who’ll question the prices.

But they’re very fair for food of such good quality and the serves are suitably filling for not-too-heavy lunchtime fare.

 

Gordon Street Bakery

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Gordon Street Bakery, 63 Gordon Street, Footscray.

Much excitement has attended the arrival of a French bakery in Gordon Street, Footscray.

Several readers have contacted CTS to express their pleasure and curiosity.

For them and everyone else, we have good news – but we would also counsel patience.

The place is up and running – and baking.

But while it is done out in bright cafe style, the arrival of a coffee machine is a couple of weeks away.

 

 

The bakery is the work of Wilhelm Isaac (above), who tells me he’ll be providing simple in-house fare such as ham-and-cheese croissants and filled baguettes.

 

 

In the meantime, there’s goodies to go.

The baguette I take home is a ripper – crunchy, chewy, superb.

The kind of thing, in other words, that elevates the simple fillings I use – cheese, roast red capsicum, rocket, tomato – well into sublime.

OK, it IS Red Leicester I use – but that’s what is in the fridge.

And it isn’t it great to see Gordon Street Bakery join Karlaylissi in injecting some cool life into this dreary precinct?

Gordon Street Bakery is open 7am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

 

Meal of the week No.50: Punjab Sweets

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Home deliveries?

We  try to keep them to a minimum – and more based on empty fridge and pantry and all-round tiredness than any sense of celebratory extravagance.

But this week I spied a new arrival in the food delivery app world – Punjab Sweets (56 Irving Street, Footscray, formerly known as Saudagar).

So caved, I did.

When it comes to deliveries, we’re usually cautious about various kinds of breads.

Dosas, in particular, don’t travel well.

But then, the universal popularity of delivered pizzas leaves us bemused.

So how would Punjab Sweets’ chole bhature go?

Well, as it turns out … very, very good indeed.

To my great surprise and outright delight, the two fried breads/bhatura are hot, not overly oily and in such good nick it’s like they could’ve been whisked straight from the kitchen to an in-house table.

Wow!

The chick peas, too, are fine and dandy – al dente and all delicious.

Throw in the expected onion slices and yogurt and all is good.

This is a swell offering at $9.99.

And even at $15 all up delivered to our front door, it’s still a good deal.

Ethiopian in upper Barkly

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GeBeta Cafe and Restaurant, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0432 523 921

The word GeBeta, Tamrat Achamyeleh tells us, is about Ethiopian food.

Not just the platters on which the stews and pan-fried goodies are served, nor the injera with which they are accompanied or the gathered hungry folks.

Nay, it is all of the above – a sort of “let’s all eat together” statement of purpose.

We’re totally down with that, especially when it comes to trying a brand new Ethiopian eatery in West Footscray.

That’s right – West Foostcray, rather than the more typically Ethio/African precincts of the singularly named Footscray near the other end of Barkly Street.

After sampling the GeBeta food, we reckon the locals around here will love supporting this colourful addition to their eating palette, one that is otherwise tilted towards Indian food – though not quite as much as is sometimes claimed.

GeBeta is being run by Tamrat Achamyeleh and Tiruzer Ahunem, whose food we enjoyed on many occasions at Ras Dashen on Nicholson Street.

We admire their smarts in moving up the road where there is much less competition of the Ethiopian variety.

None, actually.

The menu – see it at the place’s website here – features a line-up of reliable Ethiopian regulars.

We are in a meaty mood so share a lovely spread of doro w’et – “the national dish of Ethiopia” – and kh’ey tibs at $15 each.

The doro w’et is rich, oily and all delicious, its single chicken drumstick and hard-boiled egg quite sufficient in terms of heft.

The kh’ey tibs is light on the menu-nominated “berbere infused curry”, but is still very good, the just-cooked onions adding welcome crunch and texture.

All is abetted by a nice salad studded with green chilli slices.

GeBeta serves injera made with teff at the weekends, but the regular hybrid version at other times.

Tamrat tells us they hope in the future to have on the menu the beef bone soup we loved at their Footscray establishment.

At the moment, the restaurant is a cash-only proposition.