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.

Dining policy

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Fundraiser for independent candidates, 501 Receptions, Barkly Street, West Footscray.

If local politics seems more interesting to me than the national and state equivalents, there are reasons.

For starters, many of the local issues overlap with the food-based concerns that are Consider The Sauce’s meat and potatoes.




As well, we’ve lived in the west for 15 years now so many of the broader issues impact on us. And on the local, municipal level there lives the reality our communities can make a difference in how and what decisions are made.

And inevitably, after all such time living in the west, I know people actively involved in local politics.




But none of the above would normally be sufficient to entice me to attend a fundraiser for a bevy of Maribyrnong council candidates.

But in this case there were other mitigating factors that helped me take the plunge.




For one, CTS pal Mia McGregor is one of those candidates.

For another, the event was being held at 501 Receptions on Barkly Street in West Footscray.




This famous operation is soon to be history, so I was keen to get to at least one event there before it disappears forever.

Seems like all the public events there in recent years have been for women only – not that I have any problem with that.




And there was food!

Truth be told, the Cantonese tucker laid out by the in-house catering crew was serviceable more than anything else.




But otherwise, I had a ball.

I found it fascinating talking with Mia about the steep learning on which she is travelling.




Likewise with her dad Ray, who is acting as Mia’s campaign manager.

And I enjoyed a good conversation with retiring councillor, and former mayor, Nam Quach.




While the slate of indie candidates being spruiked is quite diverse, the whole shebang was very much the product – in terms of organisation – of the local Vietnamese community.

So I loved getting insights from Cr Quach about the nature and dynamics of local politics.

In terms of dress code, I was definitely the under-dressed (hairless) hippie!






WeFo cafe overload? Not yet …

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Dumbo Melbourne, 11 Argyle Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9078 2645

Like Lot 10 Eatery, Dumbo is a new arrival in the WeFo neighbourhood.

They join West 48, Pod @ PID, Brother Nancy and Jellybread.

This is some fairly intense cafe action.

But saturation point?

Not yet, it would seem.

Dumbo appears to have found its own niche rather quickly.




The old building next to Footscray West Primary School has been extensively revamped.

Much of the limited space is taken by the kitchen and serving area.

In the main customer space, there’s a big communal table and a handful of smaller types.

On my first visit, the “new paint” vibe was still going on and the mix of Motown and other R&B – just the sort of finger-snapping grooves that would normally have me happily bobbing my head – was unpleasantly “boomy”.

At a second visit, both had gone and all was good.

The menu (see below) has plenty of takes on the usual line-up to keep the breakfast fans happy.

From that list, the baked Moroccan lamb clay pot ($16) strikes us as something that could also do handy lunch work.

The lunch list itself has just three dishes – and CTS tries the lot.




Pearl couscous salad with herbs, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumber, chilli herb oil, blackened chicken and green pepper relish ($18) is super.

The chicken, moist and juicy, smacks of cumin and more in the seasoning department.

Best of all is the fabulous, tangy green pepper relish.

No mere garnish this, it is provided in sufficient quantity to really give the dish a hearty flavour bomb.




The quinoa zucchini salad with sun-dried tomatoes, dill, goats cheese, shallots, beetroot and smoked trout ($19) is lovely yet doesn’t quite have the same impact or striking delineation of flavours.

It’s undeniably constructed from top-notch ingredients all round, but is a little bland for my tastes.

Or maybe it’s this simple: Memo to self – never order anything that involves quinoa.




Eating at cafes such as Dumbo often means CTS has to re-calibre expectations in terms of taking on board that meals such as the above salads are not the massive mounds of biryani or pho we habitually consume.

And that $18 or $19 is the going rate for such fare – and we’re fine with that.




Dumbo’s brioche burger ($19) with “chorizo patty”, bacon, Swiss cheese, jalapeno cream cheese, caramelised onion and thin chips with harissa mayo on the side, however, does seem to fall short in the value for money department.

The verdict from Tony is that the quality is there but the quantity is less than generous.

But then again, maybe comparing a cafe burger with what is available at the many ritzy burger joints around is unfair.

We have been interested to see what precisely “chorizo patty” meant.

Would it be a patty all of re-formed, smoked, porky sausage meat?

Or would it be a beef patty with some chorizo meat included?

It is, as far as we can tell, the latter.




My cafe latte ($3.80) is outstanding and perfect in every way; and I suspect Tony’s double espresso is likewise.





Footscray soul food

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Somali Star Cafe, Footscray Hub (arcade between Nicholson and Albert streets).

The Footscray Hub arcade mostly seems wonderfully changeless in its lively Africaness.

But it’s only ever had, to the best of our knowledge, a single food outlet among its various hairdressers, clothes shops and more.

These days that shop goes under the moniker Somali Star and is, I reckon, at least the third incarnation of that food space.

It’s a small – there’s two simple booths so seating is restricted.

But most customers are of the takeaway variety and come and happily go for the sambusas.




The sign saying “the sambussa is back” is, we reckon, a bit misleading.

Because we’ve had these African versions of the samosa from here before – but never like this.




Oh no, these are bigger and better by quite some margin …




… and, in the case of our lamb number, absolutely delicious, the flaky pastry generously stuffed with minced meat, onion and herbs.

And at $3.50, they’re a superb, dead-set bargain.

Effectively a light meal all on their own, it’s a sure thing these henceforth will feature at least once a week in CTS work/school lunches.

But while our sambusa is profoundly enjoyable, it is a holding pattern – pretty much – for our more substantial plates.




Unlike its predecessors in this space, Somali Star has a wall-mounted menu, from which we are happy to make our selections.

We’re warned there’ll be a wait time of about 15 minutes. But we don’t mind that as we very much enjoying the moment.

That wait time stretches to more than 20 minutes but we continue to care not – even when one of dishes is forgotten, or did not register in the first place.

What we get is unfussy, very enjoyable Somalian food.




Pasta/beef ($12) displays the Italian influence on north African food.

The noodles go just right with a sauce that is a bit like a Somalian version of spag bol.

Both are excellent.

The salad bits on the side are fresh and zingy and the commercial chilli sauce is added at our request.




The rice/lamb ($13) comes without adornments – maybe because it has been rushed once the friendly realised our order for it had gone awol.

We’re familiar with Somalian rice being cooked in stock, seasoned with the likes of pepper and cardamom and served with slivers of onion.

This rice is quite different, pan fried (I think) with onion and small meat chunks.

The lamb is something else.

Normally, when eating lamb in neigbourhood/street food places, be they Indian, African or other, we are used to getting lovely meat that is nevertheless sporting its fair share of bone, fat and/or gristle.

We don’t mind that at all, as the quality cooking of the meat itself invariably outweighs the extraneous bits.

We admire the cooking skill that makes such delicious food out of the cheapest cuts of meat.

In the case of this here Somali Star lamb, we get all the cooking skill and none of the rest – save for the single, visible bone piece.

The meat is very simply cooked/grilled, and – as far as I can tell – unseasoned.

But it is so wonderful, tender and yummy that I reckon a heap of much flasher eateries/pubs/cafes would be happy to serve it and charge a whole bunch more in the process.

Soul food is a term bandied about a bit these days, often in tandem or alongside BBQ food of the American variety.

Given my interest in American roots music and culture, I find that appealing.

But when such food is served in trendy places and the prices hurt, it can seem like something of a pose.

Let’s think, instead, of Footscray soul food, western suburbs soul food as a bowl of pho.

Or a WeFo biryani or dosa.

Or a couple of plates of cheap, delicious Somalian food at Somali Star.



Very tasty in Footscray




Viet Kitchen, 110 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 8528 1112

Viet Kitchen is right in the very heart of Vietnamese Footscray, sharing a block of Hopkins Street with such popular places as Sapa Hills and Bun Ta.

In our search for the Good Stuff all over the west, we do sometimes overlook what is right in the midst of the inner west.

So it’s taken us a while to get around to Viet Kitchen, despite receiving a few reader recommendations in the past year or so.

We end up awfully glad we’ve made the effort as we enjoy a really excellent meal.

Though things get off to humourously shaky start when our server assumes Bennie is my grandson.


That was a common occurrence when my son was quite a lot younger and I was already old.

But now, when I’m not much older and he’s taller than me and still has plenty of growing to do?

No matter – my outrage is all of the mock variety.

Like its neighbours, Viet Kitchen makes a bit more of an effort than formica tables – it’s a sweet space.

Many of the customers seem to be regulars and we find the service and wait times to be fine.




We like your regular spring rolls as served across the west as much as anyone, but my understanding is that in terms of the wrapping/pastry used they are an adaptation devised by the Vietnamese diaspora.

So when we spy the more authentic cha gio Viet Nam, we pounce with glee.

These chopped-up six rolls ($10.80) are fine, with a stuffing of seafood, pork and mushroom.

As good as those served at Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine with slightly different accessories?

Maybe … a matter of individual preference, I think.




The spicy beef noodle soup is a sinus-blasting hoot.

And, yes, it IS spicy – though no more than any experienced Footscray food trawler will be able to handle.

The “beef” tag is somewhat misleading, as it refers only to the broth on which the dish is based – also in the bowl, along with brisket, are slices of pork and pork “ham” (sausage).

With the attending greenery – its variety a nice change from the standard herb/sprouts mix that comes with pho – this a straight-up, all-out winner.




Most Vietnamese restaurants in the west, it seems and based on our wide-ranging adventures, only serve their various coleslaw offerings in large, family sizes – as with the “farm chicken” ($23) version served here.

So once again we pounce when we see a smaller portion of the rare beef rendition ($10) on offer.

It’s a zingy, tangy, crunchy wonder, with the plentiful and very good marinated beef still pink.

Our only wish?

Even more peanuts to really send the textural contrasts into overdrive.




The Vietnamese pancake (with seafood, $16) is another successful order for us.

Despite the wetness of the rather bland filling (small prawns, calamari, fish, sprouts), only some of the large pancake becomes soggy – and it all gets devoured with yet another variation in the greenery/herbs department.



Footscray’s new spicy place

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Spicy Chef, 359 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7224

This was something of an impromptu CTS gathering that came together very easily.

A spare Sunday night, a new Indian place to try, who’s in?

So it was that six of us gathered with just one aim in mind – to take for a spin the Spicy Chef opening special of biryani, starter, salad and drink for $11.95.

We had good meals but I suspect there’s plenty more to explore at Spicy Chef in the coming weeks and months – certainly the pricing (compared with other Footscray Indian places) is very reasonable on the menu proper across the usual range of curries and dosas.




The best thing about our meal deals was that they were served on thali trays and that constituted excellent all-round meals for one.

Like many people, perhaps even most, I usually struggle to go even close to finishing a regular, inevitably huge serve of biryani.

So having a smaller portion mixing it with a starter and salad (even if it is just some slices of carrot and cucumber) and a drink thrown in is a fine thing.

Perhaps other restaurateurs could take this idea and run with it!

Our biryanis were uniformly fine, with good raita and spicy gravy on the side and enough fried onion strands to make the rice dishes sing.

We mostly chose goat biryani and it was good, with quite a lot of meat that came from the bones quite easily.

The starters didn’t quite reach the same standard but were OK, ranging from onion bhaji (top photograph) to …




… egg bhaji to …




… eggplant fritters to …




… chicken 65.

This latter was Bennie’s choice and he probably did the best of us.



West Footscray and the winds of change (2)




Could West Footscray eventually rival Footscray proper – not only in residential terms but also in terms of commercial activity and what I’ll simply call buzz?

I’ve been pondering this for a few weeks, spurred on by a couple of stories written by my Star Weekly colleague Benjamin Millar.

The first concerned the 501 Receptions site on Barkly Street.

When the news broke almost a year ago the paperwork was in on an attempt to get permission to build almost 200 apartments on the site, the general understanding was it was the reception centre owner who was going to do the developing.

Now, as Ben reports, the site is on the market.

The second story concerned the revamp that is going to happen at West Footscray station to accommodate the Melbourne Metro rail project.

And never mind that the station could hardly be more shiny or new as it is!

That, I reckon, makes the mostly vacant land at the CBD end of the station (top photograph) area very valuable, strategically and otherwise.




The land, owned by VicTrack, is home to the Western Emergency Relief Network and the fine people who sail in her.




Right across the road, the building and land that once housed a motor mechanic outfit, has a for sale sign out front.




It lists among the property’s virtues town planning permits for a “4 level complex comprising 30 apartments and 2 shops”.




Right next door to that is Potters House church.

One whisper I’ve heard is that rezoning efforts are being made for this land.

Maybe some residential development is in the longer term future there.

But my understanding is that the church, on a site that was once a sugar factory, has a lease that has about five years to run.




Banbury Village, meanwhile, is seeming more like a regular part of the neighbourhood rather than the closed-off bubble it has seemed for several years.

This is because there are now a number of village roads fully connecting to surrounding streets such as Barkly, Cross and Warleigh.




Switching our gaze to the other side of railway tracks …

I’ve been told the reason there’s a monster hardware store there is because there are toxic soil concerns for much of the land in the area, rendering it unsuitable for housing.




The means the area bounded by the Geelong Road, Geelong Street and Sunshine Road will presumably stay as a home to some fairly gnarly industrial undertakings – rubber, iron and paint among them.




Another whisper I’ve heard is that the council is keen on preserving the jobs capacity of the properties on Sunshine Road from the bus depot up to the wool stores.

One of the wool stores, the one that runs parallell to Roberts Street, is used for I know not what – but when I choose that route to get to work there are always many, very large trucks coming and going.

The other wool store is being used as storage depot/warehouse for Dimmey’s and the associated import/export business, Starite.

Beyond there is a surprisingly large amount of residential neighbourhoods about which it is easy to forget.

A lot of the older houses in this area – bounded by Sunshine and Paramount roads and Stony Creek – were built after World War II by a developer named Hansen, using many recycled materials because of war-time shortages.




His company name and/or motto is still emblazoned on one the Tottenham shops – the one that housed a sub-continental grocery for a few years.




I learn the above information from Evan, who I meet when step foot – for the first time – into the Tottenham mobility scooter shop.

Actually, Evan runs three business on the premises – Mr Mobility, Hamilton Street Antiques and Mr Mannequins.

If I had been previously aware of these diverse enterprises, it was only very dimly.




So I am knocked out the range of old stuff Evan has in here – this is easily the most impressive antique/vintage shop I’ve seen in the western suburbs.

The antique side of the business is named after Hamilton Street in Yarraville, where Evan was located before moving to the Tottenham shops 25 years ago.




In the course of good old chinwag, Evan tells me the bottom has fallen out of the antique biz, mostly – he reckons – because of Ebay.

As well as many houses in the streets behind the Tottenham shops, there is a very big vacant lot – on Cala Street, right next to Opera Australia Props & Scenery Hire.

But perhaps there are soil issues there, too?