Rib and curry sensations

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520
podatpid, 638 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0404 904 900

Never order ribs from a non-specialist barbecue joint.

This is the emphatic lesson rammed home to Consider The Sauce through tedious confrontations with mediocrity.

Or worse.

But in the case of Santorini, we figure this is a rule worth ignoring.

Observing on FB the ingenuity and passion with which the whole Santorini crew is confronting the virus brouhaha is truly heartening.

That includes free delivery – yes, even as far as Yarraville – and specials events such as “souvlaki night”, free donut nights and more.

So order ribs, we do.

What we get is simply sensational.

Great lemon potatoes and heaps of them.

Greek coleslaw, and heaps of that, too, with just enough onion to add a little bite and quite a lot of feta, which crumbles into the dressing.

What a magic mix!

Given the superb accompaniments, and the fair asking price of $25 per person, we’d be quite unfazed to get a single big beef rib each.

Unfazed, but disappointed.

But no!

We get two of the beefy blighters each.

And – you guessed it!  – they, too, are very, very excellent.

And tender.

And delicious.

To order from Santorini online, go here.

 

 

Another of our faves, podatpid on Barkly Street in West Footscray, is also having lots of fun and satisfaction in keeping on trucking.

The cafe is selling a select range of top-notch grocery items, including bread.

And pick-up/take-home meals.

After having two encounters with it, we’ve become particularly fond of their pork-and-pineappple curry.

A really big serve for two cost us a fine $22.

It’s not so hefty in the pineapple department – it being outweighed by sweet potato.

Now that’s something that normally have both of us wrinkling up our noses in disgust because of its similarity to pumpkin.

But here, mixed in with the rich brown (and mild) curry gravy, it’s fab.

And our curry boasts a really good amount of tender pork chunks.

 

 

This particular meals ends with a sweet treat from yet another of faves – Olive Oil & Butter on Somerville Road.

Baklava for two – with yogurt. Greek, of course.

Hunkering down at home like everyone else, we’ve actually been cooking/eating healthily and affordably to a quite amazing extent.

So it’s been good to enjoy such great food from outside.

Even if we’ve not been sitting inside.

 

Philippines food in West Footscray? Let’s eat!

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Chibog West Footscray, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray.

After a pretty typical birth involving maddening red tape and other delays, Chibog has arrived in West Footscray.

From the crowds we’ve observed when driving by, it’s a hit – one that adds even more diversity to an already colourful strip.

The bosses – chef Alex Yin, Janine Barican and Thuan Le – tells us that punters have been rolling up from local neighbourhoods, but also from such popular Filipino locales as Cairnlea and even from right across town.

 

 

The long dining room is an attractive space in which to relax and we find the service superb and the staff engagingly friendly.

Nat and I hit ’em on a Tuesday, have our way with the menu in quite an extensive fashion and enjoy a wonderful meal.

This is among the very best Filipino food I have tried – and clearly the best presented.

And about as far from bain marie slop as it is possible to get.

Price-wise, don’t be expecting the ultra low prices and huge serves you may get from other Asian food genres.

At Chibog, things work more along the lines of a classy Thai restaurant in terms of pricing.

But even then, we have no problem with our final bill – pretty good value, actually.

Chibog, BTW, means “let’s eat”!

 

 

Kinilaw ($14) is tuna ceviche with coconut, cucumber, caviar and red onion.

It’s as silky smooth and sexy as you’d expect.

And gone, sadly, in a flash.

 

 

Ukoy ($9) are wonderful!

They’re deep-fried fritters involving mainly sweet potato, but also onion and prawns.

Just like onion bhaji – and just as delicious, especially dipped in the vinegary sauce that accompanies.

(There’s a lot of vinegar going around at Chibog!)

 

 

Rellenong squid ($10) finds a tubular cephalopod piece stuffed with mince pork and (fewer) vegetables.

It, too, is very enjoyable – though very mild of flavour.

It is served with very nice pickled vegetables (atchara).

 

 

That mildness aspect could be said to apply to much of our meal.

While the flavours are lovely, there is little in the curry or spice-style heat and impact we expect of food from enighbouring countries.

Our kansi ($19), for instance, looks like it may come with a laksa wallop.

Instead, the broth/stew is much more delicate and made with a tamarind base.

It’s an osso buco dish – and the meat is really tasty and fall-apart tender.

Like the Vietnamese stew bo kho, our kansi comes with quite a significant level of non-meat animal content.

I suspect individual punters’ approach to that will depend on cultural baggage.

We mostly put the fat aside, while mentally acknowledging that it IS an integral part of a dish we enjoy very much.

The chunky bits of jackfruit fit in right fine.

 

 

Finally, and sticking with meaty fare, we go for the Chibog dish that celebrates the Filipino fixation with roast pork – the crispy pata ($27).

Our pork knuckle is big, meaty and marvellous, the flesh a mixture of tender and still yummy not-so-much. There’s also a stack of crackling.

I make a fair fist of carving it myself, before handing over to the way more adept Janine!

It’s served with more atchara, chilli soy (our preference) and a Filipino staple of rich gravy served cold and made (partly) with liver.

And that would’ve been that for us very full lads.

Except, on account I’m guessing of our animated interest in the food and the fact the staff have no doubt twigged that a story/review is in the offing, we are offered and indulge in a complementary dessert.

Crispy leche flan ($9, top photo) is a custardy treat served in the formed of spring rolls.

Even better, IMO, is the brought-in but nevertheless excellent ube ice-cream. Ube is a yam that gives this ice-cream a flavour and texture that presents as a mix of coconut and pandan.

Yummo!

 

Chinese, fabulous

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Sun Wong Ky, 51 Byron Street, Footscray.

Footscray’s Little Saigon Market will never be replaced – figuritively and, it often seems, quite literally.

But we mostly have an ability to live in the present and appreciate what we have, rather than what once was.

So we enjoy the sparkling neighbourhood that has grown up around the burnt-out shell of the old market.

Centred on Byron Street, the neighbourhood has numerous businesses and a chilled-out vibe that is a nice retreat from the traffic and bustle of Barkly, Leeds, Hopkins and Nicholson streets.

 

 

Sun Wong Ky is fully symbolic of an area in transition – its new shop sits right opposite the premises it once occupied in the old market.

When the new place opened, the offerings and set-up seemed to us rather basic and aimed more at take-home customers.

Now, though, there is a much more eatery thing going on (see menu below), so we are right up for taking their Chinese roast meats for a whirl.

There are a few tables and chairs inside, but we take one of several outside tables and enjoy watching the world go by as we wait.

Bennie and I both choose the two-meat roast combo, priced at an excellent $12.80.

 

 

Soya chicken and barbecued pork for him and …

 

 

… soya chicken and roast pork for me.

Oh my!

This is great stuff – as good as any Chinese roast meats we’ve enjoyed in the west.

And that’s saying a lot.

The chicken – even the bigger, denser pieces – is very tender and juicy.

Likewise with Bennie’s barbecued pork.

The roast pork has superb crackling – not too gnarly, yet with plenty of crackle.

Cooking juices have been poured on the rice and under each pile of meat is good bok choy.

 

 

By contrast, our serve of chicken feet ($6) is dull, with none of the zingy saltiness from blackbean sauce or chilli kick we expect.

They’re big, though, and even surprisingly meaty – more like eating wings than feets!

 

A fine fit for Footscray

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Roman’s Original, 50 Leeds Street, Footscray.

We’re quite the salt fiends here at Consider The Sauce HQ.

This is not a boast – it’s a simply statement of fact.

Something a bit “meh” about one of our many home-made soups or stews?

Not enough salt!

And, hardly a surprise, we eat out quite a lot so are well used to salty restaurant food.

So it IS a surprise to have too much salt be a problem for us at Roman’s Original – and not just concerning one dish, but both we order.

 

 

Bennie’s first comment, upon trying his fried chicken sandwich ($15) is: “Wow – this is like really flash KFC!”

That’s a compliment!

But then: “It’s way too salty, though!”

Yeah right, I figure, suspecting he’s playing a bit too much the food critic.

But then he proceeds to pick the flour-based coating from his chook and enjoy the rest of his meal.

I try a couple of bits of the discarded coating.

He’s right.

It IS too salty. By a lot.

 

 

I hope there’ll be no such problems with my fish sandwich ($16), featuring a good-size piece of ling.

My sandwich is dressed and prepared the same way, so far as I can tell, as Bennie’s chicken effort – some herby mayo, lettuce, an ineffectual cheese slice, pickles.

It’s a terrific meal, a real nice handful with the crispy fish a treat.

But hold on …

Yes, my fish coating – panko crumbs this time – is ALSO way too salty.

And, as above, for us that’s saying quite a lot.

What is going on here?

I’m told, when we’re finished our meal and paying up, that today there have been some new arrangements in the kitchen.

We feel assured this is a one-off happening.

And that makes us happy.

Because we like Roman’s Original.

A lot.

We love the whole vibe, from the way bits, pieces and walls from the old deli have been retained in this place’s minimal-yet-elegant fit-out right through to the funky music.

And we love that this bar/eatery fits right into Leeds Street in particular and Footscray central in general.

Just like that – sound of fingers snapping – it looks a part of the furniture.

 

 

And, naturally enough, we also dig the equally minimalist menu – there’s no printed versions; just this simple list parked on the wall behind the order/pay counter.

 

 

We get two servings from the dishes listed under “sides”.

The pickles consist mostly of al dente carrots rounds with a mildly sour yet very intriguing flavour. They’re a bargain at $2.

The potato salad is even more of a steal – the $7 serve is pretty damn big, so much so we don’t finish it.

Our salad is divine – a mayo-rich extravaganza that is perfect in every way.

Despite the salty hiccups, we are eager to return to Roman’s Original.

 

VenU – a study in good eating

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VenU, Level 1 Building D, corner of Nicholson and Buckley Streets, Footscray (enter restaurant via Albert Street). Phone: 9919 8708

Tertiary education and other training and teaching institutions – and their people – have become ever more entwined in western suburbs life.

And, of course, some of this training and education involves courses and (mostly) young people looking to pursue careers in the hospitality industry.

They include those taking part in the Victoria University Polytechnic’s VenU restaurant for the next month or so – until early December.

The students man every part of this enterprise from the kitchen through to front of house.

 

 

After enjoying lunch there as a guest (full disclosure below), the CTS verdict is in.

It’s really, really good!

It’s super affordable!

It’s licensed!

You should go!

There are representative menus below.

Lunch and afternoon tea are available on Tuesdays.

Lunch and (early) dinner on Wednesdays.

For more details phone, 9919 8708; online bookings can be made here.

For lunch, I am joined by Megan and Denise from the VU marketing department and we have a very nice time.

 

 

The first surprise comes in the dining room.

Instead of the canteen-like vibe I am expecting, VenU is a real-deal restaurant with snappy, on-the-ball staff (students) and even linen napkins.

The food?

We have everything offered in the lighter fare found on the day’s lunch menu – and it’s all lovely.

 

 

Owing to countless unfortunate incidents in my childhood, pumpkin is pretty much my least favourite vegetable.

But the VenU pumpkin soup with cooconut ($5) wins me over – completely – with ease.

 

 

My housemade potato gnocchi with a “cream reduction” ($12) look like they’re they’re going to be oh-so-stodgy.

They’re far from it – they’re light, fluffy and delicious.

Though I do consume only as much of the rich sauce as is necessary to enjoy the pasta pillows.

 

 

My companions enjoy their seared pork belly with pickled vegetables ($12) and …

 

 

… roasted onion and goat cheese tart with red pepper relish and greens ($12) every bit as much.

The apple strudal with vanilla cream ($4, top photo) is a cracking dessert dream.

The cafe latte I have with it is excellent.

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

 

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.

Regular burgers, too

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Upsize Burger Bar, 2/234 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Consider The Sauce – leastwise, the senior partner thereof – has no truck with burger towers.

Well, no truck with the eating of them.

But I confess to being intrigued by these burger equivalents of skyscrapers.

Which is just as well, because my Facebook feed regularly features photos of such things.

But, nope – if it cannot be grasped in two eager hands, and/or requires a knife and fork, not interested in eating.

Though I suspect, if Bennie was given free rein, he’d be right into exploring what seems little more than macho posturing to me.

In that regard, I accept I am in some sort of minority and that there is widespread interest in, and fandom of, this particular burger cult.

Upzsize Burger Bar is catering to it with panache, with many sorts of flamboyant arrangements – including using donuts  and mac-n-cheese as buns!

 

 

The in-house photos illustrate some of the more conservative options available.

On the place’s FB page are to be found many spectacular examples of high-rise burger architecture.

The Barkly Street joint is something of a temporary exercise.

It’s open on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays – and only for three more weekends (making its last day Sunday, November 25).

We are happy to explore Upsize to the extent of their regular burgers – and we enjoy doing so.

 

 

My Basic B ($14) is a good, solid, workmanlike burger.

It has two beef patties, American cheese, “FCM sauce” and pickles – and goes down fine.

 

 

Bennie chooses the chicken equivalent for the same price.

He likes it.

The chicken is crisp and the slaw delivered in appropriate amount.

We both much enjoy that the pickle slices are so plentiful that they constitute a strong flavour component, as opposed to the usual mere whiff.

 

 

The regular order of beer-battered fries is very generous for $5.

They’re good.

But remind me that a CTS story on this particular genre of chip will be the go come my Christmas break.

Where do they come from?

How much beer – if any – is actually involved?

And are they actually re-constituted spud – and thus the potato equivalent of chicken nuggets?

 

Meal of the week No.46: Sankranti

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Ultra, mega low restaurant prices, we all know, inevitably mean someone is being ripped off.

But when those prices are seemingly offered only for a special, brief time in a bid to signal some new offering or opening hours tweak – well, we are happy to respond.

Especially when it’s one of our two favourite western suburbs Indian eateries that is doing the seducing!

(You’ll have to read our 2018 wrap in a month or so to find out the name of the other!)

With the arrival of warmer weather and daylight saving, Sankranti Australia (250 Barkly Street, Footscray) is throwing open its doors on Mondays.

And to get the word out, it’s offering three dishes at very, very low prices.

My understanding is that this low-cost trio will be available for at least one more Monday – beyond that, you’ll need to check with the restaurant.

Mysore bonda ($5.95, top photograph) are described to us as dumplings.

 

 

But they seem more to us like savoury doughhnuts – and is there anything better than deep-fried dough?

They are fresh, unoily, pliant to the point of sponginess, yummy and served with the same condiments that accompany dosas.

 

 

Andra kodi vepudu ($6.95) is simple dish of pan-fried on-the-bone chicken pieces in a bright red, tangy sauce.

 

 

Our chicken biryani ($6.95) lacks the standard hard-boiled egg half.

But at these prices, we’re hardly going to complain!

And with two chicken chunks immersed in the rice and good gravy and runny, onion-laced thin raita on the side, it’s just fine.

Beaut meal for two; $20.

Thanks!

A marvellous, mixed-up Footscray feed

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Time To Eat, 123 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 0405 526 729

For as long as I can remember, 123 Nicholson Street has been occupied by a chicken shop.

Has it ever been anything else?

In any case, these days it is something to behold.

Time To eat is run by husband-and-wife team Harera and Lageal Amea.

He boasts Lebanese heritage; she, Indian background.

Backgrounds of their staff members range through Lebanese, Nepalese and Fijiian.

On my visits here I have noted an equally diverse customers base that mirrors many of the eateries in the area, including those of the three ostensibly Turkish kebab houses.

The UN ain’t got nuthin’ on us!

 

 

The Time To Eat salad display features the expected gloopy coleslaw and seafood extender offering (familiar from chicken shops everywhere) – but also tabouli and a Greek salad.

 

 

Another cabinet boasts a handsome range of Lebanese-style pizzas and pies.

I take a spicy potato and a lamb pie home with me; they’re excellent.

At the front of the shop are Lebanese sweets.

 

 

The chicken here come in varieties such as lemon and herb and tandoori.

My half chook, tabouli and chips costs a top-notch $16 with a can of soft drink.

In truth, there is only the faintest whiff of tandoori flavour about my chicken, but it’s still pretty good – as is the tabouli.

I see my chips being doused with some sort of chicken salt variant, missing by a millisecond the opportunity to get them with plain salt.

But even that doesn’t phase, such a nice time am I having.

Otherwise the chips are hot and crisp.

 

Uyghur cuisine is grand

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Karlaylisi Restaurant, 4/203 Ballarat Road, Footscray. Phone: 0413 955 515

Don’t let the Ballarat Road address mislead – Karlaylisi is situated on Gordon Street.

In fact, it occupies the exact same premises as the sadly short-lived Spice Klub and its Indonesian offerings.

Karlaylisi delivers Uyghur cuisine – the food of the Uughurs, who live mostly in China’s Xinjiang province.

Check out this SBS story for background on the people and their food.

There’s oodles to like about Karlaylisi.

Indeed, it could be tossed up as the perfect template for the perfect CTS eating house.

The menu is long, stuffed with dumplings, hand-made noodles, soups, cold dishes and kebabs.

And lots and lots of lamb dishes.

Some items are certainly for larger and planned groups – the roasted whole lamb ($350, $180), for instance.

Or even the lamb casserole with steamed wrap bread ($60).

Yet despite the ambitions inherent in the menu and that this appears to be a one-man show, we found our food to be fresh, hot and delivered to our table with admirable speed and wide smiles.

An early highlight – actually, THE highlight – are the lamb skewers ($2 each, minimum of five).

These feature bigger chunks of meat than we’ve had elsewhere.

They’re more tender, too, and a little less seasoned with salt and cumin.

There’s some fat, but it all tastes way more than good.

Siyi qanalgan lagman ($14.50) is a homely and nicely plain mix of lamb and vegetables on a mound of noodles.

You could pitch this to picky kids as a spag bol variant, no problems.

From the dumpling/pastry list come tugra ($13), lamb dumplings.

Once again rather plain, they nevertheless go fine.

Aqqik korulgan chop ($14.50) is a much sexier (i.e. oilier and with some chilli heat) noodle dish with lamb, garlic chives and sesame oil.

Kala til kormisi ($14) is stir-fried beef tongue.

I expected to this to have a more pronounced chargrill or wok hei aspect.

Instead, the meat is quite silky and very tender.

The overtly meaty vibe of our menu choices is ameliorated by the complementary salad presented to us.

Laohusai ($13) is a delight, zingy and fresh with loud voices of garlic and vinegar coming through.

We will return to Karlaylisi – there’s so much to explore!

Vego buffet wins

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Pandu’s, 351 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0789

Just recently, the Lost Footscray FB page sported a photograph of the Middle Footscray portion of Buckley Street – taken before the houses there were demolished.

And there it was – the original Pandu’s.

When I showed the pic to Bennie, he proclaimed: “That place was cool!”

Pandu’s, since then, has moved on to swisher, more roomy premises on Barkly Street – and we remain sporadic customers.

Truth is, though, the spicy buzz we used to get from Indo-Chinese food has faded.

Instead of the dry, crunchy, zingy stuff we firstly loved, our experiences of recent years seem to have been more of sodden and gloop.

But the expanded Pandu’s spreads its menu far wider – there’s biryanis, dosas and much, much more.

Including a bargain-priced weekend breakfast/brunch vegetarian buffet we are keen to try.

It’s beaut – and at $10.99 a super deal.

And it’s a hit, too, with the Indian community – closing in on 1pm on the Saturday we visit, Pandu’s is doing brisk trade.

 

 

The food is arrayed in a row of cookers and other containers.

There is – this is a buffet, after all – heaps and heaps of it.

Some of it is familiar, some not so.

The staff are working hard so the run-through explanation we are given passes in a bit of a blur and I struggle to take it all in.

Certainly, the three of us go nowhere near trying all that is on offer.

 

 

Partly that is because we’re old and wise enough to discard the ever-present buffet temptation of going hog wild and loading up our plates, though we all make second visits to the line-up.

Being a huge fan of both pooris and papads, I revel in a bottomless supply of both.

And the smooth, pale yellow vegetable curry that teams with the pooris is a treasure.

 

 

Plain, unstuffed dosas are part of the Pandu’s buffet set-up, but they are brought around separately by the staff – thus avoiding sogginess!

 

House of yum

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House of Injera, 227 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8644

Lucy Dinknesh is dead; long live Lucy Dinknesh.

The much-loved Ethiopian stalwart of the Footscray eats scene has closed its doors.

Doubtless that will leave a hole impossible to fill for its many fans.

But House of Injera – at the same address – is giving it a good shake.

Based on the mostly excellent food we eat during a mid-week visit – and the happy tables around us – House of Injera is destined to be a hit.

Even with otherwise inconsolable Lucy fans.

But this is a rather different enterprise.

It’s the first restaurant adventure for the team of Wes and Brod Jackson and Messe Berhe, with the latter (mum of Wes) doing all the cooking.

 

 

The dining room is a rather chic delight, with low-fi lighting (but still bright enough to see our food), plain yet fetching wooden tables, cushions scattered around and Ethiopian art work adorning the walls.

The pungent tang of incense and funky Ethiopian sounds – some even familiar to Bennie and I from my slim collection of Ethio music – are comfort-inducing in a swell way.

And a reminder to self to never, ever take for granted the happy miracle of the presence in our midst of the Ethiopian community – nor the presence of any other community.

What a wonderful world!

The House Of Injera menu (see below) is a simple, well-written list featuring many dishes with which we are familiar.

Though there are a few wrinkles along the way.

One is the inclusion of kikel seg, the meat and vegetable soup we adore, but see available at very few Ethiopian eateries.

We think of it as the Ethiopian take on pho or Jewish penicillin/chicken soup.

Another wrinkle is lamb ribs.

My choice is soup, but I let Carnivore Boy Bennie bully me into ordering the ribs.

We’re told lamb ribs are eaten in Ethiopia, but not when marinated as here.

 

 

Our lamb ribs ($15) look the part and constitute a generous serve compared to others we’ve had of the same meat cut elsewhere in the past few years.

There are five good-sized ribs involved.

Unfortunately, we find them to be extremely fatty – indeed, a couple seem sans meat and made up of fat and bone only.

It could be argued this all goes with lamb ribs territory, but buyer beware.

Much better are the tibbs-style lamb cubes, onion, carrot and their juices on which the ribs are presented.

Entirely delicious!

 

 

There are three combo deals to be had at House of Injera – the all-veg beyaynetu at $16 per person; the mistro, a mix of five meat and vegetable dishes, at $20 per person; and anbessa, the all-in line-up for $25 per person.

We order the mistro – and are knocked-out happy to find it includes a small bowl each of aforementioned kikel seg soup.

It is excellent – and there’s a heap of on-the-bone meat submerged in our bowls.

 

 

The rest of our mistro line-up includes wonderful renditions of khay wat, gomen sega and the familiar, always-welcome Ethio mix of beetroot and spuds.

The meat in the beef stew that is khay wat is cooked down and easy to eat.

The greens of gomen sega come with another wrinkle – more tender on-the-bone meat, which makes me recall the stew-meat greens that are staples of much cooking of the southern parts of the US.

We’re far from complaining, as there’s more food served to us than we can eat, but instead of five dishes as part of our mistro combo, we have been served four.

No problem at all – and our bill is adjusted accordingly.

Mentioning that – and the fatty ribs – is par for the CTS course and nothing less than our readers expect.

But in this case, it grieves me a little, as we really do love this place and we love our meal.

House of Injera is warmly CTS recommended.

 

 

Besides, it’s impossible to dislike a place that takes on board the hands-on nature of its food by providing facilities that include a basin into which hot water runs IMMEDIATELY and in which paper towels are on hand.

Check our the House Of Injera website here.

 

Wow.

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Small Graces, 57 Byron Street, Footscray. Phone: 9912 6429

The burned-out shell of Little Saigon Market casts rather a glum metaphorical shadow across Footscray central, so we love it that Small Graces and some of its neighbours are mounting a fightback by bringing life and sunshine to Byron Street and surrounds.

We enjoyed our debut meal there last year and have returned several times since – mainly for salad hits.

So we definitely pay attention when informed a dinner service is being launched.

Not only that – we are invited to try it out (see full disclosure below).

Thus it is with keen anticipation and high expectations that Bennie and I front up for dinner.

Here is the brutal CTS call: Our expectations are not met.

Instead, they are exceeded in grand and delicious style.

Really.

Just about everything we try from a brilliantly chosen selection from the deep dinner menu (see below) is a righteous hit, with a few provisos noted below.

A salad of beets, grapefruit, radicchio, hazelnuts and goats cheese (top photo, $14) is enjoyed by us both, but especially by Salad Boy Bennie.

La Hoguera jamon serrano and garlic-fennel salami are wonderful and served with pickles.

They come with …

… luscious warmed olives and …

… inhalable chargrilled bread.

Carrots, salsa of carrot tops, pecorino pepato and seeds ($13) are a sublime veg offering.

Squid ink croquette with gralic aiolo and sorrel/pea croquette with preserved lemon aioli ($4 each) are, for us, duds.

We have no problem with their striking ugiless.

But they are too salty – even for us, two lads who had expressed to Small Graces’ Bec our fondness, upon arrival, for salty restaurant food!

Also somewhat visually unappealing is this dish of cauliflower, currants, fermented grapes and macadamia nuts ($15).

But in this case the result is an intriguing winner.

This pile of lentils photographs as dull.

It’s not.

It’s one of the night’s high sensations.

Lentils, quince and mints ($12) are moist, succulent, rather sweet and a tremendous pulse dish the likes of which we’ve never before encountered.

And we’ve eaten a LOT of pulses.

And the vegetables keep coming.

Brussel sprouts, jerusalem artichokes and Manjimup truffle ($15) are al dente and a big hit with Kenny; Bennie, no so much.

Our evening’s sole outright meat hit comes from hanger steak, burnt onions and bearnaise ($20).

We adore that juicy meat and its onion foil.

The sauce is good, too – but we consider its richness a bit jarring and unnecessary.

There’s a handy list of desserts on the go for dinner here – including fabulous-sounding ricotta gnocchi.

Sadly, they will have to wait another night as the Socceroos and their date with destiny await, so we head for the door.

The inner west is blessed to have Small Graces doing its dinner thing.

It joins the likes of Jack B. Nimble and Cheeky Chewies Cafe in serving up flash food without vertiginous price tags or stuffiness.

And there’s a heap of dinner-time scope in which vegetarians can frolic.

There’s booze on hand at Small Graces, which is now open for dinner Thursdays-Saturdays.

CTS thanks Bec, Diego and their crew for taking care of us.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Small Graces as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were served a broad range of dishes from the joint’s new dinner menu. Small Graces management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Vietnamese brilliance

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Co Thu Quan, Shop 11-12, 10 Droop St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 1451

CTS HQ is, I suspect, like most westie households that like to get out, about and on the fang.

We go in cycles and ebbs and flows.

For instance, the quite recent times when we seemed hellbent on tracking down every curry house in the west actually seem a bit like fading memories.

Seems like we’ve had enough biryani for the time being!

But what of Vietnamese tucker?

Ah, pretty much the heart and soul of western suburbs food.

Yet so deeply interwoven is it into all our lives, it’s a bit easy to take it for granted.

Not that we don’t eat it regularly and even weekly.

We do.

But when it comes writing and posting about it, well not so much in recent times.

So it gives me giddy pleasure to wax enthusiastically, passionately about Co Thu Quan.

The original version of this eatery was tucked away in Little Saigon Market, becoming one of the victims of that institution’s sad, fiery demise.

Now – after opening branches in Richmond and the CBD – they’re back!

The new Footscray restaurant is on the Droop Street side of the Westville Central building, in the shopfront previous occupied by the sadly short-lived Issan Thai Street Food.

There have been changes.

The original Co Thu Quan was all about snack-style street food.

This new place, done out in nice dark wood and all abuzz with zippy, cheerful service, has a vastly expanded menu.

Instead of light snacks there’s a plethora of noodles, salads, vermicelli, rice, soups and much, much more.

And it’s all – or almost all – cheap, cheap, cheap. Think under $15.

And while you can order pho here, there are so many other glittering, intriguing choices, it would be folly to do so.

Here, by their many dozens, are dishes you’ll not find elsewhere in Footscray or the west.

Yet, by and large, there is very little on the massive menu that is bracing or confrontational for those less adventurous or not much inclined towards the intestinal.

Hoi an chicken rice ($12) is a simple, light, refreshing and superbly enjoyable take on the universal chook/rice combo.

There’s a lot more shredded chicken atop that rice than the above photo suggests.

Clear shrimp dumplings ($10) are wobbly parcels stuffed with shrimp and ground pork.

They’re fun to eat, but a tad shy of the flavor explosions I was anticipating.

Nat enjoys slurping on his water spinach crab noodles ($12).

Immersed in its chicken broth and freshwater crab paste are rice noodles, pork and crab meatball, pork sausage, fried tofu, tomato, water spinach, congealed pork blood, topped with fried shallot and green onion; tamarind sauce on the side.

Now that’s a meal.

Asked to describe it in three evocative words, he proffers pungent, salty and sour.

For me, Vietnamese crab noodle soup is an uncharacteristically rash choice.

It costs $27 – a ridiculous amount to pay for a single bowl of soup noodles.

But I utterly adore it and have no regrets about paying for it.

Fresh crab of this quality is usually only consumed in communal settings, so I revel in my singular enjoyment of the chunky shellfish bits.

But just as good is the hearty, delicious chook/crab soup in which the tapioca noodles, a single prawn and fresh mushrooms happily swim.

We plan on spending much time in the rest of the year exploring the Footscray Co Thu Quan menu.