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.

Indonesian for the west

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Spice Klub, 4/203 Ballarat Road, Footscray. Phone: 0439 159 417

There are many interesting things for us to try when we return to Spice Klub.

On the menu (see below) are noodles, rice, desserts and more.

But it’s going to be tricky.

Because I simply can’t see us hitting Spice Klub without ordering the beef rendang.

It is brilliant – and I strongly suspect those with a deeper knowledge of and experience with Indonesian food will concur.

Called here rendang sapi, it costs $13 and is served with plain rice.

In modern parlance, this meat would be referred to as “smashed” or even, heaven forbid, “pulled”.

But let’s go old-school and refer to it as cooked down.

It is meat of high quality; no gristle or globs of fat here.

It’s quite sweet, has a nice chilli kick and is just sufficiently oily for the recipe to work.

Best of all, the flavour is a full-on orchestral blast of blended spices.

Gosh.

 

 

Bennie and I do good with the rest of our meal, too, though unsurprisingly not quite as spectacularly.

(We are guests of management – see full disclosure below.)

Lumpia semarang (chicken and prawn spring rolls, $10) are gorgeously lumpy in a way that denotes house-made food.

The chunky prawn and chicken mince inside, quite fishy in flavour, is equally rustic.

Our rolls are served with nice tamarind sauce with a strong whiff of ginger.

 

 

Nasi bakar ayam ($13) is “BBQ rice” cooked in banana leaf and studded with boneless chicken pieces.

It’s served with a crunchy mix of toasted coconut, chilli and salt, along with a sticky soy/chilli concoction.

It’s enjoyable, though probably better categorised as an entree than as a main.

Despite Spice Klub’s official address being on Ballarat Road, it’s actually on the strip of shops on Gordon Street familiar to all in the inner west as home to … not much.

But now there’s a cool Indonesian joint in place, hopefully we’ll be more frequent visitors to the neighbourhood.

Bizarrely, given the technicolour multitude of food riches in Melbourne’s west, Spice Klub is – as far as we can ascertain – our only Indonesian restaurant.

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