Greek delights in the autumn sun

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Xenia Food Store, 202 Lygon Street, East Brunswick. Phone: 9191 7206

Outside the western suburbs, I can’t think of a foodie strip that is closer to the CTS heart than Lygon Street.

No, no – not the Lygon Street adjoining the Melbourne CBD.

We walk a fair whack of that thoroughfare every week while on kung fu duty.

Very, very rarely to we feel the urge to linger for eats purposes.

And, no, not the Lygon Street that runs north there past Melbourne Cemetery.

But the Lygon that narrows as it enters East Brunswick?

Oh, yes!

That be home, after all, to such previously covered delights as Teta Mona, Mankoush and Moroccan Deli-cacy – even if the latter is apparently entering times of change and new management.

 

 

So we are very happy to accept an invitation (see full disclosure below) to dine at Xenia Food Store, the luscious and intriguing FB pics of which we have been noticing with lust ever since it opened.

Those pictures have me primed for down home, home-style food of the kind not often found in restaurants.

So, as we take our seats at an outdoor table in the blazing Saturday sun, I am surprised by the menu’s listing of such familiar fare as saganaki, chicken skewers and lamb pitta.

But there is much else and our lunch desires this Saturday are simple.

 

 

So we go with the meze platter for two ($32) and are delighted.

Toasted pita bread, of course.

Two dips – a dill-perfumed tzatziki and a chunky eggplant number.

A couple of good stuffed vine leaves.

Fetta cheese.

Loukaniko – pork sausage.

Pickled octopus that is all the more enjoyable thanks to its chewiness.

Best of all – two koupes, more widely known as kibbeh.

They’re fantastic deep-fried torpedoes of bulghur wheat encasing a juicy mix of lamb, onion and seasonings.

 

 

Desserts?

Yes.

It’s overshadowed by the house-made halva ice-cream ($8.5).

This combo of vanilla ice-cream and crushed choc halva sounds like it could be a mishmash, but the outcome is divine in the way it combines both flavour strands.

Our cafe lattes are excellent.

See the Xenia Food Store website here.

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

 

Greek street food – on the street

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Greek Gypsy, 545 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 0423 709 769

We are eating from yucky polystyrene – and it’s all our fault.

Well … sort of.

If we’d made clear our eating intentions – to have our dinner right there, beside the food truck that is Greek Gypsy – we’d have been provided proper crockery.

Oh well …

As it is, we do get metal cutlery as we proceed to enjoy our meals.

And very good they are, too.

The outdoor furniture that accompanies the Greek Gypsy routine may not be any less disposable than the polystyrene containers.

But the food is every bit as delicious and enjoyable as that to be had at the other Greek enterprises that have been unveiled in our greater neighbourhood in recent months – see here, here and here.

 

 

From the compact menu, both Bennie and I choose …

 

 

… open gyro plates ($14), with a mix of lamb and chicken.

The meat is outstanding – both juicy and chewy, the lamb having a slight edge IMO.

Toasted pita goes good with a generous serve of excellent tsatziki.

The salad bits?

Just OK.

 

 

Chips ($5) are just the teensiest bit too oily.

But otherwise, they are hot, crisp and yummy – and, like, the meat, way better than we have been expecting from this food truck operation.

One of the dinner options we had been contemplating this night, just down the road apiece, would’ve run to a minimum of $80 for the pair of us – and quite probably more than $100.

Yet here we are, sitting atop Kensington Hill, having spent a fraction of that and grinning like happy fools as we eat like kings and watch the traffic and the world flow by.

Life is grand!

 

Greek groove in Yarraville

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Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar, 28 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9943 4233

There’s a lot of family history tied up in Yarraville’s new Greek eatery.

Locals who know just how long the fit-out of the former Anderson Street boutique took will be gratified to know that a fine space has been carved out here, upstairs and down, full kitchen and all.

Surely this is the most radical makeover of a village business property for more than a decade?

The place is being managed by Eleftheria (“Thierry”) Amanatidis.

At her side around the place is her uncle, Tony.

The restaurant is named after Tony’s mother, Eleni Amanatidis.

Eleni’s husband is Dimitrios Amanatidis, the father of whom was Antonios Amanatidis, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests to arrive in Australia.

 

 

So, yes, a lot of family vibes and inner-west Greek traditions going on here.

Unsurprisingly, and very happily from our perspective, the food being delivered (see menu below) is old-school, straight-up Greek tucker.

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

Still, within that framework we find some nice ‘n’ lovely twists and tweaks when we partake of a fine dinner as guests of Thierry and her crew (see full disclosure below).

In the serve of super fresh dips ($14), for instance, the melitzanosalata eggplant number tastes not in the least of the garlic and smokiness we are expecting, but instead of zingy mint.

Just as good is the tirokafteri of feta, capsicum and the tiniest tingle of chilli.

These two are finely abetted by a tzatziki with dill and a very mild-flavoured tarama.

 

 

The dips are served with very good house-made bread, though we resort to grilled pita to mop up the remainders.

 

 

Bennie and I split two mains between the more ritzy grill line-up and the “Eleni’s home favourites” list that includes moussaka and pastitisio.

The cabbage rolls ($24) are every bit the home-style classics for which we’ve been hoping.

If I rather wish we’d gone for something a little more rich and hearty, Bennie has no such problem.

 

 

The meat in our lamb gyros plate ($25) is very fine indeed – salty and herby and heaps of it.

This meat, BTW, is also available in pita-wrapped takeaway form for $12.

In some ways, though, the top test of both our mains – and a handy gauge of the freshness and general excellence of the food at Eleni’s – comes in the form of the salads that accompany both.

Differing slightly, they are superb – dressed well, juicy and delicious in every way, and displaying no sign at all of even a single tired or brown-edged leaf.

 

 

Bennie and I are keen to go both the available desserts – so we do!

The baklava ($8.50) – made by Thierry herself – is a tender take on another Greek classic.

 

 

Even better, or so I think, is the rizogalo (rice pudding, $8.50).

This is some kind of fancy trick – that something so homespun and plain can simultaneously be so suave, smooth and sexy.

Coffee?

Spot on Greek for him and Italian for me end a great New Year’s Eve outing.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Eleni’s will be widely regarded as a very welcome arrival to the inner west.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Eleni’s as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Eleni’s management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Yiros winner

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The Brother Hood Yiros + Grill, Admiral Street, Seddon.

It’s inevitable there will be comparisons between this place, just off Buckley Street, and that other new Greek street food-style gyros/souvalaki joint in Seddon.

This is no big deal, as I’m pretty sure both are going to prosper.

Truth is, there’s a welter of kebab-type meals available in the west but a for-sure dearth of Greek classics, a vacuum/niche into which both are happily tapping.

 

 

The Brother Hood crew have a couple of favourable points of difference going in their favour:

Their meat is grilled over charcoal.

They make their own pita bread.

Both definite pluses.

There’s another point of difference that’s not so favourable – or at least it’s a little different.

The Brother Hood place is not a restaurant.

It’s takeaway only, though there is a wait space – that’s about as big as a bathroom in a cheap motel.

It’s there that I enjoy my first BHYG meal.

And most excellent it is.

 

 

My lamb wrap, at $11, costs a couple of bucks more than the Meat The Greek equivalent and it shows.

Everything is ace, from the house-made pita bread on up.

There’s plenty of lamb – and, best of all, it’s of the classic crusty variety.

 

 

My unadorned “patates”, or not “loaded” as the current argot goes, are very good and well priced at $4.

Brother Hood Yiros + Grill?

Or Meat The Greek?

I like it that I can do both.

Brother Hood Yiros + Grill is open for dinner hours only on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

 

Greek revival comes to Seddon

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Meat The Greek Souvlaki Bar, 105A Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9077 9369

A funeral, a priest, a church, an olive tree, senior citizens on the street or tending their gardens, products on the shelves of IGA in Yarraville or Sims in WeFo …

For newly arrived residents or casual visitors, the Greek heritage of the inner west – particularly in Seddon and Yarraville – can seem, no doubt, near invisible.

Look a little harder, though, and it’s right there all around us.

So the opening of a trio of Greek eating establishments is not so much something new as a continuation of deep heritage.

We have no news about the schedule of the Brother Hood Yiros & Grill off Buckley Street.

We do know Eleni’s in Yarraville is, after a slow start, coming along nicely.

Progress views on what looks to be a spectacular fit-out have been available for the past week or so to passers-by on Anderson Street in Yarraville.

But it’s Meat The Greek in Seddon that is first cab off this particular rank.

We – CTS No.1, good mate Justin and his colleague Dayna – hit it on opening day, along with a good number of like-minded hungry and curious souls.

And a very nice lunch we have, too.

I feel obliged to record here the minor wrinkles we experienced.

But given the place had been open barely an hour, I also recommend taking no notice of them.

Indeed, Facebook reviews strongly indicate the Meat The Greek crew is already running right up to speed and doing fine.

 

 

The place is done out in simple, bright and cheerful cafe fashion.

The menu (see below) is just how we like it – succinct and listing very low prices.

Our souvlakis (all $9) –

 

 

… chicken for Dayna and …

 

 

… pork for Justin and I – were good.

These were very much in the Greek street food style, so are not really in your two-fisted, bulging-with-meat bag.

But the meat is fine, abetted by a handful of chips and good dressings and salady bits, all stuffed in that puffy-style pita.

They were good value for $9.

 

 

Are feta chips a new or an old thing?

We don’t know, but we reckon it’s a brilliant concept.

These ($5.50), though, could have been a bit hotter.

 

 

This was Dayna’s first experience with saganaki.

She found it salty.

But, of course, saganaki IS salty.

This one ($9) seemed to have been a bit of a rush job.

As well, by the time the last souvlaki had reached our table, a half hour had elapsed.

But – as noted above – we were happy to be opening-day forgiving given the quality of our lunch.

We’ll be back – and I know Bennie will love this place.

 

Meal of the week No.29: Hellenic Hotel

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After participating in the opening rituals of Hellenic Hotel, I am super keen to try on the joint’s upstairs bar $15 daily specials.

So much so, I bound up the mid-week stairs.

The bar area – excluding verandah – is quite compact, featuring three tables for two, a couple of tall tables with stools and a communal table, also with stools.

The bar menu (see below) features a range of snacky-type dishes through to those with a bit more heft, such as 1/4 HH chicken for $17.

There’s a daily special allocated for each day (also on the menu below) – and based on the excellence of my Wednesday beef stifado, I definitely want to try them all.

My beef stew is marvellous.

The serving is of a good size and the sticky stew features not only heaps of very good beef chunks but also halved baby onions and carrot.

They all sit atop a bed of barley that is puffed up yet still nicely chewy.

Topping all is a fistful of of fennel salad that provides nice contrast.

It’s a delicious lunch and very good value for $15.

 

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Hellenic Hotel unveiled

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Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000

Yes, the new George Calombaris establishment in Williamstown is up and running.

The “soft opening” Consider The Sauce attends is loosely dedicated to “media”. It follows one the previous night for family and friends and will be followed the next night by another for locals.

 

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Star Weekly reporter Benjamin Millar documents the action.

 

I enjoy running into a few pals, but each invitee has chosen their own timetable and there is no communal seating, so this just like a busy (normal) night and plays a dual role of fine-tuning the restaurant and its food.

 

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My dining companion, Star Weekly sales gun Rochelle Loney, and I go for the “Feed Me” set menu that retails for $49.

In some ways, this is a bit lazy of us and I later regret not taking the opportunity to explore the a la carte menu in more depth.

But it does make things easy for us – and, besides, what we are served is very much the kind of thing I suspect many-perhaps-most customers here will want.

 

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What we get is pretty much plain, straight-up Greek food – and I say that as no criticism.

It all ranges, in my opinion, from good to very good to outstanding.

 

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Warmed Mount Zero olives – lovely.

In my world, the paler and less fishy is taramosalata the better it becomes.

This is a luscious verging-on-white delight served with slightly fluffy chargrilled pita bread.

 

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The black sesame lavosh and granny smith slices and puree top the saganaki with elan.

But the saganaki is just OK – maybe it’s simply not my thing.

 

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The HH grain salad with pulses, nuts and herbs is a cool, moist and topped with creamy smoked yogurt.

 

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“Heirloom” carrots with fenugreek and almonds are sweet and flavoursome.

 

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The Hellenic Hotel rotisserie chicken …

Normally, I’d expect to see greater depth of colour and way more turbo-charged seasoning.

But this is superb.

Of the two pieces we are presented, I get that with the breast meat.

To my great happiness, it is moist and delicious – which speaks highly of the quality of the chook and the skill with which it has been cooked.

 

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Greek rice pudding – risogalo – is topped with rhubarb and candied pistachios.

It’s a fine way to complete our meal. I like that its sweetness is restrained.

Consider The Sauce will visit Hellenic Hotel again soon to see how the $15 upstairs bar daily specials shape up!

 

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Calombaris social media manager Danielle Poulos with Mandy and Sammi from Mama Knows West.

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