Regal on the rice front

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Biryani King, 552 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 7013 9347

There have been several Indian eatery tenants at 552 Barkly in the past half dozen years.

So the arrival of a new player here in the very keen Indian eats scene in West Footscray could quite easily pass with little notice by us.

Even one with the word “biryani” in its name.

Except we DO notice the prices.

Here, bone-in chicken curries cost $10, a masala dosa $8 and a basic chicken biryani $10 (menu below).

These fees are significantly below those of most other places hereabouts and further afield.

But they count for nowt if the quality isn’t there.

And the quality, it appears, IS very much present.

CTS pal Nat Stockly has become something of semi-regular since his first visit a few months back – and that’s big thumbs up from a staunch biryani fan boy.

So up Bennie and I rock.

Nat’s endorsement is given extra credence by the number of customers – and delivery drivers – coming and going so early in a Saturday lunch hour.

We both have simple, basic meals – and they are very good.

 

 

Bennie’s masala dosa is nearing on perfection, though the dosa itself is a little thicker than is customary.

The accessories are fresh and pretty.

And the spud filling is a glorious, turmeric-yellow jumble of near mush.

So good is his dosa that he returns the next day with his mother, with both ordering the same dish!

 

 

Upon arrival at our table, my chicken dum biryani is sans gravy – a situation rectified a few minutes later.

But I confess to Bennie my lunch looks, at first blush, like a bowl of plain rice into which a few pieces of chook from a curry have been buried.

But the spilling of biryani to plate reveals a most excellent restaurant-style biryani, all the usual seasoning and two notably flavoursome and tender pieces of chicken.

It’s a winner, winner, chicken … lunch.

We’re likely, like Nat, to become regulars here for good – and seriously affordable – Indian goodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in West Footscray

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Bawarchi Biryanis Melbourne, 551 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9394 2200

In its now near decade-old life, Consider The Sauce has gone through various cycles and obsessions.

For instance, a few years back, we were all over Somalian food and the Flemington outlets and lovely people who provide it.

Not that we’ve turned our back on Somalian food – Bennie and I had a super feed at Mama’s Cuisine just last week.

But in terms of CTS stories, it’s fair to say our focus has moved.

Likewise with Indian food and restaurants, especially those in West Footscray – was a time when we seemed to be methodically ticking of the Barkly Street eateries on a weekly basis.

So it’s good to be back – with CTS A Team member Bennie Weir and Nat Stockley in tow.

We’re here at the invitation of Santhosh Xaveir, proprietor of Bawarchi Biryanis Melbourne (see full disclosure below).

And we’re in familiar surroundings – the premises were formerly a dosa place and, before that, those of Hyderabad Inn, which was written about by CTS on several occasions and was the venue for the first-ever CTS Feast.

 

 

This Bawarchi is tied in terms of nomenclature and branding to a parent company/chain with many restaurants in the US.

I had presumed, though, this would not extend the Melbourne branch’s kitchen and menu.

I am wrong, according to Santhosh – the Melbourne restaurant duplicates, or tries to, the food at all the other branches.

Is this an issue?

I don’t think so – such standardisation gets dicey and worse when junk food unfood is involved.

Indian tucker?

No problem!

And so we eat – choosing an array of dishes of the wide-ranging Bawarchi menu.

 

 

We start with vegetable hot and sour soup ($6.50).

Like all such soups in Indian places with Indo-Chinese food, this is loosely based on the chicken/corn soup style found in Chinese eateries, though this one is more runny, less viscous.

It’s good – but what does surprise us is the heat level.

This is too spicy – mostly from pepper, we suspect – even for us three experienced chilli fans.

 

 

Staying in Indo-Chinese mode, we try gobi Manchurian ($10.50) – deep-fried cauliflower.

Bennie and I like this a bunch, Nat less so.

There’s just enough crunch in the vegetable coating, after being doused in the tangy sauce, to keep dad and son happy.

 

 

A sizzler platter of chicken tikka kebab ($17) is also good, though a bit on the dry side.

 

 

Another sizzler platter – this time of tandoori pomfret ($32) – is the undoubted hit of the night, full and positive proof of the ugly-but-good theory.

Actually, better than good.

There’s a heap of fish flesh in there on both top and bottom of the bones – and it’s all firm yet far from dry, with an earthy, trout-like flavour.

As is often the case, the shredded cabbage into which the juices of the tandoori chicken and fish have dripped, is a nice, delicious bonus.

 

 

Two garlic naan ($3.50) are superb – hot, fresh and glistening with melted ghee.

 

 

Finally, given the name of the place and our three-way fondness for biryani, we have to make sure the rice is nice.

It is.

Gongura goat dum biryani ($16.50) is fine, with all the bits and pieces in place – goat on the bone, tender enough and coated in sorrel; good, darkish rice; half a hard-boiled egg; gravy and raita.

Check out the Bawarchi Biryanis Melbourne – including menu – here.

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

 

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.

Our kind of food

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Nat Stockley captured in his natural environment.

 

Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

On the Panjali menu, there’s dosas, vadai, dal and curries.

But you’ll also find roti canai, mee goreng and nasi lemak.

I cannot recall – in what is now many decades of trawling funky eats places all over Melbourne – any other eatery that so thoroughly, wonderfully expresses a particular school of transnational cooking, in this case Indian/Malaysian.

Panjali has been open about three months and is popular – as I discover on a CTS reconnaissance trip for Sunday lunch.

The service is warm and the prices are extremely cheap. It’s closed on Mondays, but other than that it keeps long opening hours.

 

 

House-made curry puffs ($5 for two) are ungreasy and have a thick casing that is nevertheless good; the spud-based vegetable filling does the job.

 

 

On my initial solo visit, I go for the eponymous banana leaf meal.

 

 

When Nat Stockly and I return for a more in-depth exploration of the menu (see below), he does the same.

The basic banana leaf meal costs $9.90 and consists of a generous rice pile anointed with vegetable-studded dal, with various vegetable dishes arranged alongside, along with rasam, yoghurt, pickle and pappadams.

For an extra $6, I top my meal up with a truly excellent and big fried chicken piece. The chicken has been freshly cooked and placed in the bain marie just as I order, so is an obvious choice.

For $8, Nat gets a serve of lamb curry. It’s quite good, but could’ve been a bit hotter.

Nat opines that often the state of pappadams can be taken as a fair indicator of the rest of a restaurant’s food.

Ours are crisp and unoily.

I could eat them all day.

Perhaps it could be said this kind of food is not for everyone – the vegetables (cabbage, beans, pumpkin, okra, broccoli) are cooked down to quite an extent.

But the food and the place that serves it most certainly hit the spot with us, and will do likewise for dedicated CTS readers.

 

 

From the noodle line-up, mamak mee goreng ($10.90) is simple, lovely and surprisingly dry – in a good way.

No meat or seafood here, the dish getting its flavour kicks mostly from just cabbage and egg.

 

 

The many tempting roti variations will have to wait for another visit.

Instead we order chicken murtabak ($10.90).

 

 

It’s tremendous in every way – hot and fresh; and delicate and hearty at the same.

The stuffing is a great mix of onion, egg and shredded chicken.

And I love the lightly pickled fresh onion served on the side for extra crunch.

As we depart after a fine meal, Nat quips: “That’s my kind of food!”

And that, right there, gives me the headline for my story.

 

Fusion on Union

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Fork & Fingers, 230 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9041 2436

Consider The Sauce and one of its regular dining pals had been vaguely talking about a visit to Fork & Fingers to try its Indian fusion food for more than a year.

In the end, though, it was with four other regular members of Team CTS that the deed was done.

As the arrangement were being made, one of them quipped: “Butter chicken lasagne – that place has piqued my interest. I feel it’s either going to be really good or terrible.”

Did our experience of that dish, and the food in general, attain for us such polarised extremes?

No.

Perhaps it would’ve been preferable for it to have done so.

 

 

Union Road, a few years back, was a regular haunt for CTS, but ebbs, flows and new horizons have subsequently taken us elsewhere.

So it’s good to be back; I check out some of the eating spots and their menus before joining my dining companions.

Fork & Fingers lives in a long room done out lovely, featuring exposed brick and all sorts of visual stimuli such as posters and murals.

Half the menu here is dedicated to familiar Indian dare such as paani puri and beef madras.

But the other half is dedicated to Indian fusion dishes – and it’s for them we’re here.

We toss up various ways of going about ordering.

My suggestion that two orders each of the five main courses would see us right is discarded.

Instead, we order the whole menu – one each of the three starters and likewise the five mains.

That turns out to be just right in terms of quantity for we five.

The service is very good and I appreciate the willingness to up the lighting at our table so photography can happen.

Here’s what we have:

 

 

Skinny vegan tofu meatballs ($14) are two spheres of tofu and vegan cheese.

They sit on a salan gravy, are topped by grated radish and are good in a crumbly way – though the flavours are low volume (this will become a recurrent theme).

 

 

Crab roll with Indian pesto and asparagus ($16) is another good-looking dish.

Going by the texture, we conclude there is real crab involved, though there is no discernible asparagus.

The accompanying “spicy soya Bollywood masala chutney” and fruit chutney are fine, serving as a flavour boost for the mostly tasteless roll itself.

 

 

Bery Indian falafel ($12) taste less like anything with Middle Eastern roots and more like the pakora they resemble, with a rather doughy interior.

They sit on a a zingy, gingery and lemony sauce/gravy that is excellent.

A good “strawberry spinach salad with bold sesame sauce” sits alongside, housed in a parmesan bowl.

 

 

So what of the butter chicken lasagne ($20)?

The menu describes it thusly: “Our version of Italian lasagna, battered chicken with fresh basil, mushroom, our special tangy butter sauce, melted three cheese.”

I find it a muddle of muted flavours that cancel each other out.

 

 

Lamb vindaloo tacos ($19) are simply that and good in a no-fuss way.

 

 

Lamb rogan josh shepherd’s pie ($19), like the lasagne, falls short of expectations.

It’s OK, but the lamb filling is rather dull.

And the topping appears to have very little potato content; instead it’s very cheesy, strands stretching away from the bowl like mozzarella from a pizza.

 

 

I’m no fan of paneer, so unsurprisingly the charms of the paneer tika sliders ($19) elude me.

The cheese is stuffed between black brioche buns with coleslaw.

The “Indian poutine” on the side is lacklustre.

A lot of thought and work has gone into creating these dishes.

But I can’t help but feel that it has been misdirected.

All meal long I was crying out for more striking flavours, a much higher degree of zing, big hits of tongue-tingling excitement.

We’ve had a lovely night of good friends catching up.

But I do not recall at any stage, anyone at our table exclaiming …

“Oh, wow!!!”

Or …

“OMG – that’s amazing!!!”

Instead, it was more a case of:

“Hmmmm, OK, next …”

Would any of us re-visit Fork & Fingers?

Not for the fusion line-up.

The regular Indian fare?

Maybe.

And the Tuesday night buffet for $22 sounds like it may be worth a look-see-eat.

The pricing?

Some of it may seem a tad on the steep side – two tacos for $19?

But it all evens out somehow, our meal – including one drink each – rounding out at a fine $30 per head.

Writing this gives me no pleasure at all.

If you cast around for reviews online – Google, Facebook – you’ll find it is very much a minority view.

And this excellent review on another Melbourne blog provides quite a different perspective.

Check out the Fork & Fingers menu – including menu – here.

 

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!

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!

 

Meal of the week No.41: Victoria Hotel

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The announcement that the Victoria Hotel was introducing a Tuesday curry night claimed our attention.

And to be honest, we’re not sure why – with so many very affordable and often excellent curry options close to the refurbished pub (43 Victoria Street, phone 8320 0315).

Nat and I surmised that it might have been because we had such a fine time during our initial visit to the Middle Footscray establishment.

That visit’s favourable impression having since been reinforced by favourable feedback from friends and readers who had visited the place.

As well, based again on our enjoyment of the food previously, maybe the pub’s curry operation – hopefully – would provide something above and beyond the offerings of the local curry shops.

Whatever – we’re up for it!

So how do we go?

Pretty good, actually.

We’re offered two curry packages – paneer and peas makhani or kadai chicken.

We both go chook.

The curry meal deals cost $18 and come with a good-size bowl of chicken curry, rice, a fistful of papadums and red onion slaw.

Kadai, also known as karahi, is a simple curry made with many of the expected spices and capsicum.

Ours is mild and quite tangy.

We like that the boneless chicken has seemingly been chargrilled before being wed to the gravy.

The rice and papadums are fine.

The red onion slaw?

A bit disappointing.

We have been looking forward to an alternative to the frequently served (elsewhere) hard nobs of commercial mango pickle.

Our red onion mix is OK, but I would’ve loved a bit more tartness and zing.

Putting aside the likes of dosas, biryanis and thalis, if you ordered the components of our meal for dinner just about anywhere in West Footscray, it’d cost the same $18 or more.

Simple, sensational, $6.50

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Parotta Station, 28A Millers Road, Brooklyn. Phone: 9314 9934

At Parotta Station, you’ll be served south Indian food.

So anyone even passingly familiar with the west’s many dosa joints – or even its Sri Lankan places – will feel right at home.

There’s string hoppers, a simple dosa offering, the chopped bread dish that is kothu – along with things of broader Indian outlook such as lamb and chicken kormas, biryanis and a small range of Indo-Chinese dishes.

But the proprietor has some twists going on here very much down to his home state of Tamil Nadu.

Most emphatically, they come in the form of the eponymous parotta, a version of the eternal flatbread.

In this case, the bread is lovingly moulded into a scroll before being fried, the result being a marvellous, magical and flaky experience.

Parotta Station serves them in a variety of ways, including egg-stuffed ($3.50), two of which we take away for Bennie’s next-day school lunch.

 

 

But the big hit for us is the combo named “parotta with saalna” ($6.50).

Two standard, fresh and sublime parotta.

A salted fried egg.

And a generous tub of coconut/tomato curry gravy. We’re told this is meat-based to the extent it uses a mutton stock as part of the base. I’m sure it’d be no problem to have it substituted by  the potato or mixed vegetable dishes on offer.

How good is this?

Right up there.

We’d rate this as good a cheap eat as can be found and rank it right alongside the very best to be had at banh mi or dosa establishments anywhere.

 

 

These look like plump ginger cookies.

They’re not.

Shamiyan ($11.50) are patties made of lentils and lamb mince that taste and feel of neither.

They have a very mild spice kick and are very dry; we happily dip them in the curry gravy served with our parotta.

They’re an interesting experience, but not one that completely bowls us over.

 

 

Aatu kaal paya ($12.50) is a stew of lamb trotters.

Forget any ideas of similarity to pork hocks or even lamb shanks.

The most precise comparison here is with chicken feet – there’s no meat whatsoever, just various shards and lumps of random glutinous material.

So not everyone’s cup of tea – obviously!

But if you are hip to Chinese-style chicken feet, go right ahead.

But at Parotta Station, parotta are the main go.

We reckon we’ll be inhaling that “parotta with saalna” combo many times in the coming year.

Parotta Station is on Uber for those in appropriate postcodes and is closed on Tuesdays.

 

CTS v Uber: And the winner is …

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Ethiopian feast from Ras Dashen.

 

As is clear from even the most cursory look at the CTS archives, we much prefer hitting the road and eating out to eating in, cooking or having food delivered.

We have such a mind-boggling treasury of great food within short journey confines, the food is ALWAYS better straight from kitchen to table – and we get, often, to meet the people who make it.

Before the advent of Uber and the somewhat earlier whizz-bang delivery apps, we did sometimes indulge in home delivery.

Pizzas from Motorino, for instance.

But truth be told, though pizzas seem to have been pretty much a foundation food when it comes to home-delivered food, we found the process really did affect the quality.

But now there’s Uber – and like many people we know, we are occasionally using it.

(The impression I get is that some are using it way more than occasionally!)

What is the attraction, over and beyond the other delivery apps?

The app, of course, is very slick and the photos gorgeous.

But most important, I think, is the geographically restricted catchment for any given address.

Obviously, this diminishes Uber for some who lack coverage.

But for us and many others, we must choose relatively local – and that’s a fine thing.

Obviously, there are broader issues involved with Uber and the like.

But on a micro, more local level, it works.

We even have a good CTS pal who drives/delivers for them who has suggested I do likewise.

As is well known, Uber takes a fair old whack from the eateries, but as the above linked story also illustrates there are advantages for them – most importantly, perhaps, the non-necessity to hire drivers themselves.

And often, customers demand it.

We have worked at finding what works for us – what is affordable, what we actually want to eat, what mirrors as closely as possible a restaurant experience once the food is plated.

For starters, we just won’t be doing fish and chips (despite some happy experiences with Dough! in Newport) or hamburgers.

Just not good travel potential going on there.

And we’ve found, in terms of Indian food, the likes of dosas and pooris are soggy dead losses.

By contrast, we’ve found biryanis to be a winner.

We’ve had chicken biryani from Sankranti, Dosa Corner and Spicy Chef – and they’ve all been good and affordable.

We’ve had some fine Vietnamese from Phu Vinh in Footscray.

The broken rice with pork chop, shredded pork, fried egg, meatloaf and pickles was truly spectacular.

But THE best we’ve found is Ethiopian.

So far, only two Ethiopian eateries service our area – Ras Dashen and Abesha.

We’ve ordered beyaynetu veg combos from both and enjoyed them, a key being that the injera is already moist and kinda soggy so the delivery process simply can’t do bad.

But in each case, the lentils (two kinds) and the familiar Ethiopian veg of carrots, spuds and beetroot have been delivered in the same container.

This is no biggie, really, as the dishes soon merge served on a platter.

 

 

However, last night I twigged that, with Ras Dashen at least, there is another way – the meat mains can be customised.

So for our Tuesday night dinner we had lamb tibs well done ($13), one extra piece of injera ($1), a small serve of both lentils ($3 – bargain!) and khey whot (spicy beef stew, $6) and side salad ($3.50).

Initially, we thought we may have over-ordered and not got enough injera.

We were wrong on both counts.

What a magnificent feast it was!

And at $31.50 (including $5 delivery), very little different from what we would’ve paid had we got in the car!

 

Chicken biryani from Spicy Chef.

Cool joint does Indian brilliantly

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Curry Cafe Canteen, 332 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0498 003 970

Curry Cafe Canteen is a new arrival that adds much colour and wonder to the already diverse offerings of one of our favourite food strips.

It’s an outpost of an already established Curry Cafe in Northcote, with the Flemington branch offering a bit more of an accent on Indian street food.

The place – done out in wood and stools, and very chic in a comfy way – has been open just a few days when we visit for a Sunday lunch, but has been doing Uber deliveries for a month or so on the back of the connection with the Northcote mothership.

 

 

And – as we discover to our ecstatic delight – it is raising the bar for all Indian food offerings in the western suburbs.

Seriously.

It’s not so much that the menu (see below) offers anything unusual, spectacular or innovative.

It’s just that everything we try has the stamp of Indian cooking expertise all over it.

Even better, there is a level of freshness and an exuberance of flavour that leaves most Indian places for dead – including many that are rather more expensive and famous.

And they do it all at prices that fit, with room to move, into the cheap eats category.

And there’s craft beer and organic wine on the way.

 

 

Take Bennie’s pav cholle ($8), for example.

All to often, when we order an Indian snack dish the involves a chick pea curry, the curry is dull and appears and tastes tired.

No such problem here – the chick pea brew is fresh and alive with vim.

The buttered brioche rolls and kachumba salad are similarly fine.

 

 

My thali ($12) comes with vibrant lamb madras that puts the meat curries served in most Indian places to shame.

On board, too, are the same salad, a pappadum and rice.

The pickles vividly illustrate, again, the freshness of the Curry Cafe Canteen food and the care put into it.

I love the sour flavour boost that pickles give to an Indian meal, and am quite happy to accept commercial pickles.

But so often those pickles involve a chunk of mango that is as tough as old boot.

Here the pickles are made in house using lemon, lime, pepper, mango, lotus stem and garlic – and they’re soft.

Another point of difference is the dal makhani.

In most Indian eateries, this dish overloaded with cream.

Not so here – it’s a way more austere and plain pulse offering, and all the better for it.

 

 

While we’re about our Sunday lunch, we get some extras from the lunch menu.

Garlic naan ($2.50) and roti ($2) are very good.

Onion bhajji ($3, top photo) are excellent Indian onion rings.

 

 

A serve of two smallish samosas ($3) again affirm the high quality of the food here.

These are a bit more delicate than we’re mostly familiar with, expertly fried, have peas on board, are wonderful and are served with more of that salad and a nice tamarind chutney.

I’m told that the pav dishes and the thali set-up is available for lunch only.

I reckon that’s shame as thalis are so very, very cool for those dining solo – as I often do.

But the place is finding its feet, so could be open to persuasion in these regards.

But even going a la carte with the evening menu will surely be a winner.

After all, all curries are in the $10 to $13 range and half a tandoori chook costs $10.

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.2: Sankranti wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 2: Sankranti, Sankranti, 250 Barkly Street, Footscray. Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Well, the Sankranti crew really tuned it on for Consider The Sauce and guests for the second CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival event.

The food was fabulous.

 

 

So many thanks to Latha, Sree, Prasanth, Laya and the rest of their team – they did themselves proud.

The service was well-timed and the portion sizes just right for such a lengthy affair.

Among the many highlights were …

 

 

… succulent tandoori kebab meats, including beef (a first for many of us) and salmon.

Best of all … juicy, smoky chicken.

Oh my!

 

 

Manchow soup – how do they get such a massive, deep and – let it be said – meaty flavour from a vegetarian-based soup?

It remains a mystery!

(Chicken had been added but the base is meat-free, so the question remains legitimate …)

 

 

The curries were all fine, too, particularly the gonkura chicken with its tangy sorrel gravy.

Are they sprinkles – or hundreds and thousands?

Whatever – the topping of the “Sankranti special naan” variously bemused and delighted, usually at the same time.

 

 

The chutneys served with the mini-idlys were fresh and zesty.

 

 

Thanks to all who attended – I couldn’t have been happier.

 

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Kebab platter – tandoori lamb, tandoori chicken, stone-cooked beef, fish tikka.

Spcial manchow soup.

Mini idly shots with assorted chutneys.

 

Three varieties of naan – garlic, sesame, Sankranti special naan.

Four varieties of Sankranti special curries:

Gutti vankay (stuffed eggplant).

Gonkura chicken (Sankranti’s signature dish).

Tomato dal.

Goan fish curry/beef saagwala.

Choice of one biryani – vegetable, chicken or goat.

 

Sankranti dessert platter:

Paan kulfi.

Mini-chocolate brownie.

Sticky date pudding

 

WeFo Ramadan specials

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Dosa Hut, 604 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8592 4900
Dosa Corner, 587 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8528 5120

Those of us who love Indian food owe the Dosa Hut crew a big vote of thanks.

As far as I am aware, they were the very first to brings dosas to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

These days, there are five Dosa Hut branches at various parts of the Melbourne.

But the change that first shop in West Footscray helped initiate extends well beyond dosas and extra branches.

It’s taken the best part of a decade, but in that time Indian eating-out in Melbourne has changed dramatically.

Not just dosas, but also the likes of idlis and vadas have become common.

And it’s not just about those dishes, mostly associated with South Indian food – now Dosa Hut, and their many competitors, do Indo-Chinese, biryanis and sometimes even thalis.

What this transformation means is that where once eating in Indian restaurants was once mostly rather formal, and correspondingly expensive, it is now informal and very affordable.

Even those places that would perhaps have preferred to stick with more formal a la carte offerings have been forced by sheer demand and expectations to cater to this market.

And hooray for that, we say!

I still eat at the original Dos Hut on occasion – and was definitely interested in trying out their Ramadan specials.

These include haleem, of which I am not a fan, and a couple of biryanis – lamb shank and “gutti vankaya dum biryani” (eggplant biryani).

Unfortunately, on the day I visit for lunch, the lamb shank number is unavailable.

But fortunately, settling for eggplant is by no means a case of second best.

My biryani ($13.95) appears at my table (top photo) looking pretty much like any other biryani.

Rice, gravy, raita – but no hardboiled egg.

 

 

But the proof is, as always with biryani, is hidden.

For within my rice are to be found two fat, rotund, tender and very tasty eggplants.

This dish makes for a nice change from my usual biryani order of chicken or lamb, though it is of rather high spiciness.

 

 

 

Right across the road at Dosa Corner, they’re also doing haleem for Ramadan.

And another dish I am most eager to try – paya ($9.99, roti $2 each).

This is a soup/stew made with sheep trotters.

There’s not a lot of meat involved, but as is so often the way, the flavour is of immense meatiness, along with being tangy and having a nice chilli burn going on.

In many ways, the broth/soup reminds of the equally meaty-but-meatless broths routinely served at many East African places, of which this Flemington establishment is our current fave.

The couple of pieces sheep trotter?

Well, no, not a lot of meat; but, yes, a whole bunch of gelatinous matter.

Not, in other words, a cup of tea for everyone.

Personally, I love it as something different and delicious.

And I reckon anyone with a fondness for equally fiddly and bony chicken feet will feel the same!

Meal of the week No.38: Magic Mint Cafe

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Magic Mint Cafe is one of those old-timers in the Puckle Street precinct – been around so long, it’s easy to overlook.

I’d have continued to do so – thinking it’s not open for lunch or that the food would be old-school average, and thus not of much interest – had not the ever diligently researching Nat Stockley discovered otherwise.

So on the basis of pikkshas he’d sent of an earlier lunch he’d enjoyed at the place (9 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds, phone 9326 1646), I am very happy to join him for another.

And for our purposes, lunch is the key – the lunch special list includes a nice line-up of curry dishes that are accompanied by dal, rice, naan and a papadum.

The same sort of deal is offered for biryani or chicken sizzler.

All of them cost a few cents under $15, that fee also covering a glass of wine or a soft drink.

Which would count for nothing if the food was average or worse.

But that’s not the case here – the food is significantly better than that found at many places offering similar deals.

The boneless chicken is plentiful in our curry bowls, submerged in a lovely gravy, the appealing tartness of which has me thinking it’s like a vindaloo without the heat factor.

The dal is wonderful, simple and earthy.

If anything, it is our naan that best express the difference between our lunches and your typical curry-and-rice quickie around town.

These naan are fresh, pliable and shimmering with a ghee coating.

$15?

A very swell deal!

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 2: Sankranti

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE.

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 2: Sankranti

 

Venue: Sankranti, 250 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Date: Tuesday, June 20, from 7pm.

Price: $30 per person (covers food only).

 

Indian restaurant Sankranti has quickly become a firm CTS favourite.

We are slowly working our way through a menu, one that contains lovely takes on familiar dishes as well as more than a few of the less familiar.

So we are very much looking forward to trying more of both at the CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival bash on Barkly Street.

Will you join us?

As with our first event, the menu for our second – niftily framed by the Sankranti crew – is a doozy.

 

MENU

Kebab platter – tandoori lamb, tandoori chicken, stone-cooked beef, fish tikka. Vegetarian options available.

Spcial manchow soup.

Mini idly shots with assorted chutneys.

 

Three varieties of naan – garlic, sesame, Sankranti special naan; half a piece each.

Four varieties of Sankranti special curries:

Gutti vankay (stuffed eggplant).

Gonkura chicken (Sankranti’s signature dish).

Tomato dal.

Goan fish curry/beef saagwala.

Choice of one biryani – vegetable, chicken or goat.

 

Sankranti dessert platter:

Paan kulfi.

Mini-chocolate brownie.

Chef’s special dessert.

 

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE.

 

Meal of the week No.36: Tiwari Tea House

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It’s been a while since our review visit to Tiwari Tea House (1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray) – and almost as long since they announced they were serving thalis in addition to the cool line-up of snacky delights.

But now we’ve made it and – we’re delighted with the outcome.

The Tiwari thalis come in two sizes – smaller ($9.95) and the Maharaja ($14.95); we’re hungry, so are quick to go with the latter.

What we get is unassuming, delicious and perfect for our mood.

Rice studded with cumin seeds.

A wonderfully smooth dal made with kidney beans, dosed with cream.

A paneer dish with a tomato-based gravy.

Aloo ghobi – reheated, sure, but all the better and tastier for it, we reckon.

Chunky raita, thicker and more stuffed with veg matter that we normally expect with such meals.

Two mini-papudums, two lovely house-made rotis, (commercial) tangy pickle.

A plump, warm gulab jamun.

As well, we’re served a dish of salad veg on the side.

We wipe the various bowls clean.

The thing about these thalis is the low-key simplicity and wholesomeness.

They’re unglamorous in a home-style way.

The price is spot on.

Tiwari Tea House is doing it’s thali thing for lunches only – which means weekends for non-working folks.

Still, we recommend!

 

Be one with the Biryani Nation

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Biryani Nation, 6 Lohse Street, Lverton. Phone: 8597 3452

The Lohse and Hall Street shops are tucked away, over the train tracks and about a kilometre from Laverton’s main shopping area, around Aviation Road and Cheeky Chewies Cafe.

Very local, very low key.

There was a couple of Indian places here we never visited.

They’re gone – and now there’s just the very brand new Biryani Nation.

With a name like that, you’d want to be pretty darn good at cooking … biryanis.

Certainly, the menu makes a big deal out of this sub-continental rice dish – there are about 30 of them, including vegetarian options, listed (see below).

Apart from the regulation and expected dum biryanis – in which the meat is cooked with the rice – I suspect many of the Biryani Nation dishes could more accurately be labelled as pulaos.

That’s of no matter to me – I’m not about to get into hair-splitting if the food is good and there is a range of flavours and seasoning among the various biryani selections.

There is – I know, because I’ve tried two of them and they were very good.

 

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Chicken fry biryani ($13.95) has crunchy fried onions, cashews, curry leaves and plenty of meaty, chewy chicken pieces on the bone.

The accompanying gravy (tastes peanutty but is, I’m told, cashew-based) and raita are served in admirably hefty quantities and are excellent.

 

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Gongura mutton biryani ($16.95) is more in the pulao style – but is a knockout.

Gongura, I find out, is a leafy vegetable widely used in India – it’s basically sorrel.

Here, as in saag/spincach dishes, it is used as a puree marinade cooking medium for the mutton, one piece of which crowns my rice pile and many others of which are buried within.

Some of the mutton pieces are bone-free and wonderful.

As many more are on the bone and rather tough – but I like it like that, getting fully into the hands-on swing that very much goes with this sort of territory.

The big thing is the flavour – the gongura produces a zesty, citrus-like tang like I’ve never before experienced in Indian food.

I love it!

So much so, that I use the raita only sparingly, and the gravy not at all, in order to enjoy the leafy puree all the more.

 

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For non-biryani fans, there’s plenty of scope for enjoyment elsewhere on the Biryani Nation menu – dosas, Indo-Chinese, thalis.

These onion pakora ($4.95) are beaut with their crunchy batter and curry leaves.

 

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The Biryani nation desserts range runs mostly to the familiar likes of kulfi and gulab jamun, but …

I am presented, complementarily, with this amazing double ka meetha on account of it being opening day.

They should put it on the menu!

It’s an Indian take on bread pudding, the white sliced bread all puffed up with milk and perfumed with saffron and cardamom.

And sugar.

Topped with chopped almonds and pistachios, it’s a killer treat.

 

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Indian flavor explosion in Footscray

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Sankranti Australia, 250 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9041 9899

Sankranti has been open a few weeks, and in that time I’ve enjoyed some nice food south Indian – pooris, a biryani.

But I’ve left it to do a story for the weekend the restaurant is doing a three days of special menus in celebration of the festival after which it is named.

On the plus side, for me that means a beaut – and very photogenic – feed.

On the down side, a one-off vegetarian feast can not be taken as representative of the regular menu.

So let’s look at it this way – my Saturday lunch meal may not be what you’ll get on a regular visit here, but it is representative of the care and love that goes into the Sankranti food.

 

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The Saturday Sankranti deal costs me $29 (see details below).

Quite a bit for a vegetarian thali, eh?

Well, no.

I’m happy to pay up and eat, such is diversity of tastes and textures, some of them familiar, many of them new to me and even challenging.

Latha talks me through some of the particulars and rituals normally involved with eating this sort of festive food.

 

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I even give the traditional eating order a go – sweets first, soup and yogurt last.

The sweets don’t look very appetising, do they?

Not so – they make lovely eating, though in quite a different way from more familiar Indian sweets such as kulfi.

But a lifetime of culinary indoctrination of the soup/mains/sweets school is hard to kick.

And the effort of mentally trying to match new and interesting names with specific dishes tumbles into the realm of information overload.

So in the end, I just go with my own flow and enjoy the dazzling array before me.

I especially like the rasam, the deep-fried and battered okra, the spicy coriander rice and the rice and vermicelli pudding that is payasam.

This has been a humbling reminder that for all the Indian food I eat, in terms of regional diversity and a fabulously rich food culture, I am a mere beginner.

 

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Indian yum cha, anyone?

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Tiwari Tea House, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8529 5960

According to a recent story in one of the papers, the growth of skycscraper canyons in central Melbourne has been a thoroughly unplanned, haphazard process.

I figure much the same can be said for the flowering of Indian food in West Footscray and, to some extent, the surrounding areas.

I doubt that, 10 years or so ago, a bunch of ambitious Indian business people sat down and said: “Righto, we’re going to take over Barkly Street in West Footscray!”

Cities and their neighbourhoods often move in mysterious ways and, equally often, it’s only in hindsight that patterns can be perceived.

Count us among those who see what has developed in West Footscray as quite fabulous – something worth celebrating.

We have our favourite food there and favourite places, depending on our whim of the moment.

 

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One thing we do look for is a point of difference.

Tiwari Tea House has that in spades.

While other Barkly Street eateries feature chaat – savoury Indian snack-type dishes – this place does nothing but.

The food is all vegetarian.

Four of us get into the menu (see below) and come away happy, and perhaps even feeling refreshed from eating snacky things so devoid of the heavy spicing and meatiness we often enjoy hereabouts.

 

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As the name makes clear, this place is also much about tea – so we go with that flow, Bennie and I having the masala chai ($9.95 for two), while our pals Julian and Christine have black ginger tea.

This seems rather pricey for a couple of cups of chai.

We find it enjoyable, but wish we had ordered after our food started arriving – or even at the end of our meal – as we are pretty much done with it even before we start eating.

Maybe we’re missing something in terms of Indian chaat-eating and tea-drinking rituals and protocols?

No matter – we enjoy all our food, and love some of it a lot.

Big hits are our vada pavs ($6.95 each, top photograph).

Looking like tall, chubby burgers, these are bread buns stuffed with wonderful potato patties.

The potato is heavily infused with turmeric, but otherwise mildly seasoned.

That’s a lot carbs, right?

Yet the overall effect is much lighter than we may have been expecting and the flavours hit the spot.

 

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We have two sets of crispy cutlets ($8.95 for two), served with dipping sauces of the tamarind and green chilli variety.

Leastwise, I think that’s what the sauces are – and I could certainly be missing some of the specifics.

The spinach-cheese cutlets are on the dull side.

No such problem with the mixed vegetable varieties – they’re both stuffed with a mix that is colourful and tasty.

 

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These cute guys are dahi puri ($7.95 for six) – a close relative of the more familiar pani puri.

So closely related, I suspect, that I struggle to tell the difference, apart from the inclusion of yogurt – though there’s no doubt these sev-topped flavour bombs are delicious!

 

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Aloo tiki chat ($8.95) is another big hit with all of us – we should’ve double ordered!

Yes, more potato.

Here, the spud rissoles appear to be even less seasoned, yet – nice surprise! – have a semblance of chargrill flavour.

They’re topped with a sticky jam/chutney, tomato, raw onion and more sev.

These are very, very nice.

I can see myself dropping into Tiwari Tea House with some regularity – when I feel like Indian flavours, but am not up to confronting a full-on biryani or some such.

 

 

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Happy birthday, Mishra’s Kitchen!

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Mishra’s Kitchen, 18 Wembley Ave, Yarraville. Phone: 9314 3336

It’s a most happy thing, this food-blogging caper, or as it’s evolved for us anyway …

Pretty much the only down side is that mostly we don’t have the opportunity to patronise on a more regular basis so many top places and the smiling, welcoming people who run them.

 

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Such a one is Mishra’s Kitchen on Wembley Avenue in Yarraville.

So we are delighted to accept Sanjeev’s invitation to attend his joint’s fifth birthday party.

 

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We bowl up right at the appointed time thinking that, as so often is the case with us, that we’ll among the very first arrivals and that proceedings will only just be getting underway.

Wrong – the part is already in full swing!

 

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We make happy with the laid-out goodies that include a luscious dal makhani and a very toothsome goat curry.

Sanjeev has turned on this spread without charge.

 

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But guests are being encouraged to give the money they would otherwise have spent on food to the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.

From Sanjeev’s invittation: “Moira Kelly, AO, has supported sick children and their families for decades. She is known for her work in bringing to Australia children with serious health problems that local doctors are unable to treat (such as conjoined Bangladeshi twins Trishna and Krishna). Moira takes on causes that everybody else says are impossible, and she says of her work: ‘There’s no saying No to hope.’ Her aim is to help international and local needy children and families to be as independent as possible and live full lives in the community.”

You can read all about Moira and her kids here.

 

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We have a lovely time chatting with many people.

 

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And we even have the pleasure of running into Mick and Anika, our neighbours from the days we lived in West Footscray!

 

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