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.

 

MENU

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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