Meal of the week No.38: Magic Mint Cafe

Leave a comment

 

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

Leave a comment

 

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

1 Comment

 

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

4 Comments
nation2

 

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.

 

nation7

 

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.

 

nation3

 

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.

 

nation8

 

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.

 

nation6

 

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.

 

nation1

nation5

nation4

Indian flavor explosion in Footscray

Leave a comment

sankranti1

 

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.

 

sankranti3

 

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.

 

sankranti5

 

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.

 

sankranti2

Indian yum cha, anyone?

Leave a comment

tiwari5

 

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.

 

tiwari8

 

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.

 

tiwari2

 

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.

 

tiwari4

 

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.

 

tiwari6

 

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!

 

tiwari7

 

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.

 

 

tiwari1

tiwari9

Happy birthday, Mishra’s Kitchen!

2 Comments
mishra34

 

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.

 

mishra37

 

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.

 

mishra39

 

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!

 

mishra35

 

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.

 

mishra36

 

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.

 

mishra310

 

We have a lovely time chatting with many people.

 

mishra313

 

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

 

mishra311

mishra31

mishra33

mishra32

mishra38

mishra312