La Morenita Latin Cuisine


67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

Update 19/9/11: Review of La Morentia’s new menu here.

I reckon Bennie and I could have spent many years longer without twigging there was a significant Latin American/South American enclave living in the midst of our extended neighbourhood.

But a switch of schools from Footscray to Sunshine removed the veil.

The first sign came on a school day on which the lunch box was not packed, so we resorted to the sandwich shop on the shopping strip adjacent our school. As we waited for our ham and salad roll to be made, I took great interest in the pie heater in the corner. “Hey, Bennie, I reckon those there are empanadas,” said I.

And so they were. We bought a bunch to take home after school, had them for din dins that night  and they were beaut.

As we settled in to the new school routine, we devised a slightly longer route that avoided the franticness of Ballarat Rd for back roads that at least featured a more measured pace and a few trees, along with hundreds of auto repair shops of various stripes, barbed wire and a junk yard dog.

As we were closing in on school one day, tooling along Berkshire Rd, I spied some interesting signage, and said to my food hound buddy: “I’m betting that’s another South American bakery.”

And so it was.

We dropped in that afternoon after school and have been returning ever since on a very regular basis.

Cheese and prawn empanada.

La Morenita (the signs outside actually say Empanadas Las Penas) caters mostly to the local South American community – orders for cakes and catering, along with wine, chorizos, ribs and a variety of cured meats. It also hosts a modest range of  grocery lines.

But there are several attractions for blow-ins such as us, and the place has been steadily fostering lunch-time trade from the hundreds of close-by workplaces.

The big stars for us are the empanadas – flat pastie-like parcels of deliciousness.

We love the beef ($2.50, each of which comes with a little sliver of black olive and another of hard-boiled egg) and the chicken ($2.80). Both oven-baked, these can be had hot and tasty on the premises.

However, we’ve also found they’re great to takeaway and bung in the freezer.

Even better, they provide a cheap and fine way of breaking up the boring routine of work and school lunch boxes – even if the more traditionally minded patrons, we have been led to believe, are somewhat aghast at the idea of eating empanadas cold! Works for us!

Some of the other empanadas – such as the cheese ($1.80) and the prawn and cheese ($3) – are deep fried, no less delicious, but don’t work when unheated.

Also strictly for eating-in are the sandwiches – so gooey with goodness that taking away is simply unthinkable.

My favourite is the churrasco ($5) – steak sandwich with avocado, tomato and mayonnaise (above). The sliced beef is juicy and tasty, the rolls fresh, the whole thing a delight. And certainly a whole lot more appetising than my photo indicates!

Bennie likes the completo ($5) – a South American-style hot dog with the same trimmings.

Unlike the other two South American bakeries in the area, La Morenita doesn’t specialise in cakes and sweets, though the ones we’ve tried have been good. There’s a lot of crunchy pastry and much use of a sticky caramel cream filling.

And even though it’s not really set up as a cafe, we’ve also had many, many lattes and hot chocolates of a pretty good standard.

We love this place and the welcome we get.

You won’t get anything approaching a proper sit-down meal here – there’s no tacos or the like, as found at the newly famous Los Latinos just down the road apiece.

But the empanadas and the sandwiches are unreal!

Closed on Mondays.