Latin Foods & Wines evening

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Western suburbs food is ALWAYS exciting for Consider The Sauce.

But we reckon there’s nothing that’s been more exciting than the move of Latin Foods & Wines (aka La Morenita) from rather pokey digs in Sunshine to much bigger premises in Deer Park.

The business has grown, there’s a definite buzz and the eat-in options have expanded to include not just the empanadas and dynamite sandwiches still available but also proper, plated meals.

We’ve tried a number of those latter offerings and are so delighted with the whole new deal we are happy to put an extra 10 minutes drive time to get to Deer Park.

 

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A big part of the expanded business is the parrillada – South American barbecue.

It’s been running for a few months – mainly at the weekends.

But this Friday night sees its official launch and a test run for Latin Foods & Wines as a regulation restaurant operation.

I’ve been only too happy to organise a media/blogger table for the occasion; no “consultancy” fee has been paid – this has been just for the fun of it.

We get the same $50 set sample menu on offer to general customers, though in our case the food is complementary.

 

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We start with a trio of fine cocktail empanadas with various fillings.

I am familiar with the style of the two on the left through multiple eatings at LF&W, but the corn-crusted on one on the right – in the Colombian style, I’m told, and filled with mash ‘n’ meat – makes a nice contrast.

 

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Unannounced on the menu are cheesy bread items called pan de bono with mayonesa de ajo.

 

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Next up are (from left) …

Ceviche – in the Chillean style, I’m told, and made from very finely shredded hake; very lemony.

Causa limefia – mashed spud stuffed with chicken and topped with a slice of hardboiled egg.

Anticucho – from the barbecue, two beef cubes on a stick, with a slice of chorizo between them.

 

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It’s worth noting that South American-style barbecue meats are quite different from the US-style that has become so trendy in Melbourne in recent years.

The meat is served mostly unadorned and is, by contrast, well cooked.

But still delicious!

I had rather feared that we’d be served full-on platters of meats from the regular barbecue line-up – on top of all the other components of our set/sample menu.

That’s not the case – instead we get nice sample chunks of costillar (cumin-scented pork), pamplona (rolled chicken stuffed with cheese and ham) and parrillada lamd (scented with rosemary).

A good tomato and onion salad accompanies.

The fully appropriate sample-size portions mean we have plenty of room for desserts …

 

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… which are fabulous and, for several of us, the unexpected highlight of our evening.

Tangy pineapple gelato tipped with a wonderful chewy, caramelised cube of fresh pineapple.

Tres leche – house specialty take on the sponge layer cake popular in various forms throughout South America.

Merengue lucuma – a spectacular mix of merengue and chocolate on a biscuit base.

The when and how of the various components of the Latin Foods & Wines’ line-up – sandwiches/burgers, more substantial plates, barbecue – is far from settled, so I suggest you phone beforehand to make sure what you’re interested in will be available.

I’ve loved not just the food but also the opportunity to rub shoulders – and swap goss – with friends new and old.

 

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Among the former have been Cassandra from Hungry Cookie and Maggie from They Call Me Maggie.

 

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Also on hand have been Susan from the lovely FB page Point Cook Dining and her friend, Saba.

 

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The old pals sharing our table have included Jacqui, The Urban Ma, and hubby Wes.

Sorry, Nat Stockley and Jackie – can’t include a pic of you two as I didn’t nail a usable one!

Consider The Sauce and friends dined at Latin Foods & Wines as guests of management. We did not pay for our food.

Latin Foods & Wines – now in Deer Park

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Visiting Latin Foods & Wines – or La Morenita as we’ve mostly called it – in the shabby industrial wilds of Berkshire Road in Sunshine North has been one of the greatest pleasures in Consider The Sauce’s existence.

Those days are over – but that’s no cause for sadness.

Because Marco and Maria are still very much in business – in fact, they’re in business bigger and better than before.

 

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They have moved into the very roomy premises that was formerly occupied by Blu Cow Deli on the commercial strip on Ballarat Road in Deer Park.

 

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And in a grand sign that some things will never change, the gorgeous blackboard from Berkshire has been replicated in Deer Park in whiteboard style but using the same handwritten style.

 

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Yes!

That means all our fave sandwiches and empandadas and churros and the like are still very much on the menu.

They reckon siting themselves in Deer Park puts them even more at the centre of widely dispersed Latin/South American community in the west.

 

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But going bigger also means getting broader, so there’s now also a touch of Italian and Maltese about some of the bakery, grocery and deli lines, while the booze range has been widely expanded.

 

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Their arrival in Deer Park means that strip is looking more and more like a cool foodie destination, with Latin Food & Wines and a recent Ethiopian arrival joining two Turkish joints, three Vietnamese and a Malaysian.

There are plans for breakfasts and proper, sit-down South American-style dinners at Latin Food & Wines but in the meantime the hours are  8am-8pm daily.

Nuevo flavours hit spot

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Nuevo Latino, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0419 589 739

The aroma of new paint tells us Nuevo Latino – in the premises that previously housed the West Footscray video shop – is a fresh enterprise.

But what we see about us conveys a different impression – it’s a fit-out full of bits and pieces, and great vintage furniture, that gives off a happy, relaxed lived-in vibe.

We enjoy our dinner very much.

But the real stars of the night are the staff.

 

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Salvador and Yoko, out front, and Juan and Clarita in the kitchen take care of us in a way that is warm and caring yet never overbearing.

They’re very good and we eventually leave very happy.

And as we walk away, all four of tonight’s Team CTS of four express the hope their new eatery succeeds and prospers.

We try a handful of the tapas and “rations”, and have one each of four of the five mains.

It’s pretty much all good or much better.

 

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Croquettes of bacalao ($3) with what I think is a creamy dill sauce are light, delicate  and tasty.

 

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Yuka chips ($7) with “piquant dipping salsa” are wonderful and unlike anything any of us have eaten previously.

They’re crisp/crunchy on the outer; almost powdery and/or molten on the inner.

 

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Grilled corn kernels ($6) have the “wow” factor, too.

According to the menu (see below), they’re dressed in a chilli lime aioli – but the dish tastes to me like there’s more than that going on.

 

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The papa rellena ($4) – “rock salt baked au gratin potato skins, filled with cheese” – are the single dish we order I find less than memorable.

Nothing bad about them; they simply come and go without leaving an impression.

And now the mains …

 

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The most impressive looking of our mains is carne asada ($21).

The beef strip, threaded on to a wicked-looking dagger/sword, is nice and salty, chewy in a good way and all sorts of wonderful.

It’s not my main so I’m grateful the companion whose it is spares me some nice chunks.

That’s for me next time!

As with all our mains, the accessories – in this case corn tortillas, pico d’gallo and salad – are fine.

 

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“Pupusaw” $16 have that required full-on corn flavour and are gooey with cheese.

They’re served with pickled vegetables and refried beans.

 

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Tamales ($18) are plain but satisfying, also having that corn thing going on.

 

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“Quinoa envoltini” ($28) is a treat of chicken stuffed with spinach, pepitas and quinoa.

It’s mild of flavour but well done and enjoyable.

We have been kind of hoping for desserts along the lines of a flan or creme caramel.

We’re told such is on the way, but we’re happy with our meal and choose to pass on the churros that are available.

After all, the place has been open only a week.

 

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But then Juan presents us with a couple of  complementary cups of blood orange gelati (sorbet?).

They’re terrific – sweet, rich and sourish – and a perfect way to end our dinner.

See another Melbourne blogger’s take on Nuevo Latino here.

 

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Best schnitzel EVER!

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La Morenita, 67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

Meeting a fellow blogger and her friends a few weeks back – at La Morenita as it happens – I casually mentioned that I am happy for Consider The Sauce to cover a restaurant or business more than once.

This occasioned surprise on behalf of one of my new friends.

Me, too, I guess!

It has never been planned.

But somewhere along the way this blog has become an ongoing journey so updates and second-looks seem natural as the western subrubs food scene develops and evolves, menus expand or change and people come and go.

After several “reviews” and before-and-after stories on two separate CTS Feasts, La Morenita certainly fits snugly into that continuing scenario!

And for that we make no apologies – this after all, in our opinion, is one of the true gems of the west.

What’s more, exciting things are happening at this fine Berkshire Road emporium, with revamps and extensions planned for both the premises and the menu.

After a “research trip” to Sydney, Marco and Maria will be rolling out for testing a number of new dishes on coming Sundays – they’ll be of a more substantial nature, to match the grouse range of sandwiches/burgers and empanadas already featured.

First up tomorrow (July 20) will be fried fish (barramundi) and beef schnitzel with chips and salad.

I, of course, misread Maria’s Facebook announcements and bowl up on Saturday – but Marco whips me up a schnitzel anyway.

Oh … My … Lord – it’s sensational!

The crumbed coating so crisp and unoily, the meat so thin, tender and tasty.

And what looks at first blush like somewhat ordinary accompaniments turn out to be perfect – the chips and, particularly, a simple salad of tomato and onion.

It’s big, mind you – really really really big. So much so the $20 price tag seems like a bargain.

Half of it went home with me.

Unless you are of pronounced appetite, this’ll do as a light meal for two.

Schnitzel? Latin-American food?

Yup.

Maria tells me schnitzel and chips is an absolute Uruguayan classic.

“This is what I grew up on,” she says.

Best way to keep track of what the weekly dishes will be is to like their Facebook page.

 

 

Los Latinos

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Los Latinos, 128 Mitchell St, Maidstone. Phone: 9318 5289

We were random but regular visitors to Los Latinos in the months after our write-up of the Maidstone Latin American eatery, early in its life.

But it’s been a while, so it feels nice settling in for lunch.

I’ve done what is almost unthinkable for me – leaving home without a book – but am satisfied enough with a house copy of one of the weekend rags.

It’s the wrong one and the wrong size, but I enjoy reading the foodie bits and the sports section anyway.

The menu seems to have grown quite a bit – featuring more seafood, more main courses and dishes listed by nationality – than found on the menu at the restaurant’s website.

The first thing I am told by a staff member is that tamales – one of several dishes on the menu marked with “not available” stickers – are in fact very much available.

I order them and end up very glad I have done so.

Isn’t there something totally magical and mysterious about food that comes in packages?

Think of dumplings, for instance.

In this case, the banana leaf wrapping on my two tamales unfolds to reveal two good-sized slabs of cornmeal masa (south-of-the-border polenta?), each one filled with some tender chicken on the bone, a couple of green olives, a long and well-cooked green bean and a big chunk of super potato.

It’s all delicious and filling – and a pretty good bargain, too, at $10 for the lot.

The benign seasoning levels and smooth pastiness of the corn mash are the perfect foil for the salsa/tomato sauce on the side. Drizzled across both tamales, it has a nice slow burn that eventually has a sheen of perspiration breaking out on my forehead.

Since Los Latinos opened, Melbourne seems to have contracted some form of Latin American fever, with quite a broad range of eateries generating a lot of talk and blogging and reviews.

And queues.

My lunch is a timely reminder that there’s a fine place just up the road doing lovely work along such lines – without the trendoid brouhaha.

Tacos Panchos

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Point Cook Town Centre Food Court. Phone: 9395 5746

A big thanks to Deb at Bear Head Soup for the great tip on this one!

Point Cook is, of course, very much part of our greater west neighbourhood – but until now it has been mostly somewhere through which we passed, or bypassed, on our way to somewhere else.

There’s no reason why such should be the case, but I am a little surprised by the size and bustle of Point Cook Town Centre when I emerge from the underground car park. Yes, it’s mall territory, but it’s laid out like a real live village, with streets and cars and stuff.

Besides, I reckon the days of dismissing malls, shopping centres and the like of being of no consequence or interest when hunting for places that trade in cool, funky, cheap and tasty food are fading fast, especially here in the spreading west, with its enthusiastic tribes of food nuts, each eager to make their own tastes and flavours available.

In any case, it’s quite a thrill to see such a colourful food outlet in an otherwise standard, mid-sized food court, although the two Asian places look of more than passing interest, as does the burger joint just past them.

Tacos Pancho is festooned with stencilled drawings of fabled Mexican wrestlers and other icons, and fronted with your authentic Mexican tiles, while the serving counter top is facsimile of the streets in which this food is sold in Mexico and Latin America.

I leave the tacos and burritos for another day, and instead order a couple of quesadillas – two kinds of filling wrapped in soft flour tortillas for $8.90.


While awaiting my food, I peruse a copy of Around Point Cook, a cracking little rag that seems like a paragon of the downhome, old-style community newspaper. (You can check out Around Point Cook here.)

My meal, when it arrives, looks a tad skimpy, but turns out to be a surprisingly filling lunch.

The chorizo and bean quesadilla is salty, cheesy and tasty, with about six slices of chorizo. The beans could’ve done with some more heat.

I’ve never been a fan of pineapple in otherwise savoury food, and indeed the fruit in the pork quesadilla does somewhat overpower the crunchy and moreish meat. The quesadilla is finished with finely diced onion and fresh coriander. I like it.

Just around the corner, I spy a keenly priced Indian place and a Vietnamese establishment that looks pretty flash ($12.90 pho, anyone?), and spot another cheap Indi place and a kebab outfit on the run home, so this is a neighbourhood worth some in-depth exploration

I meander home on the back roads, driving through industrial estates and even past the odd paddock.

It’s interesting to drive beside, over, under and around the freeway that is so often my route of commute.

Tex-Mex on the sound system, of course – specifically the contents of a parcel from Arhoolie that arrived the week before.

As I know La Morenita in Sunshine is going to be closed for a week or so, I drop in for a bunch of empanadas I ordered the previous day. Into the freezer for them!

Nothing much else to add … ‘cept Viva The Western Suburbs, Baby!

Tacos Panchos on Urbanspoon


La Morenita Latin Cuisine

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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.