Meal of the week No.44: Smokehouse 101

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As it’s always in a state of constant prowl, food-wise, CTS doesn’t drop into Smokehouse 101 (101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone) as often as we’d like.

Because we like it lots that the place keeps on going about its happy neighbourhood joint business away from the often fickle, hipsterish glare that attends other establishments that specialise in barbecue across Melbourne.

But we are in the house this Thursday to check out one Smokehouse 101’s regular specials – the Thursday night $5 burgers.

Bennie had taken them for a run the previous week with a pal and has been most adamant that CTS pays an official visit.

Oh, well … OK, if you insist.

 

 

So what’s the deal?

And is it any good?

The answer: Yes.

The Thursday burgers are available in beef, southern fried chicken, pulled pork and brisket.

Extra patties are available for the first two named for $3 a pop.

But we go a different route, ordering one each of the burgers on offer.

All are dressed the same – with coleslaw and good, sliced, crunchy pickled cucumbers.

I make that point because in the same week CTS bought a jar of pickled cucumbers – as recommended by the salesperson at the deli in which I was shopping – and they turned out to be soggy and tasteless.

Straight into the rubbish bin they went.

The little things count!

 

 

Likewise, two thumbs heartily hoisted for the most excellent house-made and toasted buns served by Smokehouse 101.

The meat in our four burgers?

Just fine in all cases.

Though Bennie and I agree that the straight-up beef burger is the best of the bunch.

It is, of course, possible to buy burgers elsewhere for $5 or less if you want to go mega-franchise.

But those aren’t burgers like these are real burgers.

Though here it will pay to keep things in perspective and real – these ARE $5 burgers, so you won’t be getting a two-fisted hunka chunka meal, or not by ordering a single burger anyway.

Early on our Thursday, there are only a couple of other tables taking advantage of the $5 burger deal.

But we’re told it can get busy later on in the night, with queues out the door not uncommon.

 

Vegan cafe shines

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One For The Crow, 9 Commercial Street, Maidstone. Phone: 0420 275 747

One For The Crow is located in a rather sleepy strip of shops – other than a cafe, there’s dance and martial arts operations and a few others more anonymous.

Its neighbourhood – in and around Dobson reserve – is itself rather sleepy.

And certainly not known for commercial activity of any kind.

But the west – inner, outer, inbetweener – is all changing so fast, so why not residential Maidstone for a cafe?

One For The Crow is vegan – though we are very happy to see regular milk available for coffee purposes.

And it is very, very kid-friendly.

It’s a lovely place, with a modest plant nursery going at the front and a handful of outdoor tables.

For all its vegan-ness, our menu (see below) choices are the sort of thing found in cafes all over.

 

 

My friends chooses the Thai curry veg pie ($6).

It is, of course, a Ka Pie – and it goes down a treat.

She likes the pasta-pesto-spinach salad ($5), too.

Though she is firmly of the opinion a sprinkling of crumbled feta would make it even better.

 

 

My waffle dish ($16) is good.

It comes with house-made nutella, maple syrup, caramelised banana and soy ice-cream.

 

 

A most excellent soba noodle bowl ($16) – enjoyed on a previous, reconnaissance visit – rather more reflects One For The Crow’s vegan credentials.

It’s packed with marinated tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, spinach, pickled daikon and kimchi, and dressed with a tahini-miso concoction.

Every mouthful is a delight.

 

 

Our coffees are fine, too.

One For The Crow appears to have quickly made itself an indispensable and treasured part of its community.

The locals have every reason to be stoked.

 

Meal of the week No.27: Smokehouse 101

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Since we first wrote about Smokehouse 101, there has been something of barbecue explosion in the west – see here and here.

In the meantime, Smokehouse 101 (101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone) has quietly gone about its business, not perturbed by any perceived lack of any inner-city vibe or a trendy list of craft beers.

On the Saturday night I visit for indulgence, the place is doing a roaring trade and I like the ambience that is a friendly place without graces and airs, and where walk-up trade is normal.

As ever here, the chips ($5) are a little on the average side but go good with the chilli mayo and a splendidly boozy BBQ sauce.

The coleslaw ($5) is better this time out than we’ve received on previous occasions – more finely chopped, nicely dressed and with slices of red chilli and cubes of mandarin.

Nice!

The meat?

Geeezuz …

Half a rack of beef ribs ($35) is amazing, superb, wonderful.

There’s a LOT of meat surrounding those two brontosaurus-style ribs, much of it underneath them.

The meat is tender, smoky, delicious – and there’s not much fat.

I alternate mouthfuls with and without that boozy sauce and love every lip-smacking minute of my feast.

Though I do struggle to finish …

All of which begs the question: Why, when beef ribs are available, do people persist in ordering those of the pig and sheep variety?

The latter two, it seems to me, are often over-priced, ungenerous and way too polite.

BBQ blast in the west

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Smokehouse 101, 101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone. Phone: 9972 2622

The shopping strip on Rosamond Rd near the bowling club and approaching Highpoint has never particularly drawn the attention of Consider The Sauce – even when a couple of cafes opened up there about a year ago.

That all changes upon us learning that one of those joints is now operating as a BBQ place – we’re there within hours.

Mind you, as always with American-style food in Melbourne we keep our hopes and expectations in check.

Our optimism is hardly given a boost upon entering, perusing the menu and ordering.

Smokehouse 101 may be operating as a BBQ purveyor but to a significant degree it still looks and feel like a cafe, with only a single person – the boss – on the job.

Is this for real, we wonder?

Will the meat be any good?

Will the sides?

Are we on a fools’ errand?

 

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Bennie is impressed that the walls are widely plastered with covers and pages from vintage Phantom comics.

His dad hears on the sound system, among others, the Memphis Jug Band and Howlin’ Wolf.

As ever, we are a little wary of high prices for ribs (three kinds ranging in price from $28 to $35), so go for the brisket and pulled pork, $25 each with chips and salad.

When our meals arrive – and we have our first taste of the Smokehouse 101 goodies – we relax, enjoy and realise we’ve done real good.

 

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The plentiful chips are fine.

The meat is way better – as good as any we’ve had around town.

The brisket has its share of fat but is beaut – smoky and a mix a fall-apart tender and chewy.

The serve size is generous and good for the price.

The housemade sauce is not particularly spicy but has a nice tang to it that has a citrus feel and maybe even an Asian touch.

 

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Pulled pork is such a cliched part of the BBQ tradition, but we’ve found quite a few versions we’ve tried in Melbourne to be insipid and tasteless.

This one has porky flavour aplenty, though it does benefit from the addition of that same sauce.

It, too, is a good-sized serve – something the above photograph disguises somewhat.

 

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“Baked chilli beans” ($2.50, from the breakfast menu) do suitable duty as an accompaniment even if we’re pretty sure they come from a can, while two extra large commercial pickles ($2) are excellent.

We’ve been surprised and delighted by our dinner.

Smokehouse 101 is still in the transition from cafe to BBQ joint.

We’re told the menus we photograph (see below) will within days be replaced by new versions offering more depth and diversity of BBQ choices.

We like that this place has a casual vibe a long way removed from some of the trendier, ostensibly hipper BBQ places around town.

Ironically, in some ways that makes it more like the regular blue-collar BBQ places you might find in burgs throughout the US south.

We would, however, suggest replacing the non-memorable salad with coleslaw.

 

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As we very happily depart, we spy one of the only other two customers in the place getting to grips with a serve of ribs – though we don’t know what kind they are.

Oh boy, there’s a LOT of ribs on his plate!

And the gentleman concerned confesses he’ll be struggling to finish the job at hand.

 

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As we walk to the car, Bennie opines that the ribs deal we’ve just seen looks like it could do for two.

How about that?

That’s for us next time … which we suspect will be soonish.

Smokehouse 101 is still finding its feet, but we totally dig the idea of having a friendly, casual BBQ place right in our own neighbourhood.

This is one of those very rare times we are tempted to keep our mouths shut and not post on CTS in case the word gets out too quickly.

 

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Sang’s Takeaway Food Restaurant

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Sang’s Takeaway Food Restaurant, 136 Mitchell St, Maidstone. Phone: 9318 8188

Sang’s is situated on the Mitchell St strip that houses Los Latinos and in a premises that once accommodated an Asian eatery of an entirely different kind.

The space has undergone a cheerful transformation to become a pretty nifty Vietnamese joint with a cleverly constructed menu and chefs-in-white all a-bustle.

Open just a few weeks, Sang’s is celebrating its arrival by running a hefty 20 per cent discount until May 25.

That’s code for, “Get your skates on!”

Sang’s has six kinds of rice paper rolls at $4 for a pair; there’s seven kinds of beef pho, all for $10.

A similar number of rice and broken rice meals cost the same.

I love Vietnamese chicken curry – especially the one I score in St Albans, though we sometimes grab takeaway when the dish is available at Minh Hy.

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So scanning the Sang’s list of bun/vermicelli, my attention is grabbed by the chook curry variety – also $10. This is a twist on a dish usually served with rice or – even better – a crusty bread roll.

In this case, the usually runny curry gravy/soup is subsumed by the softish mound of vermicelli, which in no way diminishes my enjoyment.

Nor does the fact the chicken pieces are small and on the bony side.

The chilli heat is quite high for Vietnamese chicken curry and the tender spud and carrot bits are happily joined by a plentiful amount of basil and coriander. I love it when coriander becomes more than a mere garnish!

Anther non-standard dish that leaps out at me from the menu is Vietnamese pancake, while I’m betting the Singapore noodle and pad Thai will be worthy of exploration, too.

Sang’s seems ideally positioned to be successful – I reckon the locals in the immediate neighbourhood must be delighted.

If eating in, I suggest grabbing one of tables to the rear to avoid the nasty gusts that gallop through the wide gap between door and floor at the front.

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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.

Los Latinos

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More recent review here.

128 Mitchell St, Maidstone. Phone: 9318 5289

Bugger it – I hate getting beat by The Age, especially by just a day or so.

But that’s just the way it worked out.

The end of a rugged week of work and school, a Friday full of crap weather, the run home from Sunshine, after-school care and a white-knuckle drive to and from Geelong.

Approaching Ashley St, we pondered our options – home, Cartoon Network and A-League with Chinese delivered; home and then out again to eat (not really an option at given the weather); and then – inspiration! – why, heck, a slight detour and … we could check out the new Latino place we’d heard about.

And failing that, we could opt for the funky Chinese place in Mitchell St that had long been on our “to do” list.

Pulling up outside Los Latinos, we appraised once again the retail strip we had last checked out very early in the year.

The Chinese place was still there, looking just as enigmatic as ever.

So, too, was the Latin American bakery where we’d had empanadas and coffee.

As well, there a cool-looking antique/odds’n’sods shop that seemed well worth a look – on another day.

And right there in the middle was Los Latinos – even early in the evening open and inviting.

Nina Rousseau nailed it good – Los Latinos is, indeed, “a grand addition to the west”.

We left an hour later rete, replete and smiling after a meal of lip-smacking joy.

The menu is not long, but we opted for the dips and corn chips ($6), followed by a serve of pupusas ($10), not wanting to put to big a dent in our wallet.

And then we wrecked that plan by ordering a $3.50 bottle Jarritos guava fizz from Mexico. Oh well …

The corn chips were good and blessedly free of excess salt and ghastly chemicals. The dips – cheese, guacamole and what was described on the menu as “green tomatillo” but was actually, unmistakably red  – looked a touch on the meager side. But they went the distance just fine, and all were tasty.

Despite some familiarity with South and Latin American food, we were unfamiliar with pupusas. They are, it was explained, a righteously popular and ubiquitous staple of El Salvador. The same flour as used in tortilla is made into a dough, then small balls. Into a hole in each ball is inserted the filling – in our case, a combo of cheese, beans and pork. The pupusas are then gently flattened and pan fried.

The results were mucho delicious, amply filling yet light as well. They were served with a tiny jug of salsa and curtido, which turned out to be a spicy, tangy, pickled salad of cabbage and more (I suspect).

At $10 for a serve of four, these constitute a superb and cheap meal for one. But as we were sharing, we were still a little light on.

So we ordered another entree – chorizo and salsa ($6). It was another winner, though we could have used about double the number of small, if very fine, tortillas that were provided to mop up the hot salsa.

One thing this dish did do for me, however, is confirm that my ingrained habit of merely grabbing any old chorizo from the supermarket has got to go. This one had quite distinctive and oh-so-tasty seasoning and flavour. Not all chorizos are created equal, it seems.

The menu also features fajitas ($18.50), tacos ($10.50), tamales ($10), porcion de pollo (fried chicken with onions, coriander and lemon juice, served with rice and tortilla; $12.50), as well as the completo (Latin Hot Dog; $6.50) and nachos ($10).

God bless Los Latinos – it’s helping make what was one a rather bleak backwater into yet another western suburbs foodie hot spot!

You can read Nina Rousseau’s Age review here.

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