Still fab

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Mama’s Cuisine, 331 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0399 947 229

One of our old faves has undergone a revamp and been bestowed with a new name – what was Afro Deli is now Mama’s Cuisine, and looking rather spiffy with new furniture and fittings.

We figure it’s time for a re-visit – and, heck, it’s been a month or so we’ve had a good Somalian feed.

The menu (see below) features our expected favourites – and a few intriguing items for us to try on another visit.

A breakfast dish of shakshouka eggs, for instance – made in a tomato sauce.

Or mandazi – Somalian doughnuts.

The lamb broth soup (above) is superb.

 

 

Unfortunately, the mighty sounding “Mama’s Special” of fried goat shoulder with herbs and served with vegetables and rice ($17) is not quite ready for us …

So I go for my trusty lamb on the bone, federation style with rice and pasta ($15).

All is delicious, and there’s plenty of charred/fried onion, capsicum and carrot to go with the tender meat.

 

 

Bennie, too, sticks to routine by getting pasta only. He likes it, but does prefer the more tomato-ey versions to be had elsewhere.

For him, and for the same price, the carnivore aspect is covered by on-the-bone camel meat – and it, too, is tender and beaut.

All that and we’re served complementary mango smoothies as well.

Mama’s Cuisine is right up there with the other great Somalian joints on this strip.

Will CTS ever stop banging on about the Somalian establishments of Flemington?

No.

 

 

Grand Italian

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Ciao Mamma, 3-5 Union Street, Brunswick. Phone: 8528 7091

CTS still gets the occasional non-plussed online comment about our random coverage of non-western suburbs eateries.

You know, as if we should stay forever and only in our self-appointed place!

But, no, we ramble, too.

And as regular readers will know, when we ramble it is often to Brunswick and Coburg we head.

This has not gone unnoticed by Tina and Nic Persano of Ciao Mamma.

So much so – and liking the CTS style and stories a lot – they invite us over for a feed (see full disclosure below).

This is a grand thing, as given the restaurant’s location just off Sydney Road, we are unlikely to have discovered it on our own.

It takes several weeks for Nic and I to arrange a suitable night, and for me to rope in some eating partners.

While all that is going on, I have a good look at the photos and comments on the Ciao Mamma FB page and scope out the menu and more at the joint’s website.

In doing so I become as certain as can be we are in for a super swell time.

And, yes, that’s how our evening goes.

The dining areas here surround the central kitchen, with the vibe in general being chic, comfortable, welcoming and cheerful.

There’s a pride and determination to provide great Italian food here.

Yet there is no veal, seafood, steaks and the like.

Ciao Mamma is mostly a pasta place.

The fervent aim of Nica and Tina is to make guests feel like they’ve had an old-school family meal, nonna-style.

We reckon they do just that.

We start with focaccia ($9).

Fresh out of the oven and so good it could be a meal all on its own.

The salumi and friends offering ($24) is the best of its kind I’ve ever enjoyed.

It’s not that there’s so much of it or so many different ingredients – it’s just that it’s all so wonderful, tasty and beautifully matched.

Prosciutto from Parma and hot salami from Mondo soro in Western Australia – both thinly sliced, fresh and yum.

Roasted red capsicum.

Superb cheeses from Azzuri in Bolinda – pecorino cheese in thin wedges; and burratina, shredded fresh mozzarella and cream encased in fresh mozzarella served with Maldon salt flakes, cracked pepper and virgin olive oil.

Olives – Sicilian green olives and Ligurian small black, both baked in-house with garlic, chilli and herbs.

Then it’s pasta time!

The drill here is that guests choose their variety of fresh house-made pasta and match it with a sauce, with extra customising options available.

This photo of Josh’s rigatoni with ragu ($24) is something of a lie, as there’s a heap of meaty slow-cooked beef in there and it’s an excellent selection.

Eliza’s spaghetti with amatriciana ($20) is just as sexy, with heaps of pancetta.

My own tagliatelle with the ortolana sauce of tomato and roast vegetables ($19) is good, though I find it a bit in the realms of plain and worthy – and rather end up envying my friends’ choices.

Desserts?

Oh, yes – this particular configuration of Team CTS was always going to explore the sweet options with gusto!

Pana cotta ($10), topped with a Ciao swirl of salted caramel, is unlike any we’ve before tried.

Less of the wobble and more of the buttery firmness – but still excellent.

By contrast, the “Tina-mi-su” ($12) is a light and fluffy fantasia with just a delectable whiff of booze.

Finally comes the choc-blast that is flourless torta caprese with chocolate and almond ($12).

Decadent and rich, it’s good thing this – and the other desserts – are shared between three of us.

Ciao Mamma was recently announced as the first Italian eatery to obtain Coeliac Australia accreditation for its gluten-free options.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Ciao Mamma as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered from the menu. Ciao mamma management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Meal of the week No.43: Dumpling Story

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CTS has never been much impressed by the food offerings at Pacific Werribee.

As well, one of the few outlets that may be expected to arouse our interest, if not our enthusiasm, is Dumpling Story – and I’ve long carried some baggage in that regard because of an unfortunate meal endured by someone near and dear to us.

So what am I doing here?

Well, it’s parent-teacher night.

I’ve departed Yarraville in plenty of time to allow for whatever the freeway and weather may come my way … so much so that I’ve arrived with heaps of time to grab some dinner before the business part of the evening unfolds.

That’s a lot happier prospect than trying to find something to eat between Werribee and Yarraville about 9pm on a cold Monday night.

Still, as you’d expect, my expectations are pretty much rock bottom.

I order and wait.

A bit less than 10 minutes later, I am presented with my combination laksa ($11.80).

And am duly knocked out.

I’m not about to proclaim this laksa as a champion of its kind, and maybe my happiness is coloured by my low hopes.

But this is really very good.

Commercial laksa gravy?

Maybe – there are no curry leaves that sometimes are a tip-off that the soup part has been tweaked in-house.

But no matter – this tastes fine.

It’s a big serve.

There’s a hefty amount of good, if somewhat bland, chicken.

Better, there are several delectable slivers of excellent eggplant.

And four plump, tasty and peeled prawns.

And more …

I’ll be much more open-minded about this place – and its extensive and interesting menu – when I’m down this way again.

 

House of yum

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House of Injera, 227 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8644

Lucy Dinknesh is dead; long live Lucy Dinknesh.

The much-loved Ethiopian stalwart of the Footscray eats scene has closed its doors.

Doubtless that will leave a hole impossible to fill for its many fans.

But House of Injera – at the same address – is giving it a good shake.

Based on the mostly excellent food we eat during a mid-week visit – and the happy tables around us – House of Injera is destined to be a hit.

Even with otherwise inconsolable Lucy fans.

But this is a rather different enterprise.

It’s the first restaurant adventure for the team of Wes and Brod Jackson and Messe Berhe, with the latter (mum of Wes) doing all the cooking.

 

 

The dining room is a rather chic delight, with low-fi lighting (but still bright enough to see our food), plain yet fetching wooden tables, cushions scattered around and Ethiopian art work adorning the walls.

The pungent tang of incense and funky Ethiopian sounds – some even familiar to Bennie and I from my slim collection of Ethio music – are comfort-inducing in a swell way.

And a reminder to self to never, ever take for granted the happy miracle of the presence in our midst of the Ethiopian community – nor the presence of any other community.

What a wonderful world!

The House Of Injera menu (see below) is a simple, well-written list featuring many dishes with which we are familiar.

Though there are a few wrinkles along the way.

One is the inclusion of kikel seg, the meat and vegetable soup we adore, but see available at very few Ethiopian eateries.

We think of it as the Ethiopian take on pho or Jewish penicillin/chicken soup.

Another wrinkle is lamb ribs.

My choice is soup, but I let Carnivore Boy Bennie bully me into ordering the ribs.

We’re told lamb ribs are eaten in Ethiopia, but not when marinated as here.

 

 

Our lamb ribs ($15) look the part and constitute a generous serve compared to others we’ve had of the same meat cut elsewhere in the past few years.

There are five good-sized ribs involved.

Unfortunately, we find them to be extremely fatty – indeed, a couple seem sans meat and made up of fat and bone only.

It could be argued this all goes with lamb ribs territory, but buyer beware.

Much better are the tibbs-style lamb cubes, onion, carrot and their juices on which the ribs are presented.

Entirely delicious!

 

 

There are three combo deals to be had at House of Injera – the all-veg beyaynetu at $16 per person; the mistro, a mix of five meat and vegetable dishes, at $20 per person; and anbessa, the all-in line-up for $25 per person.

We order the mistro – and are knocked-out happy to find it includes a small bowl each of aforementioned kikel seg soup.

It is excellent – and there’s a heap of on-the-bone meat submerged in our bowls.

 

 

The rest of our mistro line-up includes wonderful renditions of khay wat, gomen sega and the familiar, always-welcome Ethio mix of beetroot and spuds.

The meat in the beef stew that is khay wat is cooked down and easy to eat.

The greens of gomen sega come with another wrinkle – more tender on-the-bone meat, which makes me recall the stew-meat greens that are staples of much cooking of the southern parts of the US.

We’re far from complaining, as there’s more food served to us than we can eat, but instead of five dishes as part of our mistro combo, we have been served four.

No problem at all – and our bill is adjusted accordingly.

Mentioning that – and the fatty ribs – is par for the CTS course and nothing less than our readers expect.

But in this case, it grieves me a little, as we really do love this place and we love our meal.

House of Injera is warmly CTS recommended.

 

 

Besides, it’s impossible to dislike a place that takes on board the hands-on nature of its food by providing facilities that include a basin into which hot water runs IMMEDIATELY and in which paper towels are on hand.

Check our the House Of Injera website here.

 

One word – cannoli

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Cannoli Bar, 23 Riviera Road, Avondale Heights.

Down an otherwise unremarkable Avondale Heights residential street a wonderful surprise awaits.

A once-was-a-corner shop has been turned into a chic, cheerful – and already very popular – cafe of the Italian variety.

 

 

Savoury offerings appear to be down to these good-looking pizza slices.

 

 

There are a plethora of sweet treats on hand – all, we are informed, baked and/or assembled on the premises.

But the place’s focus is a bit more singular than even that – as its name attests.

 

 

Yes, cannoli – fresh-filled after being ordered.

We try two at $4.50 each – one each of nutella and pistacchio.

I reckon they are beyond awesome.

Though Bennie is less impressed.

The fillings are creamy and a way less solid than, for instance, the cannoli offered at T. Cavallaro & Sons in Footscray.

I love the whole experience – including the fact that they are fragile and more or less explode upon being handled.

Who cares?

Goes with the territory!

Our cafe lattes are every bit as good, with just the right amount of bitterness.

Canoli Bar is open Wednesday to Friday 8am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm.

 

 

Iraqi feast = peak CTS experience

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Bakhdida Cafe and Restaurant, 42 Knight Avenue, Sunshine North. Phone: 0403 440 174

Prowling the back streets of Sunshine North after dark is a weird feeling – creepy even.

No one around, the panelbeaters and all the other businesses hereabouts closed, little by way of street lighting.

But as we arrive at the block on which Bakhdida lives, parking is at a premium.

Entering the restaurant – the main room is really more of a hall – we discover the reason for that: A couple of dozen guests happily playing cards and the like.

Yes, this is an eatery-cum-social club of the kind found all over the west in a dizzying array of cultural affiliations.

But don’t let that put you off.

Actually, let me re-phrase that: DEFINITELY don’t let that put you off, because you REALLY, REALLY do want to visit and enjoy Bakhdida.

Here you’ll be served wonderful Iraqi food.

Much of the long and extremely affordable menu is familiar in the Middle Eastern way, though there are a few points of difference along the journey.

Proprietor Abraham Pitros and his crew are really on the ball, with our many dishes arriving looking gorgeous and after what seemed like hardly any time at all.

The restaurant is named after the northern Iraqi town from whence Abraham originated.

Pickles are served with several of our other dishes as garnishes, but it’s a good thing we order a dedicated serve of them ($5) with olives – because we love them a lot and eat of them heartily.

Cabbage, celery, some carrot and – best of all – many cauliflower florets have a turmeric hue, are delicious and are made with love by Abraham’s mum.

A good whack of turmeric is also at play in the dipping concoction that comes with our falafel ($15).

The falafel – in the shape of small donuts and looking a bit like vada – are golden outside and in, very plain in the seasoning department and very good.

Mixed dips ($10) – eggplant, gagic, hommus – are every bit as excellent as you’d expect and accompanied by a sort-of ratatouille and cabbage salad.

We enjoy them with good house-made Iraqi bread – hollow in the middle like the Lebanese variation with which we’re familiar, but a bit thicker.

Under the roof of pita chips is a top-notch rendition of fatoosh ($5).

Sliced beetroot ($5) is OK, but is so plain it gets a bit lost amid all the other zingy flavours we are loving.

Just like all the other guests this night, we get to try (at no charge) this un-named kitchen trial dish.

It’s made of large yellow cucumber slices and come across as a cross between a pickle and a salad.

It, too, is great.

Lamb shawerma ($16) is chewy, a little crispy and quite salty – just as we like it!

Mixed skewers ($16) are succulent, awesome – and seemingly unseasoned in any way.

But that’s fine, actually, as there’s plenty of hyped-up flavour action going on elsewhere on our table.

Saving the best until last?

Pretty much!

In meat tashreeb ($16), the cooking juices soak into the bread, upon which resides a generous serving of lamb shank meat – gamey, tender, superb and plentiful enough for all five of us to have a good taste.

Will we return to Bakhdida?

Yes.

Again and again and again …

It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Thanks to Julian, Nat, Christine and Bennie for making up the evening’s Team CTS.

Golden Mile burgers

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Burgies, 226 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 2792

Burgies in Hopper Crossing is a sibling to one in Campbellfield.

The photos we’ve seen suggest an outdoor and rather rustic operation, so we’re not at all sure how we’re going to go on a sunny Sunday that is also windy and chilly.

 

 

After scoping the place out, we relax … having discovered that while orders are indeed processed outside, right next door is a big, warm and rather inviting dining room, its fittings seemingly niftily constructed from packing pallets.

Cool!

And whatever the meteorological challenges of ordering and dining amid the glorious tack of the Golden Mile, the place is doing very, very brisk business.

This is a popular joint.

The happy staff members are cheerful, chatty and efficient; the wait times about what you’d expect.

We order, pay and settle in for what we hope will be a good burger repast.

The menu and its lowish prices suggest solid and satisfying – and that’s pretty much how it goes for us.

 

 

The chips ($4.50) are orthodox, hot and good.

 

 

My Kefta Burger is definitely the big winner of our meal.

It has lamb patty, cos lettuce, caramelised onions, pickles and “humus sauce” – and it’s beaut, especially given the $9.50 price tag.

 

 

Bennie is less enamoured with his Flaming Burgie ($11) of beef, cheese, cos lettuce, tomato, jalapeno, tomato sauce and chilli salsa.

The parts are of sufficient quality, but he finds the sum to be just average.

He even utters the dread phrase “frozen patty”.

Now, I hasten to add he has no factual detail at hand to back up such a slur, but it does convey something of the meh moments he has with his burger.

 

 

So for him, the highlight of our Burgies sojourn is his caramel biscotti gelato thickshake.

When/if we return, we may well order from the chicken burger list, as a poultry pair we observe being consumed at the next table look pretty darn good and better than either of ours.