Def our fave Japanese joint

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My Little Bento, 12 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8585

There have been changes made at 12 Margaret Street in Moonee Ponds.

What was Kingyo izayaka has become My Little Bento.

This switch appears to be a reaction to covid factors – yet could just as easily be interpreted as a canny business move.

 

 

The menu (see below) has been slimmed down and the prices are extraordinarily low.

Yet I know for sure that food will be every bit as fine as the goodies that served as a basis for our Kingyo izayaka review.

How so?

 

 

It’s all about the pickles – the same crunchy, sour delights that figured in our earlier visits are still in the house.

We order a side serve ($7) of them … just, you know, to make sure.

Yep all good – better than good!

So no worries at all, as two lunch-time visits – one with Nat, another with Bennie – happily attest.

 

 

Miso soup ($4) – regular-style, simple and every bit as good as expected.

Nat’s sashimi bento ($18, top picture) is oh-so-pretty with its array of textures, colours and flavours.

 

 

My “chicken katsu sando” from the specials board ($14) is good, a tangy sauce accompanying the crisp chicken and with more of those pickles joining in the fun. My chips, though, are warm. Just. But still eat good.

 

 

Bennie really digs his chicken bento ($15.50) – and I think we all enjoy the bentos here being arrayed on plate instead of boxes.

So lovely!

The fried chicken is excellent, as are all the other features – including a crumbed, deep-fried croquette. Perhaps, he reckons, filled with red bean paste as found in Chinese buns.

 

 

The chicken is even better – and more flavoursome – in the form of katsu curry don ($15.50), with which comes with a variation on the pickle theme.

The curry gravy is as rich in flavour as its deep brown colour suggests.

It’s tempting to indulge in hyperbole and proclaim that My Little Bento is delivering the best Japanese food in the west.

But as there’s at least one place we haven’t tried, we’ll settle for saying it’s definitely our fave.

 

Double banger

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Angie’s Kitchen, Shop 75, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9939 5821
Macelleria, Shop 74 Moonee Ponds Central, 21-31 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8441

Periodically, we find ourselves in Moonee Ponds and, more specifically, on Puckle Street.

And it’s then that we wonder: “What the hell are we doing here?”

It’s all a perfectly OK retail/eating precinct – and we love scoping out some of the gorgeous real estate between Puckle Street and, say, Highpoint on our way home.

But by and large, when it comes to the kinds of food that sets our pulses racing, the neighbourhood is, well, just average.

But there are hot spots.

We continue to love shopping, when we’re in the area, at Fresh On Young – the subject of the second ever CTS story.

More recently, on Hall Street – on the other side of Puckle Street from Young – there is a food flourishing going on, one we make the most of with twin winning lunches at adjoining newcomers.

Both Angie’s Kitchen and Macelleria front Hall Street, but are part of the wider Moonee Ponds Central retail/food/services set-up.

 

 

The colour scheme, fittings and all-round general vibe in Angie’s Kitchen make it feel like the kind of place you’d be very comfortable taking your gran.

But there is some real serious, delicious and keenly priced Chinese food going on here – and it’s all produced and created in house from the ground up.

As we takes our seats, we are entertaining thoughts of trying up to a handful of the many dumplings featured on the menu (see below) – and chicken feet.

We lose out on the chicken feet.

“They wouldn’t work in Moonee Ponds,” we’re later told.

Meanwhile, we mention to the staff member serving us that we’re used to ordering (and eating) Chinese roasts in combos of two or three meats, accompanied by rice and bok choy – as we’d enjoyed the previous week.

Yet this option is not open to us at Angie’s Kitchen.

No problem, we’re helpfully informed – just order the mixed roast platter ($30), a small serve of greens with oyster sauce and a bowl of rice.

So – big change of plans – that’s what we do.

The photo of the mixed roast platter at the top of this story does not adequately convey the generous size of the portions – nor their outright deliciousness.

Oh boy, oh boy – this is fabulous stuff!

And this is quite a different setting from that in which we more normally enjoy this kind of food, but we revel in it.

The portions of duck and barbecued pork are chunkier than the norm, but nevertheless excellent – and, for the most, juicy and tender.

The roast pork pieces, including their crackling, are quite delicate.

 

 

Our small serve of mixed greens ($9.80) is purpose made for accompanying the roast meats and does the job admirably.

 

 

The roast/greens mix makes for quite a substantial lunch, but we cannot resist the temptation of trying the steamed BBQ pork buns ($6.20).

 

 

These, too, are superb, with wonderfully sticky and sweet fillings.

We’ve eaten like royalty so have no qualms whatsoever about the $49 price tag – it seems like a bargain.

 

 

When I first heard about Macelleria and its slogan – “The Butcher That Cooks For You” – I was skeptical.

It sounded a bit gimmicky to me.

We discover that, to some extent at least, that feeling is warranted.

 

 

Customers can and do buy meat from Macelleria to take home – but mostly this a steak/grill joint (one of four in Melbourne) with a display cabinet.

But what arouses our curiosity, impels us through the door and – eventually – finds us taking a lunch-time table is the menu item that is the half rack of beef ribs (menu below).

Based on our previous experiences with the bigness of beef ribs, a half rack with a side salad and mash for $24.90 sounds like a fine deal.

 

 

The dining room is a lovely, airy place in which to lunch and watch the passing parade on Hall Street.

 

 

Bennie is the lucky punter who gets to order and enjoy the beef ribs.

It proves to be excellent.

The ribs aren’t as big as many we’ve enjoyed, but plenty big enough for lunch.

The meat and its rosemary and garlic marinade are terrific.

The side salad is beaut and the creamy mash also fine – though so voluminous is the latter that Bennie falls quite a way short of finishing it.

 

 

My own bangers and mash is a much more modest outing, both in ambition and price ($17.90).

The finely ground beef snags are very flavoursome and the mash the same as that which adorned Bennie’s ribs.

But the high point of my meal is the rich, perfect onion gravy.

 

 

I bolster my meal with a serve of coleslaw ($7.90).

This proves to be a mistake.

For starters, Bennie’s side salad would’ve sufficed for both of us.

And this slaw is just OK – in fact, it’s a bit drab.

 

Burger defies expectations

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YOMG, 17-19 Pratt Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 8548 9577

Burger places – or, rather, burger franchises and chains – seem to be sprouting up like weeds.

Perhaps a move to a semi-official CTS non-coverage of them is due.

And the non-eating of their food, too.

 

 

YOMG in Moonee Ponds – the chain’s sixth store in Melbourne – seems at first blush less likely than most to arouse our curiosity and burger lust, with its cutsie slogan in pink neon, blandola fast-food look and a name that is more about yoghurt than meaty fare.

Certainly, Bennie was very sniffy when we ambled past a few weeks back.

“I don’t think so, dad,” he snorted.

But an experienced burger hand of our acquaintance has suggested that, in this case at least, appearances and all-round vibe are no indication of burger merit and that YOMG is well worth a try.

So, flying solo, I give it a whirl.

 

 

Nat Stockley is correct – this is some pretty good stuff.

From the menu (see below) I choose the Howler ($12.50) with its excellent beef patty, cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles, jalapenos and habanero mayo.

The added bacon is also excellent, but costs $2.50.

Some of the protruding lettuce leaves are a bit bruised, giving them a dirty look, but overall this is a good, two-handed burger – nothing world-beating, but solidly enjoyable.

The chips ($4.50) are hot and fine – but they’re been profusely sprinkled with chicken salt or one of its kin.

Not my go.

Combining burger, bacon, chips and a can of soft drink nudges my lunch cost above the $20 mark – but I guess that’s the going rate these days.

Don’t be tempted to pay even more by going with one of the pay-for sauces, as there’s a good supply of chilli sauces away from the serving counter to be had without payment.

 

Superb Japanese food

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Kingyo izakaya, 12 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 8585

Some Consider The Sauce stories are succinct and full of brevity.

Others are long-winded, going off tangents to explore side and back stories.

Neither scenario should ever be taken as an indication of quality, enjoyment or passion – or lack thereof.

This Kingyo izayaka review, for instance, will be briefish – yet this is some of the very best Japanese food we’ve had in a long, long while.

It is superb.

It’s all about way more than good cooking – it’s also about quality ingredients and, most of all, extremely beautiful presentation.

This joint, with its simple and elegant dining room, is a sister eatery to I Dream Of Sushi just up the street.

Nat and I choose from the lunch menu. Both lists can be found below.

 

 

My “chotto plate” is a ripping bargain at $24.

How good – and gorgeous – is this?

Lovely housemade pickles – a rarity in any Japanese place.

Sashimi with regular pickled ginger.

Ridiculously luscious stewed eggplant.

A crisp panko-crumbed spud-and-eggplant croquette.

Excellent agedashi tofu and delicious gyoza with stuffing far superior to most.

Rice and top-class miso soup.

Wow.

 

 

Contemplating a hefty evening meal to come, Nat goes with the lighter sashimi set for $20 with equal delight the result.

We’ll be back – Bennie will love this place.

And so will you.

 

Meal of the week No.38: Magic Mint Cafe

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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!

That’s not coleslaw!

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Hunky Dory, 28 Pratt Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0350

CTS had been wanting to try the new Moonee Valley branch of the Hunky Dory chain right from day one, but has been thwarted by its popularity and a lack of communal seating.

The latter, in particular, seems foolish in a high-turnover swish fast-food place.

But, finally and during a very busy Friday lunch hour, I grab one of the small for-two tables and settle in.

The plates – platters is more accurate – I see whizzing about me are massive and laden with way more than simple fish and chips.

Indeed, F&C seems a minority – mostly it appears to be all about salads, grilled seafood and heaps of molluscs.

So how do I go with my CTS benchmark order of F&C, chips, coleslaw?

Not so good …

Chips – excellent; I eat each and every one.

Fish of the day (blue grenadier) – the batter is not crisp, it is leathery. The fish itself, however, is beautiful, moist yet firm, delicious.

Coleslaw – oh dear.

I ordered this with profound misgivings as all I saw in the display cabinet was a pile of chopped cabbage. Assured that what would be on my plate would be dressed, I took the plunge – so to speak.

And, yes, it is dressed – with quite a tasty mayo concoction.

But it’s a dribble that in no way dresses or is adequate for the masses of veg on my plate.

Often F&C places, and chicken shops, serve coleslaw that has so much mayo that it’s more like a broth with some cabbage in it.

This one goes in precisely the other direction.

Chopped cabbage and coleslaw are not interchangeable terms or concepts.

Mind you, the price for my lunch – $13.50 under the guise of the Hunky Dory “grilled fish pack” – is ace and significantly below what would be the combined prices of the three components.

It’s just one meal and I’m happy to believe/hope that I simply had a bad day.

Meanwhile, this Fairfax story has what seems to be the latest update on Hunky Dory, its fish-labelling practices and state of fish imports in general.

 

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Westie eats goss 17/4/16

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Moonee Ponds is soon to have a rather spectacular new cafe.

Dear Abbey will be located in the lovely old church at 23A Gladstone Street – across the road from the Coles/Young Street carpark.

It is being brought to us by the crew behind Little Sister in Keilor East and Hey Jude in Essendon North.

 

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One of them, Joe Avery, obligingly walks me through the new place …

Much of the old church is taken up by apartments, with the cafe taking up roughly the front quarter, with much of that space taken up by the kitchen.

There will be a corridor of seating along the front and down one side of the cafe premises.

 

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But what will set Dear Abbey apart is the glassy, classy structure – with much more seating – that will be located on the church’s forecourt.

 

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Taking shape on the V intersection of Ascot Vale and Mount Alexander roads is a wholefoods outfit.

Eat-in food and coffee will be served from the caravan outside.

 

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Coming soon on Puckle Street is a deli that will be in the New York tradition – think reuben sandwiches and the like.

Brought to you by Johnny the Dude Food Man.

 

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Not far from Puckle Street and down the cul de sac/alley named Aspen Street, it appears a South Indian eatery will soon live where the Sri Lankan joint Spicy Hut once did.

 

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In Footscray, and on Barkly Street near Geelong Road, Vanakkam – purveyor of very fine biryanis – has become Spicy Chef.

 

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It’s the baby of Prasad, himself a former employee of Vanakkam.

 

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Prasad also worked in Rajdhani, the Indian joint that was open in (roughly) 2008 and ’09 in the Barkly Street premises that now houses Roti Road.

He even remembers my regular order there of onion bhaji in those pre-CTS days!

 

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As an opening special, Prasad is offering an enticing meal deal …

Any starter, any biryani, salad and any drink – including beer! – for $11.95.

Blimey!

 

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The frontage at 34-36 Irving Street, which has sported at least a couple of Indian carnations in recent years, will soon be open as Station Restaurant.

I’m told the “East African” food advertised in the exterior signage will basically mean Ethiopian fare, though there are photos of rice dishes in there, too.

 

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Also on Irving, Saudagar is up and running again after a fire-enforced closure.

 

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The Station Hotel, meanwhile, will be closed for a month or so as it recovers from its kitchen fire mishap.

 

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Footscray has a new Japanese eatery – at 84 Hopkins Street, where 1+1 Dumpling Noodles lived until very recently.

Okami is a sister restaurant to establishments in Hampton, Caulfield and Wantirna.

Review forthcoming on CTS.

I would’ve hit it last night solo but every seat was taken!

Judging by the takeaway menu, the food is likely regulation Japanese.

Oakmi Footscray offers an “all you can eat” buffet for just under $30.

 

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Speaking of Japanese food, Edgewater Boulevard has two new eats places soon to open, one being Shinmai Tasty …

 

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… the other being a bricks-and-mortar version of Gorilla Grill, known until now for its food truck offerings.

A deth in the park

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Curators Collective, 778 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9042 4560

Consider The Sauce visited the cafe in Queens Park several years ago – it was known then as Olivers Garden.

Had an OK meal.

Then promptly thought no more of the place.

Lately, though, we’ve got a hot tip that things have changed – management, name, food.

So we’re here on a lovely late spring day to check it out.

 

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In truth, and in terms of the building, furniture and all-round vibe, not much at all seems to have changed.

We take a nicely shaded table outside.

This is not our normal practice but there’s no wind and thankfully the pigeons at ground outnumber the flies in air.

The menu (see below) comprises a fairly typical cafe line-up.

We avoid the beef and chook burgers, and I prevail upon my son to choose something other than the Pork Bennie of eggs with pulled pork on a muffin.

 

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So he goes the reuben sandwich ($15), with chips extra ($3).

It’s a good sandwich, with lusty tang from the sauerkraut, good corned beef, cheese, mustard and pickles.

The chips are hot and fine.

 

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I scarf a good handful of the chips to compensate for the fact my farro & beets salad ($15.50) is undoubtedly the most insidiously healthy thing I’ve eaten all year.

Happily, it’s also extremely tasty.

The “beetroot three ways” seems more like three kinds of beetroot but they’re all delicious, mixing it in lightly dressed and grand style with spinach, blood orange, goat’s cheese and heaps of chewy grains.

After that, it seems only right to let Bennie off the leash to enjoy one of Curators Collective “Deth Shakes” ($12).

Ours (top photograph) is a grinningly evil and delicious mix of dark chocolate Oreo milkshake, chocolate, chocolate brownie, coconut, cream and Persian fairy floss.

It tastes real good.

I know … because Bennie told me so.

I didn’t try any of it.

Really.

Curators Collective is a very nice spot!

(This story has been sponsored by Moonee Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)

 

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Moonee Ponds eats goss

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More changes are afoot in Moonee Ponds and in and around Puckle Street.

At 19 Pratt, formerly the home of Italian establisment L’Angolo Italiano, a barbecue place called  BBQ Land is being prepared for opening.

 

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Going by the photos and dish titles already adorning the exterior, this seems unlikely to be serving American-style barbecue and will be doing more Aussie-style things over charcoal.

 

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Around the corner in Puckle Street, Greek joint Hellenic Flavours has folded.

 

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Across the street, Just Burgers has also closed – we didn’t get around to trying it!

I’m told the people – or person – behind a well-known and fondly regarded burger operation have/has taken over the premises with a view to opening a deli-style sandwich shop.

Think: Pastrami.

Think: Dill pickles on the side.

 

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In the old-school arcade off Puckle Street that leads through to Young Street, the equally old-school Bruno’s Coffee Lounge has closed down.

 

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Over in Hall Street, Nature’s One is offering what looks like a lovely range of breads and baguettes, along with things such as simple toasties and dips.

 

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And even though it happened a while ago, it would remiss of us not to mention that what was once a branch of Yim Yam in Margaret Street is now a Korean eatery called Hanspoon.

 

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Finally, and even though it has absolutely nothing to do with food, let me record the surprise and utter delight felt when, upon walking through the front area of a Puckle Street homewares/furniture store, I find at the back … the still-recognisable shell of a lovely old-school cinema/theatre.

How cool is that?

Fabulous Greek

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Philhellene, 551-553 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 3303

Uh-oh – there’s a hair in our dolmades!

Not to worry, though … the follicle is entirely imaginary but is still being plucked from our food by our Philhellene host as a comic reaction to my taking of photographs.

We’re happy to say it’s that kind of place.

It’s our first visit to Philhellene – one that has been long anticipated and we’re happy to do it in our series putting the spotlight on Moonee Ponds (see full disclosure below).

But because of its renown, I’d expected something a little more formal and starchy.

What we get, instead, is pretty much your typical Greek setting and wonderful welcome.

 

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The service is very fine and our food arrives exceedingly promptly.

That food is very, very good – this is Greek food definitely at the upper end of what is available in Melbourne.

It costs, of course, but not as much as we had feared – indeed, the Philhellene pricing is on par with all the other famed Melbourne Greek eateries.

But where it stands out is its lovingly long offering of provincial specials.

It’s for that reason we steer away from the basic $35 per person banquet for a minimum of two – you can check it out with the rest of the Philhellene menu here.

Frankly, it sounds like an outrageous bargain – but we’re familiar with almost everything it has.

Instead, we go a la carte and have a fine old time.

I am drawn to the long specials list with a sense of wonder mixed with frustration that we will be able to try so little of what’s offered.

I mean, how insanely good do fried sardine fillets with pickled fennel sound?

Or lamb and artichoke fricassee?

Sigh … but onwards.

 

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Our admirably unhairy silverbeet dolmades are sensational, though quite pricey at $12.50 the pair.

When we have the traditional, vegetarian stuffed vine leaves – be they Turkish, Greek, Lebanese, Whatever – we prefer them unheated.

By contrast, these are served hot and they suit it – the innards are delicious, tender mix of rice, seasonings and beef.

 

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For our other starters, we do stick to familiar Greek staples – one of them is this terrific tarama.

It’s a generous serve for $8.50, especially as it’s as fresh and tangy as we could wish and is served with beaut house-made bread.

 

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Our calamari ($14.50) is well fried and tender but does tend to lose out in the flavour stakes when compared with the other dishes we enjoy.

 

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For me, one of the main reasons to visit Philhellene is to enjoy lamb – not shaved from a spit nor cubed and put on skewers, but instead roasted.

We take a slightly different tack on that Greek philosophy by getting the roast kid goat ($29.95).

It has wow factor in abundance.

The meat is perhaps a tad too salty but is oh-so-wonderful and really does fall from the bones.

The roast spuds and well-cooked mix of peas ‘n’ broad beans come to the dance, too.

Together with our other selections, this single goat serve does us well – though Bennie is so impressed, he later reckons he could easily scoff a whole serve by his own self.

 

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For a final splash of colour, we love our beetroot salad ($16.50, in which baby beetroots – and their tops – have been boiled and then simply dressed with dukkah and yogurt.

It, too, is wonderful.

We’ve ordered well and eaten superbly – but it is with some regret that we head into the night without giving into the temptation of trying something from the desserts list (see below).

When explaining to our host our hesitation about ordering an overly familiar banquet line-up, he told us such could be varied and that a list of staples is simply what some customers seek and require.

That makes us reckon the way to go at Philhellene is to nominate to the staff a price per person you want to pay and then simply announce: “Bring us food!”

Or, if you’re up for it, go for the horiatiko banquet, which costs $60 per punter and is described as “the ultimate of tasting our favourite dishes”.

As it says on the Philhellene website: “Trust us in providing you with a memorable food experience …. this is the only way we would eat with our family and friends.”

(This story has been sponsored by Moonee Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)

 

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Killer Korean BBQ

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tobagi3Consider The Sauce is enjoying a splendid year – but it’s not one that is turning out as expected. At its start, I envisaged much activity of the CTS Feast variety. To date, however, there has been a single Feast event. Attempts to get others up and running have failed to come to fruition. I’m OK with that – if such things are not to be, pushing harder doesn’t seem to help. In the meantime, Bennie and I – with help from a variety of very fine foodie pals – have simply continued to explore the western suburbs with glee. That relaxed approach seems to engender it own rewards in terms of interesting approaches that lob into the CTS email inbox. One such a few months back came from Moonee Valley Council – regarding a project in which CTS is very happy to have become involved. So … this post is the first of six that will appear in the next half-year or so sponsored by Moonee Valley Council. Long-time readers will know by now – and new readers can be assured – that our participation has only been made possible by being free to choose freely the six eateries to be written about and by having complete freedom to say whatever we please, good or bad. In other words … it’s business as usual here at CTS.

 

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Tobagi BBQ, 726 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 8870

The stretch of Mount Alexander Road heading uphill to Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds can come across as a closed shop by day.

By night, by contrast and strictly thinking of food, it becomes a good deal more appealing.

As Bennie and I wander down one side of the road and up the other, we ponder quite a nice range of restaurants and cuisines before ending up pretty much where we started, thence to enter Tobagi BBQ, a Korean joint we’ve had on our “to do” list for a long time.

We end up being ever so happy we step through the Tobagi door, as we enjoy good Korean food of a homespun sort we’ve not come across before, cooked and served with panache.

The place is rather plain, if you look closely, but the clever use of many browns creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.

At first, on a mid-week night, we’re the only customers so enjoy the exclusive and friendly attention of both Elle and Jiweon, while the latter’s dad, Gerry, is in the kitchen.

 

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Our first dish, vegetable dumplings ($8), doesn’t augur well for a fulfilling or filling evening.

The dumplings are OK, with mushy fillings that are very garlicky, but the serve size seems on the parsimonious side.

 

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The arrival of “denjang soup” ($10) is much reassuring.

A big, very fine bowl of basic miso soup is studded with heaps of tofu and enoki mushrooms.

There’s plenty enough for Bennie and I to share, though as with our mains the mix of white/black rise seems superfluous to our mutual mindset and appetite.

Even if such grains are the Korean way …

 

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I have friends for whom the idea of paying for kimchi is anathema.

Me, I’ve got no problem with it in an Australian setting, particularly when $4 gets us this lovely, generous bowl of fresh, zingy and only-lightly-pickled cucumber.

 

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Then it’s on to our mains – for which we throw caution, both food and financial, to the wind by going big on meat with beef bulgogi ($25), of thinly sliced and marinated beef with enoki mushies, and pork galbi ($29), of free-range pork ribs marinated in chilli paste and sesame oil.

 

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To go with our mains, we are provided with three sauces – sesame oil/salt, miso paste and chilli paste, along with lettuce leaves and two serve of the same rice ($3 each).

 

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It’s at this point in our evening that Jiweon really comes into her own by deftly barbecuing our meats at our table.

Good job!

 

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We start in on the beef and enokis at the medium-rare stage – and it tastes very, very nice, with great texture and BBQ flavour.

We eat some with the nearby sauces.

We eat some rolled up in the butter lettuce leaves, as instructed.

We eat some just making it up as we go.

 

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The pork proves even more demanding of Jiweon’s time.

She barbecues the big, handsome chunk of meat whole for a while before cutting the meat from the bones with scissors and continuing the cooking.

In the end, we are left with heaps of smaller chunks each and a nice, meaty bone to gnaw on at the end.

The meat is an interesting contrast to all the US-style barbecue we’ve indulged in this year.

Here, the pork rib meat is quite chewy, very tasty and not as spicy as seems might be the case.

We’ve had a beaut meal and love the people here.

It’s a meal, though, that has stretched the definition of “cheap eats”.

But we’re happy with the quality and quantity of what we’ve been served. We reckon it’s all been good value for money.

Truth is, we could’ve got away with paying less by the simple, prudent moves of not ordering rice we didn’t need and two cans of soft drink where water would do!

Maybe a hotpot for us next time …

(This post has been sponsored by Moonee Valley Council.)

 

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More than dumplings in Moonee Ponds

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Dumpling House, 2 Everage Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9188

Consider The Sauce recorded the new existence of Dumpling House in a Moonee Ponds eats goss post a month back, noting along the way how much I enjoyed the chicken and mushroom wontons in “peanut, chilli and spice sauce”.

Today I’m back for lunch and I have company.

Between us we try enough of the menu to ascertain that Dumpling House is about more than dumplings and is, indeed, a very handy arrival in the Puckle Street neighbourhood – basic of decor, very cheap and with surprises waiting to be unearthed.

And word, it seems, is getting out – there’s one large lunch group, another table of four and a few takeaway orders going out the door.

 

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Pan-fried chicken and prawn dumplings ($9.50 for 12) are a big bite size and quite chewy.

The innards (top picture) are a deft mix of chicken and prawn – very tasty!

 

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We enjoy, too, the Shanghai fried noodles ($9.50).

There’s nothing spectacular about this dish – it’s simply a good, solid rendition of a standard noodle dish with greenery, carrot and beef.

 

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We are so very happy we have ordered the spicy eggplant ($16.50).

Not that it’s spicy, mind you.

It’s not.

And forget the capsicum, which is little more than a garnish.

The dish is also monumentally oily – but I doubt it could be made any other way.

What it does have is gorgeously luscious eggplant pieces with flavour that has us moaning and sighing with delight.

The sort of eggplant flavour, in fact, of which I dream.

All this is set off by the wonderfully by bright green, al-dente broad beans – such a nice touch!

 

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Moonee Valley eats goss

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Big changes are afoot at Italian restaurant Vicolo, the Young Street venue for a memorable 2014 Consider The Sauce Feast.

Come early June, Maria will be closing the joint down for a couple of weeks for a major overhaul – this place is most definitely going to look very different.

Some time at the end of June, she will be reopening as Harry’s Bar, named after the Venice institution of the same.

And she will, of course, be serving that famous bar’s signature drink, the bellini (Prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar).

Maria will retain some of the current and longstanding food, but the famed risotto list, for instance, will be cut to the lunch offering of 10 varieties.

Coming in will be an increased emphasis on pizzas and things such as goat and porchetta roasted in a stone oven.

As well, there will be breakfast and brunch offered at weekends.

Consider The Sauce will have a great reader giveaway for the Harry’s Bar opening night party so stay tuned!

 

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Moonee Ponds has a brand new dumpling place.

Dumpling House is at 2A Everage Street (phone 9372 9188).

Becky and Joseph have been up and running for only four days when I visit.

The room is bare-bones cafe style but the service is grand, and Becky is very keen to get customer feedback.

They have a longer, regulation-style Chinese menu (mainly for nights) but the lunchtime gist of it is two lists – one of “with rice” dishes and another of dumplings (see menus below).

 

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I just love the chicken and mushroom wontons in “peanut, chilli and spice sauce” (15 for $10.50).

There’s not much evidence of peanuttiness but that’s OK – if the descripition had been “with chilli-infused soup”, I would’ve ordered it anyway.

As is evident from the above picture, it’s fiery – in fact, at the upper limit of my spice threshold.

Yummy, though!

The wontons are fabulous – small, lovely of texture and with a nice, hefty hit of ginger.

And I love, too, the chopped bok choi.

Often such dishes are served with whole leaves, which can be both hard to handle and bitter.

These are neither and really lovely to eat.

They’re the best “dumplings” I’ve had this year – and that’s saying quite a lot!

Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

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On the other side of Puckle Street, in Pratt Street, what was until recently a Brown’s Bakery is in the process of being transformed, according to one of the builders I quiz, into “a fancy fish and chip place”.

Cool!

 

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Good bento, great price

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Chiba, 19 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0248

Consider The Sauce has checked out the smaller, takeaway-oriented Chiba joint on Puckle Street – it was, mind you, many moons ago – but never the Chiba proper on Hall Street.

I am gently encouraged by this blog’s very fine pal, Nat Stockley, who works in this neighbourhood and who has explored its nourishment offerings in forensic depth.

Chiba, he opines, offers good, solid Japanese food at good prices.

He is, as ever, entirely correct.

I order for a mid-week day-off lunch, following Nat’s suggestion, the bento.

There’s nothing adventurous about it – but it is a fine feed well done.

And at $15, it’s super cheap – especially considering it is served to me in a full-service Japanese restaurant.

You’ll pay the same – or more – in less salubrious settings and get no service for your trouble.

 

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Good miso soup, with just green onion and tofu cubes, gets proceedings underway.

 

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The bento itself has …

Four pieces of salmon sashimi.

A very mini mini-spring roll and two pieces of nicely-crumbed and deep-fried white fish.

Mildy flavoured and rather finely-diced chicken teriyaki.

Rice.

Just OK tempura consisting of three parts vegetables and one part prawn.

If anything, the shredded cabbage under the fried fish and spring roll is the highlight, anointed as it is with a tangy, whizzed dressing of carrot, vinegar and seasonings.

Nice!

A simple fruit offerings of bite-sized cubes of three different varieties melon completes my meal.

Check out the Chiba website here.

Souvlakis and white choc risotto

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Hellenic Flavours On Puckle, 25 Puckle Street Moonee Ponds. Phone: 93757064
Vicolo, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500

There’s been a number of eatery openings in and around Puckle Street lately and we’re up for trying one of them for lunch.

We know Hellenic Flavours will be a kebab shop that will also do hamburgers.

But we suspect that it may also be one of those nifty places that does a nice job of taking care of the fast-food requirements but one that also offers more substantial Greek food at prices way below those found in more formal Greek restaurant settings.

That’s just what we discover.

 

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The place is done out in the expected mix of take-away and restaurant with plenty of seating and scenic photos from the Mediterranean adorning the walls.

A big work group sitting next to us is tucking with glee into $15 plates of various kebab meats (some of it on sticks), pita, salad, chips and tzatiki.

Cool!

There’s also available the likes of mousaka, pastitsio, stuffed vegetables and grills such as steaks.

 

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We both go for the traditional lamb souvlaki ($11) and are happy with our choices.

 

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Our wraps are encased in the usual, thickish Greek-style pita we suspect may have come from this venerable Braybrook institution.

There’s just the right amount of salad and sauce.

And the meat is crunchy crusted, salty, hot and delicious.

Next stop – dessert!

Not since a flurry of visits to the classic Italian of Vicolo – culminating in a beaut CTS Feast – have we been back.

Today we’ve been enticed through the Young Street doors by a Facebook item in which Marie spruiks her white chocolate risotto with hazelnuts.

 

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It’s the biz at a very generously proportioned $12 serve – thank heavens Bennie and I share.

“Mmmmm – it’s good,” says I.

“Yes, and so healthy,” quips Bennie.

Haha!

It’s nothing of the sort, of course.

But nor is eating this glorified rice pudding quite exactly like the decadent, silky and out-there experience of consuming a panna cotta, creme brulee or even a pavlova.

The al dente rice gives it a bit more substance and chewiness than that.

Still – excellent!

 

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Nice vibes in Moonee Ponds

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320 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 2649

For many years, these Ascot Vale Road premises housed a corner store that was a bit of a secret – it stocked products and groceries of the South American/Latin American variety, including Jamon.

Alas that opportunity for CTS story has now gone, and in the store’s place is lovely cafe.

Ascot Food Store appears to be ideally place midway between the Puckle Street area and the eats region of upper Mount Alexander Road.

There’s heaps of residential blocks around here and I bet there’s plenty of locals who really, really loving having this new place so handy.

 

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I could be the world-weary scribe and say Ascot Food Store is just like so many cafes all over the place, including the west.

But that would be silly of me.

And it would be to deny the expertise and good cheer of the staff, the white-centric fit-out that confers a relaxed, tranquil vibe on the front room and two further inside, and the quality of the food.

It’s a very breakfast/lunch place, and – based on our meals (see menu below) – I’d describe the serves as light eating.

A hungry table of two who throw in a couple of sides and coffees will find themselves paying between $25 to $30 per person – the going rate these days for this kind of food in this kind of place.

And no complaints from us.

 

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My companion – Karma of alergicinmelbourne – likes her “Benedict” ($17) of poached eggs on top of an English muffin and shaved pork belly, all topped with bearnaise.

As far as I can tell, in this case anyway, “shaved pork belly” = “crackling” by any other name, so I can’t help but admire the sheer artery-clogging chutzpah of it.

 

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My “Apple Wood Smoked Ocean Trout, Freekeh, Roasted Caluliflower, Coriander, Cress, Shredded Kale” ($18) is fine, too.

The fish is a nicely hefty slab and beautifully cooked, though there is precious little smoky flavour.

The freekeh and cauliflower are indistinguishable, but the fish’s base is nicely most.

With the kale and salad bits, it all makes for a lovely, light lunch.

My cafe latte is very good.

Check out Karma’s take on our lunch here.

 

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Burgers – a tough business

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New York Minute, 491 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9043 1838

Last time Consider The Sauce frequented New York Minute, Bennie devoured a beaut two-handed, multi-level burger with which he was well pleased.

That was a while ago – and some time after our initial stories about the place (here and here).

We’ve eaten a whole helluva lot of burgers since then.

Bennie, in particular, has come to consider himself an expert, refining as he goes just what it is that pushes his burger buttons.

And the burger biz has changed a lot in that time, too.

There’s a handful of food trucks going around that specialise in burgers of various kinds, some of them doing excellent work.

And these days there’s hip outlets such as 8bit going very hard indeed for those burger dollars.

It’s a tough business – even if all that is good news for burger consumers.

So we are very interested to discover how New York Minute – which will soon be opening a branch in Williamstown – is going these days.

The answer?

It’s going OK … although we conclude the place has lost something of its charm and edge.

 

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During our Saturday lunch visit, business is brisk.

The place’s small space has been reconfigured – there’s no longer any interior tables, just window bench stools.

We grab one of the two outside tables.

Bennie’s New York – with “2 beef patties, special sauce, spinach, cheese, pickles & onions” (top picture, $12) – looks the goods but fails to elicit the much sought after groans of pleasure.

To use Bennie’s terminology, it’s “just a burger”.

 

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My brisket burger – with “Prime cut beef & sweet pickles with special sauce” ($9) – is OK but also lacks the sort of oomph that would set it apart.

There’s just not enough here to get in any way excited.

 

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Our large chips ($5) certainly look the part.

But what at first glance may appear to be a bronzed tan increasingly looks orange.

I detect an unwanted sweetness, but Bennie reckons that’s all about the charmless “aioli”.

But he also reckons there’s an excess of chicken salt going on here.

I’m not sure about that …

Going by the joint’s Facebook feed, New York Minute is a happy, happening thing.

But based on our latest meal, we reckon it’s entered the realms of merely good rather than excellent, as subjective as that may be.

CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng – the wrap

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Our CTS Feast at Xiang Yang Cheng was a truly memorable occasion.

I remain surprised that only just half over the allocated seating was booked – this was and is, it seems to be, just the kind of food that is ideal for such an event.

No matter … no matter at all.

Because those of us who did indulge had a thoroughly grand time.

And with a smaller group, it was all very relaxed and rather intimate.

I really enjoyed getting around our four tables and having chats with everyone.

 

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And that was made easier by the very nature of the food an its preparation – what may have taken a half-hour so to consume if brought plated to our tables ended up taking more than two hours of rambling indulgence.

Many thanks to the XYC staff, including Larry, Zi and Alicia, for taking such good care of us.

Thanks, also, to Nat, Marc, Paul, Marketa, Jenni, Bronwyn, Adam, Philippa, Milena, Paul, Christine, Lisa and Julian for making it.

 

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But perhaps the most thanks should go to someone who was absent.

One of my first contacts at XYC was Peggy.

Peggy is off being a new mum but it was she who devised the broad and representative menu selections that graced each of our tables.

A lot of thought obviously went into it – and thus was vindicated my decision to leave our meal up to the staff and not bother cherry-picking it myself.

Wow!

What a spread we had.

 

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

 

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128
Date: Thursday, August 21.
Time: From 7pm.
Cost: $25.

Driving towards a rendezvous with CTS Feast No.8, Bennie and I were discussing option for the next such outing.

“What about the hot pot place?” he asks.

Great idea!

As we had plenty of time to spare, we headed to Mount Alexander Road and put our proposal to the Xiang Yang Cheng team.

Once we discussed what’s involved, their answer was: “Yes!”

It’s on …

XYC is, we reckon, an ideal vehicle for a CTS Feast – it’s a cool restaurant with VERY interesting food, both of which we’re happy to endorse.

And we also reckon their super Sichuan hot-pot cooking is ideal for the enjoyment of a gathering of CTS friends … we hope you think so, too.

In our discussions with Peggy and Tracey, we looked at offering each table the same representative choices from the XYC line-up.

In the end, though, I decided it best to simply let the Team XYC to do the choosing from their very long menu, which you can check out in our CTS review here.

The XYC tables seat four, so we are throwing this invite open to 24 guests.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

 

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Good, fresh Japanese in Moonee Ponds

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I Dream Of Sushi, 6 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9375 7951

I Dream Of Sushi is a brand new – Nat and I hit it for lunch on opening day – Japanese joint tucked just around the corner from Puckle Street, with a branch of Yim Yam and a fine fish and chippery nearby.

As this is his work nighbourhood, Nat has been watching developments with great interest as he sometimes gets cranky with despair and boredom concerning the same old same old lunchtime routines hereabouts.

The place is done in cheerful cafe style and the staff are on the go and smiling.

I suspect that, not unlike another Japanese CTS favourite, I Dream Of Sushi delivers sushi rolls not out of any great passion about doing so but because to do otherwise would be commercial suicide.

In any case, he and I happily focus on the rest of the menu (see below), which covers a tight but appealing range of smaller dishes and a line-up of rice bowls.

We do real good.

My miso soup ($3.50) is regulation but very good, with deep miso flavour.

 

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Gyoza ($6.50), too, are orthodox but also yummy with a nice garlickiness.

 

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Tofu salad ($10) is a winner and just the sort of light, healthy lunch I’ve been desiring.

The greens, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes are super-fresh and the dressing tangy.

 

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Nat is very happy with his salmon sashimi (12 pieces for $10).

 

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But it’s his teri may don ($12) of “tender chicken thigh cooked in sweet soy on steamed rice w/- Japanese may” that does it for him.

“I’ve hit the bullseye,” he happily proclaims.

I Dream Of Sushi is pitching itself cleverly for the local lunch market – it’ll do fine.

And, yep, Nat will be back.

 

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As we are wrapping things up, we get talking to Catherine and Barb, for whom this is a family affair – they could hardly be prouder of what Acko, Yagu, Miho and Con are doing!

 

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