Colombian food? Dive right in!

6 Comments

 

El Toucan Cafe, Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre, 1 Aquatic Drive, Maribyrnong. Phone: 0400 924 608

You won’t want to go swimming for a few hours after eating bandeja paisa at El Toucan Cafe.

But should you so desire, the facilities couldn’t be closer at hand – El Toucan is located right in Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre, its seating gazing out upon the various swimming pools.

Yes, really.

I could opine that this is western weirdness personified, but really how unusual is it when CTS and its friends not only keep an open mind about where we may find great food, but also do so regularly in quirky locations?

But this is most definitely the kind of adventure that sets the hearts of myself and CTS pal Nat Stockley into a cheerful gallop.

 

 

El Toucan boss Frank Torres keeps the likes of chicken nuggets and burgers on his menu.

As he says, this IS a swimming pool operation and he DOES want to stay in business.

But he’s very proud to be offering a range of true-blue Colombian dishes.

It’s to these we are drawn, as are the tables surrounding us inhabited by Colombian families.

Frank is a Melbourne eatery veteran, having in years past run the likes of El Dorado Grill in the CBD.

Bandeja paisa is something of an informal Colombia national dish.

Frank tells us its roots lie in its evolution as a hearty lunch for early-starting, hard-working coffee growers – which makes it the equivalent of your typical, full-bore Aussie/Kiwi shearers’ spread.

 

 

Nat goes the full bandeja paisa – a huge meal and something of a bargain at $20.

 

 

I opt for the half serve – it’s not listed anywhere, but is available on request.

Even it is a substantial meal and also a bargain at $12.

Everything about this is mighty …

Avocado and chubby tortilla.

Expertly fried egg and rice.

Superbly creamy beans and fried ripe plantain.

And meat – pork belly, chorizo and pulled beef that would match it with any barbecue joint.

The pork belly, as we’ve come to know of South American food, is well cooked, but as delicious as everything else on our plates.

 

 

Empanadas con yuca ($9) are also outstanding.

The three empanadas are made with corn meal, the casings stuffed with beef mince and deep fried.

They are joined by cassava chips that are fluffy and lovely.

On the side is a bowl of aji – a salsa-like dipping concoction.

This dish could constitute a cool and very cheap light meal for those not up to El Toucan’s more full-on offerings.

 

 

On an earlier, reconnaissance visit, I enjoyed sobrebarriga ($22) of slow-cooked beef skirt served with rice, avocado, cassava and sofrito.

This, too, is a hefty and excellent meal.

Though, in contrast to our other selections, in this case the meat is very tender and the cassava – playing the roast potato role – dryish and a little too starchy for my tastes.

El Toucan has specials …

On the day we visit there’s a liver dish on, while a few folks around us are enjoying what look like very good pork ribs – even if, as Frank maintains, they are less specifically Colombian than the likes of bandeja paisa.

Other dishes mentioned on the cafe’s Facebook page include patacón con carne o pollo (fried plantain fritter with shredded chicken), fried snapper, lamb skewers with kale slaw and pulled beef quesadilla.

Important note: For those wanting to try the El Toucan cooking without making use of the centre’s other facilities, there is no admission charge.

Winter hours for El Toucan Cafe are Monday-Friday 9am-8.30pm and Saturday-Sunday 9am-6pm.

Thanks to Nat “Punster” Stockley for the intro!

 

Latin Foods & Wines evening

Leave a comment

latin9

 

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.

 

latin4

 

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.

 

latin1

 

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.

 

latin2

 

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

 

latin3

 

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.

 

latin7

 

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 …

 

latin8

 

… 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.

 

latin10

 

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

 

latin11

 

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

 

latin6

 

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.

Lady Moustache

3 Comments

lady8

Lady Moustache, 84 Gamon St, Yarraville. Phone: 9396 1916

We were sparing frequenters of the coffee/brekky/lunch place that preceded Lady Moustache.

Things have changed a lot, so it’s interesting to have a look at this lovely old Yarraville building in the knowledge it has become an eatery of quite a different kind, one that includes some serious evening-time foodiness.

The double-story building is a beauty, but the new crew have left the interior pretty much as it was, near as we can tell. Even some of the furniture looks familiar,

A nice bar area has been installed, though, leaving the rest of the dining area a little limited. There’s long stools at both windows but on this wintry mid-week night it seems every other seat is taken or soon to be.

In this context, the place has the really nice vibe of an intimate, inviting neighbourhood favourite, an impression aided by lovely staff already getting on top of a new place with new routines and new customers.

We’re told there’s a Colombian connection involved Lady Moustache, and that shows in about half the breakfast menu and all the evening fare, which is presented as a sort-of South American tapas list.

As well, there’s empanadas from one of our North Sunshine favourites, South American sweets and tortillas and the like.

We toss restraint out the window in ordering five dishes and are thrilled with what we eat and what we pay for it – if we’d gone without drinks (Napoleone pear cider for me, bottle of that Coca Cola stuff for him, both $4.50), our meal would have clocked in at a very fine $37.

lady1

“Patatas with house made sauces” ($7.50) are basically very good potato wedges – though I feel a few of them are a little undercooked – with a nice, thick and unsweet tomato sauce.

lady2

Three into two won’t go!

If there are arguments at Lady Moustache, we suspect they’ll be over these divine chicken drumettes ($6.50) served with the same tomato sauce as the spuds and a creamy, apricot-coloured mayo number.

This time Bennie gets two of the superbly deep fried and utterly ungreasy gems!

lady3

Papusa are two in number, modestly sized but totally tasty.

They’re quite crisp on the outside, stuffed with shredded pork and topped with the as-advertised tomato sauce and also roast red capsicum.

The accompanying cabbage-and-carrot mix – described as curtido – is disappointingly dull, but maybe that’s because we eat so many similar serves in varying eastern European and Asian joints that have so much zing.

lady4

Quesadilla and dips (left, $7.50) is an oddball – to us – winner.

The cheesy corn sandwich triangles are sublime, but it feels a little strange to us to be smothering them with the good olive, fetta and cashew dip, and the even better and more sexy lime, bean and coriander number.

What the hey – it works!

Peruvian swordfish ceviche (right, $7) is good but I find the marinade a little bitter where I am expecting tangy and/or sour.

The nice salad that comes with it has walnuts, almonds, greens, olives and mandarin.

With Advieh just up the road, Gamon St seems to be taking on a rather suave cosmopolitan vibe – and we couldn’t be happier!

 

lady5

lady6

lady9

La Morenita Latin Cuisine: New menu

4 Comments

 

67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

If La Morenita has fallen off our radar a little in terms of eating in since we first discovered the place, it remains a reliable regular for the odd coffee and sweetie and – even more so – take-out empanadas for the freezer and school/work lunch boxes.

We love those empanadas!

It was on a recent empanada run that we happily noticed that La Morenita’s in-house menu had grown with several new additions.

It’s time to check them out!

They include chorizo con huevos for a keenly priced $5, but we figure we’ll leave those for breakfast some time.

The rest of the new stuff is mostly South American sandwiches, but being robust of appetite we choose three of them to share.

We do a sort of reverse-Goldilocks, starting with the littlest, moving on to a bigger number and ending with the biggest.

First up is the arolloado ($5) of sliced pork, avocado and mayo.

It comes in a flatter roll than shown in the photo on the blackboard menu. The sliced pork seems to be more like some sort of pressed ham. Whatever the case, this is a tasty winner.

Next up … the chacarero ($5) of steak, cheese, tomato, mayo, greens beans and hot green chilli.

Now this different! As ever here the sliced beef is very tasty and nicely chewy. There’s a cool chilli undertow, but the best aspect is provided by the greens beans. They’re cooked but still have a little bite left in them, which delivers a most unsandwich-like texture. Another winner!

Rolling right along … we complete our increasingly enjoyable lunch with the chivito ($8), which comprises steak, bacon, ham, lettuce, tomato, tasty cheese, boiled egg, roast capsicum, black olives, onion mayo.

Wowee – what is this? A glorified steak sandwich? Well, yes, if you want to look at that way. It also bears comparison in terms of substance and price to the kind of ritzy burgers served up by Grill’d and Burger Edge.

As with the chacarero, though, there is something delectably different about it that makes it a sandwich to cherish.

And with the inclusion of olives, roast capsicum and cured meats, it strikes me as being a second cousin of the muffaletta, that famous sandwich of New Orleans.

I love it. Bennie likes it, too, but fastidiously picks out the egg and olive bits. Bad Bennie!

We love all our La Morenita sandwiches for their striking personalities.

Gooey with mayo, health food this is not; delicious it is.

With a couple of imported soft drinks the total damage is a fine $23.

Our earlier La Morenita post is here.

La Morenita Latin Cuisine on Urbanspoon

La Morenita Latin Cuisine

2 Comments

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.