Meal of the week No.39: The White Elephant

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In the couple of months since CTS first visited the White Elephant (561 Barkly Street) in West Footscray, its situation has grown and evolved.

The Sri Lankan place has earned – and is earning – well-deserved plaudits for the quality of its food.

It was not always apparent this would be the case, surrounded as it is by so many Indian eateries.

Different food, different countries, you bet, but I wasn’t sure those differences would be sufficient for White Elephant to establish a foothold in a very competitive area.

As, well – the prices have gone up.

And that’s a good thing.

Really.

On the occasion of our earlier visit, the three members of that night’s Team CTS appreciated the ultra-low prices, but surmised they were simply unsustainable in the longer term.

Rice and three curry bowls (two veg, one meat) for $15?

Bonkers.

My lampraise then cost $17 and now costs $24 – and given the quality of the food, that is STILL affordable, well within cheap eats territory and very fair.

So, yes, we’re happy about the higher prices as hopefully they mean White Elephant will be around for many years to come.

But as Julian, Nat, Bennie and myself discover when we convene for a Sunday Sri Lankan lunch, it remains possible to eat here for next to nothing, albeit on a restricted menu – with which we have no problem at all.

So our $12.90 lunch deals are identical …

A good on-the-bone lamb curry.

A coconutty dal.

Devilled potato.

A hard-boiled egg.

Rice.

And cabbage curry.

They’re all very good.

Though the strong fishiness of the cabbage curry – derived from dried Maldive fish – is way less agreeable to me than my companions.

Our meal takes an hour to arrive.

Which brings up another point about White Elephant.

Some online sleuthing will quickly turn up comments and reviews in which the serve-time factor here is mentioned – sometimes quite stroppily.

Here’s the thing, though – this leisurely pace is obviously part-and-parcel of the place and its people.

There’s a lot of care going into the food.

If this is an issue for you, or if you’re in anything that even remotely approaches a hurry, then you’re in the wrong place.

Just for the record, I’ll mention the two dishes we have been served on a complementary basis.

 

 

The beef pan rolls are crisp, fresh, spicy, packed with beef ‘n’ spud and as good as any of us have had of this popular SL snack fare.

 

 

As on our previous visit, the dry okra curry is fabulous.

We’re unsure whether or not these dishes have been provided to us because of the wait time (in the first case) or, in the second, because we’d mentioned it when ordering.

Likewise, we know not if this sort of generosity is standard practice or if we’ve received special treatment.

Either way, we are grateful!

 

Sweet Sri Lankan hits WeFo

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The White Elephant On Barkly, 561 Barkly Street, West Foostcray. Phone: 0423 515 728

The White Elephant brings a real point of difference to Indian-dominated West Footscray, and is doing so with style.

Whether its efforts will be sufficient to prosper in what is a fiercely competitive environment, only time will tell.

We certainly hope so after a three-member CTS team enjoys a fine evening meal there.

The former home of the cafe Jellybread has been fitted out in bright and breezy fashion.

We found the service very attentive and the wait times perfectly appropriate for the food at hand.

Our first glances at the menu (see below) are quite bracing, based on our long enjoyment of extremely affordable Sri Lankan food at a variety of places.

At the White Elephant, meat and seafood curries cost either side of $20.

But closer perusal of the food list reveals some outright gems.

Three rotis, one veg curry and one meat curry for $12, for instance.

Or a rice-and-curry combo of two veg curries and one meat curry for $15.

That latter deal will do us – or two of us anyway!

 

 

Justin is extremely happy with his curry combo deal.

Unlike many other Indian and Sri lankan eateries, here the curry deals can be customised according to customer wishes – rather than being a mix of whatever the staff choose back out in the kitchen.

The mild beef curry is some way short of tender, but not tough, either – perfectly normal and acceptable for this kind of food.

The eggplant moju disappears at pace.

But it is the potato curry that is the star – so simple and tasty!

 

 

It is a vegetable selection that shines brightest in Bennie’s line-up, as well.

The okra dish is as good as we’ve enjoyed.

The vegetable holds its vibrant greenness, is not in the least cooked down and shows not the slightest sign of sliminess.

It’s fabulous.

We’re all taken with the cashew curry, which is way more creamy and moist than the above photograph suggests.

It’s nice, with the nuts just on the tender side of al dente.

But, as Bennie later opines, there is a strong element of same-same about it that suggests it would be more enjoyed as a smaller side.

One of the main things Bennie enjoys about Sri Lankan food is the ability to order pork.

His pork curry here is similar to those he’s enjoyed elsewhere – dry, charry, enjoyable.

But beware – this is very, very fatty.

The $15 meal deals my companions enjoy involve excellent food and represent superb value.

 

 

My lampraise ($17) is something entirely different.

I’ve enjoyed other versions of this very traditional Sri Lankan meal – cooked in a banana leaf – but never quite this hearty or rustic.

The cooked-in-stock rice is a fine foundation.

The stars are a couple of fat charred, juicy and supremely delicious prawns.

There’s an orb of tuna cutlet and a heap of chicken and the same pork, very fatty, as in Bennie’s curry.

The chicken is overcooked by Western, charcoal grill standards, but that is – I strongly suspect – entirely normal for this dish.

My meal is so meaty, so macho that the phrase “meat lovers” comes to mind – something more usually associated with dodgy pizzas.

As well, the fried egg – very good – lends the dish something of the aspect of an old-school English fry-up.

So … not everyone’s cup of tea.

But, no doubt, just precisely the ticket for some!

 

 

At the top of the meal, we’d started out with a serve of spicy chicken ribs ($8).

Our handful were fine – not so spicy and quite oily, but lip-smackingly juicy and tender.

The White Elephant is doing breakfasts!

The menu ranges from western-style dishes such as eggs, toast and pancakes through to string hoppers and roti with curry.

Meanwhile, we wish the White Elephant crew well – and, on the basis of those awesome spud and okra dishes, we’ll be back for more veg.

 

 

Ceylon hot

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Fusion Ceylon, 27 Watton Street, Weribee. Phone: 0433 696 726

We feel blessed to have become part of a generation of westies for whom Werribee has no baggage.

For us, the negative stories are nothing more than urban legends.

We love a drive down the highway to get there and we generally have a good time when we do.

And there seems to be more and more food from which to choose.

Since our earlier story, Fusion Ceylon has become a favourite.

We like it a lot.

Even better, as an impromptu Sunday night dinner for three of us illustrated, the lads there have worked wonders with the look and feel of the place.

 

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Look hard and the remnants of the former fish and chip remain discernible.

But mostly this has become a very nice place to spend some time, this achieved by the simple agency of little more than rustic wood furnishings and fittings.

And 40-gallon drums.

Even better, we discover we’ve got lucky – Sunday night is hopper night.

And they’re being prepared with great aplomb right beside our table.

Free entertainment!

 

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The hopper meal costs $15 and consists of four plain hoppers, two egg hoppers, one of a choice of three curries and “Sri Lankan-style caramelised onions”.

It’s all grand and we eat like kings.

Well, two kings and one queen.

Our curry – pork – is mild but very rich.

There’s a stack of fat in there but it’s easily extracted if that’s not your thing.

 

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Based on our previous visits, we know our fave from the regular menu is the Fusion Ceylon biryani – we’ve come to love its combo of biryani heat/spice and wok hei.

The latter is not so evident tonight but it’s still a fantastic dish.

The chook drumstick is so super dooper tasty, it has all of us ooh-ing ahh-ing, while I get golden fried hard-boiled egg all to myself.

Off to the right is a dollop of fabulous pineapple pickle.

As there’s three of us, we do order an extra egg hopper and an extra serve of pork curry.

But even then the damage for Trio CTS is a paltry $36.

 

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West Welcome Wagon benefit – the wrap

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West Welcome Wagon Fundraiser,
Curry Leaves, 463 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 8528 3876.
Hosted by Consider The Sauce, 15/3/16

Yes, a fine time was had by all at the latest West Welcome fundraiser – held at that fine purveyor of Sri Lankan tucker, Curry Leaves in Sunshine.

 

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The final accounting is yet to be done but WWW will in a day or so be about $1400 better off in terms of much-needed cash to continue its amazing work.

 

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That’s thanks to many people …

The many attendees – some familiar faces, many new ones – who bowled up for the biggest event CTS has ever organised.

 

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Thanks most of all to chef Duminda, Bec and Dillon and the rest of the Curry Leaves crew.

 

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The food was wonderful and there was plenty of it!

 

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Thanks, too, to famed Footscray drinking/eating emporium Littlefoot for donating a lovely meal for the auction and for long-time CTS reader and pal Juz for putting up his hand to take it away.

 

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And equal thanks go to another CTS pal Christine, master baker, for creating and donating a superb “black velvet cake” of “red velvet with a black cocoa syrup, frosted in good old cream cheese frosting”.

 

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That classy item was won at auction by Elizabeth – who immediately declared her prize was meant nothing less than immediate consumption.

So the knife was wielded and just everyone in the house had a very tasty slice.

Thanks everyone!

 

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Sri Lankan fusion in Werribee

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ceylon6

 

Fusion Ceylon, 27 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 9656

Sri Lankan tiramisu?

What might that look and taste like?

Like this: Basically a regular tiramisu configuration but one made with sweet Sri Lankan coffee; spiced with cumin and cardamom; the usual sponge fingers joined by gingernut biscuits; and topped with cashews and chewy praline.

The textures are, well, pretty much pure tiamisu but the flavours are musty, mysterious and magical.

And happily, for my tastes, this SL tiramisu is far from overly sweet and actually nicely on the bitter side.

 

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It’s the creation of co-proprietors and co-cooks Isuru Madusanka and Chiran Hemadas at their new baby, Fusion Ceylon.

CTS has been to 27 Watton Street before, when it was being run as a game try at combining SL food with burgers, fish & chips and the like.

Since then, and before Isuru and Chiran arrived, it reverted to strictly fast-food under different management.

The place still bears hallmarks of its fast-food heritage but the lads have brought in some nice wooden furniture that gives the place a sweet cafe vibe.

Fusion is, of course, in food terms a much over-used and abused word, frequently denoting not much good at all.

These two blokes, though, have the background – many years between them working in top-shelf hotels – to cleverly, and deliciously, match the cooking of their SL culture with approaches a little more edgy.

Their menu (see below) is short but full of intrigue and of low prices.

Item: Chickpeas and sprats ($10) – stir-fried chickpeas with onion rings, chilli flakes, mustard seeds and sprats. The sprats, I’m told, a similar to the dried anchovies used elsewhere in Asia.

Item: Another dessert – this time it’s banana fritters … wok-fried bananas with treacle, macerated strawberries and vanilla ice-cream.

We stick with more humble dishes for our first visit yet are very satisfied.

 

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Nasi goreng a la Ceylon ($13) appears to be not much different from the regular versions, though Chiran tells me the spicing is different and they use basmati rice instead of jasmine.

But it’s all good – the rice is packed with a finely diced vegetables and chicken chunks and the gooey fried egg sitting atop is just right, as is the nicely charred chicken drumstick.

The prawn crackers are, as they always are, unnecessary.

 

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The same vegie mix is found on the noodles kothu ($10), which come from the specials list.

As with the more traditional roti kothu, in which roti is finely chopped with the other ingredients, here the noodles get the chop treatment.

And instead of chicken or pork, mine is served with lingu – house-made SL sausages that draw on a Dutch heritage.

 

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Chiran and Isuru make them with chicken or pork, vinegar, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, pandan leaf and curry leaf.

There’s one snag on top of my kothu and pieces mingled in.

The sausage is distinctive and quite tangy – but not in the least confronting.

 

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The kothu noodles are served with what I’m told is a “mixed meat gravy” for adding as I eat.

It’s very nice and tasty lubricant.

Meanwhile, it seems you can take the chefs out of five-star hotels but taking the five-star hotels out of the chefs can take some adjustment.

As we have been talking , I’ve had to rather sternly – but amid all-round laughter – request of Chiran that he please, please cease referring to me as “Sir”!

 

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Hoppers in Werribee

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Fab Delight, Shop 4, 167-179 Shaws Road, Werribee. Phone: 9749 7777

There’s a stack of Indian restaurants in and around Werribee.

There’s now a Dosa Hut branch in Tarneit, we know an Indian place will be opening at Williams landing in coming weeks and there’s a couple of places in Laverton.

But these scarcely seem sufficient to service the rapid upsurge in Indian-based residential living in Wyndham and adjacent suburbs.

And Sri Lankan?

As far as we know, until now the nearest bona fide Sri Lankan eateries have been in Sunshine and, further afield, in Tullamarine, Glenroy and the city.

All of which makes, we reckon, the opening of Fab Delight something of real significance.

Even better, based on our first visit we reckon it’s a gem – a lovely, cheap, family business that serves authentic Sri Lankan food that is very good.

 

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Fab Delight is located in Werribee Village, a smallish shopping centre that continues to serve local needs even as behemoths such as the newly branded Pacific Werribee proliferate in the area.

Werribee Village has a Sim’s, a couple of Chinese places, a butcher, a baker and a pizza maker.

It also has the recently reviewed Carv’n It Up.

We love our mid-week dinner at Fab Delight.

We bypass the snacky stuff, the modest dosa line-up, the hoppers and the koththu and the devilled dishes.

 

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Instead, we get two plain rotis ($1.80 each) and an egg roti ($3).

They’re fine – fresh, hot, flaky, chewy.

 

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We get a single serve of string hoppers (20 pieces for $7.50), served with a chilli sambol.

 

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And, in the curry department, we get a serve of the yellow potato curry ($7.50), which is helpfully provided to us in two serving bowls.

The gravy is more of a soup but still good and the potato chunks are a marvel, with wonderful flavour and texture.

 

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The pork curry ($13) is Bennie’s choice – so adamant is he that my caution about anything to do with pork and curries, especially at these sorts of cheap-eats prices, is swept aside.

His determination is vindicated as this curry is something of stunner.

It’s a dry curry that is largely built around black pepper.

It’s different, it’s yummy!

The pork pieces are as tender as can be expected and very tasty.

Bennie gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up with one hand as he stuff his gob with his other.

Between our curries, and the rotis and string hoppers with which to mop them up, we enjoy a splendid, delicious and very affordable meal.

 

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CTS Feast No.12: The Wrap

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CTS Feast No.12: Curry Leaves, 463 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 8528 3876. Tuesday, August 11.

Many, many thanks to Upeksha, Dillon and the rest of Curry Leaves crew for working so hard to make the latest Consider The Sauce Feast enjoyable!

As always, it was a delight to see so many familiar faces.

And just as enjoyable to meet so many CTS readers for the first time – and swap war stories and tips and faves about the Fabulous Foodie West.

 

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The food ranged from this unannounced yet wonderfully delicious simple chicken and vegetable soup through to …

 

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… biryanis …

 

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… superb string hoppers and …

 

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… equally great rotis and on to …

 

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… hoppers and …

 

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… lampraris before ending up with …

 

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… a range of rather succulent desserts.

 

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Thanks to everyone for supporting this CTS event!

The next one has yet to be devised or locked in any way at all, but wherever and whenever it is, we’d love to see you again.

 

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