Kurt’s place

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Be Quick boss Kurt Schwier is enthusiastic about Dietz range of organic, Fairtrade teas.

Be Quick Bargains, 465 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9312 7244

There has been a discount grocery on the corner of Ballarat Road and Leonard Street in Sunshine for a long time.

In fact, it was suggested by a reader as a worthy of a story right back at the start of CTS – closing on 10 years ago.

I didn’t follow-up then.

But now I’m in the place – and happily confess that’s because it’s been run for the past year or so by long-time CTS pal and fellow hardcore music nut Kurt Schwier.

Kurt’s background in the biz shows – I am impressed by the foodie-friendly nature of his line-up and, of course, the prices.

 

 

Use-by dates?

Well, they’re part of this sort of set-up.

Kurt tells me he his straight-up and honest with his customers about individual products being offered here.

My understanding is that for some products, those dates are vital.

For others they are less so – and for many, they are effectively meaningless.

 

For years, CTS HQ has been going through a pack of these every week or so. I wish we’d been paying this price all that time!

 

Kurt tells me his customers come from a wide catchment.

Sunshine locally, of course, but also from the likes of Caroline Springs, Taylors Lakes and Deer Park.

And among them come a wide range of folks with various European backgrounds, as well as many with roots in the Philippines.

 

Kurt knows his booze.

 

One of the first things Kurt did when taking over the business was install a suitable sounds system.

Of course!

He confesses the music is mainly for the enjoyment of he and his staff – but customers are free to enjoy it fully, too.

The volume is far from obtrusive, though the strains of good, funky sounds are always thereabouts.

 

 

The most impressive thing in Be Quick for the CTS foodie sensibilities?

This array of pickles and the like – almost all of which are regularly stocked items.

 

 

Though I’m told these sloths are also good, steady sellers.

I leave Be Quick with quite some booty – mainly cookies and so on – for which I have paid $15.

 

Outlook: Very sunny

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Cafe Sunshine & SalamaTea, 21 Dickson Street, Sunshine. Phone: 0491 605 775

CTS observed yesterday, on the Cafe Sunshine Facebook page, a very nice looking falafel plate being spruiked.

A dish that wasn’t on the menu when we visited at the weekend.

And the dishes enjoyed on two previous solo visits by CTS senior are no longer on the current menu (see below), either.

Cafe Sunshine & SalamaTea is a newish operation right in the heart of Sunshine.

If they’re still finding their feet, some menu tinkering is for sure in order.

Even better, I suspect new and surprising dishes will continue to pop up here with regularity, depending on the whims and passions of whoever is in the kitchen and what is available from the joint’s suppliers.

This will suit anyone prepared to go with the freewheeling flow of the place.

Perhaps not so much those who expect a menu to be a menu and that’s that.

That would very much be their loss – for the food here is rather wonderful, provides a distinct point of difference in Sunshine and is ultra-affordable.

As well, the place is also very much about providing employment and more for refugees and asylum seekers. See Star Weekly story here.

The simple fare is largely of Persian nature, with eggs the big players, in a warm and welcoming cafe.

And I’m told evening meals are in the soon-come category.

 

 

Bennie likes his Persian breakfast ($13) very much – including the tahini dip flavoured with honey.

This is a surprise to his father, as it tastes just like the halva he generally sneers at.

Also included are fig jam, butter and a concoction of walnut and sheep feta.

All this is teamed with Afghan flat bread sourced from the Afghan bakery that has opened up just around the corner on Hampshire Road.

 

 

I share the same basket of bread – more is happily supplied upon request – with my Persian omelette ($15).

This is simple and sensational – eggs and feta sent into the dizzy heights by the plethora of fresh mint and other herbs on the side.

The vegan baklava (top photo, $3) does show the absence of butter – it’s drier than regular baklava – but is still enjoyable, as are our $3.50 cafe lattes.

 

 

Enjoyed by me on previous visits were a tangy noodle soup utilising a variety of pulses and …

 

 

… Persian scrambled eggs with feta and herbs.

Yes – a very, very close relative of my weekend omelette!

 

A Sunshine Star

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Afghan Star Restaurant, 251 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone 0431 970 348

There are – I believe – three places serving the food of Afghanistan in Sunshine.

Amid the (mostly) Vietnamese hubub around Sunshine central and Hampshire Road, they are easy to miss – and Afghan Star is perhaps the most anonymous of them.

It looks, from the outside and inside both, like a humdrum takeaway joint of non-specific origins.

You can get a pizza here – with pineapple, if that’s your kind of thing.

The decor is utilitarian.

But after sporadic visits over the recent couple of years, I reckon it’s time for a CTS story.

Because I really do like this place.

And if the review visit – with Bennie Weir and Nat Stockley in tow – doesn’t quite reach the heights of my previous (solo) visits, I nevertheless remain enamoured of Afghan Star.

Here is less proper restaurant routine and more a place to grab some quick and very cheap Afghan food.

There’s a range of stews/curries called qorma. I’ve tried a couple of them; they’re good.

But really, the top action here is all about grilled meats.

 

 

But first let me note a couple of happy details – the sort of thing that tickles the CTS soul and makes us love places beyond the main gist of the food.

One is the wonderful fruit salad tablecloth with which we are blessed.

And, no, I am not being facetious.

 

 

The second is the stupendously wonderful flatbread – it’s hot, freshly made and enormous.

On each and every visit I have made to Afghan Star, I have taken at least half one of these home with me.

So good!

 

 

And if I order charcoal chicken, I end up taking some of that home, too.

Because a whole, excellent chook – with flatbread, some salady bits/pieces and a minty dipping sauce with a subtle yet important chilli kick – costs $14.99.

That’s a for-sure bargain!

The chicken is very, very good, best and most juicy/succulent on the bone, though inevitably a bit dry in the heart of the breast.

That’s what the minty sauce is for.

 

 

It’s a fine thing that there’s plenty of my chicken to go around, because Bennie is disappointed with his doner mix kebab platter ($10).

For starters, he doesn’t believe it accurately reflects the colour photo at the serving counter upon which he’s based his selection.

It’s OK – but amounts to HSP on a plate.

 

 

Much better – and returning to the heart of the Afghan Star matter – is Nat’s mix kebab platter, another $14.99 steal served on rice and with the same flatbread, salad and sauce.

The tikka/shish lamb meat is very tasty, though a tad on the dry/tough side. Just a tad …

The kobida/kofta minced lamb meat is much better – chewy and nicely (mildly) seasoned.

But really, these are minor quibbles – this kind of food/meat usually sells for more, and sometimes way more, than here.

Afghan Star gets the job done nicely and with smiling, efficient service – and all with a comprehensive lack of on-trend or hipster angles.

For that alone, I love it.

 

Pure Sunshine

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Ghion Restaurant & Cafe, 12 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0423 362 995

There’s no doubt the old Sunshine station – and its gloomy, even spooky tunnel/underpass through to City Place – deserved and needed to be replaced.

But given the new station edifice involves a much less direct and stair-heavy route, I wondered what impact the new station arrangements would have on City Place and the surrounding businesses and neighbourhood.

Surely, the curious would be much less inclined to venture to “the other side of the tracks” from Sunshine central and its much more numerous shops and eateries?

Well, yes – I guess so.

But something rather nice appears to be happening in the face of this enforced “separation”.

You see, it’s now possible to consider that City Place and the adjacent Sun Crescent constitute an entirely different neighbourhood.

Or even a different suburb – one with its own pace, space and vibe.

It’s very laid back, with none of the hustle and bustle of Sunshine proper.

I’d not go so far as to suggest this neighbourhood is prospering or constantly buzzing, but it does seem to be getting on with doing its own thing.

It’s tempting to describe the overall vibe as African, but that would be misleading.

There’s hairdressers/barbers, a cafe, groceries and an arts space.

The fine and long-term Chinese eatery Dragon Express remains in place, while around the corner on Sun Crescent is the utterly fabulous Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, as well as a kebab shop, an Ethiopian place and a Sri Lankan outlet.

Back on City Place, Ghion is doing really good Ethiopian tucker and has become a regular haunt for those seeking a lightish casual lunch in a tranquil, relaxing setting.

I’m guessing it’s also on the ball come dinnertime.

The classic vegetarian combo yetsom beyaynetu is awesome here – as good as any I’ve tried.

Lentils/pulses three different ways; the familiar carrot/potato, beetroot and greens; sprightly salad – all beautifully cooked and presented, all in just the right quantities for a wonderfully balanced meal.

This winning offering costs a supremely cheap $12.

But if you visit Ghion on Wednesday – day or night – it’ll cost you a mere $10.

How good is that?

Among the various meat dishes, lega tibs ($13) is lovely.

It’s a tomato-based, zingy concoction with good lamb chunks and the onion providing nice crunch through being just the right side al dente.

Wait times at Ghion are spot on – long enough to bespeak much care in the kitchen, short enough to ward off hungry impatience.

Our kind of food

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Nat Stockley captured in his natural environment.

 

Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

On the Panjali menu, there’s dosas, vadai, dal and curries.

But you’ll also find roti canai, mee goreng and nasi lemak.

I cannot recall – in what is now many decades of trawling funky eats places all over Melbourne – any other eatery that so thoroughly, wonderfully expresses a particular school of transnational cooking, in this case Indian/Malaysian.

Panjali has been open about three months and is popular – as I discover on a CTS reconnaissance trip for Sunday lunch.

The service is warm and the prices are extremely cheap. It’s closed on Mondays, but other than that it keeps long opening hours.

 

 

House-made curry puffs ($5 for two) are ungreasy and have a thick casing that is nevertheless good; the spud-based vegetable filling does the job.

 

 

On my initial solo visit, I go for the eponymous banana leaf meal.

 

 

When Nat Stockly and I return for a more in-depth exploration of the menu (see below), he does the same.

The basic banana leaf meal costs $9.90 and consists of a generous rice pile anointed with vegetable-studded dal, with various vegetable dishes arranged alongside, along with rasam, yoghurt, pickle and pappadams.

For an extra $6, I top my meal up with a truly excellent and big fried chicken piece. The chicken has been freshly cooked and placed in the bain marie just as I order, so is an obvious choice.

For $8, Nat gets a serve of lamb curry. It’s quite good, but could’ve been a bit hotter.

Nat opines that often the state of pappadams can be taken as a fair indicator of the rest of a restaurant’s food.

Ours are crisp and unoily.

I could eat them all day.

Perhaps it could be said this kind of food is not for everyone – the vegetables (cabbage, beans, pumpkin, okra, broccoli) are cooked down to quite an extent.

But the food and the place that serves it most certainly hit the spot with us, and will do likewise for dedicated CTS readers.

 

 

From the noodle line-up, mamak mee goreng ($10.90) is simple, lovely and surprisingly dry – in a good way.

No meat or seafood here, the dish getting its flavour kicks mostly from just cabbage and egg.

 

 

The many tempting roti variations will have to wait for another visit.

Instead we order chicken murtabak ($10.90).

 

 

It’s tremendous in every way – hot and fresh; and delicate and hearty at the same.

The stuffing is a great mix of onion, egg and shredded chicken.

And I love the lightly pickled fresh onion served on the side for extra crunch.

As we depart after a fine meal, Nat quips: “That’s my kind of food!”

And that, right there, gives me the headline for my story.

 

Meal of the week No.47: DaLat Hill Sunshine

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Perusing Sunshine Plaza on a casual walk-through, one might conclude it’s doing it tough.

There are a lot of premises without tenants.

The supermarket has become a Dimmeys.

The fresh produce/market Big Fields has become the otherwise identical Vicfields

And the deli next door has closed.

But …

There still exists here a community vibe of the sort that struggles to gain a foothold at the bigger shopping centre across the road and others of its kind.

The tables and chairs outside the aforementioned deli, for instance, seem to remain a friendly gathering place.

And Sunshine Plaza management continue to fight the good fight with regular FB updates on centre affairs.

Another crew that’s injecting life at the plaza is the one behind DaLat Hill Sunshine, which occupies one of the premises fronting Hampshire Road.

 

 

Despite its Vietnamese name, there’s no rice paper rolls or pho here.

Instead, they are going their own sweet way, developing a niche based around steak, along with regular cafe fare (see menu below).

Here you can get T-bone, ribeye, scotch fillet and the like at fair prices.

But the place’s big drawcard, one designed to get new customers through the door yet also remain an always available “special”, is the Special Rump Steak for $10.

We are a little surprised to be asked how we want our meat cooked, as we figure the $10 steak will be of the ultra-thin variety sometimes served as part of Vietnamese steak-and-eggs and for which precise cooking instructions are pretty much irrelevant.

So … medium rare for us both.

How good can a $10 steak be?

The answer, at DaLat Hill Sunshine, is … just fine.

Sure, you’ll not be chowing down here on prime, big-bucks beef, but our steaks are enjoyable nonetheless.

And they’re nicely sized for our Saturday lunch, steak not normally being something we would otherwise ever consider ordering for anything other than an evening meal.

And then, only very rarely.

Haha!

But what makes our meals more than just adequately satisfying – and propels them into realms of bargain pleasure – is the care taken with the accompaniments and the presentation.

The mashed potato is very, very good.

The asparagus spears are both cooked through and crisp.

The thin gravy is fine for meat dipping.

And even the rosemary garnish does its part by imbuing all with a just the right amount of perfume.

The service is fine and smiling – as are the Vietnamese iced coffees with which we depart.

 

Pumped up for the South Sudan wrestling

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South Sudanese Wrestling All-Stars at Chaplin Reserve, Sunshine: Inner states (Victoria, NSW and ACT ) v Outback states (SA, WA and Queensland)

Even after talking top several people, I remain – as an utter newbie should – largely ignorant about the finer points of South Sudanese traditional wrestling.

In this all-star tournament, the wrestlers and their camp followers are situated at opposing ends of the Chaplin Reserve soccer ground.

 

 

The wrestling itself – many bouts – is serious, though doesn’t appear to my untutored eye to be as tricky or technical as that practised at the Olympic Games, for example.

But it ain’t Mexican wrestling, either! Duh!

 

 

I’m told the young women self-create the beautiful chants in Dinkan dialect and that they’re all about supporting their teams.

A South Sudan take on We Are The Champions?

 

 

Hmmm, dunno about that!

But work of these singing queens is certainly more soulful, beautiful, stirring – and just plain better – than anything ever dreamed up by Freddie Mercury and Co; IMO!

 

 

While the athletes and their retinues were loud and proud in their finery, it is also notable that very many spectators among the big, happy crowd also are dressed to the nines and 10s.

What’s it all about?

Community!

I love it!

 

 

New pal Emily Yuille, who is very active in Melbourne’s South Sudanese community, provided the following appreciation!

Thanks!

“Wrestling is a contest traditionally between young men of the Dinka and Mundri tribes in South Sudan.

 

 

“Sport plays an important role in the lives of young South Sudanese people with wrestling being one of the greatest and most popular. People love it.

“While largely unheard of in Australia, the past several years has seen the sport grow across the country, with teams in most states: Queensland – Maroons
Canberra (ACT) – Powerhouse, Melbourne – Lions, Adelaide (SA) – Cobras, NSW – Blue Warriors, Perth (WA) – Western Empire.

 

 

“The contest is all about showing strength. The contestants don’t hit each other. Using their strength they force someone to the ground and if you’re still standing, that means you win. There is no harm to done each other.

“Wrestling matches happen in three-minute bouts, with a draw declared if neither competitor can force their rival to the ground.

 

 

“For many, competing is often a rite of passage. In some families, people’s grandfather or uncle could also be a wrestler, so it goes down the generations.

“When you start wrestling for a championship, it means that they are a young man growing up and get to leave your family and your youth life.

 

 

“While only men compete in South Sudanese wrestling, the women play a valuable role during competitions, often providing encouragement and songs of support in their native languages.

“They make songs for their champions to give them morale and energy, they sing in Dinkan dialect, which also teaches the younger kids how to sing and communicate in their language and get connected with their culture.”

 

 

The South Sudanese Australian Traditional Wrestling Association Facebook page is here.

Go here for a short SBS story and film about South Sudan wrestling.