Wass up?

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Wasshoi Sunshine West, 1-9 The Avenue, Sunshine West. Phone: 7020 7966

If driving into these parts of Sunshine West is an unusual occurrence for Team CTS, then …

… heading this way for Japanese food at a restaurant that is open for lunch on a Wednesday is positively surreal.

Wasshoi Sunshine West is tucked into a rather unlovely conglomeration of businesses at the corner of The Avenue and Fitzgerald Road, within earshot of the Ring Road.

Before its arrival, we had been unaware of the sibling business in Prahran and the fame of its founder, Ikuei Arakane, and his role in Iron Chef.

Japanese food?

Well, yes – of a kind.

There’s no sushi, sashimi or chawanmushi here.

There’s not even chopsticks – we are provided wood sporks with which to navigate our lunches.

And the basic menu (see below) features what look like banh mi.

Wendy, the sparkly and very welcoming boss lady, suggests the fare is “Japanese street food”.

Hey, that’ll do us!

Eat-in facilities are of a basic fast-food variety, but perfectly fine.

 

 

Miso soup is advertised in a sign on the counter as costing $3.

But we suspect that just about everyone who comes in during these early times – our lunch takes place on the shop’s fourth day – is getting a complementary cup by doing the social media “like” routine.

In any case, it’s perfect and delicious.

 

 

There’s three don/rice dishes available – beef, chicken and pork.

I go with the pork belly ($15.90).

 

 

Bennie chooses the beef brisket ($15.90).

We enjoy our lunches.

The meat is very good – definitely a step up from what usual expectations may be for this kind of fare in this kind of fast-food setting and location.

Though I reckon the pork has the upper hand in terms of tender and tasty.

The kimchi is OK, but rather bland.

There is one simple change that could lift these meals from merely to good to verging-on-great – ditch the iceberg lettuce and replace it with shredded cabbage!

 

Aussie burgers supreme

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Not Just A Burger Cafe, 30 First Avenue, Sunshine. Phone: 9310 1568

Over the years, Consider The Sauce has fallen into the habit of comparing and contrasting burger styles.

Between the new wave – for want of a better term – and old-school Aussie burgers.

We’ve done this without ever detailing just what the differences are.

So how does this work?

New wave – American style, hipster, trendy?

A thicker patty; flasher dressings; perhaps barbecue sauce of some sort.

And sometimes a whole dill pickle – perhaps even skewered to the top of the bun.

Aussie style?

A thinner, wider patty, sometimes involving meat of a questionable quality, sometimes frozen – or so we reckon.

Dressings: Chopped iceberg lettuce; perhaps beetroot.

Even an egg or – God help us – pineapple.

 

 

Always in this imperfect delineation effort is the feeling that we have also been talking about quality – meaning less of it in the Aussie renditions.

Well, at Not Just A Burger we find we can happily dispense with such dull figuring.

The burgers are just plain great.

Improbably, Not Just A Burger Cafe is located in a neighbourhood  in which we would never have reason to look – a back water of light industrial action off Sunshine Road, about right opposite J.R. Parsons Reserve and the silos.

We heard about this place and its work via Sunshine Locals.

Paul and Maria (pictured above in pre-lunch repose) are on to a good thing here – they service the many local workers, but are also a building a reputation for night-time fare and deliveries.

This a bare-bones tradies place that offers many of the usual food choices (see below).

But the burgers are where the action is at.

And Bennie and I could not be happier with our lunches.

 

 

We both go for the N.J.A.B. Inferno ($12) with bacon added.

It’s all terrific – lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, with jalapeno slices, N.J.A.B hot sauce and some Sriracha deftly combined for the just-right degree of heat.

Yes, the meat is thinner and wider in the Aussie fashion, but it tastes of real-deal beef.

My choice is regular bun.

 

 

Bennie opts for brioche.

Ha!

I can imagine various smarty pants quipping that the presence of brioche here marks this place as not a true Aussie-style burger joint.

Who cares, though, when the burgers are this good?

 

 

The crinkle-cut chips ($4) are fine and hot. We are provided a serve of Sriracha for dipping.

 

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.