Goodness gracious!

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Karomi, 15/1 Duncans Road, Werribee.

Karomi is a cute cafe just of Watton Street in Werribee’s CBD.

Here you can get a range of sandwiches, toasties and sweet treats (see menu below).

 

 

But there is no doubt that the main action at Karomi – and the desire of 99 per cent of the place’s patrons – concerns the wonderful Greek doughnuts mostly known as loukoumades.

Here they’re called lokma – and you can have them, if that is your thing, with a variety of toppings such as M&Ms, Oreo and Kit Kat.

Nah.

Bennie and I go for the classic ($10 for 10).

We love them – golden orbs with crisp exteriors and hot, airy interiors.

They are swimming is syrup imbued with crushed/chopped pistachios.

Our cafe latte and iced coffee are just right, too.

 

 

 

A crackling good meal

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Mama Lor Restaurant & Bakery, 187 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 973 106 78

Some newspaper coverage at the start of the year tried hard to posit food from the Philippines as a sort of next-big-thing in Melbourne.

We reckon that’s something of a stretch.

Nevertheless, out here in the west there ARE three new or newish Filipino food places – in Burnside, West Footscray (yet to open) and Werribee.

The latter is the subject of this story.

Consider The Sauce has a somewhat ropey history with Filipino food, as long-time readers may recall.

A lot of that has had to do with bain maries – and the supremely unappealing, limp and ugly food that frequently resides in them.

There’s a bain marie at Mama Lor, but that’s only a side interest here, one for quickie lunches and takeaways.

For this eatery is a full-service real-deal restaurant, a sister for the identically named establishment in Sydney.

On the Friday night we visit, they’re well into a protracted “soft opening” period.

It’s all very happy, full and bustling, with the staff zipping around and taking care of business well.

Does a meal with friends, one of whom is from the Phillippines, change the CTS outlook in regards to Filipino food?

Yes, mostly, with one mis-step detailed below.

 

 

Our two “barbeque” pork skewers ($3 each) are perfect, juicy, smoky and lip-smackingly fine.

 

 

Kare kare ($19) is a beef stew in a peanutty sauce, with green beans and eggplant on board for the journey, too.

There’s some hefty chunks of good meat in there, and the shrimp paste on the side adds flavour interest.

 

 

Bitter melon?

Been there, done that – usually served from the aforementioned bain maries.

Not impressed.

But we go with Maria’s suggestion.

This dish, amapalaya with dilis ($15), certainly looks the part – vibrant green, NOT swimming in some gray gravy, studded with onion, anchovies and tomato.

Sadly, it’s awful – or, at the least, not to my taste.

But even Maria screws up her face in distaste.

Bitter melon that’s TOO bitter for a born-and-bred Philippines native?

 

 

Chicken lomi ($15) is much, much better.

This chicken noodle outing, which appears to be loosely based on the familiar viscous soups of Chinese heritage, is stuffed with chicken, still-crunchy cabbage and all sorts of other goodies.

 

 

The highlight of our night – for myself certainly, but also I strongly suspect for my friends – is the lechon belly/roast pork (we go the large for $23, but it’s also available in $12 and $45 sizes).

Oh, yes!

This is wonderful – and a dish to which most tables in the place appear to be gravitating.

Either that or the chicken equivalent.

The roast pork is plentiful and devilishly flavoursome, with only the very meatiest pieces displaying any dryness.

The equally plentiful crackling is superb, upping the sin quotient by another several notches.

The sauce on the side?

I thought it would be gravy of some kind – but it turns out to be a nice, grainy apple sauce.

It goes well with the pig meat, but it would’ve been nice for it to be warm. Though maybe cold is the tradition here.

It’s real nice to see a restaurant proper of Philippines heritage open up in Werribee and others also on the go or soon coming across the west.

See the Mama Lor website – including menu – here.

 

Meatloaf? Here is your grand final winner!

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The Garden Feast, 63 Railway Avenue, Werribee. Phone: 9741 3100

Consider The Sauce tries to avoid too much hyperbole.

Words such as the “best ever pho” or the “greatest Hainan chicken rice” are sometimes too tempting when we get so excited about being served tremendous food in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Nevertheless, we try for restraint.

But …

When it comes to the meatloaf at the Garden Feast, that semi-official rule is abandoned without hesitation.

This really IS the best meatloaf we’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

Sorry, Mum!

“Mama’s meatloaf” ($20) is served as a huge wedge.

There’s carrot in there, as per meatloaf tradition, but otherwise it’s a meaty delight.

It’s topped with what I at first mistake for some rendition of tomato relish.

But I am told it’s actually “herbs, resting juices, spices, coconut and molasses”.

It, too, is grand.

And who knew that meatloaf could be cooked rare?

Not that there is blood puddling my plate or anything – but the meatloaf is wonderfully tender and almost of fall-apart consistency.

The meatloaf is served with a quartet of firm, delicious roast brussels sprouts and potato mash that is OK – but I would’ve preferred something a little more rustic.

 

 

The Garden Feast is relatively new adjunct of a long-standing garden supplies outfit.

The dining room is large, spacious and a pleasure in which to dine.

The staff are efficient, smiling and on the go even when it’s busy.

The menu (see below) features a longish line-up of egg-based breakfast/brunch dishes, a concise lunch list and a kid menu.

 

 

Our other lunch selection is also superb – arguably as good, in its own genre, as the meatloaf.

The bucatini ($18) with mushrooms, pecorino, black pepper and “poor man’s parmesan” (toasted breadcrumbs) explodes with shroominess.

The CTS photo portrays this dish as rather pallid.

The photo lies.

 

 

Garden Feast showcases a line-up of fabulous cakes – they’ll have to wait until next time.

 

Very Lux

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LUX afghan KEBAB Werribee, 3/49 Cherry Street, Werribee. Phone: 8714 6019

We are delighted to see the sort of Afghan food hitherto available in Sunshine and Footscray make its way to Werribee.

Lux is a lovely set-up – the dining room sparkles with welcome, the menu (see below) covers all the bases (including going beyond charcoal-grilled meats), the prices are almost absurdly low.

And the food is grand – so much so the very minor hiccups noted below barely register as any sort of speed bump.

 

 

Barley chicken soup ($7) is just as homely and satisfying as it looks. It is, though, very plain of flavour – if you’re like us, you’ll be reaching for the salt shaker.

 

 

Mantu ($13) are superb.

The delicate dumplings are festooned with two complementary sauces – a mincey/lentil number and one of minty yoghurt.

 

 

It’s taken us several years to fully get with the swing of the Afghan take on stews/curries.

But now we’re fully there, happily appreciating them in their own right.

Lamb qorma ($12) is a doozy – both runny and rich, with plentiful tender meat that falls away from the bones with ease.

CTS knows that all of the above food is pre-prepared, so happily accept some reheating is the order of the day.

However the soup and mantu are barely warm enough, the qorma not so – it is returned to the kitchen for a blast.

 

 

Our qorma arrives without rice, so we have to order that extra – and it’s very good.

 

 

We suspect most Lux customers go for the charcoal meats, as opposed to our wanderings detailed above.

We love those kebabs ‘n’ things, too!

Mixed kebab ($14) is a treat of two skewers of classy chicken and one each of cubed and minced lamb.

 

 

Afghan bread is invariably so flamboyantly large that we applaud the Lux move to offer half-size portions – for $1. Full size goes for $2.

Lux runs a buffet every Thursday for $25 per person – which sounds like a bloody good deal to us.

Going by the clips on the joint’s Facebook page, it’s popular, so booking is advised.

 

So good

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

Meet Isuru Madusanka and Chiran Hemadasa – heroes of Melbourne food and restaurants.

Not just the western suburbs.

And not only in the cheap eats field.

Though they are both of those, too.

No – what they are doing at their fine establishment, Fusion Ceylon, warrants acclamation beyond any geographical or price restrictions.

CTS has been a fan of the place since its doors opened a few years back.

But there’s no doubt – based on the visits being used to compile this story – that the Fusion Ceylon crew has lifted its game; a lot.

The food is cooked with flair and imagination, and presented beautifully, all the while fully retaining its funky Sr Lankan/Asian soul.

The place is looking more restaurant-y these days.

And as the as the use of the word “fusion” in its title hints, there’s a lot of wok cooking going on here.

That means wait times will rarely stretch beyond 15 minutes.

Prices are ridiculously low.

Much – but by no means all – of the fun and games is to be found on the regularly changing specials list.

 

 

Item: Singaporean chilli crab devilled with egg fried rice and vegetable chop suey is a dream.

The superb rice is fab, fluffy and freshly prepared.

The simple vegetables on the side are very good.

The shellfish component consists of three blue swimmer crabs.

Even with that number, the amount of your actual crab meat to be had is modest – and getting at it is messy, sticky fun.

But, hey, it IS all about fresh crab, the mess goes with the territory, the mild sauce has good flavour and the price is $16.50.

 

 

Speaking of finger-lickin’ …

Item: Spicy Kentucky-style fried chicken with biryani dazzles.

I’m told my three pieces are coated in a mix that contains cumin, cayenne and cardamom.

The taste, though, is rather muted – if anything I’d like to see this fried chicken really turbocharged with spices.

The chook chunks are still excellent, though – as good as any of your hipster or food truck fried chicken offerings, and a whole lot better than some.

There’s a tangy tamarind-based sauce to go with the poultry.

And another gravy to go with the top-shelfe biryani rice.

Atop that rice – in righteous biryani style – are two halves of hard-boiled egg anointed with a tiny dice of onion and tomato.

On the side is a sticky eggplant pickle.

This dish, too, costs an amazing $16.50.

 

 

Item: Colombo mixed rice ($13.50) comes from the regular menu (see below).

It comes with three meats (pork, chicken, beef), shrimp and a fried egg, with a plump skewer of chicken slathered with house-made tomato sauce on the side.

Any tendency towards fried-rice blandness is fixed up good by yet another tangy sauce and the subtle fragrance of several fresh dill sprigs.

This is A Great Melbourne Restaurant.

See earlier stories here and here.

 

Meal of the week No.43: Dumpling Story

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CTS has never been much impressed by the food offerings at Pacific Werribee.

As well, one of the few outlets that may be expected to arouse our interest, if not our enthusiasm, is Dumpling Story – and I’ve long carried some baggage in that regard because of an unfortunate meal endured by someone near and dear to us.

So what am I doing here?

Well, it’s parent-teacher night.

I’ve departed Yarraville in plenty of time to allow for whatever the freeway and weather may come my way … so much so that I’ve arrived with heaps of time to grab some dinner before the business part of the evening unfolds.

That’s a lot happier prospect than trying to find something to eat between Werribee and Yarraville about 9pm on a cold Monday night.

Still, as you’d expect, my expectations are pretty much rock bottom.

I order and wait.

A bit less than 10 minutes later, I am presented with my combination laksa ($11.80).

And am duly knocked out.

I’m not about to proclaim this laksa as a champion of its kind, and maybe my happiness is coloured by my low hopes.

But this is really very good.

Commercial laksa gravy?

Maybe – there are no curry leaves that sometimes are a tip-off that the soup part has been tweaked in-house.

But no matter – this tastes fine.

It’s a big serve.

There’s a hefty amount of good, if somewhat bland, chicken.

Better, there are several delectable slivers of excellent eggplant.

And four plump, tasty and peeled prawns.

And more …

I’ll be much more open-minded about this place – and its extensive and interesting menu – when I’m down this way again.

 

Autumn menu goes good

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Park Hotel, 12 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 1441

Consider The Sauce has been bemused in the past month or so by the doings of a newish western suburbs food business.

On the one hand, they’ve been talking up the outcome of a fancy photo shoot.

On the other, they’ve been serving – in my couple of experiences and likewise for some friends – food that bears not much resemblance to that pictured in those slick pics.

So I am interested to see how the Park Hotel goes in terms of replicating the fare depicted in glossy, beautiful photographs accompanying the media release heralding the joint’s new autumn menu – the one we have been invited to try (see full disclosure below).

More broadly, I am interested to see if the Park is actively helping to build Werribee’s foodie reputation.

A long-term tenant is being sought by Wyndham council for the Bridge Hotel, just up Watton Street apiece, promising a potentially snazzy venue to join various other outpourings of good food in these parts.

A hunch: Werribee could be a food star in coming years.

We start with an absolutely ripping dish – zucchini and cauliflower fritters served with red curry mayo ($10, top photo).

Oh boy, these are so good that when/if we next visit, I’ll be awfully tempted to persuade the staff to upgrade them to main course status.

The minced/chopped vegetables remain wonderfully al dente and the mayo has just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Pan-fried kangaroo fillet with pancetta and truffle potato gratin, treacle-glazed parsnips with a red wine and dark chocolate jus ($32) is Bennie’s first time with eating roo.

He likes it plenty, though it seems to me the meat could’ve been hotter than the lukewarm he’s received.

 

 

From the specials list comes my chargrilled atlantic salmon with garlic-wilted spinach, kipfler potato and a dill hollandaise ($28).

The fish is succulent, tender and tasty, despite apparently being more well-cooked than is often the case with this species.

The vegetables – as with those on Bennie’s plate – are perfectly OK, but seem more like regular pub food than the step-up in class I’ve been seeking.

And I’m regretting, a little, not having bought into the Wednesday night fried chicken offerings (see details below).

Bennie’s having none of that.

Proclaims he: “Dad, this is way better than normal pub food!”

OK, based on our desserts he’s on target.

 

 

“I’ve never tasted anything like this before,” says he of the sticky date panna cotta with butterscotch sauce, caramel popcorn and green apple gel ($12).

And he means that as a compliment!

The unusual flavours are winners in a fine sweet offering.

 

 

The custard tart with orange and blackberry compote with a toasted croissant ice-cream ($12) is almost as enjoyable.

But it does surprise.

We have been expecting something gooey and viscous – along the lines of a vanilla slice or creme caramel.

Instead the custard tart itself is quite solid – more like a slice.

Still good, though!

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Park Hotel as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We ordered whatever we wanted. Park management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)