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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.)

 

Damn fine BBQ

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Tex-Oz Smokehouse, 12 Synnot Street, Werribee

At what passes for a dining room at Tex-Oz Smokehouse, you’ll feel gravel underfoot.

You’ll sit on plastic chairs while eating at tables apparently made of something like packing case wood.

You’ll eat from cardboard containers while using plastic cutlery.

You’ll order from a food truck parked on an otherwise empty lot.

We think all that’s absolutely grand.

Because in being what and how it is, Tex-Oz give Melbourne life to a great no-frills BBQ tradition that has previously gained little or no traction here.

Sure, in Memphis, Virginia and Texas, BBQ of many kinds can be enjoyed in grand and/or chic and/or hipster settings – and you’ll often pay a high price for doing so.

But just as important – arguably even MORE important – are the cheapo roadside stands and shacks found throughout the land that cater to the quick-fix needs of regular folks not seeking a big night, but instead simply a good feed – at the right price.

And, yes, Tex-Oz Smokehouse does right in the money stakes, too.

Equally appropriately, the menu (see below) is compact.

A CTS team of three – myself, Bennie and Nat Stockley – enjoy a very nice, post-heatwave Saturday lunch.

 

 

The smoked brisket and pulled pork – sold at $6 for 100 grams and seen here in 200-gram quantities – are excellent.

The brisket, in particular, shines.

There’s not a lot of smoke going on, but the meat is more tender and juicy than it photographs and more-or-less completely fat-free.

And it goes fine with a house-made sauce that has a bit of a spice kick.

The stranded pig meat is fine, too, enough to have me recanting my oft-expressed judgment that pulled pork is largely a tasteless, over-hyped con.

 

 

Bennie opts for the hybrid dish that is the Tex-Oz snack pack ($16), adorned in his case with more of that pulled pork.

He likes it a bunch, though I’m guessing that while he’s enjoying his lunch he’s also reminding himself that, as previously expressed, he’s done with snack packs.

 

 

For sides, we get coleslaw and potato salad – big serves for $4 each.

The slaw is fresh and crunchy and very rough cut, making it a little unwieldy in terms of the plastic implements we are using.

The spud concoction is heavily mayo-ised and doesn’t really hit the spot with us.

Nat – who also goes the pulled pork and brisket route – gets fries, which he tells me are overdone in terms of the salt.

I am reminded of legendary story I was told about a very famous Texas BBQ joint at which I dined several decades ago.

Apparently, when the management decided to introduce some non-meat items to the menu – you know, stridently non-carnivore fare such as white sliced bread, raw onion and pickles – the locals damn near caused a riot.

So if the Tex-Oz accessories don’t quite hit the bullseye with us, we’re happy to embrace the “It’s All About The Meat” ethos and say simply: So what?

And in the meat sphere, this place produces the goods in an admirably no-frills manner.

Tex-Oz Smokehouse is open from noon Thursdays through to Sundays.

Check out their website here.

 

Pub ribs rock

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Commercial Hotel, 111 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 2322

Tootling down Watton Street looking for a carpark, I am bemused.

But not nearly as bemused as Bennie and Deb, his mum.

At issue is the nature of our destination – seemingly the sort of pub that would normally struggle, and fail, to gain the attention of CTS.

A confession: I have been seduced by the nice Facebook pictures of the Commercial Hotel’s food, these featuring occasionally in my feed because of the joint’s links with the Werribee Bears rugby league outfit.

I’m not diehard fan of the club, but did venture down there for a couple of games last season.

Even if the pub at hand would normally fall out side CTS paramters, we are – as ever – upbeat and hopeful.

Truth is, had I twigged the Commercial is a pokies venue, this adventure almost certainly would have been stillborn.

Happily, the pokies are well away from the dining room – out of sight, out of earshot and out of mind.

That leaves us to happily enjoy the old-school ambiance.

The Commercial’s dining room feels – from the carpet up – just like a country pub.

As we expect, the menu (see below) is studded with the sorts of dishes routinely found in such places.

But there’s a few nice wrinkles in there, too.

 

 

Deb goes the roast pork dinner ($13).

It’s a beauty, with a heap of good vegetables and more than enough highly porky and nicely cooked meat.

She loves it; the plate is clean when she’s done.

Not just a fine roast dinner, but a bargain as well.

 

 

For Bennie, it’s the pulled pork burger ($20), which tastes a lot better than it photographs.

Oddly (perhaps even weirdly), the pulled meat appears to have been formed into a pattie.

It tastes good to me and he enjoys it.

But it’s fair to say Bennie has just about had it with pulled meat of any kind in burgers; me, I’ve had it with pulled pork period.

So often so mediocre!

 

 

It’s a subjective judgment, but for me the stars of our collective choosing are my BBQ baby back ribs ($33).

There’s two good-size rack pieces in there.

The meat is tasty and tender, and comes from the bones with ease.

I know there’s people out there, for whom gnaw is the desired and happy norm, who will think that no recommendation at all.

Still, for me this is a fine BBQ meal, the pricing of which can put some of the specialist BBQ joints in the shade.

The ribs are handily abetted by a fine slaw.

Really, the only disappointment of our Commercial outing is the chips Bennie and I are provided.

They’re OK – but also under-done and under-salted.

Check out the Commercial Hotel website here.

 

Stepping it up a tad, Indian style

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Nawab Sahab, 2/102-104 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9749 8852

Luckily for us, the Indian food we most like is frequently produced by eateries at the lower end of the price spectrum.

But for once, we decide to try one of the spiffier places on Watton Street.

Not that Nawab Sahab, once you’re inside, is overwhelmingly grand or anything like that.

And the prices are very reasonable.

Very unusually for a western suburbs Indian eating house these days, there is no inclusion here of South Indian fare such a dosas, idlis, vadas and the like, and only a minimal Indo-Chinese component.

But there are handy points of difference choices under headings such Mumbai Special and Delhi Corner.

 

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Nawab Sahab also has a feature I have never before seen in an Indian restaurant – or a restaurant of any kind: A “selfie station” at which guests are invited to “dress up like a Hyderabdai prince”.

 

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We love it that a serve of papadums – unoily, crisp and with minty and tamarind dipping sauces on the side – is brought to our table without charge, as is a second serve.

For the first of two visits, Bennie and I both enjoy the “gold” thali (top photo) – at $21.50, a little more expensive than most of their kind, but still good.

Nice rice, a tangy chicken curry, a mushy one of the veg kind, rather crunchy chick peas, a way better-than-average raita, onion/pickle and a somewhat doughy gulab jamun – we are happy with what we eat.

 

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One of our thalis is served with a fine naan on the side …

 

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… the other with pooris.

 

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Our second visit, a week later, is uneven.

Bennie’s order of chicken noodles is a mistake.

Much as we like Indo-Chinese food, this dish reinforces for us the folly of ordering noodles in Indian eateries – though we have come across a few exceptions.

At $17.50, this over-priced for a very average noodle outing – though the serve is bigger, and deeper, that it first appears.

Really, either of the cheapie noodle houses a block away would do better for a quick, wok noodle fry-up.

Unfortunately, Bennie completes his dinner before mine arrives – and by now I’m wishing we’d gone elsewhere.

 

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My Amritsari kulcha ($16.50) does, however, redeem our night handily – especially when the second, advertised naan arrives.

The naan have only the very faintest paneer quotient, but are hot, lovely and slathered with ghee.

The chick peas are the same dark and overtly al dente specimens served with our earlier thalis and the raita is, again superb.

Check out the Nawab Sahab website – including menu – here.

 

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Meal of the week No.29: Bollywood Sweet Bazaar

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Bollywood Sweet Bazaar has been open a couple of months at shop 2/49 Synnot Street, Werribee, specialising in “pure ghee sweets” and a colourful Bollywood theme.

But they do savory snacks and the like, too.

Top of the list is this puri aloo sabzi for $9.

How good is it for $9?

Three rather doughy but very nice puris, a runny but good chick pea curry, yogurt adorned with puffed rice, pickle and a super potato/onion curry seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh coriander.

It’s a righteous, bargain-priced flavour blast.

I’m betting the two pieces of chocolate barfi I depart with are the good, too!

 

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