Nice place for Indian

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Dosa Plaza, 20 Adelphi Bvd, Point Cook. Phone: 8334 4100

Dosa Plaza is situated in Soho Village, a small, crammed-in commercial/apartment development just off Sneydes Road.

It’s a lovely place – there’s plenty of light and part of the restaurant looks out on to a small park.

There are Dosa Plaza joints also in Camberwell, Preston and Dandenong, while the company website has a section for those interested in checking out franchise opportunities.

The restaurant’s big strength is that it is entirely vegetarian.

On the other hand, the menu (see below) is so very long that a Sunday lunch for a CTS trio is little more than a snapshot of what is available.

 

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Pani puri ($8) are presented to us as separate components and we have a ball combining them.

The rotund puri are crisp-as yet we easily and without mishap crack holes into each into which the stuff the rice puffs, a superb potato mash and the tamarind sauce.

The result is all-round excellence.

 

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Bennie’s mum orders palak paneer $12), a dish on which she’s a self-professed expert.

She likes this one but it is more creamy than she prefers and lacks a bit of zing.

Her naan is fine though it is soft and pliable rather than crisp.

 

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From the Indo-Chinese selections, Bennie picks “paneer schewzan noodles” ($11.50).

He describes them as being OK and falling somewhere between what one may find in a food court or in one of our fave West Footscray spicy haunts.

 

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My Punjabi thali ($13.50) looks a treat but ultimately disappoints.

The best of it are a lovely raita, the rice with peas and a fabulously moreish carrot halva studded with sultanas.

The three curry dishes – the above mentioned palak paneer, a tomato-based vegetable stew and an aduki bean dal – are dull.

 

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We enjoy our time at Dosa Plaza even if our food selections mostly fail to wow us.

We can’t help but wonder if there’s greater wonders in that huge menu.

If we lived around here we’d be in this place at least a couple of times a week finding out!

 

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Tip-top Vietnamese in Yarraville

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Hoa Sen, 8 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9078 5448

Well, that was certainly quick …

Consider The Sauce has become used to new eateries taking an eternity to reach fruition – stop-and-start fit-outs, the legal need for more loos, booze licence problems, proprietors doing it all themselves; there are any number of reasons.

Hoa Sen has gone about things very differently.

One day Yarraville had a Nando’s shop, the next day it didn’t; then – just a few weeks later – this second Vietnamese restaurant for our suburb had opened.

 

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Hoa Sen is a whole different thing from Friend or Pho, its Viet cousin around the corner in Ballarat Street.

Where the latter is all about groovy cafe-style, Hoa Sen is straight-up Vietnamese eatery – sit inside and you could be sitting in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.

But they both have excellent food.

Hoa Sen’s front area is all about seating, including some larger tables and street-gazing seats at the window.

 

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Past the serving/staff area, the kitchen takes up much of what is left of the premise’s space, so the rest of the customer seating is effectively in a long corridor with many tables for four.

We’re told the menu (see below) will gradually expand but in the meantime there four starter and four main dishes available.

And that’s fine by us – taking a new Vietnamese place for a spin is always going to be about trying the fundamentals, both by choice and because it’s the food blogger thing to do.

 

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Bennie loves his com ga rang mui ($13.80, rice with salt and pepper chicken spare ribs).

The chooks bits are big, fat and delicious, with a whiff of garlic – they seem more like whole wings rather than the abbreviated version.

The trimmings are all good and the tomato rice better than that.

 

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Ahh, that first, all-important slurp of pho ($12.80) broth – yes, this is very good, a little sweet and with bucketloads of lusty flavour.

Instead of brisket I get beef ball chunks; and the sliced beef is cooked through when it arrives rather the advertised rare and still cooking in the broth.

But I care not – this is excellent; a 9/10 pho.

Be warned, though: This serve is huge – no way I can eat it all.

This could pass muster as a sharing meal for two, especially if combined with one of the entrees.

 

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Is there room for both these fine Vietnamese restaurants in Yarraville?

Yes, very much so.

It almost seems like the people behind both have intuitively chosen different yet complementary styles.

Yet the important things are common to both – terrific food and happy, smiling staff.

We’ve been quipping for years that we love living in Yarraville but dig eating everywhere else.

The arrival of these two Vietnamese joints changes that equation considerably.

They’re scratching a profound itch of which we’ve paradoxically been largely unaware.

 

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Latin Foods & Wines – now in Deer Park

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Visiting Latin Foods & Wines – or La Morenita as we’ve mostly called it – in the shabby industrial wilds of Berkshire Road in Sunshine North has been one of the greatest pleasures in Consider The Sauce’s existence.

Those days are over – but that’s no cause for sadness.

Because Marco and Maria are still very much in business – in fact, they’re in business bigger and better than before.

 

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They have moved into the very roomy premises that was formerly occupied by Blu Cow Deli on the commercial strip on Ballarat Road in Deer Park.

 

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And in a grand sign that some things will never change, the gorgeous blackboard from Berkshire has been replicated in Deer Park in whiteboard style but using the same handwritten style.

 

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Yes!

That means all our fave sandwiches and empandadas and churros and the like are still very much on the menu.

They reckon siting themselves in Deer Park puts them even more at the centre of widely dispersed Latin/South American community in the west.

 

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But going bigger also means getting broader, so there’s now also a touch of Italian and Maltese about some of the bakery, grocery and deli lines, while the booze range has been widely expanded.

 

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Their arrival in Deer Park means that strip is looking more and more like a cool foodie destination, with Latin Food & Wines and a recent Ethiopian arrival joining two Turkish joints, three Vietnamese and a Malaysian.

There are plans for breakfasts and proper, sit-down South American-style dinners at Latin Food & Wines but in the meantime the hours areĀ  8am-8pm daily.

Fine burgers in Footscray

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Burger Business, 230 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0368

The talk in our home for a few hours leading up to our Friday night dinner outing is about Indian.

But when the appointed hour arrives and we’re heading for Footscray, I unilaterally change my mind.

Truth be told, I’m not really into chowing down on another Indian meal tonight – we DO eat a lot of Indian and Sri Lankan food.

This is a decision with which Bennie happy to go along with once he realises burgers are on the menuĀ  – obviously, our period of burger burnout of some months previous has abated.

 

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Burger Business is one of two newish burger joints that have sprung up in Footscray – perhaps hoping to tap into the sort of burger-crazed sentiments that have made 8bit such a hit.

It’s on a stretch of Nicholson Street that is quite gloomy at night and not generally famed for its food or street life.

But maybe that is changing – Burger Business joins a handful of African places down here where it WOULD be good to see a more robust street vibe happening.

We have no expectations or knowledge of Burger Business one way or the other.

 

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It looks and feels like its based on a ritzy burger joint template.

Indeed, as we await our meals, I whisper to Bennie: “This place looks just like a Grill’d!”

Hunters & Collectors are blasting from the sound system, duly followed by another iconic Australian rock anthem.

I fill Bennie in on the alternative chorus of the latter: “Don’t bore me shitless …”

Whatever our hopes and expectations, we proceed to enjoy very good burger meals – and leave Burger Business thinking we’ve lucked into cool Footscray secret that comes without the crush of crowds that may be encountered elsewhere.

 

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Bennie enjoys his bacon feast ($11.90) with beef, smoked bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, aioli and ketchup.

 

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But allowed a taste of my chilli burger ($10.90) – with beef, aioli, cheese, roasted peppers, red onion, jalapenos, chilli sauce and lettuce – he happily avows that my sandwich is superior.

It IS bloody good!

The chilli quotient is negligible beyond the pickled jalapenos but all the very good ingredients and condiments – including nicely flavoursome beef and juicy roast capscums – work together to create an excellent burger.

Our small serves of regular fries and sweet potato fries are beaut, the latter having the same crisp exteriors as the former.

Our burgers and fries have been combo-ed with drinks – so our Friday night feast has cost us a most admirable $15 each.

Upon completion of our meals, we are given a small brownie each without charge.

They’re more fudge than brownie and OK rather than wonderful – but still, it’ a nice touch.

 

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All you can eat Japanese

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Okami, 84 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9078 0888

As we depart Footscray’s new Japanese establishment, I ask Bennie what he made of our meal …

“It was a bit shopping centre,” he replies after a moment of pondering.

“But it got better as it went on.”

He’s right on both counts.

Okami replaces 1 + 1 Dumpling Noodles on Hopkins Street, right in the guts of Footscray.

It is a sister restaurant to establishments in Hampton, Caulfield and Wantirna.

The place has been done over in a rather nice and sleek way.

Ordering a la carte can be done at Okami, which is a dinner only eatery and also (perhaps temporarily) cash only.

But judging by the number of patrons in the place on our Monday night and those I observed a few nights earlier on a packed-house Saturday, Okami Footscray is already a big hit based on its all-you-can-eat deal for $29.80 per person.

So that’s what we do, too.

The result is one of our more unusual dining experiences.

 

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How does it work?

This is not a buffet.

Instead, patrons order from a separate all-you-can-eat menu (see below) that nevertheless seems to feature just about everything the restaurant serves.

The line-up is long and features many well-known Japanese dishes ranging from starters through to ice-cream.

Some of meatier and more substantial dishes are offered in two sizes, though pondering portion sizes seems odd in this context.

The first thing we want to know is: Once we’ve ordered, is that it – can we order no more?

Our waitperson is ready for that: Yes, we can order as many times as we like.

We end up ordering twice for savouries and once for sweets.

 

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Bizarrely, the menu comes with the following warning: “Please Do not Waste Food, Any Food Waste Over 200g May Charge Extra.”

Wow, I wonder how that works.

If a table has been unable to consume all it has ordered, what do the staff do – wheel out the scales?

It comes across as a bluff and a warning, one that surely would be very difficult to enforce.

And if it was, who decides what the “extra” charges are – and on what basis?

We order a stack of smaller dishes and larger ones to share that range from awful to delicious, largely progressing as per Bennie’s summation from not good to better to very good in order of arrival.

And arrive our selections do – in such quick succession we struggle to keep up.

Several of the garnishes and salady bits are overbearing and/or lame.

 

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Seaweed salad has all the flavours we expect but is drab.

 

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Sushi is edible but dull.

The nigiri is too hard and too cold, and I doubt very much if it has been made fresh for us.

This is where Bennie’s “shopping centre” quip is most relevant.

 

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Though the same can be said of our seafood tempura.

Freshly fried, yes, but lacklustre – a couple of vegetable pieces and a prawn for each of us.

 

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The eggplant salad is topped by a profusion of carrot strands.

The cross-cut eggplant is a mix of crunchy and chewy but falls a long way short of the sort of melt-in-your-mouth sensations we expect of this dish.

 

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There is little that is overtly seafoodish about our prawn gyoza but they taste fine, though the outer edges of the pastry are too chewy.

 

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Chawan mushi is tiny and lacking any seafood, chicken or other – but the custard does have good flavour.

 

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Miso soup is unmemorable.

 

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Bedraggled leaves are draped over four pieces of beef carpaccio that taste wonderful – this marinated meat is Bennie’s favourite part of the night.

 

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Miso beef is fine and tender, though the miso sauce is not a an integrated part of the dish and the meat is a tad overcooked for my tastes.

 

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Now we’re cooking!

Or rather, deep-frying!

The batter on our chicken karaage is quite thick but overall this dish pleases us.

It’s hot and fresh; the chicken is tender though not particularly flavoursome.

 

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The chicken katsu also delights.

The coating is crisp and hot, and the tangy sauce makes the whole lot sing.

 

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Cold soba (buckwheat) noodles present as a mess but are lovely, the vibrant sesame dressing nicely abetting the pickled ginger and bean sprouts.

 

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Green tea and black sesame ice-creams are both described on the menu as homemade.

We know not if these are actually made in-house – but we really enjoy them anyway.

Have we enjoyed our dinner?

Yes, but …

Have we got our money’s worth?

Yes, but …

Have we left any potentially surcharge-liable food?

No.

Long-time CTS readers will be aware that notions such as plating, presentation, decor, ambience, elegance, style and class don’t feature very high on our list of eating-out criteria.

But experiencing the Okami all-you-can-eat deal makes us realise that when it comes to Japanese food, they have a big role to play – even for us.

Okami mileage will vary depending on individual customer concerns.

For most people, we suspect a satisfying time can be had through savvy ordering, even if the food often seems rushed and wanting more refinement.

But there’s no doubt that for many, Okami will be a popular and regular feasting point.

Indeed, it already is.

 

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Meal of the week No.27: Smokehouse 101

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Since we first wrote about Smokehouse 101, there has been something of barbecue explosion in the west – see here and here.

In the meantime, Smokehouse 101 (101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone) has quietly gone about its business, not perturbed by any perceived lack of any inner-city vibe or a trendy list of craft beers.

On the Saturday night I visit for indulgence, the place is doing a roaring trade and I like the ambience that is a friendly place without graces and airs, and where walk-up trade is normal.

As ever here, the chips ($5) are a little on the average side but go good with the chilli mayo and a splendidly boozy BBQ sauce.

The coleslaw ($5) is better this time out than we’ve received on previous occasions – more finely chopped, nicely dressed and with slices of red chilli and cubes of mandarin.

Nice!

The meat?

Geeezuz …

Half a rack of beef ribs ($35) is amazing, superb, wonderful.

There’s a LOT of meat surrounding those two brontosaurus-style ribs, much of it underneath them.

The meat is tender, smoky, delicious – and there’s not much fat.

I alternate mouthfuls with and without that boozy sauce and love every lip-smacking minute of my feast.

Though I do struggle to finish …

All of which begs the question: Why, when beef ribs are available, do people persist in ordering those of the pig and sheep variety?

The latter two, it seems to me, are often over-priced, ungenerous and way too polite.

Westie eats goss 17/4/16

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Moonee Ponds is soon to have a rather spectacular new cafe.

Dear Abbey will be located in the lovely old church at 23A Gladstone Street – across the road from the Coles/Young Street carpark.

It is being brought to us by the crew behind Little Sister in Keilor East and Hey Jude in Essendon North.

 

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One of them, Joe Avery, obligingly walks me through the new place …

Much of the old church is taken up by apartments, with the cafe taking up roughly the front quarter, with much of that space taken up by the kitchen.

There will be a corridor of seating along the front and down one side of the cafe premises.

 

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But what will set Dear Abbey apart is the glassy, classy structure – with much more seating – that will be located on the church’s forecourt.

 

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Taking shape on the V intersection of Ascot Vale and Mount Alexander roads is a wholefoods outfit.

Eat-in food and coffee will be served from the caravan outside.

 

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Coming soon on Puckle Street is a deli that will be in the New York tradition – think reuben sandwiches and the like.

Brought to you by Johnny the Dude Food Man.

 

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Not far from Puckle Street and down the cul de sac/alley named Aspen Street, it appears a South Indian eatery will soon live where the Sri Lankan joint Spicy Hut once did.

 

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In Footscray, and on Barkly Street near Geelong Road, Vanakkam – purveyor of very fine biryanis – has become Spicy Chef.

 

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It’s the baby of Prasad, himself a former employee of Vanakkam.

 

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Prasad also worked in Rajdhani, the Indian joint that was open in (roughly) 2008 and ’09 in the Barkly Street premises that now houses Roti Road.

He even remembers my regular order there of onion bhaji in those pre-CTS days!

 

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As an opening special, Prasad is offering an enticing meal deal …

Any starter, any biryani, salad and any drink – including beer! – for $11.95.

Blimey!

 

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The frontage at 34-36 Irving Street, which has sported at least a couple of Indian carnations in recent years, will soon be open as Station Restaurant.

I’m told the “East African” food advertised in the exterior signage will basically mean Ethiopian fare, though there are photos of rice dishes in there, too.

 

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Also on Irving, Saudagar is up and running again after a fire-enforced closure.

 

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The Station Hotel, meanwhile, will be closed for a month or so as it recovers from its kitchen fire mishap.

 

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Footscray has a new Japanese eatery – at 84 Hopkins Street, where 1+1 Dumpling Noodles lived until very recently.

Okami is a sister restaurant to establishments in Hampton, Caulfield and Wantirna.

Review forthcoming on CTS.

I would’ve hit it last night solo but every seat was taken!

Judging by the takeaway menu, the food is likely regulation Japanese.

Oakmi Footscray offers an “all you can eat” buffet for just under $30.

 

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Speaking of Japanese food, Edgewater Boulevard has two new eats places soon to open, one being Shinmai Tasty …

 

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… the other being a bricks-and-mortar version of Gorilla Grill, known until now for its food truck offerings.