Meal of the week No.41: Victoria Hotel

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The announcement that the Victoria Hotel was introducing a Tuesday curry night claimed our attention.

And to be honest, we’re not sure why – with so many very affordable and often excellent curry options close to the refurbished pub (43 Victoria Street, phone 8320 0315).

Nat and I surmised that it might have been because we had such a fine time during our initial visit to the Middle Footscray establishment.

That visit’s favourable impression having since been reinforced by favourable feedback from friends and readers who had visited the place.

As well, based again on our enjoyment of the food previously, maybe the pub’s curry operation – hopefully – would provide something above and beyond the offerings of the local curry shops.

Whatever – we’re up for it!

So how do we go?

Pretty good, actually.

We’re offered two curry packages – paneer and peas makhani or kadai chicken.

We both go chook.

The curry meal deals cost $18 and come with a good-size bowl of chicken curry, rice, a fistful of papadums and red onion slaw.

Kadai, also known as karahi, is a simple curry made with many of the expected spices and capsicum.

Ours is mild and quite tangy.

We like that the boneless chicken has seemingly been chargrilled before being wed to the gravy.

The rice and papadums are fine.

The red onion slaw?

A bit disappointing.

We have been looking forward to an alternative to the frequently served (elsewhere) hard nobs of commercial mango pickle.

Our red onion mix is OK, but I would’ve loved a bit more tartness and zing.

Putting aside the likes of dosas, biryanis and thalis, if you ordered the components of our meal for dinner just about anywhere in West Footscray, it’d cost the same $18 or more.

The Kimchi Guru

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“Kimchi” by Jackson Pollock, West Footscray, 2018.

 

If there’s one thing that exceeds in enjoyment the fabulous food we eat doing Consider The Sauce, it’s all the many wonderful people we meet in the process.

One of them is Justin Mansfield, a fine bloke and a long-time reader and supporter of CTS who has become a good lunch buddy and all-round pal.

He is also a man with very sour tastes.

We have happily taken delivery of jars from three different batches of his amazing pickled cucumbers.

So when the opportunity arises for me to take up an otherwise empty place in one of his kimchi classes, I grab it.

Even though I’m not a kimchi fan!

I figure Justin’s kimchi is bound to be superior to that served in most Korean places.

Besides, like it or not, I am interested in the story and the process.

(See below for details of a forthcoming class.)

 

 

The crew that gathers at West Footscray House is an interesting and happy one, with about half its members CTS readers.

Justin runs a great class.

He covers just enough of the history and background without getting bogged down in detail.

Just as interesting is his advice on the sourcing of ingredients and the tale behind his journey to becoming a self-confessed “kimchi nerd”.

 

 

Over two and a half enjoyable hours, he takes us from a pile of womboks …

 

 

… to the finished product.

 

 

Along the way, we learn about the necessity of sourcing the right dry ingredients such as salt …

 

 

… and chilli flakes, as well as the other vegetables.

 

 

After that, it’s just a matter of salting …

 

 

… mixing …

 

 

… blending …

 

 

… tossing …

 

 

… and bottling.

It was a hoot!

I learned a lot and now have two bottles of prime kimchi to experiment with at home.

For Justin’s kimchi class on July 15, go here.

 

Meal of the week No.40: Jazeera Cafe

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We’ve been aware of Jazeera Cafe (16 Paisley Street, Footscray) for a long time, but simply haven’t gotten around to visiting until now.

No doubt because we’ve established such a happy groove in going to Racecourse Road, Flemington, when we desire Somalian food.

Which is often.

However, recently CTS friend Juz has given Jazeera a couple of goes – and his feedback has been heartening.

So here we are.

I suspect there may be a menu available here … but our ordering is reduced to admirable, happy simplicity.

“Can we get some dinner here tonight?”

“What sort of food do you want?”

“Somalian food!”

“OK!”

And with that – and a big smile – our server disappears into the kitchen.

That’s fine by us.

We understand that on a low-key week night, we’re going to get what’s actually in the kitchen – or nothing at all.

As it turns, what we are provided is what we would’ve ordered anyway – soup, lamb, rice.

 

 

The soup is thicker than we’ve become used to elsewhere – more like a cream soup or a chowder.

It’s fine, but doesn’t have the zesty, lemony tang we love so much.

 

 

Our rice platter is most excellent.

It could be described as “lamb three ways” – there’s a stew, a sort-of Somalian bolognese atop the spaghetti and a big, meaty piece of braised/baked sheep meat.

Bennie has already eaten elsewhere this night, so our $15 meal does fine for both of us.

And as ever, it’s the fabulous, fragrant rice that crowns our dining as top notch.

 

A whole lot of good

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Eka Wholefoods Cafe, 129 Buckley Street, Seddon. Phone: 0412 485 132

At Consider The Sauce HQ, we figure if we ever went completely meat-free, our diet would be based mostly around the foods of the Mediterranean – African, European, Middle-Eastern.

Your actual “vegetarian food”?

Not so much.

Yes, we are cynical about such stuff.

Some of that is down to probably unfair baggage and previous bad experiences, including some with vego slop right here in the west.

Why have any truck with such food when the various national cuisines deliver meat-free food so effortlessly and with such delicious panache?

No doubt that’s why we’ve gone so long without trying Eka Wholefoods.

And why, after ordering, we are a mix of anticipation and crossed fingers.

We need not have had any fears, as what we lunch on is very fine.

 

 

The joint is the expected mix of one half wholefoods of many kinds and one half gorgeous cafe, a tranquil space in which we enjoy stopping for a while.

 

 

Bennie loves his bao tempeh sliders ($12.9).

The crispy but seemingly rather salty tempeh dances with organic kimchi, house-made peri-peri sauce, grilled shitake mushrooms and caramelised onion.

This pretty food goes down a treat.

 

 

My soba noodle salad ($16.50) is even better.

Joining the organic noodles are cherry tomatoes, chopped toasted almonds, black sesame seeds, cinnamon-crusted organic tofu and a sesame-lemon dressing.

This salad is expertly done and a pleasure to consume.

We depart without trying the good-looking range of sweet treats but with some brown rice and tamari in hand.

It’s been wonderful to have our skepticism so wonderfully rendered daft.

Check out the Eka website here.

 

 

Mexican chicken for Footscray

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Los Pollos Flame-Grilled Chicken, 230 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0368

There was a definite ripple of excitement that hit the inner west as it became know that a Mexican chicken joint would stepping up to take over the premises formerly inhabited by Burger Business.

Somehow – between checking out the business’ Facebook page and website, and then talking with a few folks – I convinced myself that Los Pollos was part of a franchise deal.

It seems that is not the case, though it certainly looks the part if management care to move in that direction and move into other locations.

They make their own corn chips, but when we ask, we’re told the tortillas are brought in.

So how does it stack up – some real-deal Mexican tucker; or just another Tex-Mex place a la Guzman y Gomez?

A big step up from Taco Bill – or on a par?

Well, it’s definitely more Tex-Mex than La Tortilleria – and that’s fine by us.

 

 

After we order, we adjourn to the lovely garden space out back.

 

 

Bennie is very impressed with his Super LP Burrito with grilled chicken, rice, beans, salsa, queso tasty, pica de gallo, guacamole and jalapeno crema ($16.50).

He offers his dad a taste, after which I, too, conclude this is better than similar offerings you’ll find at similar places elsewhere.

And, yes, it eats bigger than it looks.

It comes with a handful of corn chips.

 

 

My half chicken combo with two sides, two salsas and six tortillas ($18.95) is more of a mixed bag.

I like the chicken, even if it doesn’t provide the sort of lip-smacking joy for which I have been hoping.

Bennie, after consuming a drumstick, disagrees with that modest assessment.

It’s different – not Nando’s, not your average Aussie charcoal chook.

The salsas are lovely – though having requested one medium and one hot, I find them similar in the heat/spice department.

The sides – red rice and roasted potatoes – are OK, but on the lacklustre side.

The word “roasted” led me to expect spud chunks with more crackle than has arrived.

You’ll eat fine at Los Pollos, but it’ll pay to keep those expectations grounded.

Check out the Los Pollos website – including menu – here.

 

God, what a cool cafe

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Apollo Cafe, 109-111 Hawke Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 0990

What an intriguing neighbourhood is West Melbourne – with its haphazard mix of small worker cottages, more stately two-storey homes, old warehouses and, inevitably, some new apartment action going on.

For all that it is tucked away, if you live here … the inaccurately named North Melbourne station is your rail stop and, with a bit of a walk, Vic Market is your local shopping.

And, of course, CTS is happy to bestow upon West Melbourne honourary western suburbs status.

You know it makes sense – just look at a map!

Melburnbians of all stripes and locations should be grateful that West Melbourne has pottered along at its own pace while other locales that rub shoulders with the CBD – Fitzroy and Carlton in particular – have changed so much.

But the modern world is catching up with this backwater – at that means, among other things, more places are opening that seek to fulfill the eat-drink needs of locals.

Among them is Apollo Cafe.

It’s housed an ancient, gorgeous old building that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century.

The most famous of its residents was the Mighty Young Apollo, Paul Anderson, whose name adorns the building to this day.

The cafe is run by wife-and-husband team Cassie and Russ, formerly of Carter Smith Devlin and Co in Williamstown.

Their punt to stay open all Easter appears to have paid off, as on the sunny, lovely Monday we visit, the joint is jumping.

Earlier in the day, I had spotted the day’s special on Facebook – lamb shoulder with mashed potato, roasted carrots and snow peas ($23) – and dutifully issued a mental memo to myself: “Mmmmm – that’ll do me!”

And so it does – it’s all excellent.

About 80 per cent or more of the lamb CTS eats these days comes from Somalian eateries, the rest from various Mid-East places.

So the Apollo lamb is, by contrast, austere in terms of seasoning.

But that lets the flavour of the wonderfully tender meat fully star.

Mashed potato at our place means rough-chopped spuds – real rough, more like what is called potato salad in some parts of the US.

Seasoning? Just salt, pepper and a dollop or two of olive oil while the potato is still steaming, blistering hot.

So the mashed potato that accompanies my lamb shoulder is another contrast – an enjoyable one, though not something I’d want to do too often.

This is smooth, rich mashed spud that is enlivened texture-wise by a scattered handful of roasted hazelnuts.

Is the $20 cafe burger a “thing”?

Yeah, we reckon so.

And the Apollo Cafe version is sooper dooper exemplar of its type, so much so that Bennie – whose burger it is – and his father happily concede that the above photo simply does not do it justice.

Its simplicity – beef, cheese, a couple of onion rings, bacon, lettuce – lets the sublime, high-quality flavours flow.

It’s a lot heftier than the above picture suggests and the chips are excellent.

During an earlier visit, as guests of management (see full disclosure below), Bennie revels in the beef meatballs on creamy truffle polenta with tomato-basil sauce, and shaved parmesan ($19).

It’s both sophisticated and rustic – and Bennie wipes the bowl whitely clean.

Not being so hungry, I order the poached chicken sandwich with truffle duxelle, which is normally served with eggs benedict and vintage cheddar for $18.

It’s all fine and fresh, though in hindsight I overtly envy my son’s meatballs!

On both our visits, our coffees have been perfect, hot and strong.

Check out the Apollo Cafe website here.

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

Westie eats goss 01/04/18

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Consider The Sauce has not had the pleasure of trying The Art Of Fried Chicken at the any of the truck operation’s various locations, though the feedback on its Facebook page certainly makes us look forward to that day.

Now it seems this arty crew is going bricks-and-mortar, with a photo of the above premises posted as the location on the aforementioned FB page.

It is, of course, the former Racecourse Road home of the original Laksa King and a couple of other places.

These Flemington premises have long been dormant.

 

 

How those poultry plans for the venue square with the planning application – for a seven-storey building – attached to the building remains to be seen!

 

 

On Lacy Street in Braybrook, what was once West Of Kin has morphed into Mr Brooks Stonegrill & Bar.

I have yet to check out the menu, so know no more than can been viewed at the joint’s Facebook page.

 

 

At Wyndham Harbour in Werrribee South, there are now boats in the marina – though there’s room for heaps more.

 

 

The role of catering to the eat/drink needs of residents and visitors has been assumed by Ramaes Cafe and Sam’s Catch Fish ‘N’ Chippery, which appear to be under the same management and share the same kitchen.

They opened on Good Friday, so are still finding their feet.

 

 

My chips were excellent and the calamari fine.

Catch of the day – trevally – was delivered grilled instead of the requested fried and was a small serve.

But it tasted awesome.

 

 

Bennie’s burger certainly looked the part.

Sadly, the patty had the distinctive taste that inevitably goes with the sort of sausage meat-style burger sourced from a supermarket or catering supplier.

 

 

A few minutes after we’d finished our lunch, I was kicking myself for not remembering there’s these days another option at Wyndham Harbour.

Ohana Pizza is laid out further out on the marina proper, with a container constituting the pizza oven, prep area and servery; two more containers containing tables and chairs; and more seating found in the quadrangle thus formed.

According to the outfit’s Facebook page, because of the vulnerability to harsh weather, business hours can be variable – especially, no doubt, with winter coming on.

But on a windless, cloudless Easter Saturday, it was a superb, beautiful setting – a mix of class and rusticity.

The pizzas whizzing around us looked pretty good … 

 

 

… and our Nutella calzone, with a big scoop of Jock’s vanilla ice cream, did us good.

Our two lattes were strong and excellent.

 

 

In Werribee township itself, Wyndham council is seeking a long-term tenant to take over the historic Bridge Hotel on Watton Street.

This is a challenge.

Happenings at a couple of other major western suburbs venues in recent years tend to strongly suggest that finding a tenant with the both financial wherewithal and resources necessary AND the ability to put heart and soul into such a venue is very tricky indeed.

 

 

In Yarraville, what was once – and for very many years – Happy Four Chinese Restaurant is being transformed into Coracle Cafe Restaurant.

That’s all we know so far, as we haven’t seen any obvious activity or anyone we could question.

 

 

Also on Anderson Street, the venerable bakery and pie shop Heather Dell has closed.

 

 

On the corner of Anderson and Ballarat streets, the “for lease” signs have been taken down from the former home of Jasmine Inn.

Whether that means a tenant has been found, the owner(s) were asking too much or none of the above, I know not.

 

 

Finally, the latest whisper I have heard suggests that another Anderson Street premises, the former home of the Mad Moose pizza operation right next to the rail line, is destined to become sort of Mexican eatery.