Greek street food – on the street

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Greek Gypsy, 545 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 0423 709 769

We are eating from yucky polystyrene – and it’s all our fault.

Well … sort of.

If we’d made clear our eating intentions – to have our dinner right there, beside the food truck that is Greek Gypsy – we’d have been provided proper crockery.

Oh well …

As it is, we do get metal cutlery as we proceed to enjoy our meals.

And very good they are, too.

The outdoor furniture that accompanies the Greek Gypsy routine may not be any less disposable than the polystyrene containers.

But the food is every bit as delicious and enjoyable as that to be had at the other Greek enterprises that have been unveiled in our greater neighbourhood in recent months – see here, here and here.

 

 

From the compact menu, both Bennie and I choose …

 

 

… open gyro plates ($14), with a mix of lamb and chicken.

The meat is outstanding – both juicy and chewy, the lamb having a slight edge IMO.

Toasted pita goes good with a generous serve of excellent tsatziki.

The salad bits?

Just OK.

 

 

Chips ($5) are just the teensiest bit too oily.

But otherwise, they are hot, crisp and yummy – and, like, the meat, way better than we have been expecting from this food truck operation.

One of the dinner options we had been contemplating this night, just down the road apiece, would’ve run to a minimum of $80 for the pair of us – and quite probably more than $100.

Yet here we are, sitting atop Kensington Hill, having spent a fraction of that and grinning like happy fools as we eat like kings and watch the traffic and the world flow by.

Life is grand!

 

Simple, sensational, $6.50

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Parotta Station, 28A Millers Road, Brooklyn. Phone: 9314 9934

At Parotta Station, you’ll be served south Indian food.

So anyone even passingly familiar with the west’s many dosa joints – or even its Sri Lankan places – will feel right at home.

There’s string hoppers, a simple dosa offering, the chopped bread dish that is kothu – along with things of broader Indian outlook such as lamb and chicken kormas, biryanis and a small range of Indo-Chinese dishes.

But the proprietor has some twists going on here very much down to his home state of Tamil Nadu.

Most emphatically, they come in the form of the eponymous parotta, a version of the eternal flatbread.

In this case, the bread is lovingly moulded into a scroll before being fried, the result being a marvellous, magical and flaky experience.

Parotta Station serves them in a variety of ways, including egg-stuffed ($3.50), two of which we take away for Bennie’s next-day school lunch.

 

 

But the big hit for us is the combo named “parotta with saalna” ($6.50).

Two standard, fresh and sublime parotta.

A salted fried egg.

And a generous tub of coconut/tomato curry gravy. We’re told this is meat-based to the extent it uses a mutton stock as part of the base. I’m sure it’d be no problem to have it substituted by  the potato or mixed vegetable dishes on offer.

How good is this?

Right up there.

We’d rate this as good a cheap eat as can be found and rank it right alongside the very best to be had at banh mi or dosa establishments anywhere.

 

 

These look like plump ginger cookies.

They’re not.

Shamiyan ($11.50) are patties made of lentils and lamb mince that taste and feel of neither.

They have a very mild spice kick and are very dry; we happily dip them in the curry gravy served with our parotta.

They’re an interesting experience, but not one that completely bowls us over.

 

 

Aatu kaal paya ($12.50) is a stew of lamb trotters.

Forget any ideas of similarity to pork hocks or even lamb shanks.

The most precise comparison here is with chicken feet – there’s no meat whatsoever, just various shards and lumps of random glutinous material.

So not everyone’s cup of tea – obviously!

But if you are hip to Chinese-style chicken feet, go right ahead.

But at Parotta Station, parotta are the main go.

We reckon we’ll be inhaling that “parotta with saalna” combo many times in the coming year.

Parotta Station is on Uber for those in appropriate postcodes and is closed on Tuesdays.

 

Yarraville cafe tastes fine

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Mantra Studio Kitchen and Bar, 10A Campbell Street, Yarraville. Phone: 0419 329 936

The location and setting of Mantra is both a surprise and just right: In a light industrial conclave way over in the Yarraville back waters near Francis and Hyde.

Inside, the warehouse has undergone a gorgeous cafe transformation.

There’s lots of space, high ceilings and plenty of room to grow.

Which makes me think that Mantra will continue evolving to become something of a multi-faceted community asset.

In the meantime, there is food.

Very lovely food.

The menu (see below) runs to breakfast items such as sweet corn fritters, breakfast ramen and jasmine rice pudding.

Lunch choices range from a falafel burger to what sounds like a delectable salad of heirloom carrots, beetroot hummus, dukkah and sweet potato.

CTS visits twice within a couple of days and has a swell time lunching.

The service is cheerful and efficient and the wait times good.

 

 

Visiting on my own for reconnaissance purposes, I go with the wagyu burger with chilli relish, cos lettuce, tomato, baco and fries ($24).

Now, $24 is quite a lot to pay for a cafe burger in these parts.

On the other hand, this is a terrific specimen of the burger art.

Simplicity is a virtue here.

It’s a two-fisted joy, juicy and redolent somehow of Middle Eastern seasoning.

The chips are good, though those on the outer reaches of the mound are barely luke warm and the rest could be hotter, too.

 

 

For a return visit of the family Sunday lunch kind, Deb gets the same burger with an equally agreeable outcome.

Here, though, she substitutes the regular fries with crumbed eggplant chips.

They are superb.

And hot.

 

 

I’ve already seen enough – and eaten enough – to rather wish the “poke bowl” fad fades away with some haste, seeing as it widely seems to be an excuse for slopping mediocre ingredients in a bowl and charging richly for it.

The Mantra Bowl ($18), by contrast, shows how it should be done and how good such an offering can be.

The ingredients are top-shelf in every way and – just as importantly for this kind of meal – they are beautifully arranged in the bowl with skill and talent.

Rice ‘n’ black beans, heaps of robustly crunchy pickled cabbage, several kinds of mushroom, bean sprouts, tender asparagus – and even a trans-national touch through brown baba ganoush and flatbread: All wonderful, alone and/or together.

 

 

Bennie muchly enjoys his BBQ duck waffle with mango chutney, lychee gel and grilled asparagus ($23).

The meat is juicy yet nicely chewy, though it seems to me his meal would benefit from a greater sauce/liquid component.

He disagrees.

Apart from the  breakfast and lunch routines, Mantra is already happily experimenting with Friday evening events of the “beer and dumpling” and “beer and sliders” variety.

There is some parking available right outside the cafe, while the surrounding streets are subject to time limits.

Be careful!

Check out the Mantra website here.

 

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.

 

Tex-Mex sanctuary

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Muyrico, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 0424 101 020

We’re in Point Cook for some Mexican food – or, more accurately – some Tex-Mex tucker.

Our most recent adventure along those lines – on the other side of the freeway, at another shopping centre – had hardly thrilled us, so why our upbeat mood?

Because Muyrico’s Rupantar Dey has approached us with a view to doing a review (see full disclosure below).

We like his style and honest approach so we are quietly hopeful.

That optimism turns out to be well founded.

Rupantar and partner Gaurav Verma have a nice little operation going at Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre.

The food is cheap and tasty.

Keep in mind this shopping centre food court fare and a nice time can be had.

 

 

We start with a range of the lads’ snacky items – flaky pastry beef empanada ($1.50 each), devilled chook leg ($1.80) and corn fritters ($2.50 for three).

These are all fine.

The fritters especially impress – they’re simple, light, moist, chewy and corny, and much better than the very similar spring onion pancakes we sometimes try in Chinese places.

 

 

Our quesadila ($10.90) is a messy treat.

The flour tortilla is toasted after being stuffed with pulled pork, cheese and beans, the whole lot then anointed with sour cream, guacamole, corn and tomato.

 

 

Our chimichanga ($10.90) has a chicken filling, but in most regards this deep-fried burrito shares much with our quesadila, only it’s a bit more stodgy.

Kinda like a cheerful Tex-Mex take on an old-school chiko roll – and I suspect there’s folks for whom that description will be a big, fat green light!

 

 

Desserts?

The chocolate mousse and cinnamon rice pudding ($6, but soon to be – I’m told – $4.50) are, as expected, sinfully rich – and with consistencies more like soup than pudding!

Gaurav and Rupantar tell me Muyrico is going good, though they’re still feeling their way to what works best for the demands of their location and customers.

They’re especially pleased with their bustling home delivery service.

Muyrico is open until 9.30pm seven nights a week.

Check out the Muyrico website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Muyrico as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Muyrico management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Sweet Sri Lankan hits WeFo

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The White Elephant On Barkly, 561 Barkly Street, West Foostcray. Phone: 0423 515 728

The White Elephant brings a real point of difference to Indian-dominated West Footscray, and is doing so with style.

Whether its efforts will be sufficient to prosper in what is a fiercely competitive environment, only time will tell.

We certainly hope so after a three-member CTS team enjoys a fine evening meal there.

The former home of the cafe Jellybread has been fitted out in bright and breezy fashion.

We found the service very attentive and the wait times perfectly appropriate for the food at hand.

Our first glances at the menu (see below) are quite bracing, based on our long enjoyment of extremely affordable Sri Lankan food at a variety of places.

At the White Elephant, meat and seafood curries cost either side of $20.

But closer perusal of the food list reveals some outright gems.

Three rotis, one veg curry and one meat curry for $12, for instance.

Or a rice-and-curry combo of two veg curries and one meat curry for $15.

That latter deal will do us – or two of us anyway!

 

 

Justin is extremely happy with his curry combo deal.

Unlike many other Indian and Sri lankan eateries, here the curry deals can be customised according to customer wishes – rather than being a mix of whatever the staff choose back out in the kitchen.

The mild beef curry is some way short of tender, but not tough, either – perfectly normal and acceptable for this kind of food.

The eggplant moju disappears at pace.

But it is the potato curry that is the star – so simple and tasty!

 

 

It is a vegetable selection that shines brightest in Bennie’s line-up, as well.

The okra dish is as good as we’ve enjoyed.

The vegetable holds its vibrant greenness, is not in the least cooked down and shows not the slightest sign of sliminess.

It’s fabulous.

We’re all taken with the cashew curry, which is way more creamy and moist than the above photograph suggests.

It’s nice, with the nuts just on the tender side of al dente.

But, as Bennie later opines, there is a strong element of same-same about it that suggests it would be more enjoyed as a smaller side.

One of the main things Bennie enjoys about Sri Lankan food is the ability to order pork.

His pork curry here is similar to those he’s enjoyed elsewhere – dry, charry, enjoyable.

But beware – this is very, very fatty.

The $15 meal deals my companions enjoy involve excellent food and represent superb value.

 

 

My lampraise ($17) is something entirely different.

I’ve enjoyed other versions of this very traditional Sri Lankan meal – cooked in a banana leaf – but never quite this hearty or rustic.

The cooked-in-stock rice is a fine foundation.

The stars are a couple of fat charred, juicy and supremely delicious prawns.

There’s an orb of tuna cutlet and a heap of chicken and the same pork, very fatty, as in Bennie’s curry.

The chicken is overcooked by Western, charcoal grill standards, but that is – I strongly suspect – entirely normal for this dish.

My meal is so meaty, so macho that the phrase “meat lovers” comes to mind – something more usually associated with dodgy pizzas.

As well, the fried egg – very good – lends the dish something of the aspect of an old-school English fry-up.

So … not everyone’s cup of tea.

But, no doubt, just precisely the ticket for some!

 

 

At the top of the meal, we’d started out with a serve of spicy chicken ribs ($8).

Our handful were fine – not so spicy and quite oily, but lip-smackingly juicy and tender.

The White Elephant is doing breakfasts!

The menu ranges from western-style dishes such as eggs, toast and pancakes through to string hoppers and roti with curry.

Meanwhile, we wish the White Elephant crew well – and, on the basis of those awesome spud and okra dishes, we’ll be back for more veg.