Our kind of food

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Nat Stockley captured in his natural environment.

 

Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, 3/10 Sun Crescent, Sunshine. Phone: 9193 1740

On the Panjali menu, there’s dosas, vadai, dal and curries.

But you’ll also find roti canai, mee goreng and nasi lemak.

I cannot recall – in what is now many decades of trawling funky eats places all over Melbourne – any other eatery that so thoroughly, wonderfully expresses a particular school of transnational cooking, in this case Indian/Malaysian.

Panjali has been open about three months and is popular – as I discover on a CTS reconnaissance trip for Sunday lunch.

The service is warm and the prices are extremely cheap. It’s closed on Mondays, but other than that it keeps long opening hours.

 

 

House-made curry puffs ($5 for two) are ungreasy and have a thick casing that is nevertheless good; the spud-based vegetable filling does the job.

 

 

On my initial solo visit, I go for the eponymous banana leaf meal.

 

 

When Nat Stockly and I return for a more in-depth exploration of the menu (see below), he does the same.

The basic banana leaf meal costs $9.90 and consists of a generous rice pile anointed with vegetable-studded dal, with various vegetable dishes arranged alongside, along with rasam, yoghurt, pickle and pappadams.

For an extra $6, I top my meal up with a truly excellent and big fried chicken piece. The chicken has been freshly cooked and placed in the bain marie just as I order, so is an obvious choice.

For $8, Nat gets a serve of lamb curry. It’s quite good, but could’ve been a bit hotter.

Nat opines that often the state of pappadams can be taken as a fair indicator of the rest of a restaurant’s food.

Ours are crisp and unoily.

I could eat them all day.

Perhaps it could be said this kind of food is not for everyone – the vegetables (cabbage, beans, pumpkin, okra, broccoli) are cooked down to quite an extent.

But the food and the place that serves it most certainly hit the spot with us, and will do likewise for dedicated CTS readers.

 

 

From the noodle line-up, mamak mee goreng ($10.90) is simple, lovely and surprisingly dry – in a good way.

No meat or seafood here, the dish getting its flavour kicks mostly from just cabbage and egg.

 

 

The many tempting roti variations will have to wait for another visit.

Instead we order chicken murtabak ($10.90).

 

 

It’s tremendous in every way – hot and fresh; and delicate and hearty at the same.

The stuffing is a great mix of onion, egg and shredded chicken.

And I love the lightly pickled fresh onion served on the side for extra crunch.

As we depart after a fine meal, Nat quips: “That’s my kind of food!”

And that, right there, gives me the headline for my story.

 

Nice in Kensington

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Melba Social, 524 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 2982

Melba Social lives in the premises formerly occupied by Mr Griffiths Alibis & Libations, which closed some time ago.

We don’t know what happened there – its beer, burgers and poutine routine seemed to be going pretty well judging by the people bustle we observed there on numerous occasions.

But … onwards!

Melba Social is up and running just as two other new/newish places – Kensington Food Hall and the revamped Hardimans Hotel – are offering similar offerings, all three joints within a few street numbers of each other.

Of course, we are interested to see what Melba Social tastes like so are happy to accept an invitation taken up by a CTS Team of three (see full disclosure below).

We find the food and service to be lovely, with much of the latter crossing over to very good.

It is mostly straight-up Italian fare here.

Notably, the portion sizes and pricing both serve to generate an impression of good value, that impression given heft by the busy Thursday night of which we are part.

 

 

Three entrees for us (see menu below) …

A trio of arincini ($13) – plump, generous and gooey with mozzarella and mushroom, topped by parmesan and rocket, all residing upon a superb, basilised tomato sugo.

“Freaking hot” buffalo wings ($15) are only mildly spicy and look rather drab.

But the proof is in the eating – they taste very fine and the serve is plenty big enough for all of us to have a hearty go.

Oddly enough, it is the entree with the plainest visuals – “smokey” mushrooms ($12, above) – that most impresses.

The panko-crumbed mushies are quite delicate and so, so juicy and tasty.

The queso sauce is very rich.

 

 

Thursday night is steak night at Melba Social, though one of the three costs exactly that anyway.

Whatever – my 200-gram porterhouse ($22) is top stuff, delivered just right at medium rare.

I’m normally no fan of mashed spuds that render the lead vegetable into a rich puree with only the faintest tuber vibe.

But here the mash goes not that far and is a fine steak friend.

The “cafe de Paris” butter is somewhat excess to my richness requirements.

The coleslaw is finely chopped and a little wilted – that is, just how I like it.

But I find myself wanting more acid or bite. Or salt.

 

 

Julian loves his three cheese gnocchi ($24) with gorgonzola, grana padano and vintage cheddar.

It, too, is a big serve – Bennie and I get a good sample, so fully understand his enthusiasm.

The pasta pillows really are like the proverbial clouds and very wonderful.

Based on his regular experience with this dish at another establishment, Julian wistfully mentions that he would’ve liked to experience some actual bits of cheese in the otherwise entirely smooth sauce.

But even he admits that’s a case of being very, very picky.

 

 

I am trying to wean Bennie off chicken burgers – both for his own good and for purposes of CTS diversity.

But he enjoys the Melba Social rendition ($18), noting with thumbs-up approval that he considers his twin chook chunks to be “expertly fried”.

The shoestring chips are $6 extra, just OK and place the package up there into the restaurant burger combo category. 

 

 

Our minor quibbles about our meal thus far are put behind us as we gleefully devour both desserts on the menu.

They are superb.

Stone fruit and raspberry almond crumble ($10) immediately elicits from me the comment: “This is just like My Mum Makes!”

And that’s all that needs to be said.

 

 

A good deal richer and more decadent is “sizzling” brownie ($15).

The brownie square is bigger than it appears and swims in a sticky sauce studded with blueberries.

The vanilla bean ice-cream that accompanies both desserts is excellent.

Melba Social strikes us the sort of place that will become a cherished “local”.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Melba Social as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Melba Social management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Happy times at Burger Heights

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Woven, 175b Stephen Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9973 5926

In the past year or so, Bennie and I have enjoyed some good/OK burgers.

But, we confess, it’s difficult to recall any that have had us pumped up with unbridled enthusiasm, burger lust and fired-up determination to return to the scene of the crime with haste.

Perhaps we have become dulled by average products written about with what will serve the informational needs of our readers in mind, rather than our own immediate burger gratification?

So today, after the regular Saturday kung fu outing, we are trying an experiment – going somewhere we like and admire.

Somewhere we trust to turn on a truly great burger for us.

Woven has made a happy home of the area on Stephen Street and a good distance from the throngs of the village.

Previous posts concerning this fine establishment are these days so long in the tooth, I’m not even going to bother posting links.

Woven has not, however, become a regular haunt for us, save for occasional road coffees.

But we do keep an eye out for its specials on Facebook – and it’s one of them that is our mission today.

We are not disappointed.

Our matching double chipotle cheeseburgers come with two Black Angus beef patties, double American cheese, double bacon and chipotle/lime slaw in milk buns.

Dear readers, do not blanche at the admission fee of $25 – they are worth every cent.

All is terrific, even if the cheese is overwhelmed by a bevy of surrounding and strong flavours.

The slaw has just right amount of spice kick.

And our burgers come with twice-cooked, hand-cut chips included.

Now THAT’S a burger.

Yes.

We’re told the Woven burger specials list burgers change on a pretty much fortnightly basis, though a more orthodox burger is a menu fixture.

 

Meal of the week No.49: Karlaylisi Restaurant

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A post-festive season catch-up with CTS pal Justin?

Sure, and why not at Karlaylisi Restaurant on Gordon Street in Footscray?

Even if the postal/correct address is 4/203 Ballarat Road?

Yes, we’ve been covered this place before – and not so long ago at that.

But we figure a follow-up “meal of the week” story is fully warranted because …

1. Its Uyghur cuisine is really good.

2. We’ve had good feedback from readers.

3. Nevertheless, we reckon more people should be hip to this place.

I persuade Juz to deviate out from our plan of a plateful skewers bearing cubed chunks of lamb.

Instead, we go for the lamb ribs (top photo, three ribs for $6) – and have no regrets about it.

They’re doused in the same cumin/salt rub as the regular skewers, but are a much more hands-on feed of gnaw galore – fatty, chewy and glorious.

And, as anyone who has ordered lamb ribs at other venues will know, these are an incredible bargain.

 

 

Noodles?

Of course!

Not only do we get super noodles, we enjoy a soundtrack of robust thumping coming from the kitchen denoting yet more house-made, hands-on goodness.

Aqqik gorush chopi kormisi $14.50) are those marvellously long noodles tossed with lamb, onion, bird’s eye chilli and celery.

The dish is marked by a three-chilli warning on the menu – and it IS very, very hot.

I enjoy the spice glow provided by the chillis while eating as few of them as possible.

Excellent eating, though!

 

 

As a delightful contrast to the fattiness and explosive spice levels elsewhere in our meal, we love this simple dish of flash-fried green beans with onion and capsicum.

Purqak kormisi ($14) is on the salty side, but is a crunchy treasure.

 

Burger doubleheader

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Slider Diner, 82 Charles Street, Seddon.
Fugu Fish Bar, 11 Wests Road, Maribyrnong. Phone: 7015 8733

In handful of months, Consider The Sauce will turn nine.

Much has changed in that time for western suburbs food talk.

A few westie-oriented blogs have come and gone, while the coverage in the MSM and other media outlets based on the other side of the Maribyrnong remains haphazard and selective.

Yet it seems to me the tempo of ongoing discussions about western suburbs food has actually increased.

I attribute that to the enthusiastic embrace of a plethora of community Facebook pages right across the west.

It’s a regular thing to see posts and photos of new places opening (and closing) and long threads of comments responding to recommendations for pizzas or coffee or vegan tucker – and much more.

For that reason, I long ago realised that aspiring to cover everything that is happening – and being eaten – across the west is the stuff of nervous breakdown.

So we go our merry way – and enjoy immensely, and participate in, the broader conversations.

For instance, very few of the bars that have bloomed in the inner west in the past few years have received coverage here.

And it’s for that reason that Slider Diner was not really on our radar.

Just another burger joint, hey?

But visit it we do when our Seddon eating destination of choice turns out to be closed.

That’s a fine outcome, for we enjoy Slider Diner.

 

 

Located in the premises formerly occupied by Ajitoya, the place is done out in nice and bright retro diner style.

And the slider angle?

Well, that seems to be all about the availability of half-size burgers in a menu (see below) dedicated to classy fast food – with a few twists along the way.

Usually, half portions cost significantly more than half the full price.

So Slider Diner deserves much kudos for the fact its “sliders” cost precisely half of their full-portion equivalents – and they’re generous to boot!

This means an individual customer can enjoy some diversity without paying a price in terms of quantity or money.

 

 

Bennie is well pleased with slider cheeseburger ($7) and kim cheezy ($7) with crunchy fried chicken, kim chi slaw, smoked cheddar and gochujang sauce (Korean red chilli sauce).

My fish burger ($15, top photo, not available in half size) is damn fine.

The deep-fried rockling fillet, juicy and flavoursome and meltingly tender, is accompanied by lemon dill mayo, lettuce and just the right quantity of finely sliced pickled onion.

 

 

We are utterly incapable of ordering the likes of burgers or gyros without also summoning chips.

But all we want is a taste, really.

So we wish more places would offer said chips in appropriately sized – and priced – portions.

Slider Diner does just that for $5.50 – though these are just OK.

Will we return to Slider Diner?

Yes – quite possibly to build a meal out of sides such as chicken wings, popcorn chicken, Tex-Mex corn cob, truffled mac n cheese and pulled pork doughnuts.

 

 

“Dad, your patty looks like it’s a frozen one!”

Such is Bennie’s gloomy visual assessment of my wagyu burger at Fugu Fish Bar.

A fresh-faced fish and burger joint, Fugu is located at the nexus of Hampstead and Wests roads, a few blocks from Highpoint and in a long-standing small shopping precinct that houses another dedicated burger joint.

This is an area undergoing rapid change as more and more people move in.

We both “combo” our meals for $3 extra, so my burger deal clocks in at $17 with the addition of coleslaw.

My burger is better than indicated by Bennie’s scorn – but it’s acceptable without being memorable.

The coleslaw is outstanding.

 

 

Bennie is happy with his southern chicken burger ($15 with chips), even though it appears a little crumpled.

The chips are OK. Just.

 

 

On an earlier, reconnaissance visit, I enjoyed my blue grenadier with chips and coleslaw, the latter again superb.

The little things count!

In this case, I was not offered a combo set-up so my lunch costs more through the addition of $6 worth of salad on top of the $12 for the classic fish/chip deal.

The fish was bigger than it looked at first glance and good eating, though the batter was a bit doughy.

Fugu has been recommended to us by friends/readers, so we are disappointed to be a little underwhelmed overall.

If we lived in the area, we’d be regulars, for sure – in the process, getting to know the menu and what really sings.

 

 

Servos of the old west

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They’ve been, with very few exceptions, stomped out of existence by mega-servos that come with car washes, shops and fast food outlets.

But like the corner shops that have met a similar fate, their ghosts linger.

Often they’re still in use for automotive purposes.

Sometimes they’ve been utilised for other uses.

Sometimes they lie idle.

And sometimes all traces are gone save for the memories of locals.

This survey is not meant to be comprehensive or methodical.

Basically, it’s the result of a day’s driving that took in those old servos of which I was already aware, with a happy stumble of a couple of neat surprises thrown in.

If readers send me photos, I’ll do a follow-up spread!

 

 

Douglas Parade Bait and Tackle, Douglas Parade, Spotswood (near The Warmies).

 

 

Francis Street, Yarraville.

 

 

Corner Barnet Street and Pentland Parade, Yarraville.

Bowsers intact, but I’m told the auto repair shop that operated here for many years is no longer doing so.

 

 

Sunshine Road, Tottenham.

 

 

Sunshine Road, Sunshine.

 

 

Andy’s Servo, corner Anderson and Glengala roads, Sunshine.

 

 

Sunshine Social, Glengala Road, Sunshine West.

 

 

Ballarat Road, Footscray.

 

 

Corner Napier and Whitehall streets, Footscray (opposite the Reverence Hotel).

The proprietor of the mechanics shop here told me the tanks remained intact and that he reckons it was servo until some time in the 1950s.

He showed me an invitation to exhibition launch featuring the work of signwriting outfit Lewis and Skinner. See details here.

And the boss also informed me the premises/property operated as a Cobb & Co depot in the early 1900s!

 

 

Corner Charles and Gamon streets, Seddon.

I was unsure of servo status of this building.

So I dropped in to visit my friends Deborah and Roger, who have lived right opposite for a long time.

As far as we can figure, a very rough chronology of the building’s uses runs like this:

Bery’s Charcoal Grill until the mid-90s
The Bowser
Sabroso
Charles and Gamon (current).

So The Bowser name leads us to conclude it was indeed a servo at one time.

The charcoal grill, serving Macedonian food, was much loved and has been discussed in comments on previous CTS stories.

 

 

Anderson Street, Yarraville.

A final surprise!

Deborah flipped through the relevant pages of the history of Yarraville she and Roger produced in conjunction with the Footscray Historical Society.

And there they were – a couple of very old bowsers stationed outside this building, which is these days a health services centre, located right next door to Coracle (formerly happy Four).

CTS 2018 – the highlights reel

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Singaporean seafood stew with Mongolian rice at Fusion Ceylon.

 

Consider The Sauce gives thanks to two groups equally for being the mainstays of another fine year of western suburbs dining.

Firstly, thanks to the readers.

Thanks to them for the many comments, both here and on Facebook, and the hot tips, humour and support.

Secondly, thanks to the many fine, hard-working and creative people who make the food – they are legends one and all.

 

 

Fusion Ceylon

Is Werribee too much of a stretch for citizens of the inner west – never mind the rest of Melbourne?

Because, frankly, I am surprised these guys haven’t – yet – garnered more attention, including in the media.

No problem – they seem plenty busy dealing with their robust local popularity.

In the meantime, Fusion Ceylon is a shining beacon of sensational, spicy and imaginative food.

 

 

Parotta Station

This eatery in the unlikely location of Millers Road, Brooklyn, provides simple and affordable Indian food with a Tamil Nadu influence.

Don’t miss the homely perfection of parotta with saalna – wonderful house-made flatbreads (parotta) with a fried egg and curry gravy.

The price has inched up a little since our story – but is still under $10!

 

 

Co Thu Quan

Reborn and back in a new location following the Little Saigon Market fire, Co Thu Quan serves many familiar Vietnamese dishes – and, fabulously, many less so.

It’s a shining Footscray star.

 

 

Bakhdida Cafe and Restaurant

We have yet to return to this singular enterprise in industrial north Sunshine – but chowing down on its spirited Iraqi take on Middle Eastern food remains profoundly memorable.

 

 

Farang Thai BBQ

Highpoint food has never tasted better than the zesty Thai street food offered by Farang Thai BBQ.

Shopping centre soul.

 

 

Tina’s Dumpling House

Offering more than just dumplings, this St Albans establishment is doing good things on Pier Street.

 

 

El Toucan Cafe

Colombian food at Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre – who knew?

We did!

Kudos to Frank Frank Torres and his crew for delivering a fine range of Latin American tucker.

 

 

Tanoor

Oh, how we love having Tanoor just down the road in Hoppers Crossing!

Not just for the in-house platters, but also for the Lebanese pizzas and pies, which have become a quick meal staple at home.

 

 

African (various in various locations)

There has been less focus on the Somalian food of Flemington this year on CTS – simply because new story-generating angles have, for the meantime, been tapped.

Rest assured that wonderful stuff remains a mainstay of the CTS diet.

Closer top home, we very much enjoyed two new arrivals of the Ethiopian variety – House Of Injera in Footscray and GeBeta in West Footscray.

 

 

BBQ

We also enjoyed the offerings of two new BBQ joints in the west – Houston’s Barbecue in Keilor Park and Tex-Oz Smokehouse in Werribee.

 

 

Fish and chips

Batterbing in Williamstown is the best.

In our deep-fried opinions.

 

 

House Of Cannoli

Tucked away in residential Avondale Heights, discover sublime, Cannoli Bar does great things when it comes to perfect cannoli and other Italian treats.

 

****

 

Finally, thanks to the members of Team CTS for joining Bennie and I on so many occasions – and putting up with my photographic delays!