Happy Greek arrival

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Skewered Taverna, Shop 13, 71-79 Kororoit Creek Road, Williamstown.

For a while there, a few years back, Rifle Range shopping centre in Williamstown was the site of frequent visits by Team CTS.

Those visits were all about dropping in to partake of the fine food – pizzas, pastas and more – as proffered by Pizza d’Asporto.

Once a new Pizza d’Asporto shop opened right around the corner from us in Yarraville, Rifle Range was no longer a target for us.

But maybe a return visit to the Willy Pizza d’Asporto is in order – there’s been a reconfiguration there that makes the place more like a restaurant proper than a mere takeaway place with some seating.

Plus, you know – pizza, pasta, any excuse.

But today we’re back on Kororoit Road to check out the centre’s newest arrival – Skewered Taverna, which has slotted into the premises once housing the local charcoal chicken shop.

 

 

The place is set up – and feels – like a cross between a quickie souvlaki joint and a more formal Greek restaurant, something that is also reflected in the menu (see below).

When quizzed about what elements of the food line-up are made from scratch in house and those brought in, we appreciate the honesty shown us – tzatziki yes, taramasalata no; dolmades no, but moussaka and gemistes (stuffed capsicum) yes.

That knowledge guides us, to some extent, in our ordering.

 

 

OK, OK, I confess –  I am photographically challenged when it comes to capturing the simple magic of a souvlaki wrap.

This is an unlovely depiction of Bennie’s lunch.

It’s called “The Village” ($13.50) – and it’s everything he wants in a souvlaki.

Well-cooked and seasoned lamb off the spit, tomato, onion lettuce, tzatziki and chips wrapped in thick, Greek-style pita bread.

We reckon the Skewered souvlaki list is going to be a VERY hot ticket in this neighbourhood.

 

 

My meal is something very different.

I go for the made-in-house moussaka ($23) and am delighted in every way – especially after my most recent moussaka try had been disappointing.

I get the same chips, pita bread (grilled and oh-so-moreish!) and tzatziki as Bennie, along with some good Greek salad.

The moussaka itself is home-style Greek cooking marvellous – a big serve, rich, creamy, meaty, comforting and delicious.

For many more stories, go to considethesauce.net.

 

 

Croatian cravings sated

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Ragusa Republika, 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9069 6690

There’s good food to be had on Nelson Place in Williamstown.

Good food created and served in good places by good people.

But, sadly, the overall vibe is rather downbeat when it comes comes to tasty high times.

CTS has discussed this seemingly unchanging situation with many Willy locals and other westies over the years.

Yet no one quite seems to know why it is so.

But in that context, we applaud what Eva Maddox and her crew are doing at Ragusa Republika.

 

 

Here there are no shortcuts, cutting of corners or scrimping.

Everything is high class and stylish, the dining room itself elegant and warmed just right on the chilly night we visit.

That hands-on approach extends to just about every aspect of the food, from house-made stocks and on up – everything bar the ice-cream.

Eva and wine expert Pino are enthusiastic out front and Team CTS – Kenny, Bennie, Nat – very much enjoys taking up the invitation of a complementary meal (see full disclosure below).

The prices here are on the high side –  but punters most definitely get what they pay for.

The building is gorgeous, extending out the back to a high-ceilinged cathedral-like former chapel.

 

 

A forerunner had been running for several years before briefly closing as some behind-the-scenes changes were effected, re-opening in April with “Republika” added to the name and a bright new look – but pretty much the same food line-up.

 

 

Our Croatian food adventure starts with a bang and hardly ever lets up.

These warm, fresh-baked rolls are sensational and served with olive oil and (house-made) ajvar (relish).

 

 

Zagorski štrukli are traditional baked pastry pillows filled with ricotta and truffle oil ($19).

We get one apiece – and it’s almost like they float to our eager mouths.

 

 

The squid ink dumplings that come with crni njoki ($20/$39) are almost as light, though it is the fresh-as calamari with garlic and chilli that truly grabs the attention.

 

 

Amid richness, it is the plain that triumphs for us.

The chicken noodle soup is the big hit of the night.

It has just the right amount of oil to lend every mouthful a velvety feel.

And, yep, the noodles are housemade.

We are each served a less-than-full bowl for reviewing purposes.

A full bowl goes for $15 – making for a lovely light lunch when teamed with the complementary bread rolls.

 

 

Bennie is very satisfied with his svinjska rebra iz paca sa satarašom ($44).

He reports that while the marinated and roasted pork belly meat is not fall-apart tender, it remains moist and “just right” to his way of thinking.

The accompanying jumble sautéed eggplant, capsicum and tomato is fine.

 

 

Ribarska popara – traditional seafood stew with paprika, chilli, tomato and polenta ($42) – juggles the delicate and the lusty just as well as I have been expecting.

The mildly seasoned broth turns from red to a sort-of orange as the polenta gradually blends in.

And the plentful seafood is very, very good.

 

 

The one dish that falls short of delighting us is Nat’s lignje u prošeku of roasted calamari with potato, capers and prošek ($41).

For all we know, this could be an outstanding rendition of this dish.

But the combined sweetness of the onions and dessert wine leaves us more puzzled than anything.

 

 

Are we up for dessert?

Yes we are!

Well, the Weir portion of tonight’s Team CTS is.

Štrudla od višnje (sour cherry strudel with hazelnut ice cream, $17) and …

 

 

… knedle (plum dumplings with plum sauce and sour cream, $17) are every bit as perfect and sweet-with-some-sour as father and son were hoping for.

Will we return to Ragusa Republika under our own steam and as paying customers?

Yes we will – for more of that chicken soup.

Though I also fancy getting stuck into the sarma/stuffed cabbage leaves.

Check out the Ragusa Republika website – including menu – here.

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

 

Fish, chips, excellence

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Batterbing, 60 Douglas Parade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 1227

Batterbing is located in a Douglas Parade premises that has been home to fish and chips for a long, long time.

Decades, I’m guessing.

Can any Williamstown readers tell us?

In any case, these days – under its newish name – it’s being run by John McMonagle, whose work we loved so much at Dough! in Newport.

His Williamstown location is superior – it’s handily placed for more drop-in and foot traffic.

And that’s great – it means more people can enjoy the super work being done by John and his team.

The place remains very much an old-school fish and chip shop, with rudimentary dine-in facilities – a bench and stools inside, a few tables and chairs on the footpath outside.

But none of that matters.

Here be made – and happily consumed – what are, in our opinions and experience, the best fish and chips in the western suburbs.

(Matched mind, you, by Ebi in Essex Street, Footscray – very different style, equally fine outcome.)

The Batterbing art starts with chips.

Here the potatoes are hand-cut and tumbled – and are wonderful.

Real spuds make for hip chips.

I go with my never-fail arrangement carried over from the Dough! days – now officially called Combo for 1 ($15, top photograph).

Those chips, a handful of tender calamari rings and a nice chunk of juicy, delicious and expertly deep-fried blue grenadier.

So very fine!

Unlike Dough!, there are no pizzas at Batterbing.

But there are burgers – so we take one of them for a run, too.

The Lil Jerry Seinfeld – is there some in-joke I’m missing? – is a doozy.

Crisp and deeply tanned deep-fried chicken thigh is joined in burger harmony by just the right amount of slaw and mayo in a purple bun.

Like all the Batterbing burgers, it comes with a side of those chips – and that makes the $13 entry fee a dead-set bargain.

Williamstown, an interesting arrival

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Bob’s Diner @ Rifle Club Hotel, 121 Victoria Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9367 6073.

One Friday night, and long ago before Consider The Sauce started, Bennie and I ventured into the Rifle Club Hotel, having heard there was a some Thai food going on there.

That turned out to not be the case, and we fled, figuring the establishment – then – was no place for a boy and his dad.

Now we’re back after learning that a crew called Bob’s Diner has set up shop.

Truth be told, this pokies venue is not a good fit for us, but we’re prepared to give it a crack.

The dining room has been done out in basic diner style and, as expected given the the name of the place, burgers are big on the menu.

But there are also such items as poutine, chicken wings, fish and chips – and even a grazier’s beef pie with sauce and mash.

 

 

The chips ($5) come in a good-size serve and are enjoyed by us both.

 

 

My SouthWest Chicken Burger ($12) is an enigma.

Bun, coleslaw, briny pickle all good.

The chicken is crumbed and crisp.

But tastes of nothing.

Is it re-constituted like a chicken nugget?

I can’t tell, but it disappoints.

 

 

Bennie does a whole let better with his cheese and bacon burger ($12).

This is a good, solid burger that is priced right.

Given the dearth of eating options in the immediate neighourhood, Bob’s Diner is sure to be of interest.

But we’d advise savvy scrutiny of the menu and quizzing of the staff.

 

Shiny grill time

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DeGrill, Sunshine Marketplace, Sunshine. Phone: 0402 189 860

A small, single-frame cartoon in the Sunday Age a few years back always makes me chuckle when I think of it.

Two blokes are surveying the Sunshine Marketplace shopping centre.

One says to the other: “Wow – this really is the United Nations of bogans!”

I like it because it’s bloody funny.

But I also like it because I like it that Sunshine Marketplace is like that.

We may live in Yarraville, hit the new fried chicken place in WeFo as soon doing so is viable and even frequent hipster places in Footscray proper … but we love all the west and its people and food.

Which is why CTS loves venturing to not only Sunshine, but also Werribee, Deer Park and beyond – and will continue to eat and review and tell stories from well beyond the ribbon that is the inner west.

 

 

So we applaud the opening of DeGrill at Sunshine Marketplace.

It’s a bold and adventurous move – it is situated, after all, right opposite Maccas and right next door to the cinemas.

I could say that DeGrill is aiming for the same sort of focus as Grill’d or Nando’s – but that would be doing DeGrill a disservice.

Because the menu is significantly more broad than such a comparison might imply.

I suspect the menu may have to be tweaked over time to find out what really works in this particular setting.

But over two visits, CTS and friends enjoy some good food and good service at (mostly) good prices.

The style is classy fast food and proper cutlery and crockery are in use, as are fine salt and pepper grinders.

 

 

There are three hot dog options on the menu, two featuring kransky or chorizo.

But the classic ($7.50) is constructed using a standard frankfurter.

So all is regulation here, but its recipient is pleased enough.

 

 

“Crispy” chicken ($9.50) has the wow factor aplenty.

The serve consists of three superbly cooked wings anointed with a tangy sauce.

Very good!

Especially when served with …

 

 

… a side of mash and gravy ($6).

This a rarity is Melbourne in general, let alone in a Sunshine shopping centre.

It’s OK, we all like it – but it’s not spectacular.

 

 

The menu’s “between the buns” section lists nothing that could be described as a beef burger, but based on our table’s orders of the cheese steak ($9, above) and …

 

 

… the only marginally different philly cheese ($9.50), this may be the way to go here.

Both are keenly priced and boast good ingredients and dressings.

The steak is thicker than routinely found in steak sandwiches and, best of all, is so well cooked that biting through for a mouthful is done with ease and without the whole sandwich falling apart.

Big thumbs up for that!

 

 

Under the heading “from the grill”, DeGrill offers dishes such as a flat iron steak ($17 and $26) and chicken ($16 for half, $29 for full).

These and others may fulfill the implied promise of more hefty meals.

Sadly, the beef short ribs ($16) do not.

It’s common knowledge ribs are expensive to secure and are inevitably at the upper end price-wise wherever they appear.

It’s common knowledge, too, the beef ribs can be fatty.

But these are very fatty indeed, and the three segments amount to not much more than a brief meal of not many more mouthfuls.

As well, as per the eatery’s name, these rib bits are grilled and not smoked, as you’d generally find at the numerous barbecue-style places across the city.

The coleslaw ($4.50) lacks crunch – maybe because its main component is savoy cabbage?

It’s under-done in the seasoning/flavour department, too, though some quick work with the salt and pepper grinders soon fixes that up.

 

 

CTS is over the mega shake thing – too often they seem to involve poor quality ingredients and unjustifiably high prices.

This DeGrill brownie shake ($9) defies both factors – good price, nice shake.

We wish DeGrill well.

Maye its arrival will inspire others to hang out their shingle in the same locale.

Thanks to Annie and Ali for helping us with this story!

Check out the DeGrill website – including full menu – here.

Meal of the week No.29: Hellenic Hotel

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After participating in the opening rituals of Hellenic Hotel, I am super keen to try on the joint’s upstairs bar $15 daily specials.

So much so, I bound up the mid-week stairs.

The bar area – excluding verandah – is quite compact, featuring three tables for two, a couple of tall tables with stools and a communal table, also with stools.

The bar menu (see below) features a range of snacky-type dishes through to those with a bit more heft, such as 1/4 HH chicken for $17.

There’s a daily special allocated for each day (also on the menu below) – and based on the excellence of my Wednesday beef stifado, I definitely want to try them all.

My beef stew is marvellous.

The serving is of a good size and the sticky stew features not only heaps of very good beef chunks but also halved baby onions and carrot.

They all sit atop a bed of barley that is puffed up yet still nicely chewy.

Topping all is a fistful of of fennel salad that provides nice contrast.

It’s a delicious lunch and very good value for $15.

 

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Hellenic Hotel unveiled

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Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000

Yes, the new George Calombaris establishment in Williamstown is up and running.

The “soft opening” Consider The Sauce attends is loosely dedicated to “media”. It follows one the previous night for family and friends and will be followed the next night by another for locals.

 

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Star Weekly reporter Benjamin Millar documents the action.

 

I enjoy running into a few pals, but each invitee has chosen their own timetable and there is no communal seating, so this just like a busy (normal) night and plays a dual role of fine-tuning the restaurant and its food.

 

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My dining companion, Star Weekly sales gun Rochelle Loney, and I go for the “Feed Me” set menu that retails for $49.

In some ways, this is a bit lazy of us and I later regret not taking the opportunity to explore the a la carte menu in more depth.

But it does make things easy for us – and, besides, what we are served is very much the kind of thing I suspect many-perhaps-most customers here will want.

 

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What we get is pretty much plain, straight-up Greek food – and I say that as no criticism.

It all ranges, in my opinion, from good to very good to outstanding.

 

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Warmed Mount Zero olives – lovely.

In my world, the paler and less fishy is taramosalata the better it becomes.

This is a luscious verging-on-white delight served with slightly fluffy chargrilled pita bread.

 

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The black sesame lavosh and granny smith slices and puree top the saganaki with elan.

But the saganaki is just OK – maybe it’s simply not my thing.

 

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The HH grain salad with pulses, nuts and herbs is a cool, moist and topped with creamy smoked yogurt.

 

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“Heirloom” carrots with fenugreek and almonds are sweet and flavoursome.

 

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The Hellenic Hotel rotisserie chicken …

Normally, I’d expect to see greater depth of colour and way more turbo-charged seasoning.

But this is superb.

Of the two pieces we are presented, I get that with the breast meat.

To my great happiness, it is moist and delicious – which speaks highly of the quality of the chook and the skill with which it has been cooked.

 

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Greek rice pudding – risogalo – is topped with rhubarb and candied pistachios.

It’s a fine way to complete our meal. I like that its sweetness is restrained.

Consider The Sauce will visit Hellenic Hotel again soon to see how the $15 upstairs bar daily specials shape up!

 

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Calombaris social media manager Danielle Poulos with Mandy and Sammi from Mama Knows West.

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