Thursday, December 4, 2014

Deli 4 You, Maribyrnong

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Edgewater?  Edge of the earth, as far as I'm concerned.  I think I got lost there pushing a pram once and have never been back.  So when a hot tip arrived for a brilliant Polish deli tucked away in the estate, I approached it with both trepidation and delight.

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There was no-one in there when I arrived, which allowed me to go completely photo crazy, unfettered by shopkeepers' raised eyebrows or curious glances.

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You know, I really love that show "American Pickers" where two blokes roam the backroads of small-town USA, rummaging through hoarders' collections for antiques or other hidden treasures.  I got the same feeling at Deli 4 You.  Here we have an enormous tray of goodies from Erik's Polish bakery in Braybook, including freshly baked plum jam-filled donuts!

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Also from Erik's, all manner of babkas and kugelhopfs in all their unpronounceable glory...

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...real European-style rye bread from "Baker in the Rye" in Elsternwick...

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...and link upon meaty link of every conceivable type of Polish sausage.

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Completely prepared to forget that chorizo is as Polish as pina coladas, given how good this stuff looks.

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In the fridge, there are those dips they have at Sims, plus kefir (a fermented milk drink), quark and other Polish-style soft cheeses.

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Plus a great selection of pierogi dumplings, which I would have raided the entire freezer of, if not held back by their quite high prices ($9 for about 10, and more for the Ola's brand on the top shelf).

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There are also all the usual pickles, UHT borscht and Polish teas, but also a small range of spices from Gewurzhaus in Carlton and other nice Christmas hamper-worthy things.

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Eventually the owner arrived to ring up my goodies.  I went with a pineapple kugelhopf which if I remember correctly was about $7.  Ridiculous!  All birthday cakes shall henceforth come exclusively from Deli 4 U.

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Both it and the plum jam donut were completely off the hook - so moist and tasty!

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I have a bad habit of buying things like pickles and relishes at farmers' markets which then proceed to moulder untouched at the back of the fridge.  The owner was so nice and let me try this pickled carrot which was awesome not just for its spicy, vinegary flavour, but for the fact it is made by "Russians in Bentleigh" (according to the owner).  This stuff was crack.  It was all gone in about three days.  It's not cheap but I highly, highly recommend it!

Not pictured are the very delicious Krysia's brand pierogi, made in Sunbury, Vic, which were all consumed with gusto by Mr Baklover.  I tried to hide them under the fish fingers but his Central European instincts sniffed them out like a truffle hound.

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I guess the only thing I'm slightly hesitant to buy is the meats, as I just can't understand how somewhere so well-concealed can have significant turnover.  But I am ready to be proven delightfully wrong on that point!

Thank you Monique for the great tip!

Deli 4 You
55 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong
Phone: 9318 6669
Open daily 7am - 7pm (but check that as I'm not sure I'm recalling it correctly!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanh Vinh, Footscray

Imagine walking into a brunch place and there being 300 things on the menu.  Eggs with bacon, eggs with spinach, eggs with spinach and bacon, muesli with yoghurt, muesli with fruit...  Sounds crazy, right?  No wonder people get thoroughly overwhelmed when leafing through the 20+ pages of most Vietnamese restaurant menus.

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The trick to navigating them, though, is realising that no one place can do EVERYTHING well, but every one place has some specialties.  Newbie Thanh Vinh has just opened up on the old site of Phong Dinh, and makes it really easy for you with a list of specials out the front.

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I'm sad Phong Dinh is gone, and hope Bao and Anh are doing well wherever their next opportunity has taken them.  The team at Thanh Vinh have kept the layout the same but brightened up the space with some pretty pics and lightshades.

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This was a standout rare beef coleslaw.  It was actually quite different to other renditions, with loads of pungent aniseed Thai basil and diced lemongrass.  The beef was truly rare, almost tartare-like, and the whole thing packed a wicked chilli punch.  I loved it.

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Curious about the diff between "rice vermicelli" and "fine rice vermicelli"?  Banh hoi, or "fine rice vermicelli" as they are often translated, are little square "mats" of rice vermicelli.  To eat this dish, you take a piece of lettuce, line it with a noodle square, then load in beef in vine leaves, carrot, mint etc before dunking in seasoned fish sauce.  These were good but you can get fatter, juicer bo la lot around (try Sapa Hills).

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In Anglo Australia, you have meat n' three veg.  In Vietnam, you have veg n' three meat!  This special chicken broken rice is a new take on the standard com tam dac biet.  There's the runny-yolked fried egg, the bi (shredded pork skin) and steamed pork cake, but instead of the usual pork chop, there are two juicy grilled chicken fillets PLUS bonus Chinese sausage slices.  This meat love-in comes on top of lots of broken rice, with a bowl of broth on the side and one or two bits of token cucumber.  Highly recommended, even if it's not super cheap at $15.

If you want to see the menu, you can do so on Thanh Vinh's Facebook page right here.  But all you really need to do is order the beef coleslaw.  Order the special chicken broken rice.  Order whatever other special takes your fancy.  Eat.  Smile.  Repeat.  Thanh Vinh, welcome to the 'hood.

Thanh Vinh
152 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone:  9077 9098
Open:  Daily 10am - 9.30pm

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New dishes at Sapa Hills, Footscray

I've been trying to think of a fancy way to say it.  But sometimes the simplest is the best.  I love Sapa Hills.  Let me count the ways.

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I've always felt a certain connection to Sapa.  It opened not long after I started blogging, and despite being Footscray Vietnamese restaurant number 5,002 (or that's what it felt like), quickly became one of the most popular in the strip.

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I love the food but I equally love the staff and the way they put paid to the taciturn Asian waiter stereotype.  They are really friendly and always appreciate one's feeble attempts to pronounce Vietnamese words.

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I should do a quick disclaimer here, but it's not really much of one.  I have written about Sapa Hills a number of times in published articles, and they were an integral part of the Rickshaw Run earlier this year.  But they are probably also my most blogged-about restaurant (this will make post number four) - I write about them because I genuinely love them. 

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Recently a number of new dishes have popped up on the menu, so this time, the beef in vine leaves got put to one side and the crab spring rolls ($13) stepped in.  These are similar to Sapa's Ha Noi-style spring rolls in that they are wrapped in rice paper, not wheat wrappers, making them devilishly crackly.  You can definitely taste the crab in the mix, along with rice vermicelli and black mushroom.  Nice but I'd be just as happy with the bo la lot.

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Just a simple vegie soup ($5.50) to contribute to my five a day.  Simple, cleansing, mighty fine.

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Some old dishes have made way for the new, but Sapa would never, ever take off this one.  It's practically their raison d'etre.  It's bun cha Ha Noi - two types of marinated, chargrilled pork (strips and little patties), with tangy dressing, rice noodles and herbs ($13).  Layer it in a bowl, douse with dressing and eat.  So incredibly amazingly wow.

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I really wanted to try the green apple salad with crocodile fillet and the fish with Hanoi-style fresh tomato sauce, but the new dish we went for was the lamb cutlets in honey pepper sauce ($25).  This was awesome - the lamb really tender, rich, sweet and completely gnaw-able.  Underneath was a lovely saute of spring onion, regular onion and lettuce that had soaked up all the lovely stock and juices.  I prefer my broc a bit crunchier though - this was pretty soft.

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I went back another day for a classic - beef fried rice noodle (dried) ($12).  Always look for that "dry" or "dried" in brackets (or "khĂ´" in Vietnamese) to get the right dish, otherwise you will get a thick, glutinous sauce.  I am mildly obsessed with this dish.  It has only the slightest lick of sauce but the flavour is so concentrated.  A lot of it comes from the char of the searing hot wok it's cooked in.  This is a Cantonese-style dish and can be found in various guises from Hong Kong to Singapore (where it might be known as beef hor fun).  Sapa's version is excellent.

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A lot of Sapa's magic comes from owner Long.  He is a total professional and an all-round lovely bloke.  It's always wonderful to see a successful small business, but I'm extra happy to see Sapa doing so well, because I think Long and his wife Ha genuinely put their hearts into what they do.  And that is something you may not be able to smell or touch - but it's something you can definitely taste.

Sapa Hills on Urbanspoon

Sapa Hills
112 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone: 9687 5729

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Plume, Maribyrnong

I find midweek yum cha so deliciously naughty.  It's like an afternoon nap, or a bath before noon.

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Plume, just outside the Highpoint shopping complex, do yum cha daily.

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Things started off well with really good ham sui gok.  Very delicate fried skin gave way to soft glutinous rice dough, with a sweet pork and mushroom filling.

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But Plume had peaked too early.  All the dumplings were just all right.  The siu mai (prawn and pork were OK, very chunky, perhaps too much so.  The har gao (prawn) and prawn and chive were mushy.

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Didn't like the char siu bao - the pork and sauce had an odd, overly floral taste.

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Ordered these prawn rice rolls which were soggy and just looked like they had no love in them.

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We didn't have dessert.  I didn't have high hopes.  And that is what the fish are for, anyway.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brother Nancy

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You know those stories about women who go turn up at the doctor's with a touch of heartburn, and the doc tells them they're nine months pregnant?  Who the bloody hell are they, I want to know.  How can you withstand forty (plus) gruelling weeks of cankles, mood swings and twelve wee breaks a night without noticing that something was cooking in the oven?  (Obviously I do not adore being pregnant!)  But I kind of feel like one of those completely oblivious (and perhaps lucky) chicks when I was told there was a new cafe opening on Essex Street.  The Essex Street I drive or walk down at least once per day.  How could I have not known?!

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Of course, if you have a bath and a baby pops out, that would be somewhat of a shock.  Realising there is somewhere with a classically trained French chef and Proud Mary coffee just a hop, skip and a jump away was equally a shock - and just as equally a delightful one.  WeFolk, meet your new family member, Brother Nancy.

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Firstly, I LOVE the name.  So fresh and cute!  Although there are a few Melbourne cafe tropes like succulents in jars and a communal table, the interior doesn't have a cookie-cutter Melbourne cafe feel.  There's a real freshness in the slightly unusual wooden chairs, the interesting parquet-style woodwork on the bench, and the little pops of green on the clock, the stools or the espresso cups.

Now, Melbourne.  I know you probably want to see some #yolkporn.  You probably want to see some smashed avo.  (Maybe you don't.  I know I couldn't care less if I ever ate another serve of sodding smashed avocado with effing Meredith feta.)  But - Brother Nancy have BEEF TARTARE.  That is crazy impressive for a cafe in the deep heart of West Footscray.

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It is also one of my favourite things in the entire world, and this one was incredible.  It's 100% raw beef, and here it's given a little bit of an Asian spin by being ever so gently spiked with sesame and Thai basil.  I know people like to go on about food being sexy, which normally I absolutely cannot stand - what is sexy about a cake?  A bowl of pasta? - but this beef tartare was so silky, so smooth and supple, it was a seriously sexy meal.  My only complaint is such a studly dish deserves a plate mate with a bit more personality than mesclun mix (I told this to the owner - in between swoons).

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The rest of the menu is really interesting.  There are some potential crowd-pleasers (like the "fish and chip burger - brioche bun, cos, aioli") but there's also a watermelon and tomato gazpacho, and the "Chapin breakfast" with fried plantains, scrambled eggs and black beans.  The chef, Jordi, is French, "has travelled the world" and has previously worked at Philippe Mouchel's PM24.  His specialty is desserts.  Ooh la la!

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I had a chat with very proud dad Leigh.  He has a background in design, and lives locally.  He said he is determined to keep prices reasonable (the tartare was $14.50, which is crazy good) and also to make families feel welcome.  (There are kiddy breakfast options like a soft-boiled egg and a ham & cheese toastie.)

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Coffee is Proud Mary and quite good - maybe could have been a touch less hot, just to let the sweet milk really mingle with the evidently quality coffee.  But this will still be the first of many.

Leigh, Jordi and team are open tomorrow prior to their official opening day, this Saturday at 7am.  Go easy on 'em, WeFo!

Brother Nancy (Facebook page)
182 Essex Street, West Footscray
Hours:  Wed-Mon 7am-4.30pm (closed Tues, but check this with them!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

COMING SOON - Nuevo Latino, West Footscray + Barkly Village Showcase

Remember Besito?  For newer WeFolk, this was a Colombian cafe that was open for about a year a year or so ago, and brought beautiful white corn arepas and Five Senses coffee to Barkly Street.  Sadly it closed (for family reasons, I believe).  But we are going to get another chance to bring some South American sunshine into our lives (and bellies) - Nuevo Latino is opening soon!


So, here's the goss.  Nuevo Latino will be opening soon in the old Cafe Bianco premises.  The folks behind it are the Rodriguez family, namely brothers Salvador (aka Sal) and Juan, plus their mum.  They are originally from El Salvador and have run a successful Latin American catering business in Melbourne for a number of years.  Sal tells me they are the official caterer for a number of Melbourne's central and south American consulates.  That's a pretty big endorsement!

Sal tells me they are really excited to take up residence at Bianco Cafe.  "We loved the vibe of Phil, the previous owner, who would feed the poor by giving soup," he tells me.  In the same spirit, Nuevo Latino will have a suspended coffee scheme (a voluntary system where you can pay in advance for someone in need's coffee - read more here).  "We still want to keep that community feel," says Sal.  In terms of decor, a graffiti artist is coming from Colombia to decorate the beer garden with "an Aztec or a Mayan feel".


And the menu?  It's not locked down yet, but Sal told me of inspiration from "Nuevo Latino"-style cooking from Miami, which embraces a modern spin on traditional central- and south-American recipes.  His partner is Japanese, so there might be some Japanese-El Salvadorean fusion going on!


Neuvo Latino's big launch is on November 6th, but if you can't wait till then, you should check out the Barkly Village Showcase, happening on Wednesday October 29th.  This has been put together by Col Cameron, local resident, comedian and MC.  He runs the Barkly Village Facebook page and says, "I created the page because I live close to the short strip and felt that it could be so much livelier.  My dream is to have all the restaurants regularly posting their specials for locals each week.  I also want the restaurants to work together on events to liven up the area."


Tickets are $60 and include:

*  A three-course dinner, with each course at a different Barkly Village restaurant.  It's a lucky dip, with punters learning the location of their first restaurant two days before the event, and then being guided "to their second mystery restaurant and the same for dessert".  Participating restaurants include 540 on Barkly, Thai Angels, Hyderabad Inn, Akshaya Sweets and Chat, Magic Momo Kafe, Gusto at Barkly and Nuevo Latino.

*  A donation to Soulhouse Men's Cooking Program, a cooking program run by the West Footscray Neighbourhood House which "responds to a keen interest among local rooming house men in coming together each week to develop their skills in the kitchen in order to provide nourishing meals, both for themselves and others". 

PLUS

*  All restaurants will be hosting live entertainment...

*  Nuevo Latino will serve savoury and sweet tapas throughout the night to all patrons as they move between restaurants and courses...

*  Non-restaurants on the strip will be contributing prizes and gift bags to be won throughout the night...

*  Two Birds in Spotswood will bring their "mobile brewing station" !

To purchase tickets, head to TryBooking.  I have no financial association with this event - I just think it's a great idea.

Also make sure to like Barkly Village on Facebook to stay up to date with the strip.  You can also get all the news and updates from Nuevo Latino right here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

COMING SOON - Littlefoot bar, Footscray

Westies - buckle up your boots.  A bar in downtown Footscray is COMING SOON!

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Il Paesano, the rather down-at-heel pizza shop, is currently being transformed into Littlefoot.  This new bar will feature acoustic live music, "high-end bar food and share plates", "boutique and craft beers", wines and cocktails!

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The brains behind the 'foot are Stuart and Liana.  They are residents of the inner west, own The Idea Collective in Nicholson St (a creative co-working space) and previously ran Bebida Bar & Cafe in Smith Street (2003 to 2013, and shown above).

Stu and Liana are really passionate about the area and all the riches on offer.  Stu was one of my amazing Rickshaw Run volunteers this year, coming down three times over the weekend (including once at the last minute) and eventually running one of the rickshaw-pulling teams.

They say:  "We have a love and respect for the many cultures in the past and present of Footscray and our menu will be influenced by and pay homage to them...  We believe a hospitality venue should enrich the area it is in.  It is fed by the community but also strengthens, supports and nourishes it."

The name is inspired both by the above - "little Footscray" - but also reflects Stu and Liana's commitment to sustainability and minimising their environmental footprint - "little footprint".

But when, when, WHEN you say?  The permits are slowly chugging their way through Council but the goal is late November.

I cannot wait to see these guys put the foot in Footscray!  Bring it on!


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