Thursday, June 28, 2012

Common Galaxia


Like the silvery native fish that gives it its name, the exterior of Common Galaxia may blend into its surroundings, but step inside and you will see how fresh and unique it is.

This is the second venture for the owners of South Melbourne's Dead Man Espresso, one of Melbourne's most renowned coffee-centric cafes.  Although I have heard there are also practical reasons behind the move to these premises, I do think the fact that an already iconic business from the other side of the river should choose Seddon as a viable site for its next venture is yet another signpost in the inner west's evolution.


The coffee's serious business here, but still accessible.  The Seven Seeds house blend is broken down into its regional components and complemented by a guest blend (today from Market Lane) plus another for pourover (above).


Luscious latte love.  Each table has a little caddy on the side for salt, pepper, cutlery and the menu, folded up like a love note.

The menu has cut the apron strings of build-your-own breakfasts and is completely awesome.  Think pikelets with apple curd and dulce de leche, and baked eggs - yes, I know, but they're with chorizo made with Warialda Beef (think Beatrix's Rachael!) or four types of braised bitter greens.  Their namesake even makes an appearance, I think as crispy whitebait-style fish, cosying up with shaved fennel and native lemon aspen berry mayo as one of their smorrebrod offerings (open Danish sandwiches on rye).

$14.50 (plus bacon, $18)

Choosing something was the sweetest form of torture but this dish of avocado, chevre, chickpeas and pomegranate "gems" on pumpkin bread was delicious.  The bread was quite sweet, the seeds on its crust contrasting with the melt-in-your-mouth goats cheese, the tangy pop of pomegranate seeds and a side of rich, crisp streaky bacon.

The fish may be common, but this Galaxia is truly special.

Common Galaxia on Urbanspoon

Common Galaxia
Shop 3, 130 Victoria Street, Seddon
Phone:  9689 0309
Hours:  Tues-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat & Sun 8am-4pm

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monga Sweet Cafe


If you're trying to assimilate into another culture, I think breakfast is the final hurdle.  Sure, lunch and dinner can be exotica day in and day out, no sweat - but even long-term expats, faced with early morning fried noodles or rice balls, just can't stomach anything other than cornflakes or Vegemite toast.  Perhaps the second-last hurdle in food terms is dessert.  I may crave anything but meat and three veg for dinner, but I just can't see myself being hormonal and chewing Mr Baklover's ear off until he gets me a bowl of snow fungus soup.


That's why I think Bryan had a bit of trepidation bringing me to Monga, a well-hidden "dessert lounge" above Russell Street serving Hong Kong-style snacks, drinks and desserts.  I was game anyway, and it's certainly a lovely space to linger in, all dark wood and peep-hole panelling like you're in some sort of secret club.


Hong Kong has some absolutely zany dishes, the result of many cultures exerting their influence on this tiny island.  Monga have many savoury dishes that proudly feature Spam, plus fried instant noodles, the rather odd breakfast above (with hot dog sausage) and a toasted bun that Bryan describes receiving, only to find that between the slices was a slab of butter about half an inch thick.

Mushroom and steamed chicken on rice double boiling set, $10.50

We went for a double-boiled chicken and mushroom dish.  The way I understand it, double boiling means the ingredients are placed in a sealed vessel that is then placed in a pot of heated water.  There's no direct flame on the ingredients themselves, making for an extremely gentle style of cooking.  This dish was quite fabulous, with tender pieces of chicken in a light but delicious marinade, plus fat shiitake mushrooms on well-cooked white rice.  The accompanying sauce, a very light, thin soy, complemented it perfectly.


Delicious milky iced tea - far less tannic than Singaporean/Malaysian teh tarik.  This was included in the price of the chicken and mushroom dish above.

Papaya poached in almond sweet soup, $7

Scary dessert time!  Bryan had another double-boiled dish, papaya pieces in almond milk.  I loved the almond milk - sweet and refreshing with a light marzipan flavour - and the tender almond kernels floating in it.  The papaya didn't taste ripe though and did nothing much for the dish.

Black sesame rice ball with ginger sweet soup, $7

I went for rice balls with my choice of black sesame, in a ginger syrup.  They were fantastic!  The glutinous rice dough is tender but intriguingly sticky to the tooth, while the black sesame paste is nutty, very sweet and pleasantly textured.  The ginger syrup felt nourishing, sweet but with good ginger heat.


Upon leaving, we spied this so we HAD to go upstairs - wouldn't you?!


Bryan loves the upstairs here as it reminds him of an old Hong Kong-style gambling den...


...and in fact, Monga's menu even includes your choice of game!


If you feel like coffee and cake in the city after dark, rather than settle for a tired baklava and bad coffee on Lonsdale Street, turn the corner and ascend to Monga.  I wasn't sure if iced tea and glutinous rice balls would hit the spot, but it turns out they really did.

Monga Sweet Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monga Sweet Cafe
Level 1, 217 Russell Street, City
Hours:  11.30 am - 3 am, 7 days

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Safari Restaurant

So the other day, talking about Italy 528, I mused about where Australia would be without Italian food.  Now I realise I was a bit limited in my scope.  Where would the world be without Italian food?  Somali cuisine in particular would be in dire straits.  Let me explain.


Somalia has a long and rich history.  It straddles both sides of the Horn of Africa which juts out into the sea, forming a harbour of sorts with the lower part of the Arabian Peninsula.  Over time its cuisine has been influenced by its Yemeni neighbours across the narrow sea, its spice trade with India and its period under Italian colonial rule.


Pull up a chair and you'll soon be presented with this fabulous broth for starters.  It's zingy with citrus tang, rich and meaty without being at all overpowering and incredibly good.  The delicious chilli sauce is for stirring in if you're game.


For drinks there's non-alcoholic beer above or this delicious cordial-like drink, Vimto, almost like Ribena but with strawberry and rose flavours.

This tip comes with big thanks to Kenny of Consider the Sauce who has been lucky enough to meet Safari owner Mohamed properly.  He is so friendly and, when confronted by my dad's daggiest dad jokes and my subsequent cringing apologies, he smiled and said, "I love jokes.  If everybody laughed, the world would be a happy place".  We asked him to design a Somali feast for us.

Mandy lamb

This is Safari's most popular dish - scented rice, each grain glistening and separate, served with fabulous, lemon-scented lamb pieces.  The lamb pulled from the bone perfectly as if slow cooked, but still had a tasty pan-fried crisp exterior.

Suqaar with jabati

Here you can see the Indian influence with Somalai "jabati" (ie, chapati).  The suqaar was tender lamb pieces and lightly cooked vegies in a divine, lightly spiced gravy.  The bread was good but quite dense, as if it needed faster cooking on a higher heat to make it puff up more.

Fadareshin with chicken

One half of our Fadareshin (from "federation"?) - more lovely seasoned rice plus "spegheti", spaghetti cooked just past al dente (but not unpleasantly so) with an intriguing sauce of tomato and cumin.  Surprisingly delicious!


Excellent chicken to go with our rice and noodles, juicy, tender and teasing effortlessly from the bone.  Loving the gently-cooked onion, carrot and green capsicum on both plates too.


What an awesome intro to Somali food!  From one culinary melting pot to another, Safari is a winning addition to the edible Melbourne map.

Thank you so much Kenny & Bennie for the awesome tip - check out their visits here and here.

Safari on Urbanspoon

Safari Restaurant
159 Union Road, Ascot Vale
Phone:  9372 7175
Hours:  Daily 10 am-midnight

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Eating your greens isn't so hard when they're tucked next to a tamale at Los Latinos!  The deadline for ticket sales is fast approaching, so whether you're lean, keen or big and bountiful get in quick (book here).  Coming very soon too is a VERY EXCITING development for Footscray Food Blog - think reader dinners with "secret", authentic, home-style menus.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Italy 528

Isn't it remarkable the way in which Italy and her cuisine has entwined itself with Australian food?  Pizza, pasta and that most Australian of dishes, the chicken parma.  I do love a greasy Friday night pizza but sometimes it is best to remember that authentic Italian pizza is a separate delight altogether.

Table copy

Italy 528 is a specialist pizzeria, turning out pizze, salads and antipasti under a sepia-toned image of Rome's Spanish steps.

P1040610 - Version 2

The day was Mothers' Day, and Italy 528 do a lovely Bellini, perfect for lunchtime tippling - if only so you can have four, rather than two.  They're a sort of champagne cocktail with peach nectar and Prosecco.


Pizzas clock in at around $20.  They're quite sizeable and are cooked in a wood-fired oven to produce bendy, bubbled bases.

Pizza della Nonna, $13

I never like mentioning freebies, but this was such a nice gesture I have to.  As it was Mothers' Day, every table (not just us) got a pizza della Nonna, or Grandma's pizza.  The tomato sauce was super thick and rich with real homemade flavour.

Pizza Reginella (San Daniele prosciutto, buffalo mozz and rocket), $23

Love the combo of salty, pleasantly wizened strips of prosciutto with almost acrid fresh rocket.  Unlucky for me, all the shards of fresh mozzarella were eaten by the proprietor of this pizza.  West 48 have recently occasionally had a great special of a huge fresh mozzarella ball with tomatoes and bread.  The cheese is so incredibly sweet - you could eat it with chocolate sauce as a dessert.

Pizza Boscaiola (fontina, fior de latte, porcini and portobello), $20

This was my pick, and while I am a huge fungi-phile I found this slow going.  It was just a bit monotonous, but would be great if you were sharing.

Pizza Soppressa (Soppressa, olives, provolone, fior de latte), $20

This worked perfectly, the premium salami crisping up at the edges and exuding lovely umami oils.

Pizza Diavola (hot salami), $19

This was my sister's.  We have an unofficial tradition of me ordering odd things while she sticks to the classics.  I have a memory of me always ordering pistachio gelato or something else unusual to try to be different while she got chocolate, and then me inevitably wheedling her out of half of her bowl because I didn't like my experimental flavour.  True to form, her one-ingredient, super-simple pizza was excellent and my mushroom version, despite being draped in truffle oil, paled in comparison.

Pizza Napoletana (anchovies, capers, olives), $19

A classic in every sense - the flavours of southern Italy done simply and perfectly.

Pizza Pugliese (smoked buffalo mozz, onions, anchovies), $20

Also an apparently southern taste - from Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot, the best pizza of the day was this smoky, sweet and intense combo of smoked cheese, melty onions and anchovies.  Best pizza, worst photo - what you gonna do.


It feels very authentic here, from the Italian mama overseeing service right down to Felce Azzurra soap in the (spotless) bathroom and good espresso with Italian sugar packets.


The best, best tip, I think, is their Pizza A Giro for lunch on the last Sunday of the month.  For a mere $30 you get all the top-notch pizza you can eat, I believe in the sense that they bring them out and you take a slice, until you can eat no more - plus wine, coffee and home-made biscotti.  What a great way to try a little bit of everything - and no need to steal your sister's pizza.

Italy 528 on Urbanspoon

528 Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale
Phone:  9372 7528
Hours:  Tues-Sat 6pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-3pm

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Friday, June 8, 2012

A Bongiovanni & Son


I went to school with a girl called Julie Buongiorno.  Could you get a better name?  Rhythmic, upbeat and happy.  Certainly almost as cheery is the name A. Bongiovanni, or maybe it's just the delighted mood this brand new supermarket has put Seddon residents in.


Firstly, "supermarket" isn't really the right term.  There's no toilet paper or Spray n' Wipe here - produce store is perhaps a better descriptor.


Organic fruit and vegies (bummer about the packaging!  At least the bases are recyclable).


Key-ooooot packs of unique-variety spuds...

P1040846 an impressive loose range including Dutch Creams, kipflers and more.  (Love this new trend of supermarkets having something other than just white and red potatoes.  I have even seen Dutch Creams in Coles.)


Organic beef!  And best of all, not nothing but organic porterhouse and eye fillet with correspondingly eye-watering price tags - there's organic blade and chuck, cheap(er) and perfect for the slow cooker.


Cheeses galore, many from smaller-scale producers.  Around the corner are cheddars in fetching wax blankets plus fresh bocconcini and mozzarella.  A bummer is that there's no actual deli counter - everything, including hams and olives, are prepacked.


Like, if they didn't stock khorasan twists, I was totally, like, going to boycott them.  (It's some sort of ancient grain.)


When Jalna just isn't enough - an incredible variety of small producer yoghurts, including a hard-to-find favourite of mine, Coyo, which is 100% coconut milk yoghurt.  It is...... utterly...... DIVINE.


Next time I have bad news, I am totally going to rent a rom com from Network Video and buy a bag of flax chips to cry into.  How can bad news be bad when you have flax chips?


But wait, there's more.  Jock's ice cream!


Gluten-free pink lamingtons!  (Pink lamingtons - yet another Ms Baklover shameful food secret.)


Yes!  (Although why not local Alligator Pasta?)






Persian fairy floss in many flavours!!!  BREATHE......BREATHE!!!


Now, some things are not cheap (refried beans for $8 can?)...


...but there are bargains - David Thompson-approved fish sauce (Megachef) plus accompanying premium oyster sauce for a meagre $2.39 a bottle.


My haul, including Careme all-butter pastry, as approved by Stephanie Alexander; mango Coyo (you MUST try this - so good); and all-natural prawn bisque from Tassie.  You don't want to know how much this cost, though.  I would take a picture of the steam emanating from my wallet, but my camera lens is too fogged up.


Despite my silly jokes, this is a very exciting, VERY welcome addition to the inner west.  If I'm not careful, it will become:


(care of the wonderful Seddon Wine Store, conveniently located opposite).

A. Bongiovanni & Son (Facebook)
176-178 Victoria Street, Seddon
Phone:  9689 8669
Hours:  Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm

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