Monday, 16 March 2015

CBA Friday at newly opened Ovest in Little India, WeFo - are we reaching saturation point?!

Ok so can we sustain yet another culinary addition to the West? When do we go from "oh wow, we're so spoilt for choice" to "fuck it, I just want some takeout and something mindless on the box"! We may very well be closer to that precipice than we think.

There is such a thing as sensory overload; and the mere act of having to decide and choose between a multitude of options can be inherently stressful, leading to almost paralysing bouts of anxiety. The Tyranny of Choice, or the Paradox of Choice as some behavourial economists have termed it. We will all need our very own Choice Architects (believe it or not, they actually exist!) to guide us through this consumerist maelstrom.

It does help if your final choice is an experience that is completely new, as it was with Ovest, a recent addition to the Barkly Street, WeFo set - a Pizza Bar with a fairly decent wine list and some interesting topping choices.

The joint was already pumping when we got there, but they were happy to fit us in if we could be done in an hour's time. Not really intending to have a languid boozy affair (hello married?), we decided to take the option and sat down to an amazing glass of wine which made us instantly regret our decision.

It was the Negroamaro, Matane (2013) from Puglia, which at $7.00 a glass is one of the cheaper options on the winelist. We could have easily sat there nursing a bottle of this red, amidst the frantic yet convivial clangour, in an interior with some slightly odd, almost unfinished design accents.

Bottom line is you basically come for the pizza at this joint so there's a limit to the refinery!! There are some interesting starters to be had, and some dubious options amongst the kids menu - the slightly morose blonde one at the table next door clearly was not impressed with his cannelloni which frankly looked an unsavoury orange mess.

If you're thinking that you're "man" enough to stomach an entire pizza on your own, let me warn you that the pizzas are large!! Although we managed to finish off one each, regret was waiting round the corner on our sofa!

I opted for the Prawn blond base, with zucchini, chilli, mint, ricotta and fior di latte ($21). I may be wrong, but I think the first time I ever had a Pizza Bianchi of any description was at Gusto's just a little further up the road. Since then I've tended to prefer the slightly fresher base to the richness of slow cooked tomato sauce. The mix of flavours on my pizza was spot on, with no individual ingredient overpowering the other. And I loved the slight charriness to some of the zucchini pieces, and the subtle hint of mint was a great touch. Definitely a recommend.

M went for something off the specials list (he generally does I now realise) - Spicy Pork Sausage, with Fior Di Latte, tomato suggo, jalapeno and prosciutto ($21). A slightly richer offering (also another M proclivity); the pork sausage was beautifully herby and the suggo provided a nice almost fruity hit! And there was bird's eye chillies amongst all that Jalapeno giving this a real scoville kick!

Ovest definitely warrants a second visit, particularly as we enter the cooler months, and a nice hit of carbs is more than welcome. And certainly a return visit for that Negoramaro if nothing else - and who knows what other hidden treasures on the list!

Ovest on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Up up and away, in my beautiful balloon

Ok so this nearly landed in front of our house.

We were getting ready for another dreary day at work when we heard an odd whooshing sound outside - couldn't work out if it was a plane, or a car or bike - it had the sound of a motorised vehicle of sorts but we couldn't figure it out.

When you reside off the confluence of 2 busy roads and under flight paths, you tend to block out some of the sudden clicks, bumps and pops that form the aural soundtrack of inner city living.

But this sounded unusual, so we went outside for a steaky beak, and there it was - a big hot air balloon, so low you could just about reach out and shake the hands of its occupants.

Maybe one day I'll make it up there - well if I can drag myself out of bed early enough and find spare cash lying around!

Friday, 6 March 2015

No I don't speak Jamaican and I'm not phonologizing either! CBA Friday at Bax Food Co, Seddon

Ok so does anyone remember Gravy Train from the pre-million dollar property days? It used to be one of the rare modern style cafes along this strip of Gamon Street in ... is it still Seddon or Yaraville at this juncture? We went there once, and never went back.

Well Seddon/Yaraville is now so crowded with gastronomic choices that the everyday fish and chip/milkbar burger has now become a rarefied luxury. One lazy Saturday afternoon brunching at Lady Moustache, we first noticed that the Greens had vacated their charmingly rustic (i.e. gradually shifting sideways) workers cottage. Then we noticed that Gravy Train was no longer and windows had been papered up sheltering the premise's new tenants in preparation for the big reveal!

After a little eugooglizing, the Westie interwebs rumour mill informed us that our snazzy hood was getting its first Jamaican restaurant. As a big fan of a good old spicy smoky jerk anything I was excited.

So when it opened we jumped at the chance of sampling the wares at Bax Food Co. Let me just preface this by saying that the hospitality gods have not been smiling down on us of late. We have had so many forgotten orders, inept service experiences, understocked menus of late, that its hard not to question our loosening grip on humanity. Unfortunately, Bax Food Co didn't quite help to change our losing streak.

The evening started off well. The open front courtyard has been preserved in a fashion and as it was a reasonably cool night, we were glad to be sat outside. A la Pappa Rich, each table has a tin with paper menus and pencils for you to tick your order off. But I think teething problems may have prevented them from sticking to their misguided workflow, and table service was provided instead.

When we visited they were still in the process of obtaining a liquor licence, but there were a number of fruit punch like drinks on offer. To get into the spirit of things, I opted for the watermelon which in its spritzy mixture had a very nostalgic and familiar flavour to me. M's had some kind of passionfruit nonsense, a fruit that I truly despise as it combines 2 of the worst things I find in food - slimy and supertart! He liked it which really is all that matters.

The menu is designed to be shared - a little tapas-y in construct. Once they get their liquor licence, you could go to town on this!

We decided to go for 2 selections from the Larger Boss Grub section on the menu. We placed our orders and settled into some heavy conversation as we were both extremely dejected about things at work. We didn't really notice the time flying. Then we were distracted by a couple of our friends walking their dog and we went out for a quick but long overdue catchup, which pushed the hands round the clock a little bit more.

When that was all done with, there was nothing further to distract from our rumbling tummies. And the stress levels began to creep up as the tables round us started emptying and filling up again. Then a side of Cassava chips was delivered gratis with an apology for the wait. That helped to appease the Roti Road flashbacks somewhat as the Cassava chips were delicious!! You must order a serve when you go! It came with a sticky green sauce perfumed by the sweetness of Jalapeno (I think) and pretty soon we were dunking and crunching no more as the box* switfly emptied.

We then had to prompt the waitress to see where the rest of our meal was. She returned to say that it would be no more than another 10 minutes. So I set the timer on my phone ... YES! I have turned into one of those people!! I am secretly mortified and ashamed ... but in the heat of the moment, all bets are off. But guess what! To the very second of those 10 minutes, our mains actually arrived!

But, and this is one of my many pet peeves, they had run out of one of the elements on the Jerk Platter we ordered, and simply replaced it with another item without first checking!! Thankfully for their sake, they replaced the Chicken Wings (and if you know me, you know how much I love my chicken wings!!) with an extra piece of their Jerk Roast Corn with coconut and jerk Mayo which was heaven!! And would have been way too hard to share. So our Jerk Platter ($25) came with Jerk Chicken, Pork Ribs, and 2 pieces of Jerk corn.

I almost want to say jerk is as jerk is, mainly because I like the sound of it. But the jerk was nigh on perfect for me. The right amount of smokiness with a hint of spice and the rub was well and trully cooked out. There was also a tamarindy sweetness in one of the sauces that worked very well with the rest of the flavours of the jerk. The corn was something else! Grilled almost to the point of slightly beyond burnt - it would never pass muster on Masterchef, but it certainly passed easily down the gullet!!

Our second main was the Doubles, served with Chick Pea, Potato, side condiments and Saffron Bread ($15). Doubles is like an empanada of sorts, or a rather mangled curry puff - well the version served here anyways. The Chickpea mixture was beautifully balanced and extremely moreish. Yet another highlight of a dish. But probably something best shared as its a little heavy, and just a few mouthfuls is sufficient without one becoming jelak - which is a great Malay word used to describe being sick of a flavour.

As it turned out, or as it was explained to us rather, they had someone call in sick in the kitchen just before doors opened. And I understand that and appreciate that they were honest about the situation. They more than made up for the delays with some amazing food. And such an interesting menu well deserves a repeat visit.

Bax Food Co on Urbanspoon
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