Wednesday, November 24, 2010
21 Bond Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Maha is the mediterranean inspired middle east restaurant in the George Calombaris empire. When it opened in 2008 it was the "it" place getting plenty of airtime in local newspapers, feature reviews in Gourmet Traveller and had plenty of buzz.
Fast forward 2 years and it is now past the initial buzz and to be honest in the few times I have been there it has been a bit ho-hum. It has been good, but nothing particularly inspirational and a bit overpriced IMHO.
Maha was almost written off in my mind as a place to go to, I am glad I gave it another go. The occasion was lunch with friends and it worked out that Maha was almost the most central for us to converge on.
Berid mezze - small cold dishes
Being lunch we opted for the 3 course soufra at $40 per person. First plate of mezze came out and it was a great start. Pickled cauliflower, eggplant, olives and confit mushrooms were all winners, but the mushrooms really stood out as tender and juicy. The minted yoghurt soup served in shot glasses was also an interesting way to start the meal.
sahen kbeer - large plates
Main courses came out and we were greeted with spiced chicken legs, perfectly cooked Kingfish served with turkish “baldo” pilaf and a Lebanese bread salad. The highlight here was the Kingfish which was lightly spiced and had a delicious meaty texture. The chicken, buried under parsley, spring onion & pomegranate seeds were served on the bone and again cooked perfectly and spiced to accentuate not kill the flavours. The sides were also a hit, the pilaf was light with a hint of sweetness, the salad was salad I guess but had clean flavours and a great accompaniment.
The most surprising aspect of the food was it was relatively cliche free - no kofta's, no tagine's, no cous cous, no hummus. I would see it as a sign of maturity and confidence to serve food inspired by the middle east but not defined by it.
Wine by the glass range was broad priced from $8-$18 which is quite reasonable and matched the food well.
helwayet - sweets
Finally we had dessert courses. I had low expectations, but the plate came out and I was again pleasantly surprised. The visually appealing aero bar with soft meringue & crème fraiche was great but the star was the Turkish delight filled donuts. These were light, covered with honey and nuts with a centre of gooey Turkish delight, not a healthy dessert, but a real stunner.
Service was good and the dining room is still very polished but think that now that the buzz is over the restaurant is working harder than ever to show that it still worth some attention. It is a good time to go and see that the buzz was justified.
Maha - 15/20
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