Since Taste of Melbourne, I have always wanted to go back to Maha. So finally I drafted Maya, Sharon and Tong to head there for a really good nosh on a Monday night.
(table salt and spices)
Maha, as it turned out, was literally about 50 metres from the building I work in. Yep. I love my work building. It’s official. Strangely enough there was no sign outside. We suspected it was covered up while being redone. I had made a booking for the four of us but Josh unexpectedly finished early so he joined us as well. Amazingly enough (seriously why AM I still amazed?) the place was almost booked out. We were seated in the middle of the dining room almost cornered by two big corporate tables (and this is the only thing I miss about my old job – massive entertainment budget).
(our welcome drink – the hibiscus tea)
The sufra was pushed rather heavily and I was disinclined to go with the sufra choice because I wanted to try a la carte. But unfortunately, the majority ruled me out. We decided to go with the 4-course sufra ($65 each), which meant no choice in the matter. We were asked whether we had any dietary restrictions which were catered for. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful. They took the time to explain each of the dishes when they were served. We were given a tiny shot of hibiscus tea as a welcome drink. We drink a lot of it in Thailand so it’s not as exotic for me as others.
(the lethal cocktail – $18)
Let me talk a bit about the lethal cocktail: it almost killed me the next day. I couldn’t remember for the life of me what was in it other than ‘oooh that sounds good, I’ll have that!’ It was the special on that night and it tasted absolutely fabulous. But I suffered for it the next day. Yep. I only had one.
(clockwise: lamb kibbeh in dressing, grilled eggplants, grilled Swiss brown musrooms)
Our entree arrived on a board wooden board. We were given a pile of warm Lebanese bread to share. A row of shot glasses, each containing a single lamb kibbeh (I think).
(lamb kibbeh in dressing)
The meatball was absolutely delicious. Everyone at the table had a little bite and all of us thought it was fabulous. This was definitely something I could have more of! The grilled mushrooms and eggplants were also excellent
(clockwise: grilled & marinated eggplants, lamb kibbeh, hummus, carrot & yoghurt dip)
The platter also came with two well-made hummus and carrot and yoghurt dip. To be honest, I can’t remember much about these two. Other than that they were good but not outstanding.
(clockwise: hummus, assorted olives)
The assortment of olives confused me somewhat. I wasn’t used to those tiny little olives and thought they were beans of sorts. So I took a spoonful of them and found a whole bunch of little pips in my mouth. Well that was awkward!
Our second course (yep, we’re only just onto the second course) consisted of these large beautifully golden, crispy prawns. My god they were so good. They were wrapped in some sort of very fine noodles and then deep fried served with what I vaguely recall to be saffron mayonaise (but I could be wrong, the cocktail). The shells were so crispy, I ate the whole prawns, heads and tails.
(Maha lamb kustilji – roasted lamb ribs with spices and nuts)
The second of our second course was the famous Maha lamb ribs. If it’s not famous, it ought to be. The lamb ribs were crisp on the outside and yet meltingly tender on the inside. It was topped with nuts and spices and a bit of yoghurt. Heaven.
And then our main courses arrived. Yep. If you ever want to spend $65 for a whole bunch of really fabulous food, Maha is definitely for you. In fact, get 8 of your mates and make a group booking which will then make it $50 per person. Anyway, back to the lamb which was gorgeous. It was tender and the pistachio and tabbuleh really complimented it well. One complaint about this dish though is that it didn’t arrive hot so towards the end of our main, the fat started solidify and it sort of got a bit yucky at the end.
Advance apologies for the crappy photo of the swordfish. Again I blame the cocktail. It was roasted/pan fried until the skin was crispy. I frankly can’t remember much about it except that it was also really good.
As sides, we received a substantial serving of noodle, pine nut, almond and rice
And crappy picture of the fattoush – which was a kid of Lebanese salad with lettuce, tomatoes and various other things. My favourite thing about it of course was the crunchy deep fried Lebanese bread that was in it. I always find fattoush strangely too lemony on occasions and this one was no different. It did go along perfectly with the fish and the rice.
And here’s a relatively clear picture of the fish. I vaguely remember the sauce containing capers but I can’t remember. By this time, of course, we were all full of the bursting. That was a lot of food (see this is why I didn’t want the sufra! Too much food!). And because I’m generally not a dessert person, I figured I can just take it easy on the dessert until this magnificent display arrived!
First there was the famous Maha doughnuts (again, if it’s not famous now, it should bloody be). It was warm and crunchy and filled with sweet rosy Turkish delight syrup. Despite finding it rather sweet, I found myself going for seconds.
Seriously good. In fact, I’m under the impression that you should just go to Maha and really appreciate their dessert and it would all be worth it.
The watermelon and mint salad sat rather nicely with the sweet doughnuts. Great palate cleanser. The pudding to the right, however, was much more awesome (poor watermelon, how could you compete?). It was yoghurty penna-cotta type thing topped with honeycomb. It had quince jam in the middle. Delicious.
Lemon and chocolate sorbet. It was good but didn’t float my boat. Why would it? When this was on offer!
This rice pudding was fabulous. It was creamy and it had some sort of rosewater-scented fruit filling. I couldn’t work out (or remember) what it was but it was my favourite dessert out of the whole lot. The crunchy brulee topping was just perfect. So good!
Baklava – apparently Maya reckoned it was the best baklava she ever had but I was too inundated with all these yummy desserts I didn’t give it too much thought.
Maha had my many many votes for the night. Beautifully stunning food, great service and 5 minute walk from work. What more could I ask for?
Maha Bar & Grill, 21 Bond Street, Melbourne VIC 3000