56 Chapel St
03 9521 4141
I am a fan of Greg Malouf. This probably started when I attended one of his cooking courses a few years ago. He stood up the front of the class, like a kind father, patiently instilling a love for food in his children. He spoke passionately about food and his travels through the Middle East. By the end of the course, we wanted to become food stylists and live in Turkey.
Not long after this, I tried Mama Ganoush – a new (at the time) restaurant that Greg had opened with his brother Geoff. I remembered it as a delicious meal in a lively atmosphere. When I went back last Friday, it had changed.
No one expects to get into a good restaurant at last minute on a Friday night. If you do happen to get a table, then you start to think, ‘what’s wrong?’ and ‘why isn’t this place popular?’
Mama Ganoush was quiet last Friday, but luckily the food and service were as good as I remembered. We were seated near the front of the restaurant as the waiter went through the specials in an overly polite tone. I was envious of his art for describing food in mouth-watering ways. We shared dishes, making sure there were enough vegetarian ones in the mix.
Falafels are a common filler for vegetarians when it comes to Middle Eastern food, so these were naturally ordered. Dripping in tahina, the falafels were warm, moist and herbed but not a stand-out.
The cheese sambousiks were very enjoyable with buttery filo pastry and smooth cheese flavoured with fresh thyme. The presentation was simple, but with our tourist and blogger cameras out, the presentation somehow seemed to be enliven for the rest of the dishes.
When the mussaka arrived, we were confused about what it was – mussaka or the rice chicken dish? It seemed strange to have a mussaka with rice and without the characteristic cheesy sauce. It had been oven baked in the dish so that the rice was light and a bit crunchy on the sides. The blend of rice, tomato and eggplant was very tasty. It was different but I really enjoyed this one.
When the waiter returned and described desserts in the most enticing way possible, I could not help but order the ice-cream. The others shared the dessert platter, which the waiter kindly extended to serve three so that we could all have a taste.
The ice-cream flavours of the night were espresso, halva and berry with rose. The espresso flavour had a thick velvety texture. The halva was interesting and subtly flavoured. The berry was my favourite – intensely creamy with the flavours of fresh berries and a hint of rose on the end. On top was a crisp, lemon-flavoured tuile.
From the platter, the baklava was my favourite. The three of us shared dessert well (each had a different favourite from the three served). The pannacotta was slightly sour with yoghurt but balanced out by a berry coulis. I didn’t get to try the Turkish delight but was overdosed on sugar by this stage.
It was a lovely meal, worthy for a celebration. Whilst the atmosphere was subdued compared to my last visit a couple of years ago, the food was still delicious.