Monday 30 June 2008

When you're good to Mama...

Mama Ganoush
56 Chapel Street, Windsor (map)
9521 4141

Mama Ganoush

The appearance of favourable reviews of Mama Ganoush (complete with beguiling photographs of dreamy starry interiors) on Stickyfingers' and Ed's blogs late last year ensured I tucked the Windsor restaurant into a corner of my brain, ready to suggest it as a venue to try next time I found myself southside. It may have taken a while but lo and behold, best-friend-K and I were going to a 30th at the function room at the Rails just across the road, so dinner at Mama Ganoush it was!

Mama Ganoush exterior

According to the Epicure review, the restaurant is housed in a former shoe shop (the Epicure review goes on to quip: "With a thorough and stylish makeover elevating the place well beyond its Elsternwick sibling [Arabesque] in the glamour stakes, Mama looks and feels more Blahnik than Bata" - am I the only one who threw up a little reading that last phrase? What is this, the freaking Sunday Life magazine?! Did Lethlean really write that, or is it the unfortunate result of some lame copy editor trying to add a touch of "journalistic bling"? Ughh).

Anyhoo, the point is that Eric Hendry's kitchen is churning out damn fine Middle Eastern food with a modern twist, in a dark sexy restaurant that continues to be packed on weekends (five days in advance, we were only just able to squeeze in a reservation for two at the last available table). The menu has changed quite a bit from when Sticky and Ed reviewed it, so here's a sample of what's currently on offer (apologies for the poor-quality photos due to the mood lighting):

Quail with za'atar crumbs, eggplant fattouche and goat curd

Quail with za'atar crumbs, eggplant fattouche and goat curd ($17.50). I've freely admitted in the past that I don't know much about Middle Eastern cuisine, so I had to do a little googlestalking to learn that za'atar is a mixture of spices used as a condiment, and fattouche is a salad characterised by small pieces of toasted or fried pita bread. The quail was juicy and tender, and the salad was tangy and studded with pomegranate seeds, so I was happy as a sandboy.

Aleppo style 'wagyu' beef tartare, salsa harra, fresh mint and jou-jou bread

The other small dish we shared was the Aleppo style 'wagyu' beef tartare with salsa harra, fresh mint and jou-jou bread ($21). I've been reading up on Aleppo, a Syrian city which was awarded the 2005 Grand Prix of Cultural Gastronomy by the Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie in Paris - read a snappy article about Aleppo by Melbourne-Lebanese legend Greg Malouf (his brother Geoff is an owner of Mama Ganoush) here.

This dish wasn't quite what we were expecting: the construct-your-own meat, spicy salsa, fresh lettuce and mint on soft round bread topped with a pickled chilli felt a little like a posh Middle Eastern version of fajitas! That said, we really enjoyed it.

Middle Eastern spiced fried duck with honey and currant pilav, mint labne

We got one main to share: Middle Eastern spiced fried duck with honey and currant pilav, mint labne ($37), which was similar to the quail (spice-encrusted poultry with gooey deliciousness on the side - I suppose in hindsight we should have chosen something different for more variety) but it too was excellent. Loved the flavour of honey that really came through in the pilav.

Cucumber salad with sumac, chevre and pine nuts

Our side was the cucumber salad with sumac, chevre and pine nuts ($10). Simple, delicious.

Hazelnut and milk chocolate mousse, chocolate fairy floss, praline

We felt sated. That is, until we saw the dessert menu and b-f-K talked me into sharing the hazelnut and milk chocolate mousse with chocolate fairy floss, and praline ($13). I'm SO glad she did - the mousse had just the perfect amount of sweetness and richness. It turned out to be the second time that day that I'd had Persian fairy floss (I'd made JP cupcakes just that afternoon) - think I prefer the chocolate to the pistachio. And how cute is this dessert - it looks like a little toy head with a greying wig!

So all in all a rave review for Mama Ganoush from me. I want to revisit soon to try a few more dishes - the Turkish style Mussaka, the salt roasted black bream, the winter tabbouleh with chicory and red lentils... mmmmm....


Anonymous said...

Do you remember if there were many vegetarian options on the menu? The dishes you had look amazing!
Thank you!

Cazzie!!! said...

yummm, I need food now

Johanna GGG said...

that dessert is so cute - makes me wish I lived over the other side of town

claire said...

Hi julesgourmand! The vegetarian dishes currently on the menu are:
- Mezze of Syrian lentils, baba ganoush, cheesy pastries, cucumbers, olives and preserved vegetables ($22.50)
- Gozleme of wild nettles, dill and sheeps milk cheese, chestnut tarator ($17 - I was VERY tempted to try this out... wild nettles???)
- Oven baked Turkish style 'mussaka', braised eggplant, tomato pilav and cacik ($30)
- Slow cooked potatoes with Hungarian peppers, garlic and bay ($10)
- Cucumber salad with sumac, chevre and pine nuts ($10)
- Za'atar buttered cous cous, preserved lemon ($10 - yummmm!)
- Winter tabbouleh with chicory and red lentils ($10)
Let me know if you try it out! :)

Johanna, you should bear it in mind for next time you're southside... but be warned you may need to book a bit in advance for weekends!

Anonymous said...

Cool, thank you for that. It looks verrrrry interesting. I love Middle Eastern food.

Mmmm... nettles...

Anonymous said...

You have to try the bream next time .. its all salty-peppery ... I couldn't stopped picking away at the bones when I had it ...

claire said...

Sounds good, Temasek! The bream next time it shall be, thanks for the tip...

Lucy said...

Right. Going to book in for an upcoming b'day, darls. The veg options sound incredible. That winter tabbouleh ha my name written all over it.

Can I just say it was lovely to meet you 'tother day?

claire said...

Of course you can say so, Lucy! The feeling is mutual. :)

Let me know once you've been to Mama!