Dukkah Restaurant

It’s no secret by now that Middle Eastern food is one of my all-time-favourite cuisines. Dips, pickled goodies, and all the grilled meats that are on offer makes for a hearty meal any day of the week.

Egyptian food is a strand of Middle Eastern cuisine that’s a little harder to find in Melbourne, and something I’ve always been wanting to try since reading about it in one of my favourite Chinese author’s travel journal. And this is where Dukkah comes in, with its one-page menu having a mixture of familiar and comfortable options and dishes that I couldn’t pronounce, it was the perfect place for me to dip my toes into Egyptian cuisine.

Trio of Dips – $17.00

Starting things off, we had the trio of dips. The turmeric and dukkah added some interest to the humble hummus, and the beet labneh had just the right amount of acidity to whet the palate for what’s to come. My favourite though, was the fel-fel, an Egyptian campsicum dip that was based off a family recipe, it was nourish with a hint of sweetness, and I could have eaten a tub of this thing on my own.

Cheese Cigars – $12.00

The cheese cigars were piping hot and reminiscent in shape to spring rolls. We were warned to wait a couple minutes before digging in.

Cheese Cigars – $12.00

The mixture of halloumi, feta and mozzarella meant the cigars were tangy, rich and satisfying, and the cheese pull was just as visually pleasing as I had expected.

Mixed Grill – $24.00

Onto the larger dishes we go. The mixed grill is a good option if you are as indecisive as we are and want to try a bit of everything. On the plate we had lamb kofta, chicken shish tawook, and spicy beef sausage, accompanied with rice pilaf, garden salad, and plenty of lemon and garlic tahini to drizzle over everything. The grilled goods all had something different to offer, and my favourite was the lamb kofta, which was extremely tender and flavoursome.

Chicken Shawarma Tagine – $22.00

The chicken shawarma tagine is something that I’d never seen before, and knowing that it was a specialty at Dukkah, it was a must-order from the get go. This was a winner in terms of both flavour and texture. The layers of perfectly grilled 24-hour marinated chicken shawarma and saffron rice was rich and tentalising, with the roasted almonds adding some crunch, and the pops of pomegranate lifting the flavour profile. If you’re a fan of spicy food, be sure to ask for some harissa paste on the side to round off the experience.

Om Ali – $12.00 with Vanilla Ice Cream – $3.00

Despite being quite full at this point, we couldn’t pass up on the dessert, and settled on sharing one between the two of us, because we are sensible adults.

Om Ali – $12.00 with Vanilla Ice Cream – $3.00

We were tossing up between the two dessert options, but Om Ali had us at bread and butter pudding but better. I was confident we could finish this when it was first brought to the table, however, the rich combination of cinnamon milk and puff pastry had us beat. I did enjoy every single monthful that I could manage though.

Melbourne is certainly not lacking in restaurants that serve great food, but on top of the food, what made Dukkah a standout to me was the overall experience. It’s clear that a lot of love and care went into every part of the restaurant, from the menu that boasts flavourful dishes meant for sharing, to the space that accommodates for small and larger groups alike.

Dukkah brings something different to the food scene at South Kingsville, with regular live music events and a range of wine and beer on tap, it’s not difficult to see why it’s become a local favourite in the span of a year. I’m already planning my next meal down the other side of town to try out the lamb tagine!

How to get here:
Catch bus #432 from Yarraville Station, which is on the Werribee train line, and get off at Vernon Road/Brunel Street, and the restaurant is right by the bus stop.

I dined as a guest of Dukkah.

Dukkah Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Melina on the Rooftop

Melbourne has entered into the depth of Winter without a warning, but here I am, still clinging onto rooftop bars. Although it’s nothing like bathing in the Summer sunshine with a cocktail in your hand, there is still something charming about sitting snugly under some heaters with a view. All that is to say, we decided to have dinner at Melina on the Rooftop recently.

Crispy Saganaki Cheese – $18.00

We decided to grabbed a few dishes to graze on, with the first being the crispy saganaki. The crunchy batter on the saganaki added some texture to the soft cheese, and the sweetness from the drizzle of the balsamic glaze paired nicely prevented the saganaki from becoming overly salty.

Fries – $12.00

The shoestring fries was golden brown, and the Greek season on the fries were quite addictive. The feta cheese dip on the side was an interesting addition, although the crumbly texture and the thinness of the fries meant that it wasn’t the easiest to dip in.

Antipasto – $34.00

The antipasto had your usual suspects with a Middle Eastern twist with the addition of some grilled halloumi. The meats were all quite average, with the smoked ham seriously tasting like it was bought from a supermarket deli. It was nothing really worth writing home about altogether. The bread served on the side was also quite dry, and the balsamic glaze drizzled over top seems like more of an afterthought.

There’s no question that the vibe is quite intimate and romantic at Melina on the Rooftop, definitely a place that’s good enough to take a date. That being said though, I did find the food to be quite overpriced, especially considering the portion size. We made a booking on EatClub, which took 30% off our bill, making it quite reasonable. I still think that the food was quite average even after the discount. All in all, Melina on the Rooftop might be better suited for a couple of drinks after dinner than a proper sit-down meal.

How to get here:
Melina on the Rooftop is located on Lonsdale Street, a 5 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Melina on the Rooftop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sonido!

Sonido! specialises in Colombian cuisine, something that I don’t have too much experience nor knowledge with. The small cafe is vibrant and colourful, offering a glimpse into the tenacious Latino culture.

Iced Coffee

Starting off with an iced coffee, the tall glass of drink was quite acidic but easy to drink nonetheless.

Chorizo Arepa – $14.00

Arepas is sort of like bread made from corn colour, meaning that it’s gluten free for the celiacs out there. The arepa was soft and a little chewy, being the perfect vehicle for the chargrilled chorizo. Speaking of which, the long slice of chorizo was juicy and flavoursome, probably one of the best that I’ve had. Paired with the cool salsa and guacamole on the side, this was a simply but satisfying plate.

I was too full by this point to try out the Portuguese tart, which I’ve heard great things about. Guess that just means I’ll have to return with a bigger appetite.

How to get here:
Sonido! is located on Gertrude Street, ten minutes walk from Parliament station.

Sonido! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mesa Verde

There’s a lot of good stuff sprawled across the floors of Curtain House, and Mesa Verde is one of them. The drinks menu here is endless; it’s a no brainer then for the restaurant to be a popular choice for after work drinks, but we were here for the food.

Mesa Verde appears to have had a menu change since I’ve visited a couple of months ago, apologies in advance if you see something that you particularly fancy that isn’t on the current menu!

Tortilla Chips – $12.00

The house made tortilla chips is much better than the supermarket variety, with some added thickness that ensured it wouldn’t crack even when you’re scooping up an obscene amount of guacamole with it. Speaking of, the guacamole was creamy with a zing, and there was more than enough to go around with the chips.

Salmon Tostada – $7.00

Tostadas are great, first of all, it’s just a fun word that rolls off your tongue, and secondly, it’s essentially a crunchy taco, need I say more? The tostadas at Mesa Verde were topped off with the creamiest avocado, that had a mousse-like consistency, which went really well with the plump and fresh slices of salmon. Although this was messy to eat, the flavours meant that it was worth it.

Charred Corn – $8.00

I love charred corns, especially when they’re smothered in morita mayo and cotiya cheese, all lightened up with a squeeze of lime. Again, messy to eat, but well worth it.

School Prawns – $9.00

The school prawns were coated in an addictive layer of spicy seasoning, and would have definitely went well with a margarita. The pickled green chilli hiding behind the prawns had more than just a kick to it, so eat at your own risk.

Pork Taco – $7.00

To finish things off, we shared a couple of tacos. First up was the pork taco. the shredded pork lacked the oomph that I was looking for, but the chilli salsa did help it out, and the pickled radish gave it some texture.

Baja Fish Taco – $7.00

The baja fish taco was my pick of the night, although it took a ridiculous amount of time to pick off all the corianders. The fish itself was cooked in a light batter, and was perfectly tender inside. The herb aioli was quite mild, I think I would’ve preferred the smoke marita mayo here instead.

Given that drinks takes centre stage at Mesa Verde, it was nice to see that the restaurant did not neglect the food either. The bill does add up with tacos here and charred corns there, but it did have a groovy vibe (is this still a thing? asking for a friend), and I can certainly see myself returning and trying out some of the drinks.

How to get here:
Mesa Verde is located on the 6th floor of Curtain, on Swanston Street, just a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Mesa Verde Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Delhi Streets

Hidden away from the foot traffic, Delhi Streets lures diners in with a tentalising selection of Indian street food. Despite its location, diners were pouring in and out of the restaurant throughout the night. Being the keen beans we were and arriving just after 6pm, we safely secured some bar seats, and were excited to sample what was on offer inside the colourful and contemporary space.

Chaat Platter – $22.00

Being known for serving up street food, it should be no surprise that Delhi Streets had an extensive selection of entrees, some of which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Wanting to try a bit of everything, we opted for the chatt platter, which came filled with four types of chatt, ready to be devoured.

Chaat Platter – $22.00

The pani puri is something has quickly become a must-order for me. The novelty of pouring in the spiced water never seems to wear off, and the combination of the crunchy shell and soft potatoes is a great way to get your tastebuds excited for what’s to come.

Chaat Platter – $22.00

The aloo tikki was light and fluffy, the curry spices bringing layers of flavour to the potatoes.

Chaat Platter – $22.00

Smothered in tamarind chutney and yoghurt, papri chaat is the Indian counterpart to nachos. The flour crackers did the heavy lifting for the chickpea and potatoes, and it was a light and refreshing change to the traditional nachos.

Chaat Platter – $22.00

Bhel puri is reminiscent of a grain salad, and it was seriously texture city, with its combination of puffed rice and sev, i.e. small pieces of fried noodles. The tangy flavours come from the bhel chutney, rounding it up to be a salad not to be missed.

Special Thali – $16.00

The Special Thali is a good dish to order if you can’t decide on one curry to settle on, as you’re given the option to choose three of the available thalis. The butter chicken was thick and creamy, and was really taking comfort food to the next level. The lamb vindaloo, on the other hand, had a nice kick to it, and the chunks of lamb was extremely tender. The vegetarian option came in the form of lentil curry, which was mild and flavoursome. The accompanying naan was soft and pillowy, and were great for soaking up the various sauces. All in all, this was an extremely satisfying platter to share between two.

Taking on a refined and contemporary approach that doesn’t compensate on flavour, it is easy to see why Delhi Streets is loved by many, of which now I am one of. I will definitely be back to try more things on its extensive menu.

How to get here:
Delhi Streets is located on Katherine Place, a short six minutes walk from Southern Cross Station.

Delhi Streets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gukbab

Gukbab literally means soup with rice, which is a way that some Korean stews are meant to be had, by mixing the rice through the soup and eating the whole thing together, almost like an instant version of congee. I had the dish a few times when I travelled to Korea (blog posts coming in March!), and was excited to see a restaurant in Melbourne that specialises in it.

It’s easy to miss the restaurant, with no clear signage and being scattered in the same building with a few other restaurants each with bigger signs. However, once you enter through the glass doors, the strong scent of sizzling bulgogi and Army stews will let you know that you’re in the right place.

Banchan

The free banchans consisted of a pasta salad, pickled onion, and your obligatory kimchi. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and they were all fun to munch on after we placed our order.

Kimchi Jiggae – $15.00

Despite there being plenty of soups and stews that were harder to find in other Korean restaurants, we ordered the classic kimchi jiggae on this occasion. I make kimchi jiggae quite often at home, especially during Winter, but this was definitely better than my homemade version. It had a great depth of flavour in the soup itself, that’s made up of more than just kimchi and gochujang, which made for a great base for the sweet potato noodle and pork in the stew.

Japchae – $16.00

Japchae is a common Korean dish that is essentially stir fried sweet potato noodle with thinly sliced veggies, including capsicum, carrots, black fungus, mushrooms and beef. The slippery sweet potato noodles were sweet and salty, with a strong sesame flavour from the ample use of sesame oil, a staple in Korean cuisine. Despite this being a quite pedestrian dish usually, I actually really enjoyed it.

Cheese Bukdak – $19.00

The fiery colour of the stir fried chicken caught our eyes first, and this was actually quite spicy. The chicken pieces were quite tender, and the cheese toned down the spiciness slightly. The strong spicy flavour meant that it was a great dish to have with a plain bowl of rice, but if you can’t handle a lot of heat, I’d say give this a miss, or be prepared to be drinking plenty of water after every bite.

Everything that we tried at Gukbab was quite authentic, and the restaurant is great for a bigger gathering, given the extensiveness of the menu, ranging from stews, fried chicken, bibimbab, hot plates and even bingsu!

The byu-dagi guk bab is said to be the signature dish of the restaurant, and I definitely look forward to trying it out on my next visit, just gotta wait until the 40 degrees days are over.

How to get here:
Gukbab is located on Little Lonsdale Street, just two minutes walk away from Flagstaff station.

GUKBAB Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shandong Mama

There’s always some frozen homemade dumplings on hand at home, courtesy of my mum, and they’re hands down my favourite dumplings ever. This makes it especially rare for me to eat dumplings when I’m out. I was more than willing to make an exception for Shandong Mama though, given that the restaurant specialises in mackerel dumplings, a filling that I’m entirely unfamiliar with.

Fish Dumplings (boiled, 10 pcs) – $16.80

My heart sank when I saw on the menu that the filling of the fish dumpling was made with coriander and mackerel, being a long-time avid coriander hater. But whatever, I decided to suck it up and order them anyway, since that was the reason we were here.

The dumplings were very floppy looking due to the mousse-like consistency of the fillings. The filling tasted okay, as okay as it can be with the additional coriander at least. If you liked fish and didn’t hate coriander though, I’m sure it would be perfectly pleasant. However, the dumplings were overcooked, which meant that the skin was very soft, and one of them had broken during the cooking process.

Beef Dumplings – Fried (10 pcs) – $13.80

We also tried out the fried beef dumplings. The shape of these dumplings were quite unconventional, gaps were left intentionally on both end of each dumplings, said to allow the juice of the beef filling to flow out and seep into the bottom crispy skin to maximise flavour. The skin of the fried dumplings were a lot thinner than the boiled renditions, and held everything together nicely. These were pretty good, the strong mixture of soy and spring onion meant that these were tasty mouthfuls with a crispy bottom.

I was pretty disappointed with my visit to Shandong Mama to be honest. I couldn’t justify the hefty price tags on these for the slightly above average taste and small portion, only ten dumplings per serving! I’m glad that I was finally able to put an end of my curiosity about the fish dumplings, but I think I’ll stick with my mum’s dumplings for the time being.

How to get here:
Shandong Mama is located in Midcity Arcade between Little Bourke Street and Bourke Street, a ten minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Shandong Mama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato