Sunday, November 14, 2010


Physical: 109 Elgin Street, Carlton

Abla's Lebanese restaurant is just over 30 years old. Abla, the owner, still works in the kitchen and makes the time to float around the place and say hi to customers. She's a nice lady in what is, essentially, an especially long-lived and popular variant of the surburban family-run ethnic restaurant. The menu is a list of traditional classics. The place is loud and cramped but I don't consider that a problem. If you want quiet and romantic, go somewhere else. All those mezze platters and everything, the whole idea is about sharing good food with friends and such.

Abla's has, for a few years now, earned the praise and etc of the people behind The Age Good Food Guide. It's one of three Middle Eastern places--Momo and Rumi being the other two--that's on the list of places I have to get to before Food Guide 12 hits the newsagents.

How is Abla's, actually, though? We ordered a banquet so we had the chance to sample a helluva lot of the menu.

The good:

  • Hummous: made on site, light and refreshing
  • Baba Ghannooj: a smoky, slightly hot eggplant dip--this stuff I could eat all day
  • Chicken wings: chicken wings, I'll have you know, are one of my very favourite things. Abla's chicken wings presumably come from a decent butcher as they have a nice chickeny flavour. Not overseasoned, either.
  • Makaneek: tiny tiny tiny lamb and beef sausages. Would be awesome with beer.
  • Silverbeet rolls: look a lot like dolmades, loaded up with spices, rice, chickpeas and tomatoes. Could eat a lot of these.
  • Green beans: cooked until soft and floppy, which is normally a Bad Thing, but these weren't bad at all. In fact they were really good. The dressing had some real guts.'
  • Baklava: sweet but not too sweet. The best I've had.

The okay:

  • Labnee: yoghurt dip served with the other two dips--it was okay but served as a nice counterpoint to the heavily seasoned chickpea and eggplant dips
  • Ladyfingers: like a lot of the lamb dishes, the ladyfingers were a bit dry
  • Tabbouleh: dressed with a little more olive oil and served, perhaps, after or alongside the lamb skewers, this would've maybe crept into the 'good'
  • Turkish delight: less icing sugar and we'd be in business. Can get better from the local Greek deli tho'

The bad:

  • Felafel: dry
  • Kibbee: sadly, the lamb dishes were all dry. The crispy coating on the kibbee should have contained wonderful juicy meat--I wanted it to--and instantly, instantly gone straight up to one of my all time and forever favourites, but inside it was just like an overcooked rissole
  • Lamb skewers: lamb, again, overcooked and dry. Would've been elevated to okay with some sort of dipping sauce. 
  • Chicken and rice: slivers of almond provided a nice flavour and, again, the chicken tasted nice, but the chicken was dry--really dry--and that just didn't work for me at all
The interesting:

  • Coffee loaded up with fucking mint
Overall I think Abla's was okay and, at the price point, offered nothing worthy of complaint. Honestly, though, Dandenong's Afghan Pamir Kebab place, if you're prepared to travel that far out of town, offers an all-round superior banquet for less money.

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