Delectable Dining at Almazet

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By Ravenous Renee

Arabian nights meet St Kilda (well almost – just up the top end of Balaclava road, North Caulfield; right near Caulfield Park), this authentic Lebanese institution – successfully run for over 38 years by owners Bachar and Leila Haikal – is a must for anyone serious about dining on traditional, homemade, middle-eastern food.

If you’ve never tasted Lebanese food before, or not sure what to expect, don’t worry, Almazett caters for everyone – meat-lovers, vegetarians, and the ‘health-nuts’ of St Kilda alike. This is your one-stop-shop (I mean, restaurant) for a seriously darn good feed – and puns aside; no hunger games here guaranteed – if you eat at Almazett, you will be more than satisfied on all accounts; well, ordering the Almazett Mezza Menu ($42 per person, all you can eat, fresh to order) I know I was.

There is a reason this place has thrived for so long, and I’m telling you, it’s not just for the warm, traditional, fine-dining surrounds, regular weekend belly dancing performances, or alluring classical Arabic music softly playing in the background. No, as mentioned on the renowned restaurants website: the “success of Almazett is due to a simple food philosophy: fresh, quality produce, made with love… [and because] each customer is made to feel like part of the Haikal family,” a statement so true and very much witnessed by my eating partner and I. The food at Almazett is ‘real tucker’ that demands getting stuck right into (guys you’ll love this place – no skimpy servings here) and the staff are equally delightful and hospitable. At Almazett they really do try to make you feel at home.

From the moment my eating partner and I walked in, we were seated within minutes and had carrot and beetroot sticks put on our table to nibble on shortly after, from then on food flowed to our table as fast as water running down a strong current stream. And the best part, being new to this whole Mezza menu philosophy (where as a table, you get to choose many small plates; all designed to share from their extensive menu – but for the shellfish where you have to pay a little extra); you can rest easy and let the Almazett team order for you and start eating on your merry way.

Now with too many dishes to mention, the standouts for me were: the delectable and moorishly fresh and creamy homemade dips (hummus, eggplant and yogurt dip in olive oil) served with Lebanese bread (of course); the Falafel balls, which were golden crisp, toasty brown on the outside – whilst soft, warm and lightly fragrantly spiced on the inside; the Meat Cigars (think light filo pastry with minced lamb filet and pine nuts) and Fatayer Bi Jibneh (filo pastry with feta cheese and herbs) dressed with a few drizzles of divine, sweet and sour pomegranate sauce (a must try); the Rice with Chicken and Nuts (also including small succulent lamb pieces, lightly infused with spices, reminding me of an Indian biryani style dish); and the Lebanese grills – Shish Tawook (barbecued skewers of chicken fillets with a garlic sauce) and Lahmmeshwee (marinated lamb fillet skewers). Kudos goes to Almazett’s head chef Fairouz.

Furthermore, the sweet aftermath delicacies of mixed Baklava, nutty Turkish delight and Mahalabieh (gelatine like dessert lightly dressed with pistachio nuts and blossom syrup) were also favourable mentions, alongside the Turkish black coffee that helped to wash everything down at the end. A very rewarding experience on all accounts; I recommend you try this place if you haven’t already – like us, you will be glad you did. And just a tip, to take full advantage of the full Almazett experience, loose clothing is advisable – you can thank me later.

 

Almazett – Lebanese Restaurant

208 Balaclava Road, North Caulfield

Opened 7 nights

Mon-Thurs, 6pm-10.30pm

Fri, Sat, Sun, 6pm-late

Ph: 9509 8959image of dessert from Almazett image of coffee from Almazett

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