20 Jun Tahina Bar, Northcote
Opening in August last year, Roy Sassonkin and partner Natalie Powell (ex-Barry) set out to deliver vegetarian Israeli street-food in the middle of hipster Northcote. Originally from Tel Aviv, Sassonkin worked at Chin Chin, Hellenic Republic and the nearby Red Door Corner Store before settling into his own place.
The setting is modest, with limited bar and counter seating around the periphery of the narrow eatery. We take a spot right at the kitchen, where we have the opportunity to watch our food being cooked, and the day’s food prep being carried out. Giant bags of cauliflower are trimmed and boiled, eggplant is sliced, and superfood smoothies are whizzed up before our very eyes.
The hummus is deliciously velvety and smokey. Fans can order a whole plate, with pita to go with it. Gluten free bread is also available for extra. Cauliflower Papiot is seasoned with a tasty combination of garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme and lemon, the vegetable roasted until tender. Roasted eggplant sits on a smear of hummus, blanketed by zaatar and kale chips and squirted with tahini. The flesh is supple and melts in the mouth, almost requiring a spoon to transport it there.
Pita pockets are also popular, the fluffy bread packed with falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and tahini. There are two different types of falafels at Tahina: a red, made with chilli and red capsicum, and the more common green type based on parsley, coriander and mint.
Shakshuka platters come in three varieties. There’s still the traditional red, tomato-based shakshuka, but also a creamier white one with wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, fennel, and goat’s cheese. I choose the green shakshuka, a vibrant dish full of broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, fresh thyme and rosemary. It may look and sound a little unusual, but it’s packed with flavour, especially from the olives which provide all the saltiness it needs. The platter also includes a generous plate of Israeli salad, a small bowl of hummus and some pita. Great value for $15.
Take away is available for those in a rush, and for sweet tooths there’s always hand made natural ice cream. The menu at Tahina is well-priced and nourishing, and it’s a place I’d happily return to.
223 High St
Northcote, VIC, 3070
(03) 9972 1479