27 May Abla’s, Carlton
Started by Abla Amad back in 1979, her family recipes help ensure an experience of authenticity and warmth. Still strong after over 35 years, Abla’s has become a Melbourne institution for homely and traditional Lebanese food. We visit in a group and have to take the banquet menu. It kicks off with plates of mixed dips. All the favourites grace the table, and the labnee, hummous and baba ghannouj is greedily scooped up with torn pieces of pita.
The next dishes arrive all at once. The makaneek are a bit dry, but the chicken wings make up for the spiced lamb sausages with their ridiculously tender meat and delicious garlic and lemon juice flavours. The ladies’ fingers are full of minced lamb, pine nuts and spices, the filo pastry perfectly crispy. Also delivered are the smooth, egg-shaped falafel, tabbouleh and also loubyeh, a tasty dish of green beans cooked with tomatoes, onion and spices.
The dish I looked forward to most was Abla’s famous Chicken and Rice, a rice pilaff with minced lamb mixed through, and topped with slices of chicken, slivered almonds and pine nuts. Flavoursome and textural, it does not disappoint. Lamb skewers are a bit of a surprise, the soft, blushing meat not possessing any gameyness at all, with some at the table initially wondering if it was beef.
The banquet ends with baklawa and turkish delight, their innate sweetness countered by very strong Lebanese coffee. The gluten-free alternative is mahlabiyeh, a chilled and smooth corn flour custard flavoured with rose water.
Both the setting and the way food is presented at Abla’s imparts a feeling of welcoming warmth and modesty, and Abla herself came around to visit each table and personally thank each one for coming. For a taste of Lebanese served with love, Abla’s is just the ticket.
109 Elgin St
Carlton, VIC, 3053
(03) 9347 0006