25 Feb Bar Saracen, Melbourne CBD
Opened by chef and restaurateur Joseph Abboud (Rumi and Moor’s Head) and Ari Vlassopoulos (ex-Pei Modern, Rosa’s Kitchen, Hellenic Republic), Bar Saracen is Rumi’s more modern sister restaurant. They’ve brought along Rumi chef Tom Sarafian to head the kitchen and showcase Middle Eastern cuisine with a contemporary spin.
There’s a choice of bar and table seating, whether you’re in for a full meal, or a nibble and something to drink from the playful drinks and cocktail list. Since opening about two years ago, they’ve also introduced a tasting menu. The ‘Menu de Jou3’ is a play on the French term for ‘menu of the day’, but the Arabic word for hunger changes the meaning to ‘menu for the hungry’. You’ll certainly get a good feed with this option. The menu starts off with a procession of small dishes: a salted cucumber welcome snack, Gilda, and Okra coated with a light but crisp coating of besan, cumin and sea salt – no hint of sliminess here.
Shanklish arrives as a light and fresh combination with tomatoes, purslane and grilled bread. We also get to try Bar Saracen’s famous hummus, recently updated to a seafood version with Fraser Island Spanner crab and Mooloolaba king prawns. It’s smooth and velvety, and the addition of both coriander and chilli helps break up the richness of the delicious dish. The hummus is accompanied by puffy Aish Baladi, Egyptian pita bread that’s baked to order.
Shish Tawook is juicy and tender, and the potatoes of the Batata Harra are perfectly bite-sized and crunchy. Our final large dish is the Fish Fatteh. It’s a wonderful combination of textures and flavours, and quite a rich and filling dish. Goulburn River rainbow trout is cooked over charcoal before being layered over with chickpeas, crunchy pita pieces, chopped salad, tangy tahini yoghurt, cinnamon, burnt butter and nuts.
We finish with sweet and savoury Ma’Mool, fresh out of the oven. The cookies are filled with Meridith goats cheese, and paired with a thick fig and sesame jam.
The Menu de Jou3 was a great way to experience what Bar Saracen has to offer, but even if you don’t have the time or the appetite for a large meal, the menu here still lends itself well to drinks and a light bite to eat.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Bar Saracen as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
Ground/22 Punch Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 8639 0265