26 Feb Hilulim, Caulfield North
Situated on Balaclava Road right near Caulfield Park, Hilulim has been providing kosher meals to the community for a number of years. Owner Ravit Gabai has has purposely kept the interior low key and comfortable, and aims to provide value for money and a family home vibe. Ravit and her mother run the kitchen, working all night to prepare food for the next day. All the food is made fresh and without preservatives, artificial flavours or colourings. Almost everything is made by themselves, from the pita and laffa, to the salads and dips like hummus and baba ganoush. As the food here is kosher, it’s more expensive to make because of the cost of the ingredients, but it has been her dream to run a restaurant like this.
Being my first true experience of kosher Jewish cuisine I didn’t know what to expect. We come for Friday lunch, which runs a little differently to normal service. Partly in preparation for Shabbat (Sabbath), they prepare a large range of special dishes for people to eat or takeaway, rather than the usual one or two for a regular dinner service. The special dishes on offer today didn’t feature meat very predominantly. It’s not particularly surprising given Kosher meat can be up to four times more expensive than elsewhere! Meat lovers need not fret. The regular menu has plenty of meat options for you.
A large plate of various salads and dips arrives with laffa and pita. All of them are delicious. The thick and fluffy pita is perfect for filling with salads and a layer of hummus, and I particularly love the beautiful smokiness in the creamy baba ganoush.
The kubbe are flavoursome and semolina and burghul shells are filled with minced meat and pine nuts. Small, crispy and moist falafel sit in a ring around smooth hummus. A selection of additional items are also available at the counter, and amongst those sampled today, the fried eggplant with a piquant and addictive green chilli sauce was a standout. A stuffed red capsicum is filled with flavour-packed herbed rice, and accompanied by even more rice. Everything is tasty.
Kubbeh soup is not something I’ve tried before. Though shaped differently to the fried kubbe, they are also made with semolina, bulghur and minced meat. Instead of being fried they have been cooked in a rich, tomatoey vegetable soup, and the large dumplings are dense, filling and hearty.
Sweet options include a variety of biscuits, also made by Ravit herself, and a not-too-sweet semolina cake with chocolate syrup.
Customers at Hilulim are served with a genuine warmth and generosity that is becoming rarer to find. It’s no surprise that people regularly return for food that has been cooked with such love and passion.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Hilulim as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way, and are based on my experience at the time.