14 Mar Souk, Melbourne CBD
It’s pretty hard to miss, being flouro pink and all, though you might get a bit confused by the backwards writing. Positioned rather prominently down the end of Bligh Pl, Souk’s neon sign is written in mirror-image, in recognition of the right-to-left direction of reading Arabic text.
Ergun Elmas (Arabesque) and Vlad Kovacevic bought over The Deanery, and converted the interior of this two-level restaurant into a slick space, though the acoustics make it a noisy place for intimate dates. Bathe in pink light near the bar downstairs, or enjoy your meal under watchful eyes on the upper floor.
Mexican-born head chef Rogelio Almanza is behind the menu. Small and medium share plates are the name of the game here, tending to sit on the higher end of the price spectrum. The Chipotle Hummus has a strong and earthy chickpea flavour. It’s been drizzled with burnt butter, sprinkled with paprika, and is readily scooped up by soft and puffy discs of bread. It could do with something to give it a bit of a lift, like a wedge of citrus or a bit more paprika, but it’s still a tasty introduction to the rest of the meal.
The pillow-shaped prawn falafels tend to fall apart in chunks, but they’re still moist. Smeared on the plate underneath is a flavoursome black tahini that I wished the dish had more of. Don’t mistake it purely for decoration.
KFC, that’s Kuwaiti Fried Chicken here, are made using chicken ribs, fried in coating of fine breadcrumbs and ras el hanout. Though the seasoning is not quite as punchy as expected, the ribs are succulent, and a good pairing for the sweet cucumber yoghurt and harissa toum.
The Kisir is a surprise. It’s Anatolian-style tabouleh with bulgur, parsley, sumac, mint, cucumber, red capsicum, tomato and mild chillies with roasted pine nuts, all packed onto an endive leaf. It’s more grain, and less herb. Tasty and textural.
The highlight is the Charcoal Octopus with hot muhammara sauce, roasted potatoes and herb oil. The capsicum-based muhammara sauce is fresh and tangy, though could have done with a tad more salt. This is overlooked as we sigh inwardly, content with our tender, meaty, and nicely flamed octopus.
Chicken and apricot kofta are skewered by lemongrass, and served on top of a bright pink beetroot hummus. Diced beetroot comes on the side. The juicy meatballs also contain capsicum and lemon zest, and have an oniony flavour to them. Despite the presence of fruit, the kofta are not super sweet.
Adanali Osman is a dessert of slow-cooked black tapioca pearls in a sweet Turkish coffee cream. The black tapioca are quite firm, contrasting with the cream that surrounds it. The crispy shards of fried white tapioca are a delight to eat, especially when crushed and mixed through, and the fresh berries have a nice tanginess that really lift the dessert.
In typical Melbourne fashion, feel free to wander down an alleyway, step into Souk, and be transported to a melting pot of Middle Eastern, North African and Anatolian flavours.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Souk as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
13 Bligh Place
Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3000
(03) 8597 5444