Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rumi, Brunswick East

It's pretty obvious from just glancing over these pages that I'm a bit of a food freak, or nerd as I like to say.
I love it all; eating it, talking about it, playing with it and writing about it but one foodie area that I know I need to improve in, is my understanding of Middle Eastern food.

Lets just say, that I have a growing appreciation, for appreciating it more.

I've tried the usual suspects, Abla's et al, yet find the lack clarity in each flavour challenging - yes, I know that's the point - the flavours are actually combinations of flavours; spices, herbs and eclectic ingredients. It's a mine field of foreign-ness that can be intimidating, unless you grew up with it. I didn't, it was grilled lamb chops, peas and mash for me.

I love the subtle hints of these flavours in modern Melbourne food - Greg Malouf can take full credit for his influence on a whole generation of chefs - yet to understand the food better it's not just a flirt with the flavours that I need, it's a full on affair with the cuisine... but perhaps within an accessible modern package!

Here are a few of these modern Middle Eastern dining rooms in Melbourne. I liked Mama Ganoush, I'm keen to try Maha and I am awaiting Momo's reopening, but the answer right now is Rumi.

Situated on Lygon St, a tram ride north of the cheap Italian joints that the tourists frequent, Rumi is in a simple corner shop front, that just hums from opening time at 6pm. You can tell that you are in on a good thing when a place is this busy from the moment it opens. I feel like I have stumbled on a Middle Eastern version of Spice I am.

The room is basic, quite a few tables packed tetrus style into the space, but the friendly professionalism of the staff make you forget that you could easy steal a meatball from the table next door. An perhaps you should... the dishes are intended to share after all!

We begin by asking a few menu questions, this then leads into our waiter ordering for us, the trust was built and we feel in good hands, our only request was that the Persian roast goat be included and I'm glad we did, it was fabulous.

First was the sigara boregi; perfect cigar shaped rolls of crunchy pastry filled with a combination of haloumi, feta and kasseri cheeses. Who doesn't like warm cheese and pastry?

Next it was some 'baharat' spice dusted school prawns that were fried whole until crispy, these were served with an avocado, tahini and lemon dip. The prawns were well cooked and lightly seasoned, yet perhaps the idea of dipping them in avocado was a little strange to me. Avocado is definitely one of those fruits that are very wrong hot, but the rich creaminess was a great match to the textured, sweet prawns.
The prawns were served at the same time as a very seasonal little salad of baby beetroots, broadbeans and labne garnished with tarragon and mint. Fresh, fantastic flavours.

Then we had our way, the Persian goat. A few random cuts; part of a rack, some rounds of leg shank, a little bit of shoulder. All cooked to a sticky, pull apart and suck the bones perfection. Served with a side pot of spiced salt, essentially sea salt flakes with aromatic sweet spices of cinnamon, cardamom and perhaps some fennel seed. I could eat this dish everyday for a month and not tire of it, definitely on a must try list should you go.
To balance it all off there was some pilaf rice and a sweet and sour dressed cos leaf salad.
Unfortunately the desserts are forgettable and appear to be an after thought, so don't bother further than a couple of pieces of Turkish delight and perhaps a strong and sweet Turkish coffee.

The service at Rumi nearly stole the show over the food; friendly, accommodating, and happy to explain as much as possible. They are no doubt, use to people like me being unfamiliar with the cuisine style and have found a niche in sharing the experience with a wide variety of diners.

Rumi is a place that I'd recommend; the food is exciting and fresh in flavours, the service is smart and passionate, the wine list is simple, (but with BYO at $10 you can bring something nice from home) and the room absolutely buzzes with happy diners taking advantage of a reasonably inexpensive meal that educates the palate, and the mind.

132 Lygon St
Brunswich East
ph: 93888255

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simple Thai style garfish

I've got a bit of a soft spot for garfish.

Such a slender elegant looking fish that is a little misunderstood. See, I can think of nothing better than these just dusted in seasoned flour and panfried until the skin is crispy and flesh vivid white, yet others think of them as bait... well that's what happens at my fish shop.

Just recently, I was patiently waiting as a elderly man ahead of me purchased 4 small gars, as he was gathering his coins I placed the same request, smiling I made small talk,

"you like the small ones as well? Just perfect with a salad" I volunteered,

"erh no, these are for bait..." and off he went.

If only he knew.

These cleaned baby garfish are from the Claringbolds fish auction that I mentioned last post. Well was I mistaken or what, no it wasn't 7 garfish for $5 it was 13! All cleaned and beheaded (unfortunately) and ready to go.
Not up for a mess of the kitchen, I cooked them the simplest way possible, dressed and then baked in foil. Simple Thai style garfish
Whole cleaned garfish (guts removed, scaled and preferably head on)

Nam Prik
Coriander roots and leaves -washed
Whole hot red chilis -birds eye
Shallots - roughly chopped
Garlic - roughly chopped
Fish sauce
Palm sugar
Lime juice

Pound in a mortar and pestle about 6 coriander roots, 2-4 red chillis, a tablespoon of each shallot and garlic.
Pound to a chunky paste.
Add equal parts fish sauce and lime juice and then add about 1 tablespoon of palm sugar to taste.
It should taste sweet, sour, hot and salty.

Place garfish on a large square of aluminium foil, top with a few tablespoons of the nam prik, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some chopped coriander leaves.

Cover with more foil and tightly seal the edges.
Bake in a hot oven until you can hear it bubbling inside, about 10 minutes in my case.
Tear open the foil and serve the fish and cooking juices. Drizzle with the rest of the nam prik and garnish with extra coriander.

Hopefully your plate will end up looking like this.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Second best? No way!

PDC had a little giggle at me just before in the car... I realised it... I'm just not good at accepting second best, especially when it comes to my food.

Yesterday afternoon, it was a trip to Prahran market for the Claringbolds fish auction; quality fish at bargain prices, all bundled into $5 bags and auctioned off. Seven whole baby garfish for $5, 350g of yellowfin tuna for $5, a pack of Huon smoked salmon $5 the list goes on... I also manged to justify a gorgeous grassfed organic sirloin to make steak tartare tonight.

And then this morning; the sun is shining, we are out to breakfast and it just has to be Mart at the Middle park tram stop.

After some poached eggs and salmon, I twisted PDC's arm to 'drive by' (it was very certainly, very out of the way!) Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder for some cheese. The funny thing about this especially is that I took a good 15 minutes looking at the cheese options yesterday at Prahran market but just knew that it was never going to be as good as what would have been handle with care and maturation at RHCL. So there was no compromise and we purchased some oozingly ripe Fromage de Meaux (it can't be called the real name of Brie de Meaux, as it is pasterised ) and some of what formally was know as Morbier, again new regulations mean that the pasteurised version is not called the really name... its really quite boring living in a country that makes its citizens eat second class cheese.

Next on the way home the stark realisation hit me, as we were siting in the St Kilda bound traffic patiently anticipating the Baker Chirico bread we were about to buy that is to go with the cheese, seafood and steak tartare tonight.

It takes a lot of driving and time to be this food fussy. Now if only I could have come up with a very good excuse to have driven to Carlton this afternoon as well, to pick up some seriously good terrine from Parisienne Pâté.... maybe next weekend. I'll have to plan better.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A change...

I've been a very bad blogger, yes I can admit it.

Things have been a little chaotic with me lately; in the last six months I have gone from gainfully employed to not, and to now gainfully self employed.

It has been a tough road, one with a lot of self belief, and at times none, and one that has shaken up my productive little blogging schedule so much that it had become a bit of a guilty chore.

The catch is I love Eating with Jack and don't want to let it die a neglected death, so I am back to face the tutting fingers that have been harassing me for not posting and recommit to having sorted myself out enough to be able to share this with you all now.

The funny thing is I have been still thinking of myself as a blogger, taking the photos, mentally planning the posts, yet just not writing them.

So here I am back with a new zeal and a pretty picture of my breakfast this morning, a zucchini, goats curd, tomato and percorino omelette.
It's a perfect scenario, no one misses me from the office and therefore I can now cook myself something healthy and desirable and not be 'late' for work!

Please keep reading Eating with Jack, I love feeling your presence in my eating travels, I promise there is many good meals to come.