Shane Delia is famous from his TV show Spice Kitchen, and his blend of Middle Eastern influences. Shane continues to experiment with flavours from his childhood and picked up on his travels with some innovative deals at his chic Melbourne restaurant Maha
, like his $20 express lunch with wine where he tests creations on a willing public.
Maha’s dining room Photo: Willunga Wino
Set below street level, Maha is dark & moody, with long banquet seating, a private dining room, shisha room and large bar area.
At lunch there is plenty of choice – up at the bar you can opt for an $18 burger & Effe beer
(vego option is felafel) or in the main dining room choose from a set two, three or four course, a degustation, or a-la-carte – all at very reasonable prices. And dietary restrictions are no trouble at all.
The wine list spans unusual countries and varieties – we selected a Lebanese Riesling, ably assisted by Maha’s sommelier.
We opted for three savoury courses at $40pp, with one pescatarian and one vegetarian in our dining party. As an added bonus, there is unlimited sparkling or still bottled water.
Olives with bread & chilli paste, and hommous with chicken & currants Photo: Willunga Wino
First, out came a selection of appetisers including olives napped with a chilli & bread sauce, hummus, and a pickled heirloom carrot salad.
Heirloom carrot pickles Photo: Willunga Wino
I love pickles to start a meal, and find it interesting that it is so common in so many cuisines from countries as diverse as Japan & Turkey.
Citrus cured and air dried salmon salad Photo: Willunga Wino
For our pescatarian, there was a lovely citrus cured & air dried salmon salad, and the omnivores shared hummus topped with smoked chicken and currants.
To mop up the delicious juices there was sourdough warm from the oven.
Zucchini flowers with smoked black garlic mayo Photo: Willunga Wino
Next were entrees. For the vegetarian there were zucchini flowers filled with smoked halloumi and kefke cheese. This had the lovely squeaky texture you would expect plus the subtle smokiness. The flowers were napped with black garlic aioli which was visually spectacular and had nutty sweetness rather than a strong garlic flavour. A foil for the saltiness of the cheeses.
Salad of forgotten grains Photo: Willunga Wino
What a standout dish. Think you know quinoa? Trust me, you have never tasted it like this. There are probably other forgotten grains hidden in here but I was too excited by the party in my mouth to look too closely. Pepitas and sunflower seeds accentuate the crunchiness of the quinoa grains. Goji berries, the tangy-sweet dressing and micro greens seal the deal.
Sauteed greens with mixed mushrooms Photo: Willunga Wino
We must have shared about 8 dishes on the table already and it is now time for the main course. Out came a selection of warm salads and veggies including greens sauteed with mixed mushrooms. The sauce was nutty & sweet and I really enjoyed it.
Freekeh, tomato barley & fattoush salad Photo: Willunga Wino
Warm salads of freekeh and tomato barley accompanied with 12 hour slow roasted lamb shoulder, with pistachio and green olive tabbouleh. There was also a fattoush salad to round out the mains.
Turkish coffee w cardamom
We weren’t going to have dessert, but we couldn’t resist a peek at the dessert menu while we enjoyed Turkish coffees. Flavoured with cardamon the coffee came out in a tiny silver espresso pot. It was thick an grainy at the bottom in authentic style.
Pear dessert Photo: Willunga Wino
Of course, upon looking at the dessert menu we couldn’t resist ordering a few. They just sounded so interesting and unusual. The pear dessert came with tiny little sumac meringues that dissolved like sherbert on your tongue. The honey ice cream was also delicious.
The cashew dessert was so spectacular that it didn’t last long enough to be photographed. In a visual play on the “Snow Egg”, there was lovely white orange blossom foam, concealing a yellow burnt butter ice cream “yolk”, crunchy baklava crumbs, sponge cake in the bottom of the glass and delicious salty cashew pieces. This is not your super sweet dessert – but it is a delicious end to a meal.
The Lebanese Riesling had fine acid and minerality that worked well our flavourfully spiced meal.
Loved the whole experience.