Monday, August 2, 2010

Back in Australia and off to the desert! - Sahara

Well, not really off to the desert.

But I really am back in Australia! Got back on the 25th of July and yes, as you can see have been furiously updating my eating expeditions in New York and LA. I have a couple of places and little things I want to mention in Hawaii, but, I miss sharing my experiences about Melbourne. Yes, whilst the US was a wonderful trip and a bunch of fun, I was incredibly homesick and ready to come home after 5 weeks of traveling. Although I did just jet over to Sydney over the weekend (and will have some great reviews to put up from there soon!)

Wonderful Brad picked me up when I got in at 5am in the morning that day and after spending two days gorging on home cooked food, I wanted to see my city. It was a cold night and after our usual 'where-do-we-eat' 30 minute banter, we settled on going to Sahara in the city on a Wednesday night. Somewhere I had been to over a year ago, fondly remembering their moussaka.

Well, I had noticed Sahara changing from the outside slightly, but I was definitely taken aback upon ascending the little stairs from Swanston st.

I had remembered the place as being slightly grungy, university style, worn wooden furniture that blended in with the somewhat loft/warehouse appearance of the weathered brick walls. Somewhat akin to, but maybe not to the level of 1000 Pound bend. I was immensely surprised to find myself in an exotic, ethnic land, with soft sensual light from intricately patterned lanterns.

The menu surprised me even more, the last time I had been here it was fairly simple, hearty fare, pastas, salads, a few pizzas, a great moussaka, some kebabs.

The menu had been streamlined and focused into centering around 'North African' food, with various 'mezze' dishes, small, cold, hot, mains and dessert.

Again, after our usual back and forth banter instead of going with a preset chef's selections of 6 mezze dishes or 4 mezze dishes and a main (which both looked like great value and were quite tempting), we decided to just pick a couple of dishes to share.

Well, I don't think this is very African, but who can go wrong with a good ol' cider? Not something I got a lot of in America...

We started with an artichoke dish, in a bit of oil, light and fresh to start, aaah how I missed you artichoke!

Cous cous is not something I usually opt for, since there is a bit of gluten in it, but it caught Brad's eye and I was keen to give it a go, sure glad I did! The flavours in this were so interesting and complex, you had the texture of the cous cous, mixed with an intense sweetness from the pomegranates, and then the juicy but firm texture of it, again combined with a warm roasted flavour from the pine nuts in it. Absolutely fascinating. I found myself going back for more and more! Probably the star of the night for me (if the extended description doesn't make it obvious enough!)

Clams in....I forget what. But they were tasty, quite salty, but still very good!

For a bigger dish, we got the crispy calamari, in a blood orange salad. The calamari wasn't so crispy, but I appreciated the very light batter that didn't overwhelm the calamari, blood oranges are not usually my thing so much, but it was quite an interesting combination.

Although I do sorely miss the moussaka, I do really like the direction Sahara has taken it's food and the focus the whole restaurant has as a whole now. Whoever is managing the place has done an amazing job with it and whilst I'm sure they would love more business, I still quite like that for such a prominent location, it's still a bit of a hidden secret in the city.

301 Swanston St Level 1
Melbourne, 3000

Sahara on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I got past this place all the time but have never been inclined to walk in. I will check it now though, thanks!