Many thanks to Josh, Christine, Julian, You Know Who and Eliza for helping CTS check out the west’s new Lebanese eatery!
Saj Mediterranean Grill, Shop 27 320-380 Epsom Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9078 2633
Saj Mediterranean Grill replaces a short-lived Turkish establishment in the showgrounds’ shopping precinct, which has never held much allure for us.
It’s a terrific new arrival – and Consider The Sauce makes the most of our first visit by rocking up with a nice bunch of our regular dining companions.
It’s done out in stark fast-food style, but the food on offer – see menu below – goes quite a bit further than the bakeries our western Lebanese experiences have thus far been restricted to.
We get real plates and cutlery – and cheerful service.
Saj is named after the saj grills, rounded dome plates used to grill the flatbread.
CTS has only ever seen these before at this Coburg institution.
Between us all, we try a good-sized chunk of the menu – but without any intent to do so, we mostly veer away from the more substantial sharwarma and mashawi (grill) wraps.
Even Bennie – given complete freedom to order whatever he pleases (i.e. hamburger) – dines elsewhere.
The skewered meats in the display cabinet look the goods but will have await a follow-up visit.
What we have ranges from good to very good and we’re all very impressed.
Having a new Lebanese eatery in the neighbourhood is a clicking-heels event around here!
Beyond basic descriptions and prices, my assessments and comments are to do with those dishes I personally taste.
Kibbeh ($2) are hot, a little bit spicy, juicy and very fine. Some of my companions find pine nuts, but not so I.
Warak-arreesh (stuffed vine leaves, $1.50 each) are smallish, plain and just right.
Hommus ($5) is fresh and smooth but of only mildish taste.
Baba ghannouj ($5.50) is fantastic – it hasn’t got that prized smokiness but it IS fresh, lemony and full of eggplant flavour.
Both dips are served with the same flatbread used to make the saj pizzas, and more of it is brought to our table without being requested.
Did I say fresh?
Everything here is fresh-as – including this fattoush ($4.50), its joyful jumble of veggies beautifully dressed and anointed with crisp, fried bread.
The tabouli ($4.50) is just as CTS likes it – wet and lemony. It’s a generous serve for the price, too.
The cheese and turkey saj costs $7.50.
Bennie describes his chicken fajita sanger ($10.50) with chook, caramelised onion, capsicum, mushrooms, avocado and cheese with “fajita sauce” as “nice”.
The chicken mashawi ($9) is skewered chicken with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and sauce.
A couple of us order the lahm bi ajin ($6) – saj of “mince meat, onion, tomato and spices”.
It’s nice enough but turns out the description is rather more lavish than what is pretty much the stock-standard “meat” pizza we get at other bakeries.
Mediterranean salad ($6.50) has the same fresh vegetables seen elsewhere with wonderfully chewy, salty chunks of grilled haloumi.
We finish off with a couple of choc banana sajs ($6.50) – a sweet delight with nutty extras!
We’re already looking forward to our next visit.
How can this place not be a hit?