359 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield. Phone: 9523 8882
Despite the many and spectacularly varied food options on our side of Melbourne, there are some things it simply doesn’t do.
Kosher/Israeli food is one of them, unless our western suburbs are hoarding yet another surprising secret – always on the cards!
That’s why we’re on adventure time as we head over the bridge, up Kingsway and Brighton Rd, and along Glenhuntly Rd. The Sunday noon-hour traffic is a cruise. West coast hard bop from Frank Rosolino and Charlie Mariano goes down a treat. Wheee!
That latter thoroughfare is traffic hazard, so plentiful and interesting are its foodie options. Maybe food bloggers should be made to drive with blinkers on!
In no time, though, we are at Hawthorn Rd, securing a two-hour car park right opposite Falafel Omisi.
It’s been going a mere eight days, is the brainchild of Yaakov Omisi, and is based on his grandparents’ Middle Eastern cafe in Israel.
The style is cheap ethnic fast food, but very comfortable and welcoming for the likes of us.
The menu is compact and easy to navigate.
We start with the falafel plate ($10), pretty as a picture.
It boasts a handful of average chips, a mixed green salad of the type so familiar to us from our various Middle Eastern haunts, a mayo-dressed red cabbage salad, unadorned white cabbage and carrot, and nice glob of good fresh hummus.
The highlight is the good serving of fresh, hot falafel balls. They’re lightly crispy on the outside, with pale golden interiors.
Next up is malawach ($8) – “pastry served with a boiled egg served in a pita pocket with choice of salads”.
The crunchy flat bread seems to be an Israeli version of the universal flat bread.
The filling is fine, although lacking – by our tastebuds – something by way zest and vim.
In fact, our food is plain.
Truth is, though, we so habitually inhale tucker that is spicy or otherwise heavily seasoned – not to mention salty and oily! – that we are happy assume that we frequently struggle with subtlety and nuance.
Certainly, we enjoy our lunch.
And we’ll return for more of those falafels. And to try the sabich ($8.50) – “fried eggplant with a boiled egg served in a pita pocket with choice of salads”.
After we’ve eaten, Yaakov is happy to spend a little time with us, talking about the food, the restaurant and his family’s roots in Yemen.
Outside of Israel, he explains, there are Jewish communities – albeit often tiny – in just about all Middle Eastern countries. Rather a different perspective on the endless “us versus them” nature of media coverage of the Middle East, eh?
As well, he maintains that Israel – being so richly multicultural – is unparalled in the world in terms of its food offerings.
That’s something to think about for a dad who has always thought his first foodie holiday with Bennie would be in New Orleans or Vietnam.
The Falafel Omisi Facebook page is here.
And thanks again to fine folk at GRAM Magazine for the tip!