A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734
After an initial visit – covered here – Consider The Sauce has been eager for a return adventure at A1 in Essendon.
Primarily to partake of one of the more unusual and intriguing options among the more substantial meal platters they offer – samke hara, which features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.
Today, it being that time of year when my very good mate Penny is making her annual visit to Melbourne from Wellington, is the day.
Truth is, on previous visits Penny and I have had some really fine face-to-face catch-ups – we talk by phone at least once a fortnight about everything under the sun – but rarely have we enjoyed a really fabulous meal.
I put the blame for that squarely on my own shoulders in the category of “trying too hard”.
Anyway, we rectify that today – and in spectacular fashion.
As it turns out, the samke hara is unavailable.
So boss man Gabby offers to put together for me (and Penny!) a combo set of shish tawook (chicken) and kafta skewers with all the bits and pieces.
The above spread costs us $24; not pictured are an extra salad and a basket containing plenty of zaatar, olives and a couple each of small rice-stuffed peppers and puff-style kibbeh.
The single-meat deals are priced at $14.50, so I’m not sure our price accurately reflects what it would cost to buy all items involved separately.
And Gaby is perfectly aware there’s a blogger in the house …
But add another $10 or even $20 and it would STILL be a bargain.
I know there’s a handful of places around town that do Lebanese food in more formal settings (and at significantly higher prices), but I find it extremely difficult to imagine their food could be any finer.
As I once said of another Lebanese establishment, in the world of Consider The Sauce, this is as good as food gets – at any price.
As our meal arrives at our table, our day gets even better …
Placing bowls full of wonderful before us, Gaby sighs as he says: “This is when I miss being in Lebanon – all the small dishes!”
Then he introduces us to his mum, Sandra, she being responsible for much of the food we are about to inhale.
And, I’m sure, almost all its heart and soul!
For CTS – which has been known on occasion to mutter, “We revere cooks but chefs don’t impress us that much!” – this is akin to meeting royalty!
Everything we eat rocks our world …
Stuffed vine leaves with a lemony tang and rice still displaying a nice, nutty al dente feel.
Fresh, luscious dips, with the ultra-smoky eggplant number a taste sensation.
Tabouli and fattoush, fresh and zingy.
Two kinds of splendidly crunchy and salty green olives.
And the meat skewers – served at room temperature, juicy, tender, packed with flavour and having the killer chargrilled tang in abundance.
All of the above, of course, can have only one outcome – yes, some time early in the new year and all going as planned, A1 Essendon and Consider The Sauce will co-host the first CTS Feast for 2015.