Ya Salam Cafe and Restaurant, 20 Lavinia Drive, Tarneit. Phone: 9748 8660
The Arabic “ya salam” translates as “that’s fantastic!” or “wow!” – and that’s pretty much how I feel upon visiting and enjoying a brand new African eatery in Tarneit.
Taking the scenic route along from Laverton and along Sayers Road, what awaits me in Tarneit – what kind of operation, what kind of food – has been a mystery.
So I am delighted to discover a new and brightly appointed eatery that has been open just a few days.
It’s located on a small retail strip that looks out to the Wyndham Village shopping centre, home to a newish branch of Dosa Hut.
Ya Salam shares the Lavinia Drive space with an Indian eatery (on one side) and (on the other) what appears to be a charcoal chicken place but is in reality a full-on Lebanese place.
Instant foodie destination!
Ya Salam proprietor Mohammed tells me business, so far generated by little more than word of mouth, has been good.
He’s finding his new project is appealing to not just the local east African community of about 300 families but also the Muslim folks and the community generally.
The heart of what he and his team are doing at Ya Salam is Somalian food but the menu (see below) also features a hefty Middle Eastern component along with dishes that display Mediterranean and even European influences – breakfast, too!
Readers can rest assured, though, that this sensible, broad-sweep approach in no way diminishes the quality of what’s being served.
I am served a complementary bowl of soup to go with my main dish – it’s listed on the menu as “Yasalam soup” on the menu, so I am not sure if this is going to be part of the regular routine.
Does it look familiar?
It’s basically the same lamb broth-based concoction that is served at our beloved Safari in Ascot Vale.
This version may not be quite as tangy but it is equally rich in flavour.
“Slow-cooked lamb shoulder” ($16.95) is also familiar, with its trademark and super cooked-in-stock rice.
Perhaps it may have been more visually appealing had the meat been browned off a bit.
But as with all places who cook these kinds of lamb cuts this way, I love the undeniable depth of meaty flavour.
And there’s lots of it.
Moving on over to the more Middle Eastern aspects of the menu, mixed grill is a bargain at $12.90.
It comes with the same rice and salad, a “chapati” and a tub of exuberantly garlicky dip.
There’s a skewer apiece of lamb, chicken and …
… lamb kofta, which is served separately as it takes a little while longer to cook.
They’re all terrific.