Shaam Restaurant, 376 Keilor Road, Niddrie. Phone: 7021 1021
Well now – here we are.
Experiencing another post-lockdown catch-up/chow-down.
Presumably it’ll be the last one.
But so nutty have the past few years been, no one would bet on that outcome, hey?
In any case, it is with no little joy that Bennie, Veronica and my own self head to Niddrie to meet up with the famous Nat Stockley.
It’s been a long time between drinks. Or meals.
We’ve had good meals in this neighbourhood, but it always strikes us that it presents as the sort of strip that should positively bristle with great eats yet always falls some way short of that promise.
No matter – we’re definitely up for some Syrian food.
What are we expecting?
Quite a lot that is familiar from our various other numerous outings involving Middle Eastern and/or Mediteranean food across the west.
And, hopefully, some pot/oven stuff that is less likely to be seen in a restaurant setting.
That’s what we hope for – and that’s what we get.
The service is good and our food arrives with admirable swiftness.
As ever, we really enjoy any iteration of the tradition found across many food cultures of serving guests dishes that simply arrive without being ordered.
Think of lamb broth and bananas in Somalian eateries. Or little, tasty appetisers at good Japanese places.
At Shaam, we get a good fatoush and …
… and a creamy hummus in that tradition. Lovely! These are priced, respectively, at $14 and $13 if specifically ordered.
Before moving on to our three main dishes, we indulge is some more little dishes.
Kibbeh traboulsye ($3 each) are fine and meaty, though could’ve been a bit more that just barely warm at their centres.
We don’t like wedges. Generally hate them, in fact.
So we are bemused and delighted when our order of batata harrah ($13) turns out to be … wedges.
Their deliciousness is lifted, a lot, by the piquant “traditional dressing” of chilli, garlic and coriander.
On to our main courses …
The shish tawook platter ($27) has a familiar look to it, with all the nuts and bolts in good working order.
The chicken meat is a little dry and very garlicky.
Pot food, unrestaurant offerings?
They come to us as Syrian specials of the day as indicated on the menu.
I endeavour to discover their names and get only the non-evocative “daily dish meat” (top photo, $25) and …
… “daily dish chicken” ($22).
The lamb shank dish comes with an intense tomato sauce liberally studded with okra.
The chicken dish is the best of our meal.
The plain maryland swims in a wonderful and very lemony spinach sauce.
Both these dishes are rather austere in terms of seasoning and in relation to the sort of spicy, fiery food we devour so frequently.
But we relish the righteous home-cooking vibes. And the superb rice/pasta.
We’ve enjoyed our meal very much and reckon a bill total that clocks in at just under $30 per person – including a round of drinks – is pretty darn good.
Will we return to Shaam?