Mankoushe, 323 Lygon Street, Brunswick East. Phone: 9078 9223
Back in the early days of Consider The Sauce, we frequented on several occasions a wonderful hole-in-the-wall cafe/bakery in Brunswick East that did a red-hot line Lebanese pizzas and pies.
In the several years since then, we have moved on to other things and places.
Since then, too, much has changed with Mankoushe.
A year or so after our story, a Mankoushe restaurant proper was opened right next door; and then about six months ago, the bakery was closed – though the restaurant still does those great pizzas ‘n’ pies, with the lunch menu dedicated to them.
You can check out the lunch and dinner menus at the Mankoushe website.
So it’s a mighty hoot to try the extended Mankoushe restaurant with CTS pal Marco.
No kidding, this is brilliant Lebanese food at ridiculously affordable prices – a match and more for any of our favourite Coburg haunts and even fancy places such as Ablas.
Even better, the accent is very firmly on home-style cooking.
There’s just a single dish on the Mankoushe dinner menu that mentions the word “kebab” – and that’s an entree.
And there’s not a dip to be seen.
Mankoushe is an outright champion for vegetarians, too – we almost go meatless ourselves, but are seduced by the meatiest of the three main courses.
It’s a busy Sunday night and we haven’t booked, so end up perched at the window bench right next to the door – but the food is so amazing, we care not.
Our various choices arrive with admirable promptness and the service of fine and friendly.
House-made pickles ($5) are crunchy, of mild sourness and very good – jars of the various veg are on sale to take home.
Stuffed vine leaves ($12) are warmed though, heavy on the lemon (yay!) and with just a touch of dill and chilli.
It’s a very generous serve for the price.
Roasted cauliflower salad with minted yoghurt and sultanas ($10), one of three salad offerings, is another generous serve – so much so, we do not finish it off.
It’s gorgeous – and manages that neat trick, one we always admire, of being both a little crunchy and very pliable.
One of our two mains (top photo) is purple turnip stuffed with, green peas, basmati rice and fresh herbs and topped with walnut tarator.
It appears to be of modest proportions for the $21 asking price – but as is so often the case, eats bigger than it looks.
The turnip lends a slightly bitter tang to proceedings, but there’s no doubting the quality and yumminess of the filling.
The walnut sauce is nice but is swamped by the tomato sauce in which our turnips reside.
OMG, OMG, OMG – how good is this?
Wood-fired short lamb leg with chickpea dressing ($28) is another ripsnorting bargain – we’d expect pay an extra $10, $15, $20 or more for this in a flash eating house or pub.
And paying the equivalent of $14 each, we two eat till we metaphorically drop.
It really is amazing, the meat every bit of fall-apart tender and juicy as we could ever expect.
Two are listed – coffee and cardamom poached dates with labne ($8), and milk pudding with Iranian wild figs and sugar syrup ($11).
Based on our meal, I’m sure they’re awesome – but we have eaten so well and so much, they’ll have to wait for another visit.
Mankoushe is a Melbourne star, its prices and unassuming comfiness a stark and wonderful contrast to the excellence of the food.
Mankoushe is a cash-only establishment.