124 Union Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 0854
Yemini Restaurant had been one our earliest outings here on Consider The Sauce, but as the “under new management” sign has been up for some months, we deem it time for a return visit.
The main change seems to be a much tighter and more focused menu – this is no cause for alarm; indeed it may be good news.
The handful of dishes now available all clock in at $12.
A few weeks previous, on my ownsome, I’d had burmah – “Bedouin-style tender lamb on the bone slow-cooked with khubz (traditional Yemeni bread) on rice”. It was pretty good, too, the meal coming to my table in a very hot pot, the cooking liquid then poured into a bowl for soup purposes. It was much like the lamb broth at Safari Restaurant up the road, only much more spicy and piquant.
The meat was eaten separately, with flat bread that looked suspiciously like blandola store-bought roti. Wrong! This was the royalty of flat bread – flaky and rich and impossible to stop eating.
For our Saturday lunch we tell the staff we are two hungry lads – but not THAT hungry. Would it be possible to enlarge, for a suitable fee, one of the main plates for sharing purposes?
Certainly – and a $5 premium is agreed upon.
As we wait, there arises a certain amount of tension and unease concerning our – OK, my – photographic activities that require quite some minutes of dialogue across and language and cultural barriers.
I succeed, eventually, in assuring them our intentions are only of the highest order, and that, no, we will not be sending them an invoice for a write-up on our website and that, yes, we fully intend to pay for our lunch.
I doubt there’s much difference between the standard plate and our deluxe version, but it matters not, for it just right for the pair of us.
Our lamb mandi – “slow-cooked lamb with baharat (mixture of Yemeni spices) served with rice, salad, shitni (green chili sauce) and Khiar bil laban (cucumber dip)” – is similar to meals we’d under the joint’s previous incarnation, with some key differences.
No sign of the green chilli mash – this time the spice hit comes with a much greater kick from red/brown dip that consequently requires much more judicious imbibing.
The rice is minus the sultanas and strands of deep brown fried onion of earlier visits – but it’s even better. In fact, it’s much MUCH better. Rice to inhale, rice to dream about. The mixed jumble of yellow and white grains, obviously cooked in some form of stock, have through them some translucent onion slices and some seasoning that appears to include at the least black peppercorns. It’s very plain but astounding in its effect.
The two pieces of lamb – Bennie is lucky enough to score a four-point rack – are sublimely crusty on the outer and tender on the inner. A piece apiece is more than enough.
After we’d restored goodwill with the staff, we are told that menu changes are afoot, with more and different choices in the offing. We’ll be watching with interest.
Because Yemeni Restaurant, whatever changes have been or are about to be wrought, remains a singular gem of our western suburbs food scene.