Abla's Lebanese Restaurant8/16/2016 10:07:00 PM
109 Elgin Street
Carlton, VIC 3053
Ph: (03) 9347-0006
Hello hello! My brother was in town last week, visiting from Japan, so we've been having a lot of family time! Yum cha, home cooking, lunches in the city, and more. We also wanted to have a nice family dinner out - we wanted a restaurant that served great food, but was also totally comfortable and unpretentious. Abla's Lebanese restaurant to the rescue!
Abla's is one of my favourite restaurants, open since 1979 (so it's older than me!), serving homestyle Lebanese food. The restaurant (and Abla herself), are something of an institution in the Melbourne dining scene. Including this meal, I've visited three times and always loved it. The food is consistently delicious, and the service is really warm and welcoming.
|Toasted pita, pickled, olives|
There are a couple of banquet options on the menu. I've tried one of the banquets before and it is great, but wow, it is seriously a lot of food! My preference is to order a la carte so you don't get food overload.
Between the four of us, we ordered three entrées, two vegetable sides and two mains, which was a lot less food than the smallest banquet option, but was still a very satisfying meal. Let's take a look!
|Mixed Dips - combination of Labnee, Hummous, Baba Ghannouj - $16|
I love the mixed dips at Abla's - they're so smooth and have such distinct flavours. My favourite is the lightly smoky baba ghannouj.
|Ladies’ Fingers - Filo pastry cigars filled with minced lamb, pine nuts and spices - $16|
The ladies' fingers are another favourite - spicy minced lamb wrapped in filo pastry, all crisp and hot.
The next two dishes - felafel and tabouleh - are ubiquitous classics, done very well.
|Falafel - Patties of chickpeas, broad beans, parsley, coriander and spices served with tahini sauce (4 pieces) - $16|
|Tabouleh - Salad of parsley, tomato, mint, spring onion and cracked wheat - $16|
|Loubyeh - Green beans cooked with tomatoes, onion and spices - $16|
Loubyeh is one of my favourite way to eat green beans. Here they're cooked until soft all the way through, in a rich spicy tomato and onion sauce. Lovely! I actually cook a version of this at home sometimes too.
|Kibbee - Casing of minced lamb and cracked wheat, stuffed with spiced lamb and pine nuts, and served with labnee (6 pieces) - $30|
I really liked the kibbee - deep fried balls (hehe) of lamb mince and burghul. Juicy and crunchy and fantastic! The cool slick of labnee (strained yogurt) complimented the rich kibbee well. (I just realise that this means we had two deep-fried minced lamb dishes in this meal. I regret nothing!)
|Chicken and Rice - Exquisitely flavoured rice pilaff with minced lamb, chicken, almonds and pine nuts - $28|
We always order the famous chicken and rice dish - a pilaf with minced lamb, topped with shredded chicken, cinnamon and toasted nuts. My family love flavoursome rice dishes - pilaf, pilau, biriyani, paella, and so on. I like how Abla's version is rich with cinnamon and has a great crunch from the generous amount of toasted nuts.
On this particular visit, we decided to skip dessert and went around the corner to Brunetti's instead. But I can highly recommend the house-made baklawa, the Lebanese coffee and the fresh mint tea!
While we're here, I thought I'd dig up some old photos from a previous visit with my parents back in March 2013 - I just realised I've never blogged Abla's before this, and I really really wanted to show you some of the other dishes we've tried there.
One of my favourites is kibbeh nayeh. Obviously, this is a traditional Lebanese dish, but it was very exotic to me - raw lamb minced, mixed with burghul, served with fresh mint, raw onions, olive oil and pita.
|Kibbee Nayeh - Raw lamb blended with burghul and accompanied with olive oil and mint - $30|
I ordered this basically because I was incredibly curious about a raw lamb dish. (I'd seen the recipe in Abla's cookbook, but still couldn't get my head around how it worked). What you do - any Lebanese people reading this please forgive my ignorance! - is pick up the meat with some pita, add the mint and raw onion, and drizzle with olive oil. It's incredibly delicious. It reminds me of my beloved German bratwurstfilzl (spiced raw pork mince, which you eat with paprika and raw onions).
|Kibbeh nayeh, raw onion, mint|
It's very rich ("jelak", as my dad would say), so despite the deliciousness, we could only eat half of it. I asked if we could take it home, but it was a warm night and our waitress said the ladies in the kitchen were worried it would go off. However, they kindly offered to cook up the leftover meat in patties so that we could take it home and it wouldn't go to waste. How lovely of them! (I also think you can request a half serve, so I might do that next time).
|Foulia Medammas - Fava beans with tomato, parsley, garlic and lemon juice - $12|
The foulia medammas is a nice hearty side dish, although I must say I prefer the green beans as they're a bit fresher and lighter.
|In House Baklawa - Filo pastry with cashews and syrup topped with crushed pistachio nuts - $5|
Fresh mint leaf tea - $4
I can't resist baklawa, and Abla's version is very good - all crunchy and sweet and buttery and rich. Perfect. I'm normally a coffee drinker, but after the very rich kibbeh nayeh, I felt like something altogether more calming, and went for fresh mint tea. That was actually my first time having fresh mint tea, and it was so good! Such a great way to finish a big meal.
Have you visited Abla's? Do you have a favourite dish? Can you recommend any other Lebanese restaurants in Melbourne? And do prefer mint tea or Lebanese coffee?