Monday, December 28, 2009

Maha Bar and Grill

21 Bond St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9629 5900

Maha Bar and Grill is yet another venture from the chef who is everywhere you look at the moment, George Calombaris. It's a modern middle eastern restaurant, which had me really intrigued as I'm always wanting to try new cuisines.

The restaurant is a sub basement space, which instantly adds an extra flair of coolness to it. The room is divided into two areas, a bar and a restaurant. Both areas are beautifully decked out in soft lighting and bright splashes of middle eastern colours adorn the walls. The room has a comfortable feel and the night starts out quiet but actually got quite rowdy when the space was full.

When the waiter comes to take our orders, he continues to push the soufra, a degustation of sorts. It's fine to suggest something, but it becomes a bit annoying to keep trying to sell it. I'm sure he's only doing as told so I don't blame him.

We only had the table till 8:30pm and by the time we ordered, it was 7pm already. Hence, we were prepared to eat fast and get out in time. However, that's where some problems arose. More on that later.

We decided to each order our own dishes, and the ordering got a bit chaotic and confusing. A few changes in decisions didn't help, but the waiter was all over the shop in taking our order. At first he didn't even write them, which helped to further confuse the situation. Eventually, it was all sorted.

Gleb, Yarlini and Ling ordered entrees while I decided to forgo. Gleb got an entree like a bruschetta type dish from memory. It was an assortment of vegetables atop some crispy bread. Yarlini got the Calamari I think (note to self, always take photos). Ling go the Seared Scallop atop the Saffron rice. Each said their entrees were good. I was surprised we weren't given any bread. I was sitting there expecting to be able to chew on some bread whilst the others had entrees but it never arrived.

For mains, I got the Spring Lamb stuffed with dates. The lamb itself was soft and very tender. The dates worked well with the lamb, however, it lacked a bit of seasoning to make it truly pop. It was a tad dull in flavour. The rice contained an asssortment of interesting flavours and textures with nuts, dried fruits and spices.

Ling's dish of Spatchcock with Vegetables looked really spectacular. The whole spatchcock was wrapped in those fine pastry threads that are used in middle eastern desserts. I don't know what they're called. Anyone can inform me? The spatchcock was also stuffed with a variety of rices, dried fruits and spices. I liked the taste of the dish but Ling did find boning it quite hard to do.

Gleb and Yarlini got the fish, which was Kingfish with these beautiful vegetable dumplings. Both said the dumplings were a highlight. The side dishes we got for accompanyment were also very good. A pine nut and almond rice was probably the plainest of the four. The crushed potatos with garlic were really soft and nice. A simple salad with these home made corn chips was good. But the highlight was an amazing Fried Cauliflower side that was absolutely addictive.

So back to the timing issue in terms of our meal. We knew that we needed to vacate our tables at 8:30pm. We were happy to accept that and hence take that booking. However, the timing of dishes was shocking. Entrees arrived very quickly, and we polished them off quite quickly. Between entrees and mains, we waited a good 45 minutes. We had to end up asking the waiter if our mains had been forgotten, only to be informed that he had just called in our order. What the? Even if we didn't need to vacate the table, this was extremely slow. When our mains finally did arrive, we ate them quickly just before the 8:30pm time. Hence, when we wanted dessert, we were told we would need to eat it outside in the open area as the table was needed. This rather annoyed me as it wasn't our fault that the timing of the food was so slow when it wasn't necessary.

We decided to just go for the one dessert to share as I wasn't really in the mood to eat my dessert while cramped on some bench seats outside. The "famous" filled doughnuts with turkish delight had intrigued me immediately, so we shared that. As interesting as it sounded, it tasted awful, seriously awful. The doughnut was a soggy gluggy doughy mess. And the turkish delight wasn't exactly oozing inside the doughnut. It was just like stuffing a piece of turkish delight in. I noticed that two other benches around us also left their doughnuts unfinished after tearing them apart.

The meal ended with some refreshing rose water hand wash and a free test tube of spies to take home, which I felt was a nice touch. Service was a bit confusing. The taking of our orders was chaotic, pushing the soufra on us was unnecessary, the timing of our meals so we had to end up eating desserts outside was not good.

The food on the whole was very interesting and good. A lot of the flavours were new to me and I liked a lot of them. That fried cauliflower is seriously good. The doughnuts were seriously bad. I think I would come back to try more dishes but I hope that the service is better next time. It really annoyed me that we had to eat our desserts outside due to a massive stuff up on their part. They reminded us when we were first seated that we needed to leave at 8:30pm. So why the unnecessary long wait between our entrees and mains.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food had some very interesting flavours but let down by service.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

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  1. Hi Thanh,

    Shame about the confused service - most of the food looks very nice.

    The shredded filo pastry is called kataifi.

    xox Sarah

  2. While the service was no doubt the biggest let-down for you, I'm most disappointed to hear how bad the doughnuts were - the idea of them is so, so good!

  3. Sarah, thanks for that. Its funny how things also come at the same time, I ended up reading the word kataifi in one of The Ages restaurant reviews.

    Cindy, the idea of the doughnuts do sound really good, but unfortunately the execution was not as good.

  4. What a shame you didn't like the doughnuts. You obviously went on an off night - or I went on a great one because I went in early December and the doughnuts were the highlight for both my husband and myself. They were light and definitely not doughy. There wasn't a lot of turkish delight in them, but I felt it was the right amount to not overpower the dish.

    We also had problems with the service where it wasn't explained to us that there was a $17 charge for water. Having said that, they did remove the charge when we queried it.

  5. Hi Jess, maybe it was an off night. Because there was four of us and we all really disliked it. It was like uncooked dough. And I saw that tables around us also didn't bother finishing their doughnuts. They were torn apart and then left, so people must have tried them rather than being full and not touched them.

    $17 for water, that's crazy. Did they serve you sparkling water when you didn't ask for it?