I do love this kid - she was the same with whom I had this exchange a while ago:
"Lauren, do you write and take pictures of food?"
"Yes, I do!"
"So does that make you a food blobber?"
"......Why, yes. Yes, I do believe it does."
This is a "Persian" restaurant that has just opened in Barkly Street, Footscray on the old site of Shebelle. What was dark and moody has become bright, white and very functional.
Sure, the decor may not move you, but you will start swooning immediately when the scent of charcoal and sizzling meat hits your nostrils.
Here is Muhammad and the place where all the magic happens. Long metal skewers threaded with meat are placed over this pit of gently glowing charcoal.
About half of the menu is varying combinations of kebabs - chicken, meat or mince - with (again) various combinations of rice, salad and bread. The "Special Kebab Surra" meal ($14.99) seemed a sensible place to start. The kebabs were just gorgeous - smoky, juicy, beautifully marinated. Lovely delicate basmati rice...
...house-baked flat bread (kind of like Turkish bread, but much thinner and therefore more crisp in parts - I spied the tandoor-like oven out the back)...
...and really simple but good, crunchy salad with a thin yoghurt dressing.
Do you like dumplings? Of course you like dumplings - you live in Melbourne! (If you don't, I am very honoured you are reading this blog. Hi Uncle Thom in Colorado!) Although they're most strongly associated with Asia, many cultures around the world have dumplings and olden-days Persia (more on that later) is no exception. Their incarnation is called mantu or mantoo, and they are something I've always had an odd relationship with. People have raved about them, but every time I've tried them I've been a bit underwhelmed. They've been nice but not mindblowing.
Well - Kebab Surra's mantoo ($13.99) are COMPLETELY OFF THE HOOK. Now I see what all the fuss is about. There's saucy lamb mince and yellow split peas, very loosely bound in a wonton-like yellow skin, drizzled with tangy tomato and yoghurt and dusted with dried mint. These are AMAZING. Although it doesn't say so on the menu, I think they come with bread and salad.
I had a chat to owner Ali after our meal. When Kebab Surra say "Persian", they mean the cuisine of the border regions of modern-day Iran and Afghanistan. He's very proud of his new business and he totally should be. I think you can really taste the love in the food.
I was raving about the mantoo and he said that that is their specialty, and it is a particularly Afghan-style dish. Another house specialty according to Ali is the qabuli polo. The menu reads: "Rice steamed with lightly fried sultanas, carrot slices, oil, along with lamb qorma cooked with tomato, spices, garlic, onion, and served with naan & salad". Ali explains that it's incorrectly described as coming with lamb qorma, but it actually comes with a lamb shank. And vegetarians - there is a traditional vegetarian mantoo dish arriving any day now - I am really, really keen to try this!
One quick note - there is a bit of discrepancy between the printed menu (scanned below) and the one on the wall. Plus, I think you get bread with things, even though it's not mentioned on either menu. Don't get yourself in knots - if you're not sure what comes with what, ask!
So E, we did not get to go to Golden Horse. But we still got to eat dumplings - AND meat on sticks.
Kebab Surra (Facebook)
241 Barkly St, Footscray
Phone: 0470 665 359 or 0470 227 824
Hours: Mon-Thurs 9am-9pm, Fri-Sun 9am-10pm