Monaco, 1967. Nikita Krushchev to Michael Caine:
"You're worse than Stalin... have some Baba Ghanoush."
"You hold the coffee pot in the left hand and the cup in the right, pouring the coffee away from your body into the cup, then you pass the coffee to the guest's right hand." Our earnest and camp waiter sweetly advised us on the etiquette of serving Turkish Coffee. A former Trolley Dolly in the Middle East he regaled us with tales of Sheikhs and falcons. Very fitting for a night at Mama Ganoush.
We had bounded into the restaurant for a second time, eager with anticipation of eating anything from the menu that we'd missed the first time. The atmosphere was more subdued and quieter - I put it down to the crisp, new white tablecloths absorbing some of the noise and clatter - and the downstairs was still dimly lit.
Ushered up steep stairs we found ourselves in another room where the decor was considerably brighter and lighter. At the end of the space, under three arched, gold painted windows was a bar and waiter's station area. Overhead hung brass lampshades that resembled upturned Dervish's hats, though Mr Stickyfingers preferred the description 'Madonna's Bra' - an acute observation, given our waiter's presence.
The tables here were less close together than downstairs, the ceiling high and although the mood was less intimate,
I felt more comfortable than on our previous visit. It will, I expect be an appropriate venue for private functions as time goes by.
I chose not to take more photos of the food, suffice to say we could fault nothing about it. The highlight being the oysters topped with blue swimmer crab, lime and coriander. We gave the spatchcock a repeat visit, marvelling at the succulence of the meat and the unctuous, sweet roasted eggplant underneath it.
Finishing my meal with mint tea - served with two top ups - I swirled it around my mouth and felt the urge to spit. Was it heated dental mouthwash? Possible, I suppose. It lacked the herbal quality of the previous visit. Where was the spittoon? Apparently orange tea, drunk by friends in a cafe in Turkey, turned out to be heated Tang. The proof being when they caught a glimpse of the Tang jars behind the counter, so who knows?
Having devoured the entire menu, I realised that many of the same ingredients are being used across several dishes, but the application of them makes for very different tastes on the menu. Not only does this keep the costs down, but demonstrates just how cleverly this kitchen is being run. Bravo!
Greg Malouf is back in the country after his Guest Chef appearance in Austria and a new menu will come into play at Mama Ganoush next week, giving us another reason to go back.
Mama Ganoush, 56 Chapel Street, Windsor, Victoria.
Ph. 03 9521 4141. Open for dinner only.
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