Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD & DRINK - Larissa Dubecki

PIERRE KHODJA HAS never strayed far from the North African flavours/french tech­nique brief. From Can­vas in Hawthorn to the Flin­ders Ho­tel and now North­cote’s Ca­mus, he’s al­ways been about a com­bi­na­tion of dusky North African spic­ing/fruit sweet­ness with a kind of el­e­gant flair that raises it well above rus­tic. Heroic por­tions are a re­cur­ring theme at Ca­mus, so for $15 you get three hockey puck-sized duck cro­quettes and a host of ex­tras: jumbo ca­pers fried on the stem, date and lime purée, more duck leg meat mixed with caramelised onion and cin­na­mon. The me­choui of lamb – clas­sic street food where the lamb is steamed and pan fried to or­der and served on a thin chick­pea pan­cake that soaks up the meaty juices and the zingy fresh tabouleh – could pass as a neat din­ner for one. There’s a shal­low-fried bourek of brik pas­try filled with kale, goat’s cheese and herbs, from which the yolk of a fried egg spills. Over on the main menu you’ll find whole non-rub­bery cala­mari stuffed with a del­i­cate farce of prawn meat, sweet­breads and co­rian­der in a bisque-style sauce with notes of saf­fron, cin­na­mon and chilli. Quail is mar­i­nated in smoked honey and cin­na­mon, stuffed with minced chicken and more sweet­breads and dressed with a salad that matches the bit­ter edge of rad­di­chio with pis­ta­chios and dried fruit. And then there’s the goat. It’s cooked for 12 hours with orange zest and car­da­mon, cin­na­mon and ju­niper berries, un­til it is lolling in a silken, unc­tu­ous sauce with fat dried apri­cots. North African de­sign ref­er­ences are sly and sub­tle: smoky-glassed pen­dant lights and a row of spices lined above the open kitchen counter. The wine list stays be­tween fa­mil­iar lo­cals (Ban­nock­burn shi­raz), some nat­u­ral-lean­ing num­bers and a few cu­rios such as a Moroc­can syrah. The record also ought to note that there are Ca­mus­themed cock­tails. Work­shop the mys­ter­ies of life over the Out­sider (Four Pil­lars gin, el­der­flower, pink pep­per­corns).

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