Windsor’s Middle Eastern cred just got a serious upgrade. By Victoria Khroundina
FOR ALL ITS Pan-asian eateries, hip chicken joints and even a sandwich shop moonlighting as a tiki bar, Windsor has been bereft of Middle Eastern options. Enter Shukah, the latest venture from Garen Maskal (of Ezard pedigree). The name translates as ‘marketplace’ in Armenian, and the establishment is a lighter, brighter, more playful sibling of Maskal’s CBD restaurant Sezar. The menus of both pay homage to the owner’s Armenian heritage, but while Sezar is all about an intimate dining experience, at Shukah, it’s about having fun. To start, order the hummus. Boring, you say? Not a chance. It arrives immersed in brown butter, accompanied by a giant fire-baked lavash. It’s just the right kind of greasy, with a healthy sprinkling of za’atar providing that body-tingling zing. Or begin with a meze selection, a kaleidoscopic display of beetroot smashed and mixed with tahini; cherry tomatoes enlivened with sheep’s milk string cheese; and silky, oily grilled eggplant to be mopped up with lavash. The seared octopus comes on a bed of labne with a pistachio and olive salsa, an irresistible mixture of creamy, nutty and sour – this is as hearty as seafood mezes come. For something lighter, try the kingfish sashimi, dressed with cucumber and red caviar, and tasting of summer by the Black Sea. Make some room by slamming down a glass or two of arak, the anise-flavoured Levantine digestive, and then dive into the larger plates. Half a succulent barbecue chicken arrives atop a lavash smeared with green harissa and tahini, a dream condiment duo of smoky and spicy. The pickled onion garnish provides salty zest and when you wrap everything up together, it feels like a comforting Sunday dinner with a Middle Eastern accent. The persimmon amba (chutney) adds sweet, gooey richness to the fillet of roasted barramundi paired with crunchy green pea tabouleh – the fish’s skin is charred to perfection in a Mibrasa charcoal oven imported from Spain. Shukah’s casual attitude means you can stop on your way to the cinema for a few mezes or feast late into the night. It’s not a cheap eat, but it is a great date option. à104 Chapel St, Windsor 3181. 03 9521 3858. www. shukah.com.au. Tue-thu 5.30pm-late; Fri-sun noon-3pm & 5.30pm-late.
It’s like Sunday dinner with a Middle Eastern accent