Perhaps the most urgent meet up I had arranged in Melbourne was with Mochi, my old housemate and long ago co-eater on this blog. I told her as soon as our flights were booked to think of a restaurant we could try. Because this is such a vague request (especially considering how much Melbourne has to offer), I narrowed it down to middle-eastern cuisine.
We ended up trying Rumi which is a modern Lebanese restaurant in Brunswick East. This was a Saturday night and every restaurant we drove past was busy, busy, busy. Despite having a booking, our table wasn't quite ready but the Maitre d' was very apologetic. Honestly, we were just happy to all be catching up so there was no huge rush but I like when restaurants acknowledge service flaws.
While we waited, we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. There are lots of varying sizes of share dishes to choose from but for simplicity sake, we ordered the 4 course classic banquet (also available as 5 course with dessert).
I wasn't ready to embrace alcohol again after a previous night of festivities, so I ordered the Rumi mocktail. Marc chose a beer and Mochi tried the pomegranate juice.
Our courses were presented as a number of share dishes per course. Each course was spaced a reasonable amount of time apart so that you could pick and graze without being rushed. Some of the components from one course (for example, labne or salad) complimented other dishes too so we had the option of carrying them over to future courses.
The first spread comprised of labne, flat bread, olives, pickled vegetables and cheese cigars. I enjoyed all of it. The cheese cigars were crunchy, oozy and delicious. Bread and dip is my favourite type of food any time of the day. I personally love olives and I was surprised at how nice the pickled cauliflower was when paired with the dips. I could honestly say that if our meal stopped here, I wouldn't have been disappointed at all. Amazingly there were still 3 courses to come.
If the first course could be summarised as "breads and appetisers", I would call the next "warm tapas". We were served tender meatballs (so soft they couldn't be picked up), fried calamari and braised mixed vegetables. The vegetables reminded me and Mochi of a Chinese dish (mei gan chai) and we liked it very much.
Course number three progressed in terms of heartiness. This time we were served grilled quail (enough for a leg and breast per person), fried cauliflower and a refreshing cabbage salad. The salad was unreal! I could eat this every day of my life. Our quail was perfectly cooked and tender too.
The banquet concluded with the main course of blacked lamb ribs, cos salad and freekah salad. The ribs were striking to look at, almost jet ink black. Contrary to appearance they didn't taste burnt at all and were in fact melt-in-the-mouth tender. I was very full by this point but still devoured my lamb with gusto. The sides were welcomingly simple and sparse (this was a LOT of food, we weren't left wanting) to let the lamb shine.
I'm so glad Mochi took us to Rumi. It was exactly what I had in mind. The food was plentiful, delicious and I love that banquet style eating allows us to try so many different things. My favourites included the dips, the meatballs, the quail, the cabbage salad and the lamb. Practically everything we ate was a favourite! Of all the cuisines in the world this is probably my favourite.