Named after Shane Delia’s wife, there’s only one thing sweeter than the name here – the Turkish delight doughnuts…
He’s the beamingly endearing host of SBS’s Spice Journey, but when he’s not travelling the world exploring and filming food traditions going back thousands of years, Shane Delia’s in the kitchen at Maha. His eight-year-old subterranean CBD bunker had a lots-of-zeros makeover earlier this year, and don’t it look the goods – all blonde wood and brass and turquoise, with just a few nods to the Middle East (a vase here, an incense burner there) the only real adornments bar an arresting oversized aerosol portrait of a Bedouin girl. The soundtrack, though, is all about old-school hip hop, the beats underscoring a set menu where the only choice is how hungry you are. Choose from two through six courses, which mix and match dishes though most feature a shared signature main of 12 hour lamb shoulder, a sticky, rich hunk of meat heady with cumin and coriander and served with plum-sized smashed radishes providing sharp crunch. Served with cracked wheat pilaf sweetened with dates, and an excellent winter leaf salad dressed with a smoked pepper vinaigrette, and you have an impressive highlight in a meal of many.Steeped in tradition but not bound by it, Maha is the Middle East seen through the prism of Melbourne today; a modern take on big spiced-flavours that never loses the sense of generosity that’s hallmark of the cuisine. Service, by staff rocking some of the best uniformed threads in town, is refreshingly professional, the wine list cleverly constructed and offering fancier drops by the half glass.
To finish, Turkish delight doughnuts are a mainstay – as is mint tea – while packets of Maha za’atar to take home that come with the bill are a generous reminder of the care with which the package as a whole has been constructed.
Words by Dan Stock
Originally posted on delicious. 3 October 2015