4th January 2016
223 High Street
Northcote, VIC 3070
There’s something to be said about doing one thing, and doing it well. Especially if that one thing is Shakshuka – the Middle-Eastern variation on baked eggs. After all, I’ve always thought it pointless to classify foods based on the times of day they’re ‘supposed’ to be eaten. I will have noodles for breakfast and baked eggs for dinner, thank you very much!
Now Roy and Nat, they know what’s going on. After doing his time at a string of hot-shot Melbourne restaurants, Tel Aviv-born Roy decided to open up Tahina in order to cook the food he loves; that’s to say, Israeli street food for the 21st century.
The menu looked so wholesome and tempting that it took me a while to realise that it is all vegetarian, consisting of a combination of shakshuka, falafel, and vegetables, to be washed down with gourmet smoothies. The restaurant itself isn’t all that much to look at; the cold stainless steel kitchen clearly belonged to a fish and chip shop in another life, and seating consisted of a couple of narrow ledges along the walls. I much preferred perching myself at the small garden tables outside, enjoying the summer evening breeze and the unfeasible number of dogs on walks.
The Salted Caramel Super Smoothie ($10) may not be actual caramel, but it is almost as good as. The sweetness of bananas and dates combined smoothly with the mellow Himalayan sea salt, and the coconut nectar gave it a layer of creamy nuttiness. For the more virtuous, the Green Warrior and Purple Protein Boost are the ideal candidates.
I have never found a great liking for falafel; I’ll eat them, but I would almost never go out of my way to order them, especially not with shakshuka on the menu. Tahina offers up not one, not two, but THREE different variations on the traditional egg dish, and it was not the original red, but the Green Shakshuka ($15) that caught my taste buds’ fancy.
Hot and bursting with flavour, this simple dish of eggs and braised vegetables was nothing short of amazing. Each bite was richly spiced, the creamy chunks of avocado interspersed with salty pops of olive. The bread came in pillowy half-moons with a light and tangy hummus, and there’s a trio of crisp salads to wash it all down.
Next up, a wedge of Roasted Eggplant ($8). Whilst the skin was basted with olive oil and baked until it was chewy and glossy, the gooey middle begged to be scooped out with a spoon. It was seasoned simply with a generous drizzle of tahina, and some kale chips for crunch, then placed upon a bed of hummus. Never has eggplant been so indulgent.
You know when people say that mashed cauliflower tastes just like potato? Well they may be liars, but the Cauliflower Rapiot ($8) was as good as any tuber.
Gently seasoned with a mix of herbs and a dash of chilli, these cauliflower florets were roasted until they were tender and fluffy, and boasting chewy, caramelised edges. And the best bit? These are actually good for you!
It’s clear that Roy and Nat have their finger on the pulse of Melbourne, and knows exactly what its citizens love. Despite having a very streamlined menu, everything is fresh, bold, and delicious, with just a hint of the exotic. I know it’s early days, but I’m going to call it: Tahina will be the next big thing.
Rating: 14.5/20 – you can make friends with salad!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.