59 Hardware Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
As much as I love George Calombaris (at least up until the whole scandal with him underpaying his staff), I had to admit that celebrity chefs are not exactly my cup of tea. Although I’m sure it’s not always the case, often it feels as if the only chefs that end up as celebrities are the ones who spend more time selling their brand, rather than cooking. So you have to understand my mixture of excitement and apprehension when I first heard earlier this year that Miznon was going to make an appearance in our very own Hardware Lane.
So what exactly is the deal with Miznon? One face value, it is a chain of Israeli street food restaurants opened by celebrity chef (and Masterchef Israel judge) Eyal Shani, with branches reaching as far as Vienna, Paris, and of course, Tel Aviv. Dig into it a little more however, and you’ll realise that Miznon is so much more than that. If anything, it’s something more akin to a cross between a street-side eatery and local bar. The staff shout in Hebrew over the blaring music, all whilst throwing back shots of clear aniseed liquor with the guests. To put it in Eyal’s own words, I want the young people, I want the happiness, I want the street.
Indeed, Miznon has been planned out to be casual, lively, and fun, with something to suit everyone. The party animals are welcome to sit at the bar, solitary diners may prefer to sit along the bench upstairs, and there are tables big and small for groups of all sizes. If you’re really keen, you can even hang out in the bleacher-style dancing area near the bar and boogie down to the Middle-Eastern beats.
We were there for all but 5 minutes before a waiter came over and whipped us off to the bar, with the promise of ‘something good’. That turned out to be complimentary aniseed liquor shots, which I will admit are really not my thing, but the charming hospitality was welcome nonetheless. Before long we had placed our order, and proceeded to pass our time by chowing down on pickled cabbage, tahini, and off-cuts of pita bread from the self-serve station.
The pita pockets are the main event here, with pillow-soft bread specially commissioned by Eyal from Alasya, a Turkish bakery in our very own Brunswick. The fillings are varied; the biggest section belongs to the vegetarian offerings, but there are plenty of meat and seafood-based options to tempt, as well as daily specials.
They had unfortunately sold out of the spicy fish option I had wanted to try, so instead I went for the Ocean Trout Belly and Avocado ($15). For something so simple – ocean trout, avocado, sour cream, onion, pickles – the amount of flavour it packed belied logic. The trout was hot and smoky, the lightly grilled exterior flaking away to a rich, pink centre. Supporting the centrepiece of trout was a smear of avocado mixed with sour cream, a hint of onion, and crunchy slices of pickle. Everything is in perfect proportion, making for a rich yet balanced experience with every bite. Frankly, I couldn’t stop cramming this into my mouth.
Equally as exquisite was the Pita with a Bone ($19), which held a rack of stewed lamb ribs so tender that the bones pulled cleanly out with the gentlest of tugs. Smothered with creamy tahini and complemented by a hint of smoky chilli, every bite was deliciously saucy, all the goodness soaking into the bottom of the sweet, airy pita bread.
Believe it or not, the Bag of Green Beans ($9) was one of the best side dishes I’ve ever had. It’s literally what the name says, yet that doesn’t even begin to describe the magic. Lightly steamed and tossed in a simple mixture of olive oil, lemon, and garlic, each bean is a crisp, sweet pod of freshness. The light, clean flavours danced on the tongue, and I loved the subtle difference in taste between each type of bean.
The beans do have some stiff competition however, in the form of the Baby Cauliflower ($13). A whole head of cauliflower comes out steaming from the pot, before being massaged with olive oil and stuck into the oven, leaves and all. The resulting vegetable has a sweetly charred exterior, whilst the centre is so tender and fluffy I’m compelled to describe it as creamy. I basically went at it with a fork, dipping each mouthful into a dish of nutty tahini, interspersed with bites of pickled cabbage. I am definitely going to try and recreate this at home.
Miznon has astounded me with just how delicious simple food cooked with good ingredients can be. Combined with their vivacious hospitality, I’m not surprised that Miznon has whipped up what can only be described as a cult following overseas. I will admit that the prices were a little boggling for what was meant to be casual street food, and the pitas were rather small, but as long as I have the disposable income, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat here again… and again.
Rating: 15/20 – where have you been all my life?
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.