100a Lygon St
East Brunswick, 3057 VIC
I like Lygon Street… as long as it’s not Lygon Street. Though I’m sure there are also some good restaurants there, I just can’t get the smell of tourist trap out of my nostrils. Go a bit further north however, you’ll find the cosy and eclectic Teta Mona, with the black and white photo of Grandma Mona herself on the window, promising to fill your belly with Lebanese soul food.
I’m a big fan of Lebanese food, but I have to admit that I don’t know much about it beyond the more common crowd pleasers, like shawarma and falafel. So even though the menu was short and humble, my mouth watered at the wholesome home-cooked meals on offer. Or maybe it was the spices in the air. Either way, it was love at first sight with the frayed tablecloths and unpretentious wooden bowls.
The entire menu sounded so good that we ended up deferring to our waitress’ (who was lovely and helpful, by the way) opinion for most of the meal. And if you ask her, she thinks that the Loubiye Khadra ($8.5) is a delicious and greatly underrated dish, an opinion which I am inclined to agree with. The beans were cool, crisp, and doused in a healthy glug of olive oil. Mixed through was a soft mash of tomato and onion, seasoned with the barest hint of chilli. It left your garden-variety salad (HAR HAR!) for dead.
Chris wanted the Cigara bi Lahem ($13.5), I didn’t. Our waitress was the tie-breaker, and we ended up ordering a plate of these cigar-shaped pastries filled with lamb. It turned out to be one of the most delicious things I’ve had in weeks.
By themselves, they were your standard (albeit well done) Lebanese snack, with moist lamb baked in layers of parchment-thin pastry. It was the pomegranate molasses that made them dazzle. The concentrated fruity tang brought out the fatty, spicy aroma of the lamb, just in time to contrast with a dollop of crisp yoghurt. I wanted to order some for dessert, after we had had dessert.
Our main of Kafta with Batata ($18.5) was a dish that brings the weak back to life. Fat meatballs lolled about in a spicy tomato braise, whilst the fluffy potatoes have long since soaked up the potent combination of spices. It was served on a bed of wild rice, and left us warm and tingly down to our toes.
The Rose Crumble ($6.5), how should I describe it? It tasted of snowflakes on roses, bathed in moonlight. From the crunch of walnut cookie crumble to the smooth rosewater gelato, every bite was sweet floral perfection. I would recommend this to anyone, even people who don’t usually like rosewater (for example, me).
I adore Teta Mona. The food is unpretentious and made with love (and some great quality ingredients), but it never falls into the trap of being dull and predictable. It ticks every single box I can care to conjure up, and I can hardly think of a better example of soul food. How I didn’t find this place earlier is entirely beyond me.
Rating: 15/20 – granny mona.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.