August 22, 2013
One of our Northcote friends fervently recommended United Arab Eatery to us. Its owners used to run Munsterhaus, which goes some way to explaining the salad selection - a rotation you can mix and match to eat in or take away. Since we were eating in we took more interest in the a la carte options.
Unlike Munsterhaus there is meat on the menu, though it's involved in less than half the dishes. Humming and hawing over the veg options, we could easily have constructed a second, just-as-exciting feast without repetition. There aren't any pointers for those with special dietary requirements - many of the vegetarian dishes mentioned dairy, and bread abounds, so we'd recommend checking with the staff.
We started with one of their specials, eggplant and potato croquettes ($12). They were crispy-crumbed but soft, sweet and a little starchy inside, and each one nested in a different sauce - juicy red pepper, smoky babaganouj and (my favourite!) preserved lemon mayonnaise.
In a fritter frenzy, we also ordered falafel ($11), a mini-meal with garlicky yoghurt sauce, babaganouj, pickles and a quinoa-based tabouleh. This was accompanied by fluffy hot flatbread (not pictured) with delicious charred dots - I wonder whether its tenderness might have come from yoghurt in the dough.
We rounded out our meal with a hearty dish of mushrooms, lentils and goats cheese ($15) You should have seen Michael's face when I offered him a second whole mushroom to himself! Even then, he scooped every drop of lentil gravy he could salvage from the bottom.
We agreed that we had time and stomach space for one dessert, and picked out the bitter orange Arabian doughnuts with syrup and yoghurt sorbet ($9). These fellas were dense, and the rolled sugar and syrup created a surprising sherbet sensation on my tongue. We shared the sorbet as politely as we could, given how light and refreshing and tempting it was to sneak a bit extra.
UAE has limited seating, so you'd do well to head in early for the dine-in menu, or just order takeaway instead. Either way, it's not difficult to flag down staff when there's so few places for them to hide! We thoroughly enjoyed what they had to offer and eagerly anticipate the many vegetarian dishes we've still not yet sampled.
United Arab Eatery
487 High St, Northcote
veg dishes $7-15
Accessibility: I think the entry's flat, but the interior is very crowded. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.