Friday, March 14, 2014

Téta Mona

March 12, 2014

I've been badgering Cindy to visit Téta Mona ever since I saw their posters pop up a few months ago around Brunswick. Teta Mona is named after the grandmother of the brothers who run things - they're aiming to recreate the kind of food she used to cook for them and serve it up to the Brunswick masses. They seem to have struck a chord - it's just a few months after they opened and things are already heaving. We turned up at 7 on a Wednesday to find everything except the big communal table booked up.

The space is bright and modern - polished wood floors, high ceilings and big windows give everything an open, airy feel. The open kitchen runs along the side of the restaurant, so there's plenty of hustle and bustle, especially once the tables start filling up. They're just running with a BYO licence for now, so we sampled their non-boozy drinks: a home made lemonade for me and a rosewater crush for Cindy ($4 a pop).

The lemonade was tangy and not overly sweet, but I was jealous of Cindy's frozen red drink, which looked incredible. As you'd expect from the colour of it, it was very sweet.

The menu is divided into three sections: zghiir (small, $8 each), wasat (medium, $13.50 each) and kbiir (large, $17.50 each). Vegetarian options are labelled, although there's some confusion about the meaning of vegan, with dishes clearly containing yoghurt getting marked with a 'v'. There are plenty of vegan options - it just pays to order carefully. The wait staff were pretty helpful too, letting us know which dishes were able to be done gluten-free (most of them, if you dropped the bread).

We got a bit carried away, ordering two of the small plates, two medium and one large between three of us. The small plates were probably my highlights - loubiye khadra (sauteed green beans in onion, garlic and chilli sauce) and foule madam (fava beans, tomato, lemon and parsley salad). Both were much more than the sum of their parts - the beans in particular managing to balance the chilli and garlic perfectly.

The first medium plate was the arnabeet wa beethnjaan tahini (pan-fried eggplant and cauliflower with tahini and bread). This was a solid dish as well - the eggplant had a nice crisp to the skin around tender, well-seasoned flesh, while the cauliflower was soft and golden-fried.

We also had to try their falafel, served with pickles, bread and tahini. They were excellent little balls - loaded with herbs and crispy on the outside without being all dry in the middle. The pickles were great as well.

By this time we were all filling up a bit (warning: they bring bread out with every dish - it's probably smart not to try to eat it all) and kind of regretting our one large dish, the kousa meshi (zucchini stuffed with wild brown rice in a rich bean and tomato sauce with yoghurt). Luckily, it was delicious - the sauce was hearty and tasty, and the stuffed zucchinis had soaked it up and gone all soft and saucy. It was far too filling for this point in the meal and we fell a bit short of polishing it all off, but that's more a mark of our over-enthusiastic ordering than any shortcomings in the dish.

Téta Mona is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood - the staff are friendly, the menu very veg-friendly and the food top notch. It's not going to overtake Mankoushe in our affections, but it's a very worthy contender.

There've been a couple of positive blog reviews for Téta Mona - see Elesbury Corner Store and Little Chef Meals.

Téta Mona
100a Lygon Street, Brunswick East
9380 6680
current menu: one, two

Accessibility: There's a small step up as you come in. Tables are pretty densely packed, but there's a corridor running up beside the kitchen towards the courtyard (which we didn't venture out to explore). They took our order at the table and we paid at a high counter (although I'm sure they'd take payment at the table if you were patient). We didn't visit the toilets.

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