The Internet is a wonderful thing - even before one of Melbourne's 2 million food bloggers were on the case, the denizens of Mess and Noise were bigging up East Brunswick's newest source of amazing food: Mankoushe. When Three Thousand followed up with a rave review, we were quickly on the case.
Mankoushe churns out Lebanese treats in the style of A1 and Tabets, but with a wider range and made fresh while you watch. There are plenty of vego options on the menu (many, but not all of them cheesy), from simple zatar pizzas ($1.50) to haloumi pies ($3.50).
Once you've made up your mind, you place your order and sit back to watch - the two guys who run the place are incredibly friendly and their enthusiasm for the food they're making is infectious. They also work the machines like seasoned pros - mixing and rolling dough, slathering on toppings and paddling them in and out of the giant wood-fired oven.
We walked in just after a massive takeaway order had been placed, so we got to watch them work their magic while we waited for our dishes to arrive. Cindy ordered the spiced feta mankoush (feta, fresh tomato, capsicum, onion and a dash of lemon and chilli, $4.90), which came out well before my falafel plate.
By the time it turned up we were both starving and I had to exercise all kinds of self-restraint to limit myself to a couple of slices (even with the copious tomato inside!). The fillings were mushed into a cheesy paste, and the fresh, warm bread was faintly sweet and beautifully cooked. I could have eaten three or four of these whole.
My falafel plate (mama's falafel, fresh tomato, lettuce, pickled turnip, hummus and a tarator sauce, $7.50) took a fair while to arrive, with everything freshly prepared.
Again the bread was fresh from the oven - stuffed with chunks of the glorious falafel balls, pickle, and salad (yes, even the tomato!) and smeared with some of the hummus, this quickly moved towards the top of my list of Melbourne falafel experiences.
We couldn't leave without sampling the sweets - a piece of pistachio sprinkled pastry for just $2. Cindy somehow managed to leave me a bite of its flaky, sugary goodness.
Mankoushe was a revelation - seriously one of the best new places we've been to in ages. The food is freshly prepared, cheap and simply wonderful, the staff seem to love what they're doing and all the customers we saw on our visit walked away as satisfied as we were. It's right on our tram line and we'll undoubtedly be going back again and again. Stay tuned...
Address: 325 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
Ph: 9078 9223
Price: $1.50 - $7.50