Tuesday, May 29, 2012


May 25, 2012

Marieke has repeatedly recommended Maha for vego fine dining, and Michael decided to take her advice while celebrating his birthday this year. While the restaurant is large, its dark furnishings and loud-ish music lend quite the city bar feel.

I took this as a cue to order a cocktail - our waiter suggested the pomegranate sour ($19) and I'm so glad he did. The egg white froth topping the sweet and sour liquor tasted like icecream - this is one grown-up spider.

The menu is inspired by the Middle East (though you'll certainly see some contemporary tweaks in the dishes we ate) and comes in a range of styles and sizes - the soufra (in 2, 3 or 4 courses) looks more traditional, while the sultans is an extravagant 6 or 8 courses. You can also go a la carte, picking featured items from the other menu. Maha print out a separate vegetarian menu specially, and the staff explicitly asked about dietary requirements twice so other restricted eaters should be well catered to, too.

Michael had us all ordering the 8 course blow-out, though we held off on the matched wine. The meal begins with shot-sized glasses of an iced hibiscus tea.

And bread. Soft, warm, fancy bread. These ones were most notable for their sweetness - I think the round one was lightly spiced with cinnamon.

Our first proper course was a carrot and cumin shourba with carrot cous cous. The soup was surprisingly thick and I couldn't taste much beyond the cumin, which disappointed me.

This medley of breakfast radish, micro carrot, pickled cabbage, mushroom dirt, leaves and saffron yoghurt was pleasant, though I didn't really get the hang of how these ingredients fit together. Mostly I was just distracted by the cabbage's resemblance to raw meat.

I got more into the swing of the seeds, nuts, peas, turnips and beans, swiping in the roast lemon gel and crunching on the goats curd cigar.

The next dish had a similar presentation and was just as likeable - BBQ corn kernels get a little crunch from puffed corn, some depth from smoked almonds, and extra moisture from a corn custard. A silverbeet borek on top adds the extra salty-friedness that I can't resist.

Course number five featured heirloom tomatoes and broken coriander falafel with some unexpected kewpie mayo and toast foam. Though it paired well with the tomatoes, we found the toast foam a little pretentious - hummus would serve the same purpose! - so much so that we barely noticed that kewpie mayo anomaly.

Thankfully there was a longer pause before the final savoury dishes arrived, though we still had no hope of finishing them. The highlight was a stuffed kousa (zucchini) flower - instead of the stock-standard creamy cheese filling, this one boasted sweetly spiced pumpkin, a surprisingly apt match. I was less enamoured of the mograbiehi - they were chewy, heavy and not full of flavour.

Besides, there were even more carbohydrates on offer, and few compete for my attentions quite like potatoes!

We were also served a fattoush, which was lovely but only served to triple the carb load.

Dessert was not much lighter - our first was a cup lined with baklava crumbs containing peanut butter parfait, salted caramel, chocolate sorbet and orange blossom foam. The subtleties of the orange and baklava were lost on me but as a card-carrying supporter of all things chocolate-and-peanut-butter, I was happy.

Our last dish was not diminutive, either - we were served towering pots of white chocolate soufflé with rosemary ice cream and blue berry meringues. While the meringues didn't do much for me, the honeyed flavour of the soufflé paired with the rosemary ice cream was striking; once I'd eaten all the ice cream I lost interest in the remaining third of my soufflé.

As we settled the bill and retrieved our coats, we were left with two parting gifts - vials of ras el hanout and DIY packages of Maha's famous Turkish Delight donuts, no longer on the menu.

It was a mixed meal - some of the flavour combinations were remarkable, while others left me completely indifferent. But we were all resoundingly full! I liked that the service was more casual than at many other high-end restaurants; it felt friendlier and was still sufficiently attentive. (Even so, I'd prefer that they didn't assume the meat meal at our table must be for one of the males and declare that the DIY donut packages were 'for the women'. SMASH THE GENDER BINARY, MAHA.)

Moreover, it's great to notch up another high-end venue that gladly caters to vegos. Though we're unlikely to find the right excuse to return soon, I suspect their soufra menu would be great fun to share with friends.

Fellow veg bloggers Nouveau Potato, The Big V and easy as vegan pie have previously covered Maha, with only the latter having a few gripes.

Blog reviews of Maha are abundant and overwhelmingly positive - see dining nirvana, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, Suburban Culinary Adventures, Melbourne Food Snob, La Vino Vida Blog, Almost Always Ravenous, Dangerous Duplicity, Barley Restaurant Reviews, Miss Adriennely, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, amystown, find me a muse, Foodie Diary, Does My Bomb Look Big In This?, please sir, can i have some more, This Food Guy, Petit Miamx, Fill My Belly in Melbourne, One Mouthful, I Don't Bitch I Blog, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), anitaeat, Out of my kitchen, spicy icecream, Moon cheese pie with a cup of starshine, juganaut's foodie thoughts, Journey of an Obsession, My Food Trail, Ooh, Look..., doublecooked, Spatuala, Spoon and Saturday, 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights, The Food Blog, My Belly Is My Friend and Eat Almost Anything. Bloggers report feeling underwhelmed on Sweet and Sour Fork and 8ITES, there's a struggle with service on I Eat Therefore I Am, and food 613 flat out didn't like it.

A few bloggers have been cooking Maha-style at home, too! The Turkish delight donuts appear on Wholesome Cook and Gastronomic Goodies, while Better With Spice made a multi-course feast.

21 Bond St, Melbourne
9629 5900
veg sultans menu, 8 courses, $105

Accessibility: Maha has reasonably spaced tables, is a little dim and loud, and has full table service. The toilets are highly accessible and Felicity reports below that there's a lift next to the staircase entry to the building.


  1. I'll be doing a post soon enough on the fund raising dinner we went to.... glad to see you feel as indifferent as I do.. sometimes I feel like I'm on crack!

    1. I'll look forward to seeing your meal and thoughts, Carla! We would have liked to be there.

  2. Shame that not all the dishes were winners - but still, it's pretty cool that they look after dietary requirements so well! Even as a committed meat lover (and female, incidentally) I think I'd be very satisfied with that meal!

    "Grrrrr" at giving donut packages to the women! That shiz does not fly with me, lol!

    xox Sarah

    1. Sarah - yeah we've gotta work on those stereotypes, though I'm glad at least one of us had donuts to take home. :-)

  3. Many of the dishes remind me of Nic Poelart's food, for some reason.

    1. Hi Joanne! I think many fancy-restaurant chefs have a similar style of arranging their fresh veges, a sort of artful scattering. :-)

  4. Hi Cindy,

    I only just discovered your blog and your review of Maha… sorry, I'm a bit new to all this internet stuff! Slowly getting the hang of it though - I'm finally on Facebook and started a blog of my own!

    Thanks for the great post, I'm glad you enjoyed your dining experience at Maha, especially the doughnuts! Have you been back recently? So much has changed, I think we're delivering our best yet!

    I'm wondering if you've considered coming along to the Problogger Food & Wine Blogger event I am hosting at Maha in a couple of weeks?

    I'd love to see you back at Maha to see what we're going to plate up at this event! It's going to feature Darren Rowse (Problogger himself!) and three great speakers discussing their approach to food and wine writing. I'll be cooking up an exclusive three course Maha feast (some new dishes!) for everyone and there will be some great give aways for the best questions to the panel of speakers. I'd love to see you there?

    Maybe your readers would be interested in coming with you? As a thank you for this post about Maha, I'd like to offer you and your readers a $10 discount off the normal ticket price for the event. Just use the promo code FOODIES when you register or share this with your readers.

    You can find more details here http://shanedelia.com.au/blog/maha-restaurant/problogger-shane-delia-announce/

    Bring your video camera, maybe you can do a quick vox pop interview with me or Darren!


    1. Opps, I meant I hope you enjoy making the doughnuts at home. Sorry I'm still getting the hang of this!

  5. Hi guys, I just came across your blog after searching "borek". As a wheelchair user I appreciate you including accessibility information in your review. I wish it was included more frequently. As a fan of Maha, I can add that as well as the wonderfully accessible bathroom, they also have a lift located next to the main entrance that takes you down into the restaurant. You guys should make another visit, they're doing some delicious things at the moment!

    1. Welcome, Felicity! Thanks for this extra info, I'll edit the post to include it in just a minute. Let us know if there's anything else we should keep an eye out for when we visit places, we're both relatively able-bodied and just making our best guesses.