For a country which figures so prominently in international headlines, it's strange to realise that so little is known about the Iraqi people and their cuisine.
I'd first heard about Sydney's only Iraqi restaurant about a year ago. It had immediately intrigued me. I had to go but it wasn't until late last year (yes, this is a long-overdue post) that I finally managed to get there.
The menu is short and sweet. Disappointingly, we arrive to discover they have run out of fish. It is 7pm on a Friday night and the place is deserted but for a lone diner. Iraqis must eat at 5.30pm.
We order blindly, wondering what "fill in lamb" and "bread/curry stew" will bring. The food comes out quickly and in rapid succession.
Roasted fill in lamb with rice $10.90
Beans in tomato sauce
Combination of kebab, tika and chicken tika $13.00
Bread / curry stew $10.90
Traditional Iraqi bread
Complimentary tomato and cucumber salad
Complimentary pickles and lemon wedges
The food is resonant with simplicty and humbleness. The food arrives unadorned and unstyled. It is sustenance and flavour without fancy pretensions.
The lambs shanks hiding under the rice are beautifully tender. Lamb bones in the bread/curry stew are full of meat and tantalising tendons. Beneath the lake of burnt sienna are layers of Iraqi bread, which have been patiently soaking up the flavours of curry and lamb fat.
Portions are generous and our host is ever-smiling. The cuisine seems to have nuances of Lebanese and Indian which meld surpisingly well.
The bill is a pittance and we have enough leftovers for another dinner it seems. It is packaged up for us neatly in a tower of takeaway containers encased in plastic bags. Peeking at the top is a mound of seven more loaves of complimentary Iraqi bread. Our quiet host nods at us with a shy and thoughtful smile and we nod back with happy grateful faces.
Aldhiaffah Al-Iraqi Restaurant
13 The Crescent, Fairfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9755 0870
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4/05/2006 11:51:00 p.m.