Never had Israeli food? Then head to Shenkin Kitchen, the third Shenkin instalment by brothers Din and Bar Haikin, following the original Shenkin in Erskineville and Shenkin Cafe in Newtown. Shenkin is named after the street in Tel Aviv, Israel, a buzzing hotspot littered with boutique shops and cafes, an atmosphere not far removed from its location on Enmore Road.
The story behind Shenkin is told beautifully on their website. Polish-born Tzvi Haikin was the only family member to survive the holocaust. He then endured a working camp in Siberia for two years before escaping to Persia. Serendipity led him to meet his future wife, the daughter of a baker, in Israel. Tzvi and Miriam opened their own bakery, where youngest son, Arie, worked from the age of 15. Arie emigrated to Australia aged 46, opening up the original Shenkin in October 2007.
Today, the business has been taken over by Arie's sons Din and Bar. And if you needed any more proof that good food runs in their veins, their older brothers Tom and Ben are behind the flourishing Hungarian bakery, Kurtosh.
Shenkin Kitchen is a small and understated space, taking over the premises formerly occupied by Pickwick Restaurant. Exposed bricks and quirky artworks create an inviting environment for locals to linger over coffee or work with laptops. Water carafes are recycled beer bottles (from Young Henry's brewery down the road), a blackboard menu lists the current drink specials, and an old wooden step ladder attached incongruously to the ceiling is likely to make you stop and stare.
The outdoor dining area is a great spot to soak up some Vitamin D in the dappled sunshine and it's quiet enough to make you forget you're in the middle of Enmore.
Labanne plate with fresh tomato, za'ata and pita bread $16
The lunch menu looks familiar at first sight: wraps with grilled chicken, roast beef or schnitzel, but delve deeper and you'll find the Israeli twist. Hommus plates come with falafel and a selection of sides like eggplant, mushrooms or fava beans or get the burekas pastries stuffed with cheese and spinach, or potato, mushroom and onion.
We went straight for the labanne plate, a huge crater of tangy strained yoghurt (much like Lebanese labne) filled with a lake of olive oil and za'atar, a mix of dried oregano, thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Tear off a hunk of fluffy pita bread and then mop up as much yoghurt, olive oil and za'atar as you can. Thick slices of ripe tomato make for an awesome palate cleanser.
Crispy fried zucchini with tahini sauce and falafel $12
Is there a more tantalising word on a menu than crispy? I think not. Alas the crispy fried zucchini might not have had the crunch I was looking for, but they're tasty nonetheless, drizzled in a nutty-tasting smooth tahini sauce. The falafel is actually the main star here, pucks of chickpea and parsley rolled in sesame seed and deep-fried until golden brown.
King's meal: grilled chicken, baked eggplant, tahini and Israeli salad $17.50
The King's meal isn't what I expect either, the grilled chicken served within, not beside the baked eggplant. The fat pieces of chicken are tender and juicy, slathered with a thick layer of tahini but it's the eggplant I can't get enough of, chargrilled to an intense smokiness.
The bottom of the eggplant is completely flat and verging on blackened. It makes for an incredible contrast - the dark, tacky and smoky skin against creamy eggplant flesh that's soft and sweet. We make some enquiries as to how they cook their eggplant but the kitchen stays mum, refusing to divulge their secrets. We don't blame them. We'll be back. And quickly.
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129 Enmore Road, Enmore
Tel: +61 (02) 9519 7463
Sunday to Tuesday 7am-5pm
Wednesday to Saturday 7am-10pm
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Enmore - Faheen Fast Food
Enmore - Sadhana Kitchen
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2/02/2014 03:07:00 pm