Middle Eastern and North African Delights at Kamel, Albert Park
What keeps Kamel interesting is that on one side you have Middle Eastern inspired gems like hummus, juicy kebabs and baba ghanoush and then you are hit with tantalising North African inspired spices from cumin, paprika to cinnamon and saffron all blended into a diverse menu sure to please any discerning diner. There is also the heavy use of fresh parsley and coriander breathing in some freshness.
This would have to be my fourth time dining at Kamel, so a post was long overdue my friends. OVERDUE! A hunt for something different prompted the first visit two years back. Now, we find ourselves coming back for the consistently solid mezze selections from their dreamy pistachio crumbed goats cheese to the Turkish Fairly Floss that somehow dwarfs us into little kids as we make mustaches out of it! The menu is designed for sharing and the flavours aren’t overly intense as you may think they are.
More recently though, we were there to help farewell a few of our closest friends, S & J, who were both jet setting off overseas. Although quite a teary celebration, we were all glad to be in an intimate and accommodating atmosphere as we indulged in Turkish delight ice cream, happily drank jugs of sangria and toasted to new beginnings.
The back room and the upstairs function rooms are a little more intimate, fantastically decorated with splashes of red and dimly lit than the front main area but seem to be catered for larger groups than a dinner date being fitted with communal style tables. Photography did prove to be challenging under such lighting conditions so forgive me for my photos!
As a cheeky little kid, there was no way that mum could ever get me to eat beetroot, even when it was hidden in her ‘green’ salads. Twenty something years on, I’m a changed man. Keep reading and you’ll see why.
We started off with some warm Turkish bread accompanied by three tasty dips being tzatziki, hummus and my personal favourite, the smooth and tangy beetroot. The problem here was that the table was fighting over the last morsel of beetroot dip. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, someone had actually swiped my last piece of bread! Why I outta…
Next came the star of the entrees. Although, I didn’t get a good shot of Pistachio Crumbed Goats Cheese (below) opened up, should you get a chance to taste this for yourself- underneath the crumbed exterior, you will discover cheese, like you’ve never eaten before. Unlike say, a slightly chewy pan fried saganaki or a almost saucy like melted cheddar, it is crafted into a warm perfectly spreadable paste atop the moreish Turkish bread. The fig paste , when used at a minimum, added a welcomed sweet rush to the savoriness of the cheese.
I really didn’t want this portion of the meal to end as I savoured the last bite of the cheese lathered bread. You should have seen me go on and on about how much I liked the crumbed pistachio….. Thankfully, everyone else agreed. Otherwise, someone would have had to stuff a piece of bread in my mouth to put me out!
This picture doesn’t do this justice. You must try it for yourself.
The salmon kebabs, also with pistachio & coriander oil was another highlight. This one didn’t last too long on the table. The salmon was fresh and in amongst all the juicy pieces of ocean life, there was the added crunchiness of the pistachio and a squeeze of citrus drizzled throughout.
When the stars are on your side, there will come an entree that you that you had wish you had ordered as a main instead. And that I did. I was adamant on making my wish come true so I ordered several servings of the these babies. Think Roasted Chat Potatoes with fenugreek, spring onions and a thin and crispy honey glaze leaving the insides nice and piping hot fluffy. It was much like candied potatoes.
What I had liked about the tasty morsels so far, was the sweet side of each dish. The pan fried prawns doused with sesame seeds, honey, coriander and crimson red ripened tomatoes. The sauce made my heart melt as we all started to use it as a dip for the bread. The downfall? Not enough of it!
Getting our hands dirty with the pan-fried kefalograviera cheese with lemon was an introduction to our bad behavior that was to come. I took a quick sneak peak at these babies hitting the frying pan. I’m such a kitchen spy! The saganaki was nicely done, not overly chewy with a golden crisp edges.
Next up was the Chargrilled beef berbere: with pear, pinenut & rocket salad. Again, another sweet addition with the pear helping to cut through the bitterness of the rocket leaves. The beef was tender but personally, I would’ve preferred it to be a little more rare.
Moroccan spiced Chicken Strips went well with the cherry tomatoes. We were actually deliriously full by this point ( my happy place!) so this was the only dish that my friends and I didn’t fight for.
Reading the menu, this was the finale I was looking forward to. I happen to dig Turkish Delight and was gobsmacked to find that Kamel did a Turkish Delight ice-cream. I enjoyed the chunks of frozen rose flavoured pieces throughout. The Baclava (2 servings) were incredibly light and flaky but not overly sweet with each bite revealing the multitude of pastry layers. The Turkish Fairy floss added to the night’s entertainment as we all took happy snaps of our ‘ fairy flossed mustache’ poses. Unfortunately, I promised my friends that I wouldn’t post these embarrassing photos. Damn it!
I’ve recommended Kamel to more than a dozen friends who have all since become Kamel Fanatics – holding their birthday parties in the upstairs function rooms to celebrating their anniversaries. Let me know how you go!
Details: 19 Victoria Ave, Albert Park Phone: 03 9696 1386
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