Kate’s FINAL Friday food review: Golda — ‘I couldn’t fault anything’
162 Commercial Rd, Prahran
Could there be a better combination than the mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours in Israeli cuisine?
After a refresh during lockdown, Golda is back with a beautiful airy space, and plenty of protected outdoor dining to bring in the very-ready diners in the COVID normal age.
We’ve seen Israeli street food done well at CBD spot Miznon, the hummus plate perfected at South Melbourne’s Left Handed Chef, but at Golda, things are stepped up a notch.
From the on point service, to superb cocktail list, it’s clear from the outset we really are back and dining out in Melbourne, and about to be spoiled with something special.
It’s a set menu affair at Golda, which is fine by me. Chef Rotem Papo will start you off with “Salatim” or salads, an assortment of ultra-tasty small, fresh dishes.
Of course there is hummus. House-made with a well filled with crushed chickpeas in paprika oil in the centre. That can be slapped on the stupendous Laffa bread. It’s a generous serve of this unusual Iraqi flatbread. The dough is rested for 24 hours, then cooked on an upside down wok over open flame, and the result is a soft, pillowy, charred piece of heaven.
There’s a small bowl of heirloom cherry tomatoes with celery, green chilli and pistachio, bursting with freshness. Bright red marinated bullhorn peppers sit in gloriously light whipped Bulgarian feta, with slices of pickled garlic. And you can pick at a vibrant bowl of Grandma Rosa’s Pickles.
But the showstopper from these starters is Chef Papo’s double fried cauliflower. Modelled on the famous twice or thrice cooked chip, the florets are brined, and then dusted with flour and fried firstly at 150 degrees. Once you order them, they’re fried again at 190 degrees, then served on Tahini and garnished with tart sumac onion. The result is crisp on the outside, but perfectly fluffy within, and seriously moreish.
Next, you’ll choose two dishes from the wood-fired grill. We couldn’t go past the Lakes Entrance Calamari. The calamari itself has been been marinated in milk, garlic and thyme, then grilled in the Josper oven giving it a touch of smoke. Alongside there’s marinated, grilled zucchini, and bright purple Congo potatoes dusted with ras-el-hanout spices. In the Jewish Yemenite tradition, truss tomatoes are grated over the top of the dish, adding a little acidity, then some green chilli garnish for good measure. Somehow this subtle dish still packs a punch – it’s a terrific balance of flavours.
Lamb kebab sounded pretty standard for an Israeli restaurant, this dish was anything but. Quality lamb shoulder is minced and skewered and then gets the magic treatment that is that Josper oven. It’s served on a green tahini – the traditional version mixed with garlic, lemon juice, herbs, and iced water. Next, a dollop of cooked cracked freekeh mixed with preserved lemon and herbs. Then atop the meat, Vine Leaf Zhug – a pesto like paste of vine leaves, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and green chilli. Honestly, I didn’t want to lose the taste of this dish. Just-cooked, smoky lamb, then that multitude of flavours in the accompaniments. It was a pearler.
You’ll also get to choose two sides and can’t go wrong here. I recommend the Lebanese Fattoush salad, made unique here with smoked tomatoes; and the Smoked Eggplant, grilled in the Josper, peeled and served with hearty green lentils, spring onion and capsicum “matboucha”.
We just made it through to dessert, but thankfully it was surprisingly light, Golda’s take on an Israeli fruit salad – yoghurt pannacotta with seasonal fruit and a fabulously zinging limonata granita.
I couldn’t fault anything here, and that went for the drinks list too. Playful, creative but still wonderfully balanced – the Bazooka Joe a highlight, based on a lolly from Papo’s youth, combining Bombay Sapphire Gin and Cointreau with tart Rhubarb liqueur, pomelo and a pomegranate float.
These were refined dishes, yet still a hearty feed, healthy, yet certainly indulgent – and in all a generous spread at $65 per person. If you haven’t tried Israeli food before, Golda is sure to convince you that we really should be seeing more of it here in multicultural Melbourne.