It’s like being there.
Cocktail-attired guests begin to fill the Maserati showroom in a fluid movement of coiffed women and stylish men among the shine of luxurious cars. Welcoming smiles are exchanged.
Souk Society Dinner at Maserati
The excitement among guests is palpable. The event is the inaugural Souk Society Dinner, an initiative by the Souk Society which represents a collective mindset with the aim of showcasing Middle Eastern cuisine throughout Australia.
Upstairs at Maserati Showroom
Upstairs at the Maserati showroom, Persian carpets are laid near the entrance to the space that is now an elegant pop-up restaurant. Ornate table settings with silver candelabras and three tier silver stands with nuts, pistachios and a scattering of blue sugar-coated almonds or mlabbass feel right at home with the luxury cars perched on either side.
It’s like being there.
And “there”, could be any of the outdoor restaurants by the Mediterranean Sea that line up Lebanon‘s coast or dot the villages of Mount Lebanon. “There” could also be one of the lavish restaurants and venues in Aleppo surrounded by night-lit swimming pools, or that special restaurant in Istanbul that embodies Middle-Eastern hospitality. But tonight, it is halfway around that world that the Souk Society has united people and cultures along communal tables.
A cocktail of Arak (a spirit distilled from grapes with a hint of aniseed), citrus and orange blossom water is served on arrival – a combination of flavours that makes the potent spirit so easy to sip.
Wine is plentiful with Chateau Ksara from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The Blanc de Blancs is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay grapes, soft on the palate with a light floral aroma. Chateau Ksara Réserve du Couvent, a blend Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is lightly oaked and smooth on the palate.
961 Beer and Chateau Ksara Wines
Non-alcoholic beverages make the rounds. There is Sirob Tout, also known as Sharab El-Tout, a mulberry syrup that is diluted with water and served on ice, and Jallab, made with carob, date and grape molasses, topped with pine nuts and raisins.
The feast unravels with a duo of Mezze Starters and the taste journey around the Middle East begins.
Almond Bar brings a taste of Syria with a salad of fresh haloumi strips, watercress, lentils, chargrilled red capsicum and mint, a dish with a zing not unlike fattoush, another Middle-Eastern salad.
From Café Mint comes flame-grilled eggplant with tomato, mint and almond topped with a green tahini dressing.
From the entrée menu, Lusso Tapas present bread pockets filled with twice cooked chicken that has been tossed in sumac and Arabic spices, topped with fried onion and toasted pine nuts. Delicious and filling, the combination of spicy flavours in the chicken go very well with the 961 Lebanese Pale Ale.
Chef Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy not only brings to the table a beautifully presented dish but a harmony of flavours from Turkey and Aleppo. King prawns are wrapped in crispy kadayif, with a scattering of pomegranate and muhammara – a delectable dish that gives a nod to the Aleppian influences in the region.
The first main course takes us to Alexandria in Egypt with Amina Elshafei‘s Alexandrian style barramundi. The fish is moist and flavoursome and comes served with taqlia, caramelised onion rice, pine nuts and a lemon tahini paste.
Embers Mezze Bar
From Embers Mezze Bar comes carob-glazed beef cheek with freekah and sheep’s milk labne. The meat is so tender and melts in the mouth with the caramelised flavour of carob which flows onto the freekah while the labne cuts through some of the sweetness.
Sea Sweet Patisserie
Sea Sweet Patisserie brings back childhood memories with a sweet dish described as walnut pancake pockets with orange blossom jam and rosewater syrup, a dessert traditionally served on St Barbara’s Day in Lebanon.
Booza brings out the child in everyone with ice cream pops of sweet sesame halawa in Zokoko dark chocolate and pistachio praline.
The George Khouzame Group
The George Khouzame Group brings a dessert too pretty to eat with “miettes de macarons” biscuit with a log of vanilla crème pâtissière and ashta.
Lebanese coffee in Arabic cups from Norma’s Lebanese Foods put an end to the feast.
The Souk Society dinner comes to an end with the unveiling of the new Maserati GranCabrio MC in the showroom to an enthusiastic crowd.
Maserati GranCabrio MC
The Souk Society Team
The Souk Society dinner did not only bring to Sydney a collective of culinary talents from various parts of the Middle East – it also took some of us there. Plans are in progress for the next event which promises to be in an even more exciting location. And we eagerly await to be there again.
The Souk Society dinner at the Maserati Showroom in Alexandria was held on Wednesday 1st May 2013.
Photography by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic © – All Rights Reserved
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Souk Society: www.facebook.com/SoukSociety
George Khouzame Group: www.georgekhouzame.com
Norma’s Lebanese Food: www.normaslebanesefoods.com.au
Harkola (Wines): www.harkola.com
961 Beer Australia: www.961australia.com.au
Café Mint: Website: www.cafemint.com.au
Lusso Tapas: www.lussotapas.com
Embers Mezze Bar: www.embersmezzebar.com.au
Almond Bar: www.almondbar.com.au
Sea Sweet Patisserie: www.seasweet.com.au
Amina Elshafei: @AminaElshafei
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