|Grilled Holloumi with tomatoes, lemon juice and drizzled honey.|
It looked like it was going to be an evening of Kafta grills, Spinach pastry and Hummus dips (blended chickpeas with Tahini and lemon juice).
Here A and I were trying out Harbour Street at Wollongong Harbour. We chose to sit outside, even if it was an unusual coolish evening this time around in a rather warm May. Perfect! I anticipated a warm cooked dinner with Mediterranean cuisine - and it suited me well that the air was slightly nippy.
The lady who welcomed us assured us of the outdoor vertical heater near by our table. I wondered what can be different here from the other three restaurants in Wollongong providing this cuisine. Harbour Street has funky coloured mural walls inside and has a wide facade along the southern end of WIN Stadium. It did not look like a traditional restaurant. Its site is a logical place for outdoor dining and drinks, especially with events happening nearby with live shows and sports games.
|My serve of Mansaf lamb, providing contrasts in bite, taste and nutrition.|
Sweet potato fries and crispy fried garlic chicken wings look like an easy route to take, especially with beer for the weekend. However we wanted something more authentic to start with.
I am usually not a fan of Halloumi but I would go back to what Mustafa recommended for us - al dente grilled Halloumi pieces sitting on a plate with attractive cherry tomatoes, drizzled with honey and sitting on a small serve of Tabouleh chopped green veg. No meats, uplifting in taste and beautifully presented - this entree is not just one for the female company. I readily took the Halloumi in quick fashion - it may look like elegant French toast, but it was more yummy than that, with a light but tasty bite.
|Lamb Shish Kebab.|
In Sharwarma cooking, meat is usually put on a vertical spit turning on an axis - it reminds me of the Greek Gyros and Turkish Doner Kebab. I find it fascinating that stacks of fat and seasoned meat are placed in layers up this spit. The preparation thereby can roast in its own fats.
To off set the warm nature of such meat, toppings when served include pickled turnips, cucumber, Amba, Hummus, tomato and Tahini to balance the palate. Fattoush, Tabbouleh and breads are popular accompaniements as well.
Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad, in that fried or toasted pieces of Pita are served with mixed greens and tomatoes.
Tabbouleh has finely chopped ingredients of tomatoes, mint, Bulgur, Cous Cous, onions, parsley - this totally vegetarian dish is seasoned with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.
Amba is akin to the more oily Acar found in south-east Asia, essentially pickled mango chutney, made with Fenugreek, chilli, tumeric, mustard. salt and vinegar - and is comfort food in both Israel and Iraq.
A did find the Sharwarma lamb a tad salty that evening but Mustafa, with a beaming smile and yet concern, immediately replaced with a plate of a choice of lamb Shish Kebab. The latter was sheer happiness, so juicy flavours just melting away in the mouth and leaving a wholesomeness by itself. It was also the marinade, the texture and the bite.
I had no issues with my Mansaf, slow cooked lamb heaped on Pilaf rice, garnished by toasted almonds and yoghurt cucumber. Initially I reckoned the rice looked drier than I wanted, but it sort of nicely contrasted with the meat once I got into it. I found this dish appetising, had several ingredients and was not spicy at all.
Chicken on offer is cooked with onion, lemon, garlic, parsley and other spices - white meat as opposed to the heavier lamb - and which poses its own challenges in preparation. Unlike lamb, the chicken has to be ensured marinated in a different manner.
|We both loved the darker brown thin breads!|
Variety can also be found in the shared platters, either vegetarian or with the iconic meats and accompanied by garlic flavoured dips. There are also banquet alternatives for a minimum four persons dining per table.
To close up the evening, we had a most unusual dessert, light, uplifting and an eye opener in presentation. Mustafa said it was simply called Rosewater. On reflection, the name emphasised the scent and delicateness of it all in this offering. Rosewater relates to the distillate of the rose flower and is a popular ingredient in much of the Middle East and Indian sub-continent, mostly in cosmetics, drinks, rose oil, food flavouring and in making Marzipan. Served with hazelnut and coconut, it was another suggestion from Mustafa.
Mustafa always approached us with a ready smile and alternative options. When making recommendations, we could sense he had something of a delightful surprise up his sleeve....and then he delivered.
|Rosewater dessert, with hazelnuts and coconut.|
The Harbour Street proclaims that it is redefining street food. I do find they do have certain menu items not found elsewhere, plus having touches of other Mediterranean influences apart from just Lebanese. Their menu is not over crowded but purposeful, with enough items to build up a banquet or meal. Some of their dishes have a finesse beyond what is called street food. Although popular stuff like lemon juice, garlic dips, olive oil and tomatoes are utilised, Harbour Street also throws in a delightful spanner in the works to recreate specific dishes that stand out. Maybe it is also due to their "special sauces".
Both of us were so full up and so satisfied by evening's close that we did not try some Baklava or the Mhalabhye, a milk pudding with orange blossom and vanilla, to wind up the night....next time then!
My impressions of the Harbour Street Wollongong:
Ambiance: 3.5 out of 5
Customer Engagement: 4 out of 5
Culinary Delight: 3.75 out of 5
X Factor: 3 out of 5
Overall: 14.25 /4 out of 5
Recommended menu choices:
Lamb, chicken and Kafta skewers
Meat Sambousik, golden puffs filled with pine nuts, onions and meat.
Ferri or char grilled quail marinated with lemon juice, garlic and special sauces.
Shanklish Bruschetta, serving aged cheese, parsley, onions and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and Balsamic glaze.
Halloumi, grilled, served with Tabbouleh green veg, cherry tomatoes and honey drizzle.
Salt and pepper Calamari, garlic prawns and Lebanese spiced fish
The Harbour Street is located at 49 Harbour Street, Wollongong NSW at the WIN Stadium.
Opening hours are from 530pm to 11pm from Tuesdays to Fridays and noon to 11pm on weekends.
Contact 1300 000 4664
Licensed and catering available.