I particularly love reading articles about the owner of Maha (along with George Colambaris), Shane Delia, as he seems to capture everything I love about food and cooking in his outlook on food. For example, he states on the Maha website, “As long as I have good food, and family and friends to share it with, my life is complete", which is so much how I feel about my life and the role of food in our lives. The passion he has for his native cuisine and his love for hospitality was really evident in the beautiful experience we had at Maha.
Descending down the stairs we were greeted by friendly staff who took our coat and showed us to our lavishly decorated Middle Eastern style table. The level of service we recieved was wonderful. In particular, I found it very impressive how much they catered for differences in taste. Despite us all sharing the 'soufra' menu, which involves home-style tasting plates, they were completely accommodating to my partner's parents who dislike seafood (not an allergy, just a dislike) and happily matched them with seperate dishes whenever we had anything that contained seafood. Compared to dining experiences at places like Chin Chin and Mamasita, where the food is amazing but the service can be so-so, Maha's staff were patient and pleasant.
The food itself was wonderful. We started with a mezze platter with fresh, warm baked bread. The marinated olives were divine as was the poached salmon.
Second course of the soufra were also great dishes. We loved the rich flavours in chicken and fig tagine with corn bread and a runny egg. Such an interesting and unusual combination.
The duck and mushroom 'spring roll' type dish was also a hit. Crunchy pastry wrapped around salty duck mince with beautiful rich mixed mushrooms. The textures in this dish were amazing.
Our first main was a seafood dish which featured marinated Harpuka fish with a beautiful coriander sauce along with a fish mousse that we likened to a 'fish sausage'. This dish was enjoyable but the flavours were somewhat mild and unable to live up to the richness of the other dishes.
The stand-out dish of the day for everyone was the 12 hour roasted lamb shoulder. I had recently read this recipe in the latest Feast magazine and would have been devestated if it hadn't have featured in our soufra! The meat is marinated for 3 days then slow roasted at 100 degrees for 12 hours, and as you can imagine the result is pretty amazing. The tender meat just falls apart at the touch and is just wonderful served with a pistachio and green olive tabbouleh. We also had a wonderful fattoush salad and an almond rice pilaf.
I also enjoyed the homemade Moroccan Mint Tea with fresh mint and honey. As with all the dishes, even this was exquisitely presented.
As you can probably tell by now, I would not hesitate in recommending Maha for your next special occasion. The sharing style of the meals makes it quite affordable with the four course at $45 a head. I am planning on heading back this year to try the Sultans banquet which is a more degustation style of meal. I could not fault the service, food or atmosphere at Maha. I know it is a day and a dining experience that we will all always remember.