It’s been awhile since I’ve dined at Rumi. And it’s not because I don’t like their food. I think it’s a great restaurant, good food with reasonable pricing. And not to mention it’s right around the corner from my place. Perhaps I am all too often guilty of the inexcusable thinking that it’s right there, it’s going nowhere, I’ll be back next time. Well, there was a recent rumour that Heston Blumenthal was spied dining there in the company of Masterchef judges. That was probably the unconscious spur I needed to think of Rumi as the perfect dinner venue as I was wandering out of Alehouse Project during Good Beer Week.
Located on the corner of Edward street, Rumi is one of the best restaurants along the “local” stretch of Lygon St. Just ignore the gelato and the pizzas for a second, blink and you might just stroll by Rumi. This is one place that is consistently booked out on the weekends. Fortunately, I managed to park right on the bar counter and dove right into the $65 6-course banquet.
Pickled vegetables and olives were a perfect starter to purge my mouth of any residual flavours of the stouts and deep-fried pig’s ears from Alehouse. There was plenty of Lebanese bread to go around along with beetroot taratoor and bastourma (house cured beef). And you can always ask for more bread should you require.
So the next thing to warm up the stomach in anticipation for the main courses was the hot yogurt soup. This is usually used as a based for shishbarak which is meat dumplings, but just to have it plain with drizzle of burnt butter, I really like it. Good to awaken the tastebuds just in time for the meats.
Fish is a perfect step-up to the main course, and we were served:
The ocean trout was cooked really nicely, still tender and moist in the middle. Not too sure about the beetroot vinaigrette, but that’s probably just me. I would have preferred a creamy sauce. The Jerusalem artichokes were really delicious, a good crisp outer layer which you break through to access the hot velvety insides, matched very well by the saltiness of the shankleesh. The Brussels sprouts got a lift from the dill and lemon, and with added texture from the almond slices. An interesting way to prepare an otherwise boring vegetable which I tend to lump into curry, I might attempt this on my own next time.
Next, and just as an in-between course, we had grilled quail or Joojeh kebab with a cabbage salad and fried cauliflower. Very tender quail meat with a delicate skin just retaining some smokiness of the grill. I’d definitely like to order this again next time! Despite the portions not being the overly abundant, conversation and wine does fill out the stomach a fair bit. By this time, we were getting rather full, so it was the perfect time to bring out the last main which was slow-cooked chicken and rice pilaf.
The Khoresht Aloo va Haveej, or slow-cooked chicken with carrots and parsnips, was served with a simple fresh leafy salad and rice pilaf which has bit of apricot and sliced almonds. The breast meat was soft and juicy, not overly spiced and full of flavour from the sauce, which I took the liberty of heaping onto my serving of rice. The fresh leaves provided might seem sparse but did provide a good crunch on the bite.
Right, had enough yet? Yes, but there’s always room for dessert. I mean, to skip dessert would be an act of cowardice and be injustice to the mint tea. Dessert was a single serve of the almond milk pudding with rose jam and a honey pistachio malt slice. Both were deliciously sweet and the hot mint tea only served to render me less guilty of overeating for a split second. I should mention that while I did feel thoroughly satisfied by the end of the meal, I didn’t like how only single serves of the dessert were provided. If it was Turkish delight, which I had previously, that’d be easy for 3 of us. A cube each. But for three guys to share dessert, that’s a little weird. We didn’t mind it so much, but what if this was a meal shared by people less familiar with each other. That’d be awkward.
Overall, Rumi is a great place for Lebanese food on Lygon St, especially if you are in a group of 4 or more. It’s essential to make a reservation, especially for Friday nights. I find the Rumi menu pricing to be fair, but the banquet is definitely the way to good. The kitchen is consistently turning out well-cooked and well-presented dishes. Don’t be too put off initially by the smaller serving sizes because as the meal goes on, you will find yourself filling-up quite quickly. Instead, take pleasure in trying a little bit of more dishes. Certainly try the lamb shoulder too if you’d like a more resounding finale than chicken. The ambience of the restaurant isn’t quiet romantic, this is a casual place for friends and family to chatter. Service could be a tad more snappy and precise, but I haven’t encountered anything detrimental.