Life-affirming kebabs & the real Mark Wiens

Plus 20 Middle Eastern breakfast cafes, new Thai & more

Hi! You look hungry. If you learn a thing or two reading this newsletter and haven’t yet upgraded to an Off Menu subscription, please consider doing so. It helps improve it. Besides, it’s filled with exclusive access and costs less than a coffee a fortnight.

A Bite-Sized Summary:

  • Feature: Kömür grills Melbourne’s best adana kebabs

  • Q&A: Getting deep with YouTuber Mark Wiens

  • List: 20 Middle Eastern breakfasts in Melbourne (premium only)

  • Just Open: Pa Tong slaps CBD with Southern Thai

  • Deep Dish: Filipino isaw (skewered intestines)

Something very cringy just happened. I was sitting in a little Malaysian restaurant waiting to pick up my car, when a middle-aged white lady approached the counter, her mouth turned into a shape best described by saying “eughhh” out loud. “EXCUSE MOI!” she bellowed into the kitchen, “there is a hair. SEE?” The proprietor, bless him, followed the line of her finger into a puddle of beef rendang. “Oh, I’m sorry madam,” he shrugged with kindness, “that is lemongrass, let me show you.” He then proceeded to bring the fibrous ingredient out from the kitchen, smiling with sincerity the entire time.

It’s human nature to reject the unfamiliar, even to approach it with our defences set to maximum security. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation linked to survival, but honestly, it’s 2023. We ain’t monkeys anymore. All of that is a very long way of saying that I hope this newsletter encourages you to dig in with your defences down. As this week’s star, YouTuber Mark Wiens, said to me recently, “Sometimes you never know what you might really enjoy, so just keep tasting.”

Sofia x

Kömür grills Melbourne’s best Adana Kebabs

One day you’re barbecuing adana for Ascot Vale locals in your father’s legacy, the next YouTuber Mark Wiens tells 10 million people, “Kömür was one of the best meals and best restaurants I ate at in Melbourne.” Here’s the beautiful story behind this unassuming shop and the owner who calls himself the “happiest person in the world”.

Q&A: Getting deep with YouTuber Mark Wiens

Beyond the loyal fans and theatrical reactions to food, YouTube star Mark Wiens has a lot to say. As he approaches 10 million subscribers, Mark opens up about why he’d never be a food critic, the importance of family, the mammoth amount of work that goes into running his channel and whether or not he exaggerates his famous food reactions.

OFF MENU: 20 Middle Eastern breakfasts in Melbourne

In the second instalment of Melbourne Alt-Breakfasts, I’ve put together a sweeping list of Melbourne cafes, restaurants and bakeries where you can dine in for a Middle Eastern breakfast. From bountiful Turkish platters and bulging Lebanese breads, to scrambly Persian omelettes and Iraqi clotted cream, 20 spots ought to keep you busy. Premium subscribers only.

JUST OPEN: Pa Tong slaps CBD with Southern Thai

The owners of 'IYKYK' Melbourne CBD favourite, Pinto Thai, have opened another restaurant at 271 Flinders Lane. Pa Tong is a little more than a week old and is already delivering unapologetically hot, pungent and spice-packed Southern Thai cuisine. Ordering is via the QR code, which might reveal that the hor mok curried fish cakes steamed in a traditional clay vessel are already sold out. Fear not, there's always steamed crab rice or gaeng tai pla, a regional, soupy curry made from fermented fish entrails and served with rice vermicelli and raw veg.

DEEP DISH: Filipino isaw (skewered intestines)

Before those of you culturally unfamiliar with eating intestines on a stick freak out, pause for a moment and consider that real sausage casings are also intestine. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, isaw. Also known as chicken or pork intestines that are thoroughly cleaned, boiled, marinated (in soy, garlic and banana ketchup) and barbecued on a skewer. It's genius given the surface area of the threading; the meaty ribbons blister into a charcoal crunch. This popular afternoon street food snack is usually found at specialty “isawan” vendors in the Philippines, but it’s worth checking the menu at your casual, local Filipino restaurant. It’s on offer at mine: Barkada Pinoy in the CBD and at Highpoint.

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