Sisiely is nothing but tenacious… especially when it comes to food. Despite not being able to attend the dates she suggested, she persisted and we managed to schedule dinner a couple of weeks ahead… only to have the dinner cancelled right on the day we were supposed to meet! Oh alright, more like postponed, as a week later, we all finally congregated at Souk in the City (I’ll just call it Souk from now on, shall I?). Souk is a restaurant I’ve been meaning to come back to for ages, while Sisiely seems like she’s been dying to try the food here ever since she went past it one night (and it was too busy to accommodate her party for dinner). We arrived at Souk at different times, so I missed her expression when Omar, the owner, showered her with rose petals and a very warm welcome upon her entry. I know for me I was quite embarrassed and awkward with the attention, but deep down inside it made me feel rather special.
It didn’t take long for F and I to start our wheeling and dealing in balancing out the meals we each wanted and the estimated stomach real estate they would take up. I missed out on getting the grilled haloumi this time, but I intend to champion for it next time we go.
The scallop dish was a no-brainer, even Sisiely knew that we’d order this dish! Thankfully it wasn’t a let-down with the scallops being wonderfully plump, juicy, and having a perfect sear. I thought the scallop’s natural sweetness was brought out by the sweet-sour flavours from the citrus components while the watercress added a lovely refreshing touch.
I remember having this last time I was here and we all loved it – surprised by such a sweet undertone for a savoury dish – so I pretty much bullied the table to order it (and yes, sacrificing the grilled haloumi in its stead). Omar presented the dish and was about to cut it into thirds for us (with a fork and spoon no less!) when we all hastily stopped him for me to take a photo of what it looked like whole. I think he was quite bemused by this and continued on with what he was doing when I was done. I find it hard to describe this dish as it’s savoury with its chicken-almond filling but the rose water and orange sauce adds a sweet, florally after-taste that, in a way, confuses the senses as to what this dish should be: savoury or sweet? I personally love the savoury-sweet juxtaposition of this dish even if I do find it slightly weird.
Both Sisiely and F love their cocktails and so it’s no surprised they ordered a few. (Meanwhile, I worried about my semi-empty stomach and having to drive home later so I didn’t order any). The Turkish Blue was made with Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka and Apple, but it was the chilli in the Moroccan Spice Sticky’s vodka that caught F’s eye. I’ve been told that there was a surprising bite to the drink and was goaded into tasting it. I do believe Sisiely said that I’d die if I try it.. huh, good luck trying to get me to taste it after saying that!
We ooh’ed when F’s beef dish came out, though admittedly I mentally cracked a bad joke about it being the leaning tower of beef when I saw it. The beef was well-seasoned and so scrumptiously succulent; I loved how well it went with the cinnamon-spiced mash (a relevation, I must say) and gorgeous sauce. The sweet fig and onion relish with what seemed like rose-water infused carrots added a wonderfully subtle sweetness to the dish.
Another round of ooh’s met Sisiely’s choice of main when the tagine lid was taken off with a flourish. It looked so deliciously hearty! I found it interesting that the dish was hearty but not heavy. Perhaps the gentle sweetness in the sauce had something to do with it. Lamb is a bit of a hit or miss for me, as sometimes there’s that lamb-y taste that I can’t seem to appreciate if it’s too strong. There were no problems with this dish though – the lamb didn’t have that strong lamb-y taste and it was so juicy and soft, the meat practically fell off the bone! Nom nom nom. To be honest, Sisiely almost didn’t order this dish on the basis that it had prunes. I’m rather ambivalent about prunes, but I have to admit it’s not something I go out of my way to eat. The prunes in this case actually added to the sweetness of the overall dish.
Deep down inside, I cackled. My dish was clearly the most prettiest of the mains, though I hoped it could back all that prettiness up with equally delicious flavours. While the others rated their own dishes above mine (funnily enough, each of us liked our chosen dishes better than the others), I adored my dish. The fish had the perfect crispy skin on top of moist and soft flesh, giving that wonderfully satisfying crunch. I thought it was paired rather well with the scrumptious lentil crunch, which was kind of like a meat pattie only made up with lentils, and the delightful (but not enough), gently sweet apricot dressing. I have a thing about eating soft carrots, for whatever reason, I find it a little bit too weird to eat and I normally give them to F or some other suitable person who doesn’t mind me plonking various things on their plates (like raw onions or coriander). Normally. These carrots also seemed like they were rose-water infused and being a sucker for the light floral after-taste, I chomped them all down.
Omar was a bit surprised that we wanted to order the couscous and saffron rice with our meals. “You would only need the couscous or rice with the lamb shanks, the fish and beef can be eaten on its own,” he advised. I looked at F, he looked at me and we both looked back at Omar. “Could we please have the fluffy couscous and saffron rice anyway?” The reason for our gluttony? I am totally in love with couscous while F hearts all sorts of rice. Sisiely looked a bit unsure, but went with it anyway. Knowing both Sisiely and F appreciate having some heat in their meals, I ordered the hot harissa for them, which they used on their mains… copiously.
I will admit it: the couscous and saffron rice really filled us up. None of us would be able to finish a dessert dish on our own and was happy to just share one… or two. I was about to order the pomegranate milk jelly when I impulsively asked Omar what the tasting platter consisted of and promptly ordered it. From left to right, we have pineapple and strawberry crumble, cinnamon ice cream, lavender and mint milk jelly, chocolate, pistachio and almond truffle and finally, fig and date pudding in trifle form. The crumble was pretty decent on its own, but was transported to something quite amazing when eaten with the cinnamon ice cream. My favourite had to be the lavender and mint milk jelly though, which reminded me very much of a panna cotta but less creamy.
I ordered mint tea, which was a bit of an acquired taste (translation: I made face when I first drank it), to go with my dessert and Omar happily did the tea pulling thing three times for me to get that shot. I think he was more determined for me to get it right than I was! Well, that’s what I thought, until F told me that Omar wasn’t exactly joking when he said that you have to pull the tea three times to infuse the beverage thoroughly (rather than mixing it with a teaspoon). Oops… Souk in the City has a wonderful atmosphere that’s compounded by superb food and friendly and super attentive service; Omar and his wait staff simply just makes you feel at home. We left Souk with bulging stomachs that require the top-unbuttoning of our pants and a warm fuzzy feeling of thoroughly being cared for that kept a smile on our faces for the rest of the night. Souk in the City 5/431 Bourke St Surry Hills, NSW, 2010 Ph: (02) 9357 7577 Web: http://www.soukinthecity.com/