Although it was a cold and wet Wednesday night, the crowd turned out in full force and we dined in a cozy setting at Bahari The Hellenic Palate, Richmond. Situated on Richmond's busy Swan Street, Bahari is Masterchef contestant Phillip Vakos' space to showcase his interpretation of Greek food. Bahari has been open for over a year now and it is a sought after foodie destination in Melbourne.
So, it seems fitting that the cosy space is the venue for showcasing Cypriot halloumi. Greek food is traditionally enjoyed together with friends and family, and the long banquet table setting certainly reflected that. Chef and owner, Phillip Vakos, tailored a banquet menu specifically for the night to showcase the versatility of halloumi cheese, and my oh my, the food was simply beautiful!
We started off the night with trio of dips, and the bread won murmurs of approval around the table: It was the fluffiest, softest pita bread I've ever had! The waiting staff must've refilled the bread three or four times - it was that good!
I loved Bahari's take on the traditional saganaki too. Although my Greek-Australian husband mentioned that he preferred the stronger taste of the traditional saganaki, I was delighted with this "Gringlish" version that features pomegrenate molasses which adds a fruity twist to the traditional fare.
The rest of the small plates were pleasant surprises. Who knew that you can make fritters with feta? The halloumi and thyme cigars with honey drizzled over the top struck a perfect balance of salty and sweet.
After the small plates were served, chef Phillip demonstrated how to make sheftalia, which happened to be one of my favourite Greek dishes. Put simply, it's the Greek version of meatball, but in a tubular shape. It tastes pretty similar to the Hokkien style Ngor Hiang that I grew up with. Sheftalia is wrapped with the membrane that surrounds the stomach of pig or lamb and although the preparation may be intimidating, the end product is definitely worth the effort.
Of course, the sheftalia we sampled that night was the best I've had, filled with pork, fennel and halloumi. It was a shame that I was feeling pretty full at that point so I only had several bites, but Steve loved every bit of it and gladly ate my share.
For desserts, we sampled on some halloumi pistachio baklava, galaktoboureko and halva ice cream. Galaktoboureko, a soft pillowy custard topped with pastry, then drizzled with sugar syrup always tend to be sickly sweet, but I think Bahari was mindful not to be too heavy-handed on the syrup. As a result, the delicate custard shone through, making the dessert experience very pleasant.
We left Bahari a well-fed and happy crowd. It has been quite a while since the event and you know what, I might just make it my mission to go back again for another feed.