Restaurant Review – Little Yemeni

Posted on May 5, 2010

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Yemeni Restaurant

Where? 124 Union Road, Ascot Vale. 9372 0854.
Prices? Breakfast dishes 3.50- $7, lunch and dinner dishes 10- $12.
Cash only
Unlicensed
Open Tue-Sun 7am-11pm

Last week I kicked off my not so conventional gastronomic tour by visiting what claims to be the ONLY Yemeni restaurant in Australia.

It’s probable that like me, you’ve never really heard of The Arab Republic of Yemen let alone its delicious cuisine so  I’ll give you a quick run down.

Yemen’s population is similar to Australia’s and this small country located in Southwest Asia, on the Arab peninsula, is smaller than France.

The food is traditionally Middle Eastern Arab food and is packed full of flavour and a wide variety of herbs and spices.  Common ingredients include rice, fresh vegetables and as well as lamb, beef and chicken.

Yemen Broth

So how did my experience compare you ask?  It was eye opening to say the least.

Oddly located in the heart of Ascot Vale in the Union Road shopping strip, first impressions aren’t much to go by.  Think of your local dodgy indian joint, the kind of place you usually fear getting food poisoning and you’d rather not see the kitchen but the it always seems to serve up the best Masala and garlic naan.  Basically this was a similar experience but with a few Yemen twists.

Everything about the restaurant from it’s decor and friendly owner to its food was unlike anything I’d experienced in a restaurant before.

I had conveniently managed to drag my mother along to foot the bill but when we arrived she couldn’t believe that I’d dragged her off the couch on a Friday night to eat in an empty, dingy Middle Eastern restaurant.

The atmosphere of the restaurant seems a bit confused with Arabic music blaring from crackling computer speakers in one corner, a coffee machine in another and framed pictures of Yemen decorating the walls.

The menu was too confused.  Exotic sounding ‘Mundi’ and ‘Haneed’ were placed along side fish and chips and nuggets.

Unsure of what to order, the enthusiastic Yemen patron suggested a selection of Yemen treats for us to try.  My mother and I fervently agreed and within minutes our entrée was served.

We were presented with a what seemed to be a lamb broth topped with lemon and herbs.  For a simple soup this dish was packed full of flavour and my mum began to eat her own words… literally.  You could really taste the lemon as well as each individual herb in your mouth at one time but pleasantly the dish was not over powering.

Yemen Broth and Perfume Tea

Next came our main of marinated lamb known as Mugele, couscous, Yemeni rice and veggies.  The dish looked somewhat like an indian curry and in this style was accompanied by what can only be described as a Middle Eastern roti.  The meat was incredibly tender and the sauce just made you want to mop it up with the bread.

The hero of this dish and perhaps Yemeni food in general is that Yemeni bread, which is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and unlike roti, isn’t greasy or dripping in oil.

Along with these flavourful dishes, we drank Yemen tea, also known as perfume tea and it’s not hard to realise why.  The tea which is extremely aromatic, smelling of cloves and sweet spices, somewhat like chai, and had to be my favourite part of the meal despite all the delicious food.  I consider myself a bit of a tea connoisseur (if there was such a thing)  and this was unlike anything I’d ever tasted at T2.

The real gem of this place, if you’re into this kind of thing, lies behind the kitchen where a traditionally decorated room for those who want to eat in true Yemen style, that is off the floor on vibrant carpets and cushions, is available for larger groups.

So, taking everything into consideration such the ambiance, hospitality and of course the food, the only Yemeni restaurant in Australia faired pretty well and I feel fitting for my first review.

The appearance of the restaurant is hardly awe-inspiring, but the scrumptious and unique food as well as the traditional Yemen dining experience earns this rare eatery a 3.5/5 rating.

I will definitely be going back.

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