Thanks to the fine folks at Zomato I was invited to my first Zomato Meetup, a chance for the bloggers and reviewers of Zomato to get together and group-feast and review a venue. My first meet up review was at the clever idea, MEZZA TRAIN. Mezza Train is Lebanese food served sushi-train style and it works really bloody well, their domed lids kept making me giggle thinking of The Jetsons opening (showing my age).
They are still new being opened for only three months so there is a few kinks to iron out but they are on to a fine idea. Located in Mascot (near the airport) and after dealing with the logistics of getting there from Manly I found the well appointed venue under a block of units. They are targeting all the large corporations near the airport and also the incredible unit block developments of the area, they have a large base of hungry people looking for a feed in the area and the “sushi” style of serving will serve them well.
The venue is large and rectangular with an incredibly high roof, two thirds of the venue is the high bench styled train to sit at or there are tables in the other third and lining the windows plus a well stocked bar. One wall is a rough dark stone lined grey with a blazing-red Mezza Train logo, it is from this wall that the kitchen places the food on the train to start its course to the patrons. The seating is a little cramped at the large table and the ladies I were with wanted bag hooks as bags needed to be placed on the ground. For photos I walked my plates to a table or a bar to shoot but I did like that people sat on the other side of the train so I could still speak over it as opposed to most sushi venues where you all sit next to each other. The dishes fully embrace the sushi style with colour coded plates, grill items to be ordered (and tailor made) and menus explaining each and every dish and the colour coding costs.
Above is three amazing dishes, Grilled Haloumi with watermelon and basil was a great way for me to start, a simple dish that I will always indulge in, I bloody love haloumi. Behind it is another simple dish of perfectly cooked, roasted potatoes, not something I was going to even highlight but my god they were tasty.
To explain the plate pricing – here is a run down:
Purple $6.50 – all grilled plates fit into this category
Another of my favourite dishes was the Shanklish, an aged cheese, seasoned and covered in diced tomatoes, onions and extra virgin olive oil. This had a nice bite to it and I always went back for another bite of this between dishes.
Next dish I tried was the Kibbeh: Minced beed and and wheat shells with pine nuts and onions and lightly fried. They appeared somewhat dry but didn’t actually taste too dry, I would have still liked a dipping sauce for this one, or if I was smart I would have gotten a plate of the Labne that everyone was raving about and dipped the Kibbeh into it for a perfect combo.
Ideally Mezza Train could improve on the presentation a bit, the shredded lettuce just looks haphazard and not too sexy, some dishes looked a lot sexier than others. But it all vacates the body looking the same and don’t judge the book by the cover – these dishes are tasty!
Next up was the Sambousek: Seasoned minced beef with onions wrapped in pastry and lightly fried. This dish was OK, it was mid range, tasty but not something I would rave about, I was determined to try most of the meat dishes and this one I did eat all of but there was no foodgasm.
The first of the grilled dishes I indulged in was Maanet: lightly pan fried sausages with tomatoes, garlic and lemon juice. It is what it is, a lovely tasty sausage dish, I ate a couple of these, the snags were cooked well and had some great flavour.
The above, I am sorry, can’t remember if it was the beef shish kebab or the Shawarma or Laham Mishwee (lamb skewers). It was a tender meat and I am leaning towards the lamb at this stage, due to me taking pics for too long it was well rested by the time I ate so it came off as a tad dry but this was all me. I ate most of this dish as the flavours were excellent and the venue gave me some garlic dipping sauce which the meat embraced for a tasty combo.
And above was one of the best dishes of the night, the Shish Tawouk (chicken skewer), marinated chicken breast seasoned and grilled and served with an epic garlic sauce. I should mention here that the meat “skewers” do not actually come on skewers, it is just the meat – call it deconstructed if you will. Now this dish was like bacon and eggs, each of the elements tasted OK by themselves but when you dip that chicken into that garlic sauce it peaks and you may wish to face plant into the plate, perfect combinations of flavours.
The meals are designed to be shared and this only really worked for groups of two as once you turn to talk to one person you turn your back on the person on your other side, we sat more in groups of two but did pass the plates between us or to others on the other side of the train. My ideal group would be for four to six people, I would grab a table near the train and then all head up and grab three dishes and then fill the table with share plates, you can always go back up and grab more, I am also sure you could order with waitstaff from your table and they can collect for you if the train idea is not for you.
And finally, the Knafeh: handmade semolina mixture, melted cheese drizzled with orange blossom syrup and sprinkled in pistachios. Hands down my favourite plate of the night, I got to share this with Naomi, the Zomato guru and there was resentment forming between the two of us because we had to share the dish, just kidding, she is too lovely for that, I on the other hand was trying to keep her talking so I could get more in my belly :). Some of the others from the food group said it wasn’t as good as the Knafeh Bakery bearded boys who put on a massive show when serving from their food vans but this was my very first Knafeh dish and OMFG I will seek out Lebanese restaurants purely to eat Knafeh again, this dish is the perfect symbiotic relationship between sweet and savoury. That gooey cheese and that honey blossom with the crunch of pistachio………..FOODGASM!!
Mezza Train works, I am dumbfounded as to why more foods don’t embrace the train, and the Lebanese Mezze cuisine totally suits it. Mezze translates to an appetizer or a spread of appetizers or small foods, what better way to indulge in the light and joyous foods of the Lebanese than at Mezza Train.
Huge thank you to all the staff at Mezza Train and also to Naomi and the team at Zomato, I had such a fun night eating delicious food and meeting fantastic peers. Happy feasting!
Mezza Train Deets:
Corner of High and O’Riordan Street, Mascot, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 8317 6312
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) ate as an invited guest of the venue but to be frank, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.