It was the day I stuffed myself with brunch, the day I jammed with Simon and his housemates garage-band-style, the day I had frozen yoghurt for dinner, the day filled with camaraderie and laughter and fun and affection.
This is where it all started. Brunch at Bayte (56 Johnston St, Collingwood).
Simon, as usual, kicked things off with coffee - but this time, with a Lebanese twist. It was rich and glossy and he enjoyed it.
|Lebanese coffee. ($3.50)|
I got myself a cool and refreshing mulberry soda. The triangular bottle it came in was cute. The mulberry concentrate seemed to collect at the bottom - I gave it a good stir, and was subsequently rewarded with a gentle berry flavour.
|Mulberry soda. ($3.50)|
Because we arrived at noon, it was a great time for variety - we could order off both the breakfast and the lunch menus. Hurrah!
Simon decided upon the baked eggs from the breakfast menu. This was splendid - the eggs are cooked in a spiced tomato stew, studded with bits of onion and whole juicy okras, then topped with salty, crumbly chunks of shanklish cheese, with a soft flat bread on the side. I stole a bite, and when Simon had trouble finishing it, I happily did my duty. Can't have good food going to waste.
|Beyd el Firin bi Bamieh bi Zayt ma’ Shanklish – baked eggs in an okra & tomato spiced stew, topped with shanklish cheese. ($15)|
I picked a couple of dishes from the lunch menu.
The spicy fish pie caught my attention immediately, and I chose it as a starter. It came with a tangy sauce, which I thought might be lemon-tahini, but I'm not sure. The pie was delicious with or without the sauce. It kind of reminded me of a curry puff. While there isn't a lot of fish in it, they do use a stronger tasting fish (mackerel, perhaps?), which Simon wasn't overly fond of, so I ate most of it.
|Fatayer bi Samak – spicy fish pie with potato and pine nuts. ($7)|
I also decided to be adventurous and opted for the raw lamb kibbeh, which was served with labne, olive oil and crispy flat bread. With the exception of sashimi, I don't eat raw meat very often, and sometimes I feel skeptical about it. One bite of this kibbeh, however, and my doubts were allayed - it tasted so clean, so fresh, so wholesome.
|Lahem Nayeh – raw lamb kibbeh. ($14)|
After all that, we were both very full, but I insisted on looking at the dessert menu as Simon lets me know I am on my own in this pursuit. I was intrigued by the booza, a homemade ice cream. The waitress informed me that the flavour of the day was bitter orange. It wasn't quite what I felt like, but I shrugged and went for it anyway. In retrospect, I should have listened to my gut instinct - it was a tad too bitter for me, but I suspect marmalade fans would adore it, with the orange flesh and zest liberally strewn through the ice cream, accented with dots of vanilla bean. The texture was interesting, with hints of stickiness and elasticity, thanks to the use of the mastic, also known as Arabic gum.
In any case, our eating patterns continue as expected, with Simon sampling only a tiny scoop while I am left with the lion's share, and managing to polish it all off successfully to boot. I really think he needs to up his game, so that I can order more stuff. That's what partners are for, right?
|Booza – homemade ice cream with bitter orange, vanilla and mastic. ($4.50)|
At the end of the day, I found Bayte to be a stimulating, charismatic introduction to the world of Lebanese cuisine. It was a tasty learning experience and I hope to return for a continued education.