Miznon – Israeli Street Food

Holding its own amongst the heaving eateries of Hardware Lane, Miznon is a champion of Israeli street food. Light on spicing, big on fresh vegetables presented simply, Miznon is a lively spot to meet up with friends for a meal.

Miznon

Location: 59 Hardware Ln, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9670 2861

Maybe the fault lies with me. But Miznon is not what I expected.

When I hear the words ‘Israeli street food’, my mind immediately goes to the kaleidoscopic Falafel stands of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Travelling through Israel as a teen, these food stalls were literally heaven for a vegetarian. Fragrant, soft-centred, crunchy-coated Falafels. More Salads than I had thought it possible to conjure. And Pickles. Oh the Pickles! Tart, sweet, mild, pungent – neither before or since have I eaten such an astonishing array of fermented veggies.

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Miznon - Downstairs

So when our entire Feed Me menu at Miznon includes just one wee serve of Pickles in the Mezze, I should have realised that this wasn’t going to be the meal I had envisaged.

Let me also say – hand on heart – that this is very possibly my fault. Perhaps I should have done more research into the menu at Miznon before I began visualising plates of Cumin and Coriander-scented Falafels, a rainbow of Pickles and creamy puddles of Tahini. Because the food at Miznon is very different to my expectations.

That said, the dishes that we eat sing with freshness and speak of fine ingredients. There is a strong argument that a good chef lets the quality of their produce speak for themselves and good – scratch that, great vegetables and meat – need little done to them to bring out their flavours.

But with all of that considered, as a group, we all felt that a bit of enhancement via some spices or a sauce (or 2) wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Let’s break it down.

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The Space

Even on a regular Wednesday night, when there’s nothing exceptional in the Melbourne calendar, Hardware Lane is throbbing with life. And in the midst of the hubbub and diners eating at tables packed onto the pavement, sits Miznon.

The largely glass front of the establishment gives a great view into restaurant itself. The first impressions are of a neat, chilled warehouse conversion – all concrete walls and a constellation of pendant lights.

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Miznon - Upstairs

Once through the door, you have a choice – either down to a bustling open kitchen complete with counter seating and tables to the side, or up to a dedicated dining area. As we’ve booked ahead, the decision has been made for us and we climb the stairs to our table.

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The mezzanine is charmingly simple. There’s a mix of old school-room chairs and stools, matched with bare wooden tables. An attractive black and white mural decorates one wall whilst a chalkboard menu hangs on the other.

Moreover, the place is packed. Interestingly, predominantly by young people. From pairs of old friends catching up to groups of students splurging on a night out in the city. All of which gives Miznon a lively, funky vibe fuelled by youthful energy.

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The Food

We decide to leave it up to the kitchen and order the Chef’s sharing selection.

Immediately, our whirlwind of a waiter brings us a Bag of Green Beans ($23). This is exactly as described, being a standard paper bag stuffed with an array of delightfully crunchy beans dressed in Garlic, Lemon and Olive Oil. Alongside, we have a couple of extra bags of soft, spongy Pita Bread. They are all stacked up in a concertina stand, which we find quite cute. Finally, we are the happy recipients of a tray of condiments. Our spoils include a silky, rich Tahini, Pickled Chillies and a Grey Salt. We dip away and are very content with Miznon’s opening volley.

From here on in, I’m sporadically unsure as to which dish we sample from the menu. But this is solely because our frazzled waiter is rushed off their feet and only has a moment to yell what they are putting down before rushing back to the kitchen. Believe me. This is NOT a criticism. They are heroic in the face of multiple orders and a tidal wave of customers. Seriously, kudos to the Miznon wait staff.

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Miznon - beef

With this proviso in mind, next up we receive a dish of succulently pink rare beef dressed with herbs and chillies. The beef is soft and yielding and goes well with the remains of our beans and Mezze selection. In addition, there’s a shallow bowl containing Miznon’s Potato and Spinach Plate ($26). Again, the kitchen are true to their word – though the promised Ricotta Salate is noticeably sparse.

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Next up we get the Pita Salad ($26). This is a spin on a Fattoush with Toasted Pita, Herbs, Tomato, Cucumber, Carrot and Radish in a light vinaigrette. It’s fine, but I’ve eaten far more interesting versions of this in Sydney’s Lakemba and Punchbowl.

Accompanying it is the much-lauded Baby Cauliflower ($24). What can I say? We are underwhelmed. It’s a small Cauli, roasted. I’m fully aware that it is exactly as it says on the tin, but really? No rub? No dressing? We had hoped for more. And $24…? Ummm.

There’s also a Calamari Salad – though the Calamari content is limited. There are some slightly chewy petals of seafood and a lot of oily salad leaves. It’s fairly bland and although there are 4 of us (and we’re hungry) we don’t finish it.

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Now the Schnitzel Malka ($34) is worth a discussion. Firstly, let us acknowledge that the Chicken Schnitty is pretty much a national institution in our fair country. Secondly, Potatoes are pretty yummy too. Therefore, logic says that a dish comprising of a Chicken Schnitzel stuffed with Nicola Potato should tick a number of boxes. Happily, it does. Golden crumbed, deep-fried to glorious perfection and oozing satiny mashed, this take on Fried Chook is a triumph. And you know what? The sides of Cabbage, Pickled Beetroot and a swathe of satiny Dijon Mustard are sublime too.

Incidentally, as you peruse our photos do you notice the serving style? There’s a clear eco-friendly choice being made at Miznon that can only be applauded. Food arrives on the paper that is was baked on and on serving platters of simple cardboard. It’s an ethos that we both love and wish other establishments would get behind.

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And so, on to Dessert. We presume we work our way through the Dessert Board ($26), though clearly it’s a plate. What’s on it is open to speculation. After much discussion, we feel that the centrepiece of our pud is the Valrhona Chocolate Mousse. Rich, lush and decadent, it would actually be better if served alone (in our humble opinion).

Miznon - Dessert plate

Aside from that, what can I say?

The Turkish Delight has a dusting of Cornstarch and not Icing Sugar. A major No No from my Greek dining companion. And I – with my blunt Anglo persuasions – don’t love it either.

Then there’s a Tiramisu that is neither one thing or the other. It’s fine. But those of us who have Italian heritage or have spent time in that culinary paradise feel that you should either do something properly, or not bother at all. Plus, how it ties into a menu of Israel street food, we’re not sure. Where’s a simple Baklava or Bourekas when you crave one?

The Drinks

Miznon offers a perfectly acceptable Wine List and – as is my preference – the Gin selection is fine.

Overall

There is much to like about Miznon.

The vibe is fun, the staff are efficient in the face of a heaving dining room and the produce is obviously both fresh and of great quality. No-fuss presentation and simple food – done well – will never go out of style.

That said, we were hoping to be wowed. And unfortunately, we weren’t. We rocked up imagining dishes spiked with fragrant spices and garlicky, tahini-forward sauces. And although all the ingredients were treated with respect, they were also disappointingly bland.

But hey. Maybe that’s our fault.

Our take from Miznon? If you want simple, superior produce, cooked simply – this is your jam.

Also, we suspect that around lunchtime, Miznon is seriously rocking. And for good reason. Give it a go.

Faye Keenan
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