Tavlin is one of those suburban institutions (like Zataar in Coburg) that will probably survive Melbourne itself.
If a comet hit the earth, and we were all struggling for survival in a nuclear wasteland, Adi Daboush would still be here on Glen Huntley Rd, serving up falafel balls with green tahini. It’s just that sort of place.
Locals come to Tavlin for the warm hospitality and the killer Middle Eastern food. The décor is unpretentious: old photos of Jerusalem's western wall, or the Machane Yehuda markets, and a faded snap of Adi’s grandmother, Ester, who inspired his love of food.
You can taste that family tradition in every mouthful at Tavlin. Here’s how to do it right: you start with a few mezze share plates, some lamb and pine nut kibbeh, a few falafel, and maybe a Moroccan beef cigar if you’re feeling cheeky. Then it’s on to the big stuff.
Hummus is the house specialty at Tavlin, and Adi serves it four different ways: topped with tahini, whole chickpeas and olive oil, scattered with slow-cooked fava beans, sprinkled with sautéed mushrooms and onions, or slathered in mouth-watering minced veal, lamb and pine nuts (carnivores, you know which way to go).
There’s also a great mix of Al Ha’esh plates—grilled chicken skewers marinated for 48 hours in a secret Syrian seasoning. Or maybe the charcoal-grilled kofta, made from a combo of veal and lamb, farmed in Western Australia.
It’s all delicious, finger licking stuff. If you’re stuck for choice, sign up for the Mesibah banquet and Adi will bring out a bit of everything. Wash it all down with a frosty glass of Goldstar or Israeli arak (an atomic-strength spirit, similar to vodka). The wine list ain’t bad chop either.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White