Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scheherazade (Caulfield Nth) 09

Scheherazade has a very long history. For years it was an iconic Jewish restaurant. It has been a centre for conversation and Polish Jewish food for decades and recently moved a few miles from one of the former centres of Melbourne Jewish life in Acland Street St.Kilda to its new home at 58 Hawthorn Rd. These remarks from travel.com are only true of the food today.

"In 1958, Avram and Masha Zeleznikov acquired Scheherazade and began serving Jewish fare, Chicken broth, cabbage rolls, Cholent, vegetable stew, chicken schnitzel, Black Forest cake, almond torte, apple compote, lemon tea and coffee were served. Scheherazade eventually became an institution for Jewish, Yiddish, Polish and Russian immigrants to gather and reminisce. The cafe became so famed that Arnold Zable, the Melbourne novelist, wrote a collection of powerful stories, fictionalising the horror and hope of the Zeleznikovs and their customers, in his novel Cafe Scheherazade."

When I phoned to make a reservation I asked "Do you have duck on the menu?" A bored lady backed by a noisy TV said she would check and came back a few moments later answering in the affirmative. "How is it cooked?" I asked "Have you been to Acland Street?" she replied in a bored tone. Yes, years ago I said "Same cooking as Acland Street." But how is it cooked? "Same cooking" was the reply. Alright I'll make a reservation. "We only have one serve of duck left" OK I said put it away for me.

So we arrived at this huge empty barn of a place,
quite pleasantly decorated with a large horseshoe shaped bar at the top of the room.
Quite a few blown light bulbs had not been replaced giving an air of neglect to the place. There was one table occupied. We chose a window seat. Large bare tables, paper napkins, ordinary cutlery matched the atmosphere.
The young waitress, who turned out to be a science student took our rather good bottle of French wine and returned with two glasses. After a short time the now opened wine was returned and placed on the table. I rather ostentatiously poured out the 1/4 of an inch of water in my wine glass and dried it with the napkin while the menu was being discussed and then poured two glasses of wine!! (Corkage $6) No comment from the waitress.

A basket of excellent rye bread

with a sachet of Lurpak butter / slice was welcome until the soup arrived . There are half a dozen on the menu. we had a delicious and enormous serve of chicken soup with Kneidlach ($7.90)
and a hot Russian Borcht almost spilling off the plate
with masses of beetroot, a boiled potato and sour cream. Sandra felt it needed some vinegar or lemon to tart it up a bit but I loved it.
For mains we had a boiled brisket($23.50) with vegetables, very plain, tender and under seasoned.

and, of course, the duck ($26.90). It had been braised and then roasted and stuffed with apple.
A huge serve, the meat was falling off the bone. No sauce available. the apple was very tasty and the duck rather bland as was the brisket. Both served with roast potatoes, I love them too, coarse chopped well cooked carrots and broccoli accompanied the mains. an extra dish of coleslaw for the duck and a quarter of a jar of French mustard
for the brisket were very welcome.
A dessert of cherry pyrrogi from the freezer

had very tough pastry making it hard to eat and impossible to enjoy.
It's a shame that this place, which has the elements to be pretty good, misses out in many small ways. The menu is quite wide ranging including fish, schnitzel and steak. There should be something to please everyone. It suffers from a total lack of professionalism in it's approach to customers, yet it is quite friendly and the food not expensive. It is very much a Russian/Polish Jewish cuisine and we've eaten a lot worse.

Score: 12.75/20

3 comments:

neil said...

As soon as you said duck I knew it was going to be duck with apples. We've had it there before in Acland Street, Dorothy loved it. Sounds like the same service too.

Elliot & Sandra said...

sadly, although the food has not changed, the times have passed Scheherazade by. Most of it's former clientèle have died and the entire environment in which it thrived no longer exists.

Piotrek W said...

Hi, I'm looking for one of the owners (my uncle Mr Woronkow). Can anyone help me?