Saturday, October 11, 2008

Abla's Restaurant (Carlton)

Abla Ahmad started this restaurant almost 30 years ago at this site at 109 Elgin St. and for many years now it has been something of a mecca for Lebanese food. Indeed for the last eight years it has been awarded a hat by the AGF. With a pedigree like this expectations are high so I was sadly disenchanted last night to suffer through a 'banquet' of the worst food I can ever remember.
No matter that the food looked good it was almost uniformly disappointing.
It was unbalanced by excessive lemon, The meat dishes were all very over cooked and quite dried out, there was almost no cracked wheat in the tabbouleh, green olives were insufficiently pickled and bitter and even the signature chicken and rice dish lacked taste.

You can't see all that lemon
Eggplant lacked that smoky BBQ taste achieved at so many Lebanese cafe's, indeed it lacked taste altogether!

Rice and pine nuts wrapped in vine leaves again full of lemon

Thoroughly overcooked beans - quite tasty

Sausages as dry as wood chips

Chick pea balls
Another dry offering
Lemon flavoured chicken wings.
The famous chicken and rice dish - oh so ordinary
More dtied out meat!
Comments: I've been before but I won't be going again
Score: 12/20


Aaron said...

I went to abla's about a month ago with really high expectations, came out tho with very much the same feelings you did!

Those sausages were the driest sausages I've ever had! Had no idea the chicken and rice dish was signature, given how bland it was we barely touched it. We also ordered the additional fish dish...was crazy salty.

Only two dishes I really enjoyed were the beans and the meat skewers, we must've been lucky and ours were really tender n juicy. Oh and the baklawa at the end was pretty good too.

Anonymous said...

I went to Abla's last night. I thought the food was brilliant. The flavours are fantastic, the atmosphere is warm and the service is great. I dont know what you are complaining about. The food is not overpriced and compared to Exposito at Toofey's over the road which you gave 14.5 this placed was a dream.
Abla's is fantastic. I love it!

Elliot said...

Since I wrote that review I've had about six people, including Lebanese, tell me they very much agree with what I said.
I'm pleased that you had a great meal there and it's certainly a lot cheaper than Esposito, which is far from fault free. Nevertheless I'll happily pay more and eat better at other places

Ran said...

ive been trying to get into ablas for ages and it is always booked! I am of arab decent though and all those dishes i make and eat regularly so is probably not that exciting to me

i am sad to hear you had a bad experience though. that chicken and rice dish my aunts make at xmas and to be honest i dont like it as it is too dry. you are really meant to eat it with yoghurt dip to really enjoy it i think (not that i eat it)

Anonymous said...

Elliot, I was bitterly disappointed at this review. I have eaten at Abla's many times and have always thoroughly enjoyed the food and the experience.

I find it hard to believe the banquet which I have sat through on numerous occasions could have been as dreadful as you are making it out to be.

It is evidentially clear you are not well acquainted with Lebanese cuisine, which I will highlight.

My favourite part of your review was where you referred to a dish as 'rice and pine nuts wrapped in vine leaves', this is a prime example of your lacking knowledge of the cuisine as the they are silverbeet rolls filled with rice and chickpeas, not pine nuts. Traditionally this dish is also supposed to be served with a lemon zest to it.

Looking at your photo of the tabouleh it seemed to have an adequate amount of cracked wheat. Unless of course you prefer your parsley to be swimming in cracked wheat like the tabouleh that is served in places like your local supermarket.

I personally have never had a problem with the dips, if anything the babaganouj is too smokey for my taste and far from tasteless.

I urge any readers to form their own opinions on Abla's and try it for themselves. I would hate for anyone to miss out on such a good thing because of Elliot's 'suffering through the banquet'!

Elliot said...

There is clearly a division of opinion about Abla's. There is no doubt in my mind that on the night I went there the food was awful regardless of the wrapping being vine leaves or spinach. I may have no detailed knowledge of Lebanese cuisine but I've eaten it often enough and you wouldn't have to have been an expert to appreciate how bad this particular meal was. I do accept that one may like one's tabouleh with more or less cracked wheat but the only taste that stood out in this meal was lemon and most dishes were quite undistinguished. Others have certainly had good experiences and Abla is a warm and charming host.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised at this blog. I've been to Abla's many times and it's one of my favourite restaurants. Everyone that i've spoken to that has been there has raved about it!
By the way what's the purpose of your blog?

Anonymous said...

Having worked in the industry for more than fifteen years and a regular diner at Ablas, I find this blog by a wanna be food critic offensive. You obviously just dislike Lebanese food and are not privy to the flavours and tastes of TRADITIONAL lebanese food. This is not an establishment that is serving modernised middle-eastern cuisine, it's fresh ingrendents and food with no fanfare added. I think it's also very low on your part Elliot to take a photo with the lovely Mrs Abla and then post it on your blog when you have spoken so badly about her institution. Did you inform her that the photo would be used for that purpose???? Keep up the good work Abla and her staff. I know I will be coming back again and again, because I appreciate good fresh food. Elliot stick to your day job!

Elliot said...

Dear anonymous
In answer to your questions 1. The purpose of this blog is just what it says at the top left of the blog. You are welcome to your opinion and I'm expressing mine.
Vive la differance.
As for Abla I thought she was lovely. Very homely warm and appealing BUT I still stick by what I said. On that night we had a very poor meal

Leah said...

In tough times with many restaurants struggling to keep their door open Abla's is the exception. The place is and has been heavily booked out for years and the reason is the food is second to none. Those that have negative posts about this establishment are either working on behalf of some other Lebanese restaurant trying to poach customers or they just don't know the first thing about middle eastern food in the first place. Abla's is without a doubt the cleanest and most meticulously maintained restaurant in Melbourne. Very few restaurants have floors, waste bins, ablutions and cooking equipment with the same high degree of cleanliness. Eating at Abla's is a treat for new diners and regulars alike, that have been returning to the homely hospitality this fine restaurant offers for thirty years. Of course you cannot satisfy those that would be better suited eating a pie under a gum tree on a river bank such as the whinger above.

Elliot & Sandra said...

How strange that this post should have created so much controversy. I have discussed Abla's with native born Lebanese and several of them share my opinion. It provides an antidote to hunger but the food there can be AWFUL. If you like it that's great but I certainly don't.

Anonymous said...


I am a regular at Ablas and have been for the past thrity years and never in my years of going there have I ever had a meal such as you describe.

Nothing compares to the food that is served at Ablas, her home style cooking is what keeps me going back time and time again.

It is quiet obviously that you do not have a palate for Lebanese cuisine. Anyone that would want more wheat in their tabbouli salad and less lemon juice is just showing that they should keep buying the rubbish that is sold in a supermarket.

Elliott I believe that your are a wanna be food critic with obviously no experience!

To all the ladies at Ablas keep up the wonderful job!!

Elliot & Sandra said...

Hi Anon
Regardless of my taste/your taste, quite clearly, while a lot of people agree with your comment there are also a lot who don't.

Santhiya said...

Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

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Anonymous said...

Dear Elliot,
the proper spelling of the French phrase is "vive la difference".
I suspect your knowledge of Lebanese food is on a par with your linguistic facility.
Long live Abla !!

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Anon,
That's just a cheap shot. There are a mass of grammatical and spelling errors in our blog because we do not spend much time editing them. It's the ideas and views we're interested in. There are a lot of people who really know a lot about food and Lebanese food in particular, who disagree with you.
We wish Abla all the best but her restaurant is capable of putting out some pretty ordinary food.

maheswari said...

Brilliant!!! This time of year Bakery equipment is turning into an avalance. I'm certainly going to take your idea and run with it. Thank you.

Bakery Equipment

Elliot and Sandra said...

Wonderful but please remind me what idea was that?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Prolix,
You fill me with curiosity.
Obviously I did not remove this comment it was the author of the comment.