Exotic burbs

WHEN Jawhara opened its doors in Palmyra in 2021, I didn’t think it would last that long.

Not because of the quality of food, but because there might not be enough repeat trade for the restaurant to survive.

My fear was that suburbanites would go along to try the moroccan/mediterranean cuisine, file it under exotic novelty and then go back to their Vegemite sandwiches, Home and Away and camper trailers. 

How wrong I was – two years on the restaurant is still going strong and has built up a well-earned reputation for quality Moroccan fare.

Situated in the old Miami Bakehouse, which was frankly rubbish – I don’t ever recall Don Johnson eating a cottage pie in Miami Vice – Jawhara is part of a row of eateries on the Canning Highway just down from Stock Road.

The menu had a nice range of starters (falafel, chiflower harra, fattoush salad), mains (tagine, Bamieh Bil Lahme, Mrouzia) kebab-style dishes from the charcoal grill and a set menu with a BBQ banquet and Moroccan feast. They also had a kids menu and a decent selection of sides including za’atar bread.

In a canny move, the eatery is also open for breakfast with a range of traditional western dishes and some middle eastern ones like shakshuka (poached eggs in Moroccan chermoula sauce) and berber omelette (spicy egg omelette with cilantro and fresh chilli).

The most popular dishes are the tagine and charcoal grill numbers, so I decided to give them a whirl.

My beef meshwi ($31.50) was like an upmarket seekh kebab with cubes of Porterhouse steak.

It had that trademark chargrilled flavour and a lovely, complex marinade. 

The beef was every so slightly over but it still tasted lovely and you could tell it was a good cut.

Things really came to life when you combined the cubes of steak with the saffron rice and hummus and labneh dips.

The thick and tangy labneh was especially nice – adding a creamy refrain to the smoky meat.

The accompanying salad was no limp afterthought with grilled tomatoes and whole chillies rubbing shoulders with fresh greens.

There were plenty of textures and flavours to keep your palate interested and it was a really enjoyable dish. Across the table my wife “Special K” was enjoying her kofta tagine ($29.50).

“It’s a generous serve with loads of hearty, tender meatballs packed with flavour,” she said.

“The tomato sauce is killer – thick and moreish it has a lovely blend of spices and just the right level of heat. “I love dunking in the herby za’atar bread ($9.50) and mopping it all up.”

I could have got my two young children something from the kids menu, but I decided to get them a lamb kofta (two skewers $30.50) from the charcoal grill to share.

It had the same salad and dips I got with the beef meshwi and they wolfed it down with no complaints about spice levels or unusual flavours. A hit.

Just a word of warning – don’t bite into the large green chilli unless you want a supernova in your mouth – it nearly blew my head off and I’m usually okay with spicy food.

Two years on, Jawhara is still churning out great quality Moroccan fare and I’ll be along to try one of their exotic breakfast dishes soon. Just don’t tell Don Johnson…

369-375 Canning Highway, Palmyra


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