Miznon is a pita disco you just can't resist
Address 59 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, 03 9670 2861, miznonaustralia.com
Open Mon-Fri 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun 11.30am-11pm
Cost Pita $13-$22, sides $7-$18
Drinks Craft beers, a local white and red (singular), complimentary black tea and soft drinks.
You expect opening nights at restaurants to be a little loose. And then there's Miznon. Melbourne has just taken delivery of the ninth outlet of Israeli chef Eyal Shani's high-energy pita project, hailing from Tel Aviv. Shani's formula is simple: food the Michelin-starred chef would usually put on a plate (in this case, spicy fish stews and wagyu steaks), inside a pita, served by staff who are so high in energy that it can feel like you're submitting to a cult.
Fingers were crossed that Melbourne's pita would live up to the hype. It seemed too much to expect the famed freewheeling attitude could be imported, too.
Curious, I showed up on the first night to find Shani himself there, dousing rosemary in metho to sacrificially flambe at the door.
The staff were cheering and pouring shots for themselves and guests. A guy with a hoodie and a whistle who looks like he's dressed for a rave waves passersby down into the bright, rustically decorated basement, where statements like "Each pita has a unique birthmark" are written all over the wall. Behind the register someone is banging a tambourine. All of this sounds feasible for an opening party. But it's not a one-off. It's Miznon, a ridiculous, delicious Israeli pita disco. Don't resist.
No matter what time you go, even for take-away lunch, there is always energy, and often a tambourine. Sit at the counter of the open kitchen and someone may even sling you a cheeky shot of Jameson.
You're going to want a pita. That's a given. So there's the minute steak, bashed thin, quickly seared, peppery and just a bit bloody and folded into the warm bread with a swipe of tahini, a couple of pickles and raw onion.
Of the veg versions, the "white" number is king – all sticky, tahini-drenched lobes of roasted cauliflower with crisp stalks of green onion.
The ratatouille, a tomato-eggplant party dressed with tahini and chopped boiled egg, gets a little one-note halfway through but you'll find fresh green chilli oil on the water station to give it a refreshing wallop.
But having eaten the menu from end to end, much of the magic happens outside of the bread. You've probably seen the cauliflower: whole heads are steamed, massaged in olive oil, roasted golden and sprinkled in salt. It's perfectly seasoned proof that Miznon's minimal-intervention approach kicks goals and then some.
See also the bag of beans – broad beans, long yellow runners, snow peas – steamed and served chilled, dressed in lemon, garlic and oil. It's spring in a bag.
A wedge of cabbage braised with a little sugar and dressed in sour cream is a rich-yet-bright revelation.
The simplicity is sometimes hilarious. A "runover potato" is literally a jacket potato smooshed as if from a great height and covered with dill and garlic, sour cream and butter. You cannot lose.
Something unceremoniously called a "bag of meat" might be the carnivorous peak of my year. Properly chunky (not shredded) pieces of beef brisket are rendered soft by roasting overnight, thrown into the fryer with onions for a crisp shell, and finished with coarse pepper and salt. It's everything great about stealing hunks of meat straight from the roasting pan.
Something to consider: the pitas aren't cheap. The minute steak version is $22 – it's delicious, but you want a side to call it lunch. Removed from the context of the party bubble, it doesn't feel like a strong value proposition.
But Miznon's food, eaten in situ, with grease and tahini running down your arms, with Israeli beats drumming in your ears, even with someone banging a tambourine, becomes more delicious than you can explain. Maybe it's the lack of plates, the lack of formality or the Jameson. Maybe it's the complimentary sweet black tea or the waiters' station loaded with pita and tahini for the taking. But you get so much more than you bargain for at Miznon. Take the ride.
Go-to dishes: Runover potato ($8), the bag of golden meat ($17), minute steak pita ($22).
Pro tip: This is the best first date place around.