The name of this restaurant lets you know it’s a father and son affair. In Arabic, abu means “the father of” and it’s used as a nickname, so your friends might call you “abu” followed by the name of your eldest son - in this case, Ali.
The cuisine here is Iraqi, and you’ll be eating it in a rather glorious dining room. The room is lined with bright red banquettes and woven Iraqi tapestries. One wall has bright orange ogee arches inset and filled with knickknacks running from camels to dallah (Iraqi coffee pots), while the other hold shelves of beautiful blue ceramics.
Almost all Iraqi foods are eaten with sesame and nigella seed sprinkled flat bread.
The flat bread, which is freshly made on the premises, is cooked in a tandoor, just like flat breads from the Indian Subcontinent. Torshi (pickles) are also served with every meal in Iraq, and the ones you find here are stained-yellow, and all at once crunchy, salty and sour. The pickles are nicely wet, working well against the dryness of kubba al mosul, which has been fried into a crisp, brown disc. This dish is the famous flat version of the Lebanese dish you should know as ‘kibbeh' that originated in the city of Mousel, a couple of hundred klicks north of Baghdad.
The dish you should come here to eat is called Parda Plaw ($17.99), and arrives looking rather unremarkable – a bundle of golden brown pastry.
Cutting into it you’ll find a wonderfully aromatic biryani with super-long grains of basmati rice interspersed with hunks of lamb, vermicelli, nuts and fried onions. Biryani is another dish showing the geographic link between Iraq and the Indian Subcontinent, though here it’s aromatic (think cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom) rather than chilli-hot. The fragrant spiced rice is wonderful, and when eaten in conjunction with the tender lamb and pastry, it’s a satisfying meal, in and of itself.
Finish with sumac-dusted Minced Lamb Kebab ($12/3), cooked on the open fire charcoal grill – after all they are a speciality of the house, and one of the most popular dishes with Iraqi diners.
Seeing as there’s no illustrated picture menu here, if you crave a facilitated experience, you can attend this restaurant by booking the Babylonian Delights food tour of Fairfield run by Taste Food Tours. They're a not-for-profit social enterprise that employs people from the local area to act as tour guides, with the proceeds being invested back into the local community. Their aim is to increase understanding of others through food, and as a result, their tours are always tasty!
Kebab Abu Ali
1/41-47 Spencer Street, Fairfield
Ph: (02) 9723 3644