If you’d questioned me on Israeli cuisine before my recent dinner at Shuk I’d have been pretty clueless. I’ve never visited Israel and there isn’t an Israeli restaurant in my suburb or neighbouring suburbs. But since late 2013 one suburb that does boast Israeli cuisine is North Bondi.For many years number 2 Mitchell Street North Bondi housed a corner shop. Then one day Yoni Kalfus, a Bondi local and Shuk owner, got the opportunity to convert the corner location into Shuk.When I met Yoni he explained how “Over the last 50 or so years the food in Israel has been shaped by immigrants from over 100 different countries, and so at Shuk we have a diverse menu influenced by Turkish, Middle Eastern, Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine”.
In Israel the Shuk is a marketplace with stalls selling spices, clothing, meat, cheeses and more. It’s a place to buy fresh ingredients and to meet with others at one of the many cafes or food stands. This was Yoni’s inspiration for Shuk Bondi – he wants it to be “an open home for locals, who drop in daily for their bread or pastries and stay for breakfast or lunch”.
Breakfast is a big draw card at Shuk with all of the usual suspects as well as dishes like the traditional Israeli breakfast or the vegetarian ‘Lady-tradie’ (slow-cooked eggs with labn’e, spinach, lentils and more). Breakfast can also double as brunch because it is served right through to 1pm. From midday choose from a tempting lunch menu as well as a short but satisfying list of all-day dishes like the famous Shuk shakshuka.
Dinner at Shuk is reserved to Fridays and Saturdays, and judging by my visit you’d be taking a risk turning up without a booking. Although it was quiet at 6pm just one hour later almost every table was full. Shuk keeps locals coming back for weekend dinners with a seasonal, produce driven menu that changes regularly.
The food – here are the dishes I tried on my dinner visit:
The mezze plate is a great start to a Shuk feast – it is authentic, homely and hearty; something you can imagine being served up at an Israeli family gathering. The bread is Shuk’s own. Yes they invest as much passion into their bread as their authentic smoky baba ganoush. Two bakers make all of the bread, pastries and muffins on the premises daily. Of course the bread is available by the loaf as well as featuring on the menu.
Shuk’s pasta is also made in-house and we tried a entrée portion of the main course special of the day – pumpkin ravioli. I would have been very happy with this as a main.
Moving onto mains Shuk caters well for meat lovers with several hearty dishes like the slow-cooked beef cheeks or the braised lamb shoulder. I was lucky enough to try both.
My husband had the beef cheeks and when I asked him for his summary verdict he used words like tender, succulent and full of flavour. It’s the kinds of dish he wishes he could have every night at home.
I opted for the lamb shoulder which comes with fennel and chickpeas.
Like the beef cheeks the lamb is cooked sous-vide style to retain moisture and flavour. It was just as good as I expected. When it comes to mains there’s also plenty of fish on the menu with dishes like the Shuk bouillabaisse, and the Shuk seafood plate including everything from tuna, to salmon to octopus, prawns and mussels.
We rounded off our mains with a side of the Israeli salad.
With Shuk’s generous servings I was so full I wasn’t sure there was room for dessert (very unusual for me). But when I heard that their experimental dessert chef knows how to surprise we decided to share three small desserts. Yes very indulgent but I live by the 80/20 rule and this dinner fell firmly in the 20% zone.
After so much food and a few glasses of red wine a coffee was needed. In another nod to their ‘home away from home for locals’ philosophy even the coffee beans from Bay Coffee Roasters are roasted a little bit darker – just how Shuk locals like them.
Based on my dinner visit every table at Shuk appears to be enjoying plate after plate of Shuk’s generous, hearty food washed down with their favourite bottle of wine or two (yes its BYO wine). Judging by its popularity Bondi locals may prefer to keep Shuk a secret – not just because of the unusual mix of Israeli inspired delights but also because everything is priced so well. Sorry guys I may have let the cat out of the bag……
By Feast Wisely
- 2 Mitchell Street, North Bondi
- Open Mon – Thur 6am to 5pm, Fri – Sat 6am to 10pm, Sun 7am to 5pm
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