28 May 2024

Lebanese restaurant Azima invites Canberrans to feast

| Lucy Ridge
A table laden with middle eastern dishes like dips and meat skewers

A feast of Lebanese dishes at Azima. Photo: Azima/Facebook.

The owner behind fine dining Canberra restaurants Inka and Koto has announced the opening of his newest venue on City Walk, where Brunello was previously located. Azima is slated to be a lively Middle Eastern restaurant with an approachable and affordable menu.

Adam Elchakak’s previous venues are mostly Japanese influenced. But Azima will be something entirely different as Elchakak – along with co-owner George Khoury – puts the focus squarely on Lebanese food. The two envision a space that recreates and celebrates the foods they grew up eating, with a casual, affordable menu.

“We actually started working on Azima 6 years ago, and had the concept long before I opened Inka. But then COVID happened and things just didn’t line up. So when George and I saw the Brunello space, we just knew it was perfect, and that this was the right time,” Elchakek told Region.

“My inspiration behind Azima is mum’s cooking. There’s a few dishes from home that I snuck onto the menu!”

Lebanese classics like shish tawook (marinated chicken breast skewers with chilli, bread and garlic) and kibbeh (fried burghul wheat balls filled with mince and onion) will feature on the traditional share-style menu.

Chefs at work

Elchakak’s restaurant KOTO focuses on fine Japanese dining. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Lebanese cuisine is known for generous portions and a range of dishes: the menu at Azima starts with a selection of hot and cold mezze dishes before the main meal. The cuisine is heavy on fresh vegetables, olives and lamb and includes many unique versions of popular Middle Eastern dishes like fried falafel and tabbouli salad. You’ve almost certainly had hommos, but at Azima you can see how they do it in Lebanan with hommos Beiruti!

“Traditional Lebanese food is very wholesome, healthy, all based around fresh ingredients. And although we’re doing authentic meat-based dishes, Lebanese food is actually very plant-forward. So we’re doing lots of vegetarian and vegan options, too. That’s really important to us,” Elchakak said.

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Arnabeet mekle with tarator (fried cauliflower with tahini sauce) is another moreish Lebanese dish that will feature on the menu, or share the Jordanian mansaf – slow-cooked lamb on spiced rice with sun-dried yoghurt, bread and nuts.

a restaurant

Inka is another restaurant owned by Elchakak. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Australia hosts a large number of the Lebanese diaspora, with over 248,000 people claiming Lebanese ancestry according to the 2021 census, so many Australians are already fans of Lebanese food, whether it’s hummus, shawarma or falafel – but they want to expand its appeal by making sure the restaurant is accessible to families.

“We wanted to create a place where people can still go out, spend time with family and friends and have a great meal any day of the week without worrying about their bank balance,” Khoury said.

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Azima, which roughly translates as ‘an invitation to feast’, has two different banquet menus priced at $55 or $85 per person, so an empty stomach and stretchy pants are advised!

If you can manage it, save room for dessert and enjoy Lebanese sweets like baklawa (pastry with nuts) and knafeh (orange blossom semolina with cheese) with a pot of strong Arabic coffee.

Azima is located at 222 City Walk, Canberra. They will open on Friday, 31 May, and will be open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 am to 10 pm daily. Follow Azima on Facebook or Instagram, and visit their website to make a booking.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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