Booming Bentleigh East gets a boost with Boosa

Boosa's approach is Middle Eastern in inspiration and modern Melbourne in outlook.
Boosa's approach is Middle Eastern in inspiration and modern Melbourne in outlook.  Photo: Simon Schluter

★★★½

BOOSA
716 CENTRE ROAD, BENTLEIGH EAST, 9563 7885
UNLICENSED MC V EFTPOS
MONDAY-FRIDAY 7AM-4PM, SATURDAY-SUNDAY 8AM-4PM
ALL-DAY MENU: $7-$22

Wobble, wobble. Wobble, wobble. That's not (just) my booty as I depart Boosa after a bountiful brunch. It's the compelling jiggle of the malabi, a pudding that sways like a tipsy sentinel above granola-strewn plains.

Malabi is the star element in an on-trend breakfast.
Malabi is the star element in an on-trend breakfast. Photo: Simon Schluter

In Israel – where chef and owner Eitam Brami comes from – malabi is a dessert, a dairy milk pudding thickened with cornflour and perfumed with rosewater. In Bentleigh East, where year-old Boosa is far and away the coolest cafe, malabi is the star element in an on-trend breakfast. Traditional cow's milk is replaced with coconut, the usual pistachio garnish is upgraded to lavish house-made granola and the dish is garnished with orange blossom jelly set with a plant-based gelatine. It's wholesome and pretty as well as wonderfully wobbly, and if you choose almond milk to accompany it, it's also vegan.

Where the malabi has turned from dessert to breakfast, the pita tostada is a Melb-Mex spin on sabih, an Iraqi-Israeli street snack of fried eggplant and boiled egg in pita bread. Here, the pita becomes a tostada-style disc piled with panko-crumbed eggplant, tahini sauce, pickles, sliced egg and herby sprigs. It has the exuberance of the street and the finesse of a professional kitchen. You can tell a lot about a Middle Eastern restaurant by its tahini sauce and Boosa's is great, starting with sesame paste and whisked with iced water, lemon juice and a little salt until it's silky, pale and almost fluffy.

These dishes are emblematic of Boosa's approach: Middle Eastern in inspiration and modern Melbourne in outlook. The interior picks up on this too, with arched windows, tiled walls and shimmery pastels. You can't quite see Bedouins and camels padding through the desert but Boosa does feel like an oasis, with its warm welcome and canny can-do service. High chairs, an excellent kids' menu and well-spaced tables signal a family-friendly outlook. A sheltered front porch and water bowl extends the welcoming paw to dogs too. The "XO" kiss and hug on the decal relates to "boosa", which means "kiss" in Arabic and was a word Brami's Moroccan grandmother often used. ''Come, give me boosa,'' she would say.

Cauli Power at Boosa restaurant.
Cauli Power at Boosa restaurant. Photo: Simon Schluter

The Cauli Power is satisfyingly tasty and a great example of how fine dining trickles down to cafes, giving anyone with a spare $20 access to high-concept food. This year's hero vegetable, the once humble cauliflower, is steamed, shaped into wedges and fried to form delicious crunchy fritters. They're stacked on a handsome black plate with a sunnyside-up egg and excellent bespoke bacon, made by local L&L Butchers using free-range pork and Brami's secret shawarma spice mix. So far, so cafe. The "wow" factor comes from a "spilt salad", a jar on its side spilling with cherry tomatoes. It's lovely theatre and reminds me of top Italian chef Massimo Bottura's famous deconstructed dessert, "Oops I dropped the lemon tart", the serving of which coincided with his restaurant's rise to world  No.1 status.

Brami previously owned Einstein's 251 and Einstein's Relative in Caulfield and South Yarra respectively; now with wife Tammy he's enjoying the potential of booming Bentleigh East, and giving it a boost with Boosa's witty ideas, careful sourcing, fine touch and switched-on service.