129 Enmore Road Enmore, New South Wales 2042
|Opening hours||Sun-Tues 7am-5pm; Wed-Sat 7am-9pm|
|Features||BYO, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||02 9519 7463|
Five years ago, few Sydney diners had heard of shakshuka. Now, Israel's answer to bacon and eggs is popping up on cafe menus like salted caramel milkshakes. But, much like bacon and eggs, it's a deceptively simple dish that needs a perfectionist at the stove to really make it sing.
The shakshuka sings at Shenkin Kitchen. A terracotta dish is filled with a thick, garlicky, peppery tomato sauce with two poached eggs - just set - wobbling within it, under a sprinkling of chopped coriander. Next to it, two home-made pita breads are ready for dunking. (Don't let the word ''pita'' mislead you: these puffy, chewy rounds are nothing like the squashed supermarket variety.)
Shenkin Kitchen is the third venue from the Haikin family, who opened Cafe Shenkin at Erskineville in 2007 and an espresso bar in Newtown last year. Father Arie handles the kitchen, while his wife, Bosmat, is in charge of sourcing produce, and two of their sons, Din and Bar, run the business with them. While it has been open only since April, it already feels like an established neighbourhood spot, with its pale, exposed brick walls, battered oil lanterns and a counter bearing home-made pastries.
A burgeoning interest in Israeli food, both globally and locally, during the past few years (witness the success of Yotam Ottolenghi's latest cookbook, Jerusalem) has prompted the Haikins to expand the menu with their latest opening, offering lesser-known Israeli dishes they hope to introduce to their clientele, such as sabih, an eggplant and boiled egg-filled pastry served with traditional Israeli condiments such as amba, a mango pickle.
At Shenkin Kitchen, breakfast and lunch are both available all day. (A dinner menu is due to begin in June.) Both menus are a vegetarian's delight and, on a chilly Saturday morning visit, we find we've unintentionally ordered an entirely meat-free meal. There's more standard breakfast fare on the menu, including pancakes, waffles and omelets, but we stick to the less-usual offerings. There's that fantastic shakshuka and we also order a hummus plate, which is offered in several variations.
This is serious hummus, built with good ingredients: heavy, grainy and garlicky, and our's comes topped with mushrooms, onion and a good slug of olive oil. More of that puffy pita and two falafel balls arrive with it - they're so good we wish we had a plate of them. The waitress tells us they're made fresh to order and fried quickly to ensure they have a soft centre and thin, crunchy crust.
There's also a bureka, a flaky pastry wrapped around a cheese and onion filling under a creamy mushroom sauce and black sesame seeds. We're disappointed to be told the sweet cheese blinches (also known as blintzes, or filled crepes) on the menu are no longer made, and choose the chocolate and strawberry variation instead. The crepes are thin, slightly spongy and filled with a milk-chocolate sauce that is restrained and not too sweet.
We have two smooth, rich Mecca flat whites with it all, and a sweet, icy (non-alcoholic) pina colada frappe.
Shenkin Kitchen's atmosphere is pleasantly bustling but relaxed, the small front room filled with dad-and-daughter breakfast treats, solo diners with newspapers, and couples, while larger groups gather in a rear garden courtyard. Staff look to be having a genuinely good time, gently ribbing us for our enormous order and stopping to chat about just what makes great falafel. A sign at the counter reads: ''If it's not made with love, we don't make it.'' Elsewhere it might seem insincere.
Israeli all-day brunch and classic breakfast dishes.
Hummus plate, shakshuka, blinches, home-made pastries.
4 (out of 5 stars)