Over time, the Windsor end of Chapel Street has gained a name for itself as the thriving mecca of eateries. It's no surprise to find yet another new restaurant pop up and slot itself in. Shukah is such a place; a restaurant and bar in-sync with the vibe of the Chapel street precinct.
Just over three and a half weeks old, it belongs right there at 104 Chapel street. Complete with clear all weather outdoor blinds and seating out front, it makes a statement that its something a little special, with real cloth napkins at the table settings.
It's not a very big restaurant (holds around 40 people) and its furnishings are clean cut and simple. It has an open kitchen in the centre, with the theatrics of food preparation clearly on display. What's not hard to miss is the array of drinks stocked up at the bar, so clearly you won't go thirsty, come time to wet your whistle.
Big windows at the front make it look spacious and gives diners a snapshot of Chapel street life as it whizzes past. There are plans for a courtyard to be developed out the back, which will add to the seating for those who want to be tucked away in their own little nook.
Armenian food is what it's all about and Chef and part-owner in a three-way partnership, Garen Maskal, is serving it up his way. A busy man, he oversees three menus at three venues. He also runs their first restaurant The Black Toro in Glen Waverley and SEZAR, their second restaurant in the CBD.
The cuisine at The Black Toro is quite different with its Mexican, South American flavours, whilst Shukah's flavours on its new menu are similar to that of SEZAR. However, unlike SEZAR, which is more intimate and experienced with bookings required (no walk-ins), Shukar is more relaxed, yet embodies the same good service.
Along with its punchy cocktails on offer, Shukar caters for both little dishes and hearty meals. Shukar in Armenian is market or shops and here you can certainly shop around for the portion size you're after.
The Mezze I had certainly fit the bill with enough to share over a few rounds of drinks. It had all of my favourites like beetroot, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and hummus like I've never tasted before. The flatbread was so huge, I didn't think I could possibly finish it, but those delicious flavours just begged to be mopped up.
The Kingfish Sashimi with avocado, cucumber and black lime was so fresh, light and flavoursome, I had to remind myself I was in public and not to quietly moan in delight when each mouthful hit my palate.
The Charred Octopus with pistachio and green olive salsa, sitting on the Labne, was something else! I love my seafood and the octopus was grilled to perfection, keeping its flesh still tender and moist. Heaven! I savoured every plump mouthful as I closed my eyes, concentrating on the flavours.
I guess I'll be going back to try out the rest of the menu filled with items like Oysters with pomegranate mignonette and aleppo pepper; Bastourma and Egg (quail egg), garlic jam and brioche; Corn and Herb Fritters with tahini, sumac and baby cos; Grilled Haloumi with braised mushrooms and spinach; Crispy Cuttlefish with preserved lemon mayo, and a lot more.
I'll soon be fluent in the language of Armenian flavours.
The majority of what's available is sized almost halfway between a tapas and a full meal, which allows you to try out a few flavours without filling right up. If you're looking for heartier meals, you can enjoy the Roasted Barramundi, Wagyu Striploin, Pomegranate Glazed Lamp Shoulder, Short Rib Mujadarra and such like.
Last but not least, the good service and friendly staff make the experience more delightful. Ralph is definitely the master of making you feel comfortable with his friendly demeanour and easy chatter as he welcomes you in. I did, however, have to say 'no' to him, when I was offered dessert, as I just couldn't fit another thing in! In a food strip filled with Asian and other flavours, this Armenian restaurant brings a breath of fresh air for something a little different on the palate.