When my husband and I arrived at Faraja for a surprise birthday lunch, I thought it must be an African restaurant. After all, ‘faraja’ is Swahili for ‘peace, comfort and relief’.
But a glance at the menu revealed an idiosyncratic mix of popular hits from various cuisines, from Italian arancini to Vietnamese fried garfish and Moroccan braised lamb shoulder.
Diners can choose between a range of modestly priced ‘pots and plates’ (similar to tapas or antipasti) ($5.00-$9.00) or more substantial dishes ‘to share’ ($12.00-$22.00). Especially good value is the $12.50 lunch menu which includes a burger, pasta dish, fish and chips, steak sandwich, and a salad.
New to Faraja and keen to experience the full breadth of the menu, we opted for the “Chef’s Choice’ ($40.00 a head), which promised a range of the restaurant’s best offerings.
The first dish to arrive was large wedges of smoky, charred pumpkin served with soft, tangy goat’s cheese and sweet, roasted walnuts. While the flavours married beautifully, this dish was hardly seasonal in October, speaking more of autumn than spring. Charred notes were also evident in the bbq chilli squid tossed through a fresh and lively salad of green papaya, bean shoots and greens.
Next, “nam jim spicy chicken, fresh herbs and roasted peanuts’ partnered nut-topped chicken thigh pieces in a modestly spicy sauce on a bed of green papaya, cucumber and bean shoots and herbs including kaffir lime leaves, Vietnamese mint, coriander and Italian parsley.
The fourth stop in our world tour was the Mediterranean with perfectly cooked, nicely fatty lamb cutlets accompanied by a salad of roasted red capsicum, eggplant and zucchini, and served with chickpeas, couscous, salad greens and purple-tinged preserved lemon salsa.
Finally, sticky beef ribs with pickled ginger salad took us back to Asia, this time to Japan. The combination of meltingly tender beef ribs cooked slowly for 15 hours in a sticky, unctuous sauce with pickled ginger was my husband’s pick of the day.
Desserts include a tasting plate for two — Baileys and espresso semifredo, chocolate cointreau pot, salted caramel tart, warm chocolate hazelnut cake, apple and berry crumble; an affogato; a fig and ginger pudding; a cheese platter and a Spanish fried custard (leche frita).
Faraja’s positives are many: a central location, attractive decor and competent, well-presented food that offers good value for money. With its range of generously portioned and well-priced crowd pleasers from around the world, most diners will find something to like at Faraja.
Tuesday- Friday 10.00am-late