Ah, you flavor everything; you are the vanilla of society.
~ Sydney Smith
The other night, my cool friend Kath and I trailed down to Ima for dinner, and were not disappointed.
- Slow-braised shoulder of New Zealand lamb served on Ebly made with nuts and fried onions and fresh Arabic salad – the lamb was soft and tender, it sighed from my fork like a feather – delicious.
- Logan Weemala Merlot
- Fish of the day, pan fried, served on a citrusy fruity Israeli couscous with pistachios and a crisp herb salad – the couscous was like winks of sweetness and citrus – light and innocent and fun, like a child laughing in the playground. Bits of herb got stuck on my lips and in my teeth, but to put it simply, the food was too nice and I promptly forgot to care about my appearance (lucky Kath!). The fish (snapper?) was perfectly cooked and thoughtfully topped with a layer of what tasted like tahini. A very juicy lemon wedge provided a pleasing finish to everything.
- Four Sisters Shiraz – yes, I have often heard it said that white meat is to go with white wine, but well – I like it with red. I like everything with red.
For dessert, we shared a dainty Middle Eastern dessert platter comprising three parts:
- Filo cigar pastries filled with Turkish delight and chopped pistachio nuts – poised, crisp cigars that led the way to the scent of roses (and bandung) set in gummy Turkish delight (I think this is a flavour and texture that either makes you fall in love or grab a bucket – fortunately, I belong to the lucky group who like it).
- a mhalbi milk pudding topped with a quince and red wine reduction – so I couldn’t remember what this was when it came and the menus had been whisked away by the waitress, and I had trouble deciphering the sweet, sticky fruit on the top – date? fig? prune? I could not figure it out! Nice to know I have now tasted my first quince though! As for the milk pudding – it was a bit like foamy milk custard; silky, smooth, lilting. Sweet and luxurious in taste, but frankly reminded me too much of a soapy bath and I didn’t want more than one teaspoon of it… :-o
- Basbousa – an Egyptian semolina cake – lovely. You bite into this and it is dense and whole, before suddenly spreading like mild fireworks into tiny little circles like sweet microscopic couscous over your tongue! And this mini explosion happens again and again with each forkful – marvellous.
Food can be simple or difficult, and the best places know how to juxtapose simplicity and complexity in your eating experience. I love that at Ima, they do this very well. The food isn’t pretentious. You aren’t sitting up with your napkin perfectly folded, making smart comments about the gourmet-ness of everything while secretly wondering what the hell you are eating. The food is substantial, simple, straightforward. You know what you are eating. The waitress speaks plain English, mentioning ingredients you have heard about and seen before. Yet, there is a certain complexity to each dish – when you wonder why you seem to keep kind of floating off your chair and falling back down again; when you think – wow, how can couscous taste like that? When you cannot help but realise that you are eating special food, going past just eating for survival to that place where truly good food takes you (you know, when you smile a lot and say silly things and kind of forget where you are and then take out your notebook and pen to start scribbling down a few notes so you don’t forget anything…)
Good food. Enjoyed. Want to return for a second meal. Soon.
Ima – 57 Fort Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 300 7252