“When handling food imagine you have someone you love in your hands,” Sodith Aoude’s mother whispered when teaching her daughter to cook: “Be careful not to bruise them.”
Aoude left war-torn Lebanon for Australia in 1988 and not long after purchased the now iconic NoNo’s in Red Hill. The love affair lasted 16 years before she sold up, opened Al Samar in Grange, and then Rouj in Rosalie in December 2011. A month later Aoude’s little restaurant and all of Rosalie Village was awash with water, mud and despair. Today you wouldn’t know there’d been even been a flood in the bustling neighbourhood filled with food and wine provedores and their discerning clientele.
The red wall inside reads, ‘What’s your passion?’ – a reference to Aoude’s passion for food. Timber chairs around white-tiled tables accommodate not-so-tiny bottoms with ease; they’re filled with customers wearing smiles a mile wide, eating, sharing, laughing and enjoying.
Quality is paramount here: if Aoude doesn’t like to eat it she won’t give it to you. For kebabs, it’s lamb backstrap and free-range chicken. Baba ghanouj ($5.50) is made from eggplant softened over charcoal. It’s intensely smoky and so addictive we’ve returned twice this week to revel in its goodness; the recipe is Aoude’s mother’s. The same goes for pumpkin kebbi ($3.50) and mansaf (pistachio, pine nuts, almonds, slow-cooked lamb, rice and wisps of exotic spice, $26.50). You’ve gotta try lahem bi ajeen (pastry filled with spiced lamb, tomato, onion and pine nuts, $11.50) and crisp, haloumi and fetta cheese fingers ($11.50).
Our waiter Sami Saadeh – Aoude’s son-in law – says: “I’ve never met a lady who doesn’t like dessert.” He’s handsome and a mindreader. We’ll have bird’s nest baklava ($3.50): not as cloying as most, it’s sweetened with sugar syrup rather than honey and worthy of attention.
With authentic flavour, tradition, and great food, value and service, you’re in good hands at Rouj. We promise you won’t be bruised a bit.