The themed street food casual restaurant is difficult to get right. Simplify or modify the food too much and it looks bland and manufactured. Modernise and glamourise the interior design, compared to the scruffy or shabby interior the original food was served in a generation before, and you make it look even more inauthentic.
In Melbourne places like Kalamaki Greek street food in the CBD have come and gone. Delhi Streets Indian seems to be doing well, but too often branding something street food makes me suspicious that it’s offering hype over substance. Like the short-lived Kikiriki.
Wandering Lygon St looking at the new places I thought I’d try Hwatu Korean the other day despite it looking dingy inside. When I entered only one table was occupied, by two young men worshipping a huge plate of fried chicken. I stood and waited, and waited. There was no one front of house to greet me. No one was monitoring the outdoor tables. I gave up and walked out. That place has the stench of failure.
Instead I chose Manakish Bar, a new Lebanese street food place that has been open about a month. My falafel plate was $14 with 8 pieces of falafel, fresh salad, tahini sauce and flatbread. The food has been styled to a degree but it is genuinely good, at least as far as I can tell from this one meal. I think I’m going to become a repeat customer.