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North Balwyn isn’t everyone’s idea of a good food zone, but this little pocket of Doncaster Road is a useful area to know. There are some decent food stores nearby, and in the patch that contains Dunyazad, there are a number of other outlets serving Japanese, Italian, and fish and chips. Dunyazad, which has been going for 21 years in January, is the best of them. It’s large with white painted walls and a sizeable mural; the tablecloths are white and crisp, the light fittings and other decorations are reminiscent of the Middle East.
Locals love it. Sometimes they come in early, sometimes they call in for take-away – a service that warrants its own door. It’s comfortable, friendly, and the food is reliably good, with enough choice and interest to attract non-locals. It’s traditional Lebanese food so take a punt and try the less familiar starters – makaneek (little lamb sausages), sambousek (cheese pastries), or the cabbage rolls with a lemony-garlicky sauce. Follow with one of the grills, most of which include generous quantities of garlic but it won’t be a problem as everyone shares the dishes. There are some rules here: extra charge for extra bread and a minimum spend of $25 per person on Friday and Saturday nights when there is a belly dancer. Consider making use of the hearty banquet menu for $39 a head (more for seafood), which offers pretty decent value.