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Kebab joints are a fixture in most world cities. But a refined restaurant that introduces diners to the complexity and breadth of Middle Eastern cuisine? That rarity, in Melbourne at least, is named Maha (for the wife of chef Shane Delia) and it's upturning diners' expectations for this type of fare. Meals are served in sets of either two, three, or four courses and the food is often revelatory: deeply spiced (but not usually fiery), it plays with textures, colors and contrasting tastes to great effect. In fact, each course will likely be utterly different from the next. That's true whether you order lamb that's been so slowly-cooked the flesh no longer has any relationship with the bone (in fact, each sinew of the meat shies away from the next, making for protein with almost the texture of pudding); or the cruncy, perfectly dressed Lebanese bread salad. Meals will also include an assortment of meze (tiny plates of appetizers—olives, spreads and more) and, if you're lucky, a refreshingly minty iced dessert.

Maha's basement setting is as classy as the food, with flatteringly dim lighting, lots of dark wood and fine pieces of art on the walls. My only complaint is the bar seating, which is terrifically uncomfortable (it seems to have been designed for people over 6'4!). If you can't get a reservation (and that can be difficult) head elsewhere, as sitting at the bar for your meal will mar your ability to enjoy the food.