Ex-Rice Queen head chef, Jabili Mchawala, is running a pop-up modern African cuisine truck, Jabili’s Kitchen, behind Smith Street venues Mr Wow’s Emporium and Los Barbudos.

The location sounds a little strange (and it is). Walk through either of these establishments, towards the glowing green exit signs pointing to the staircase at the back, and you will find a large warehouse-type space kitted out like a backyard and with a shiny new caravan front and centre. The reconditioned vintage vehicle is covered in lacquered nautical ply and sits on a couple of semi-white walled tyres amidst AstroTurf, palms and a basketball hoop.

Mchawala (“Call me Jab”), who moved to Australia from Tanzania when he was five, has more than 12 years of hospitality experience and confidently cooks Italian, Asian, Moroccan, African and modern Australian cuisine.

Through Jabili’s Kitchen, the 29-year old hopes to create a uniquely Australian take on modern African food. His laid-back, friendly style shines through his service, and the atmosphere around the truck is warm and welcoming. Offerings are limited (it is a truck after all) but Mchawala has done the choosing for you with perfect dinner-sized dishes such as the sweet and tangy Moroccan slider with spicy lentils and house-made slaw, or the yoghurt-braised lamb shoulder Tunisian tacos with dukkah and tabbouleh. The za’atar and lemon yoghurt parsnip chips are heavenly and the African piri piri chicken wingettes with smoked fennel aioli also stand tall. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options and everything is under $10.

You can eat on site or at either of the two bars, and of course takeaway is an option. For the moment Jabili’s Kitchen is open Thursday to Sunday, but it plans to open seven days a week and move the truck around to different venues in the future.

Jabili’s Kitchen
Back of 95–97 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Thurs to Fri 5–11pm
Sat 6–12pm
Sun 4–10pm