With his cousins Aret and Sasoon Arzadian, Maskal opened the sleek and dimly lit CBD fine diner Sezar in 2013. Their next offering, the more paired-back Shukah (which means “marketplace” in Armenian) opened in May 2017 on the Windsor end of Chapel Street.
The 52-seat space was designed with the help of Erika Lancini Design, with minor but characteristic flourishes such as the slightly cavernous white-paint brick walls.
Maskal gathers flavours from all over Europe and the Middle East to creates rustic, peasant-style tapas dishes that seem somehow new and recognisable at the same time. His hummus, for example, is served with a volcanic oozing of sweet and nutty brown butter; or there’s the air-dried beef basturma, which originally comes from Turkey. Maskal coats it with paprika and cumin, serving it with garlic jam on toasted brioche and a quail egg.
More common Armenian offerings include the four-plate starter mezze, with coffee-roasted carrots and wheat berries; roasted beetroot with tahini and dill; tomatoes with stringy cheese, and nigella and a sort of eggplant ratatouille.
Manti dumplings are also a go-to on most Armenian tables, which Maskal prepares toasted and parcelled like crispy little wontons stuffed with spiced lamb, served with garlic yoghurt and sumac.
The tender charred octopus is a must. Maskal serves this with pistachio and olive salsa and a dollop of labne. The taste lingers with a question mark on the tip of your tongue. Greek? Turkish? Armenian? Who cares.
Larger feast-sized dishes include a pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder; or the barbequed baby chicken with green harissa, yoghurt and flatbread.