Over the past 15 years in Sydney, the variety, quality and vibe of Middle Eastern restaurants has burst out in unique directions. From the traditional cafes with pungent dishes, to the schmick restaurants that fuse styles. Here's a tasting plate of the top six Mideast eateries from across the city.
Jasmin's Lebanese Restaurant
Jasmin's is all about simple, strong flavours that you enjoy with locals chatting enthusiastically over their food, surrounded by murals of ancient ruins. Ordering the standard mixed grill will give you the heartiest range of Lebanese food, including: fresh-cooked falafel, kibbeh, grilled chicken, tabouleh and the three dips—tahini, hummus, and baba ghanoush. The plate comes with side salad and pickles, plus flat breads. Make sure you order the garlic sauce for that massive garlic hit.
Address: 30B Haldon Street, Lakemba NSW 2195
Ph: 02 9740 3589
Opening Hours: Seven days 8:30am to 9:30pm
Darband Persian Restaurant
At 8.30pm on a Saturday night, a short distance from Auburn station, this restaurant is buzzing as local families tuck into delectable food at prices so low you'll look twice at the bill.
The Zereshk Polo is a decent-sized chicken leg in a beautiful salty soup. It comes with a massive side of the fluffiest rice you have experienced mixed with red Zereshk berries, which are something like cranberries. All this for just $12.
The Gheimeh is lamb cooked with split peas, tomatoes and dried limes. The taste of the limes is robust and also highlights the other ingredients. The split peas round out the ingredients to make this a filling and wholesome meal.
Address: 9/45 Rawson Street, Auburn NSW 2144
Ph: 02 9646 4466
Opening Hours: Seven days 11am to 9pm
Matee Turkish Grill
The word matee means 'aunty' in Turkish and gives a sense of the family-style food on offer at Matee Turkish Grill, such as patlican, a filling, hot salad of fried eggplant and capsicum garnished with parsley and garlic. If you have a Turkish aunty, I'm sure this is what she treats you to.
The other favourite on the menu is the tangy Adana, lamb minced with capsicum and served with pilaf and lavash bread that's straight out of the oven.
With tiled tables, woven rugs and Turkish mosaic lamps, the atmosphere is right to savour the feast.
Address: 528 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Ph: 02 9565 2815
Emma's on Liberty
Casting a warm glow into the backstreets of Enmore, Emma's has the feel of a big kitchen full of friends, who have just dropped round for a meal.
As usual in Mideast dining, guests order a range of small dishes and enjoy the selection. Favourites include the fried cauliflower and the ladies fingers (lamb mince wrapped in flaky pastry).
The delightfully aromatic spiced fish is drizzled with bitter tahina that gives great contrast to the lightly fried ling fillets. Make sure you finish your feast with the orange blossom tea. It's mildly sweet and refreshing as you sit back and digest.
Address: 59 Liberty Street, Enmore NSW 2042
Ph: 02 9550 3458
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 6pm to 12am
With great food, dim lighting and minimalist decoration, Cafe Mint is a modern Mideast eatery.
While there are the traditional breads and dips, aim for the artful fusion meals like lamb shanks with a lively dash of apple, radish, mint and cucumber. The lamb comes away from the bone in tender, steamy goodness and all the flavours mix very well on a bed of mash.
The merguez sausages, standard in many Mideast restaurants, are done with a Cafe Mint twist. Spiced with harissa and made on site, each piece is delivered on a base of eggplant, yoghurt and lemon juice that you wrap up in flat bread. What a mix of tastes!
Finish off with the sweet mint tea, which is actually a smoky mix of green tea, mint and raw sugar.
Address: 579 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: 02 9319 0848
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 7am to 3pm; 6pm to 9:30pm: Friday 7am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm: Saturday 8am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm: Sunday 9am to 3pm
More Middle Eastern restaurants are offering breakfasts and providing welcome relief from Sydney's standard 'big breakfast'. Efendy is ahead of the game with its $29 set menu from the province of Van, on the Eastern edge of Turkey.
True to the meaning of its name, 'gentleman', Efendy has the feel of a country estate sparsely but comfortably furnished. It's surprising to have the spacious, rustic feel close to Balmain's bustle.
The base of the breakfast is a cutting board full of fresh-baked breads (pide, simit, and poga?a) served with an array of sweet, as well as salty plates. Delicacies include: clotted cream with honey, pomegranate molasses; a tangy tomato salad dip; deep-fried borek full of spinach; and sujuk sausage that has a real kick. Fruit and halva are included for a sweet finale.
Address: 79 Elliot St, Balmain NSW 2041
Ph: 02 9810 5466
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 5pm – 10pm: Friday and Saturday 12pm – 3pm; 5pm – 10pm: Sunday 9am – 3pm; 5pm – 10pm
Image credit top: Design Sponge
Image credit bottom: Pinterest - Melinda Matrianni