Sydney’s biggest draw card is its vibrant multicultural population. Lakemba, a southwestern Sydney suburb is the epicentre of the Australian Lebanese community, and we came here to join the diners at Jasmins Restaurant.
Jasmins is beautiful to walk into, it has a traditional décor with domed ceiling, beautiful friezes on the walls depicting the architecture of castles and ports and marble fixtures.
Coming from Malaysia and New Zealand, Middle Eastern cuisine is a mystery to me. Sure, most dinner parties tend to start with a supermarket hummus, everyone has had the odd falafel and no one turns down a late night lamb sharwma wrapped in pita. I’ve dabbled at the fringes like everyone, and was looking forward to my first Lebanese restaurant experience.
Being newbies, we weren’t sure what to expect. Luckily, there is a selection of mixed plates, and hubby chose the standard mixed plate ($16.50). The mixed plate came with hummous (Jasmins’ spelling), baba ghannouj, kafta, shish kebab, chicken, falafel, kebbeh and tabouli. The kafta (or kofta) is the long grilled skewered meat patty. I helped myself to most of the baba gahnnouj (eggplant dip), there was so much smoky, mellow flavour. Every morsel on the mixed plate was delicious. The main come with a mixed plate of pickled salad, chillies, olives, tomato, a raw onion and mint. BL loved the pickled chillies; I stuck to the pickled cucumber and olives.
I went for the fateh and shawarma ($11) to be mopped up with warm, thin quarters of pita bread. For my introduction to fateh, this was hummus with texture, whole soft chickpeas and crunchy pine nuts with the tangy yoghurt. The lamb pieces was flavoursome and very tender. Jasmin is also tremendous value, the two dishes were huge and we could have easily shared the mixed plate between us.
We threw caution to the wind, and ordered a serve of mint yoghurt drink. I could not get used to the salty yoghurt drink, it was odd to taste savouriness when your mind expects something sweet. Overall, it was a really delicious, eye-opening experience, and something I look forward to experiencing more of.
For afternoon tea, we read that Abla’s Pastries is renowned for making some of the best Lebanese sweets in Sydney, if not Australia. Walking into the store in Granville Road, you come face to face with massive trays displaying different types of baklavas, semolina cake, biscuits and candy. It’s a candy store for grownups. I was gawking at the sheer awesomeness.
To purchase any of these goodies, you have to get in line (there is always a queue), and inform one of the ladies what you want. The pastries are sold at $24 per kg. I asked for a recommendation, and was suggested a 1kg tray of mixed baklavas or biscuits. There are ready prepared 500g and 1kg trays of mixed baklavas and cookies. The baklavas came with either pistachio or walnut fillings, shaped into blossoms, cigars, diamonds and rounds. The 1kg tray lasted two of us a week, and seriously, these are the most amazing baklavas I have ever tasted. Not too sweet or heavy on the blossom fragrance, flaky and nutty. My favourite is the cigar baklava, and I am a fan of their shortbread biscuits.
To top off the delicious pastries, there are also gelato, cakes, celebratory sweets (coated almond candies, foiled wrapped chocolates for weddings and births) and nougats. Abla’s is open everyday, from 7am to a red-eye 1am.
30B Haldon Street North, Lakemba
Ph: +61 (02) 9740 3589
Opening Hours: 7 days 8:30am – 9:30pm
48 Railway Parade, Granville
Ph: +61 (02) 9637 8092
Opening hours: 7 days 7am – 1am