Oh the joys of a fantastic cheap and tasty Lebanese feast.
We've been to Jasmin in Lakemba for more gluttonous feasts than I care to count. Tonight we head to its sister restaurant Jasmin1 in Punchbowl.
Complimentary toum garlic dip and tahina sesame seed dip
Everything is same-same but a little bit different. The gloriously over-the-top stucco walls are here, so too are the illuminated domes recessed into the ceiling. But Jasmin1 is significantly bigger than its Lakemba sibling, the dining room stretching two-and-a-half times longer and a little wider too.
There are a couple more options available on the menu here too. Things like raw kebbeh (lamb mince with crushed wheat and spices) can be had for a mere $9, but although I am quite a fan of this delicacy, my dining companions tonight are not. There are falafel sandwiches ($4.00) or any variety of meat versions for $5.00. Hot chips may grace your table for $4.00.
Baba ghannouj $5.00
Mashed eggplants, sesame seed paste,
lemon juice and garlic
We stick to the basics tonight, a smorgasboard of baba ghannouj, tabouleh, chicken shawarma and falafel. Like Lakemba, there only ever seem to be men working in the restaurant, and although there are some language barriers, their genuine warmth and hospitality is unmistakeable.
"Sit, please," motioned the kindly salt-and-pepper haired gent as we approached a table. "Please, free water for you," he'd announced, as two unopened bottles of spring water were placed alongside a tower of clean glasses.
Chicken shawarma $9.00
Sliced chicken thigh fillet
Our food arrives within about five minutes of placing our order. First up is a little basket holding a carb-mountain of freshly quartered Lebanese bread, sealed tightly in a plastic to maintain its softness. Then comes the complimentary side dishes: a salad plate of tomato, jalapeno peppers, green and black olives, a whole raw onion, mint sprigs and pickled radish strips in a riot of hot pink.
Then the little dishes of free dip: tahina, a thin sesame seed paste mixed with yoghurt, and my eternal favourite toum, a pungent and intense garlic and olive oil dip that is addictively good, almost hot with garlic and with a lingering sweetness.
Crushed wheat, chopped parsley, onion, mint,
tomatoes, lemon juice and oil
Baba ghannouj is a generous crater of smoky eggplant dip, puddled lightly with olive oil and whispered over with paprika. The chicken shawarma is tender and moist, chopped up roughly into generous chunks which we scoop up with lebanese bread and a smidge of toum.
Cracked chick peas, cumin with herbs and spices,
fried in vegetable oil
The tabbouleh is all zing, fine shreds of parsley studded with tomato, burghul, onion, mint and dressed with olive oil and lemon.
My favourite dish is still the falafel, still golden and crunchy with its crisp shell contrasting magnificently with the soft, fluffy green-flecked interior. The falafel is smaller here, little ufo shapes. The Lakemba version is more squash-ball sized, but there you get five, and here you get seven. I suppose the shell-to-ratio factor has better crunch odds here.
Complimentary salad vegetables
We wash our meal down with drinks from the help-yourself fridge. I have my usual tamarind drink, a carbonated liquid of dark purple that is almost salty but mostly sour and sweet. We also try a can of pineapple soft drink that tastes just like fizzy pineapple sherbet.
The damage for three people is a laughable $10 each. There are still leftovers on the table and as we leave for a dessert of baklava, our unopened bottle of spring water is pushed into our hands.
"For you," he says. "Your water, free."
He nods eagerly, his smile lights up his face. We thank him, touched, and reply with smiles just as warm and genuine.
Jasmin 1 Lebanese Restaurant
224 The Boulevarde, Punchbowl, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9740 7866
Open 7 days 8.30am-9pm
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Other Lebanese restaurants
El Manara, Lakemba
Emma's on Liberty, Enmore
Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown
In the area:
Rabeih Sweets, Punchbowl, August 2007
Rabeih Sweets, Punchbowl, February 2005
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8/16/2007 09:42:00 p.m.