So I've always had a soft spot for Lebanese food. I think it's the simplicity of the cuisine: charcoal meats, zingy salads and downy soft quarters of fluffy Lebanese bread. Perhaps the deep-fried falafel balls (mmm... deep-fried) also have something to do with it. And I love the creamy decadence of toum, the dip with a fiery garlic punch.
We head to Al Aseel in Greenacre to see if its reputation for good Lebanese food can possibly topple our long-time favourite, Jasmin in Lakemba.
Al Aseel is quite a large eatery, huge glass windows offering a view of the laminate tables already filled with local families and friends. The floorstaff are young and female--daughters of the owner, we presume--dressed smartly in black polo shirts embroidered with the Al Aseel logo.
The ubiquitous plate of pickles (radish, jalapeno peppers, olives, pickles and tomato) is served promptly but we immediately notice the lack of onion and mint that is included at Jasmin. Missing also are the bowls of tahina and toum we usually receive at Jasmin. Yes, we're comparing everything today.
Chick peas, fried Lebanese bread, salt and yoghurt
topped with pinenuts and melted butter
Fatteh is Speedy's favourite dish, but we're disappointed by the one here. Lined on the bottom with a layer of deep-fried Lebanese bread, we find its oil gives an unpleasant residual film on the tongue, and the puree of chickpeas is simply that, not incorporated with yoghurt to a delicious creaminess like the one at Jasmin's.
Fattoush $7.00 (small)
Lettuce, tomato, eschallots, radish, parsley and
fried Lebanese bread with garlic dressed with grenadine and olive oil
Fattoush is a happier combination of fried Lebanese bread and lively fresh salad. We relish the crunchy chips contrasting with the slight bitterness of radish, the juiciness of cucumber and the crisp greenery of lettuce, eschallots and parsley.
Chick peas and secret spices deep-fried in cotton seed oil
with tahini sauce (vegetarian)
Jasmin wins on the falafel too. Whilst golden on the outsides, the insides seem a little dry and crumbly, and not as vibrant green and moist as those at Jasmin's.
Laham mishwee (bbq lamb skewers) $13.00
3 skewers* of delicious bbq lamb
served on a bed of onions and garlic dip
(*the last skewer was served a few minutes later)
And then the meat arrives and things get very tricky.
The lamb. Wow. It's amazing. I've always tended the find the lamb at Jasmin is a little gamey and a touch on the chewy side. Here, it's amazingly tender. Veruca Salt and I fight over the barbecued onion wedges, grilled over charcoal until caramelised and sweet.
We're relieved to finally receive our cherish pot of toum too, although it seems a little stronger in garlic here, a harsh heat that means between the four of us we don't even manage to finish this tiny pot (usually at Jasmin we finish at least one refill).
Chicken breast lemon garlic (House Specialty) $15.00
3 skewered bbq marinated chicken breast
tossed in special garlic sauce served on a bed of onions
I'd been swayed by the words "House Specialty" to order the chicken breast lemon garlic, and boy I'm glad I did. Again the meat is meltingly tender, so much so I have to double-check with everyone that yes, we really are eating chicken breast! Usually I avoid chicken breast like the plague, having encountered so many dry ruins, but here its soft and juicy, bathed generously in a garlicky yoghurt sauce.
I want the toum, fatteh and falafel of Jasmin, and the lamb and chicken from Al Aseel.
So hard to choose!
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Al Aseel Lebanese Restaurant
4/173 Waterloo Road, Greenacre, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9758 6744
Open 7 days
Sunday to Thursday 9am-9pm
Friday and Saturday 9am-10pm
Public holidays 9am-10pm
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Lebanese--Emma's on Liberty
Lebanese--Jasmin I, Punchbowl
Lebanese--Rowda Ya Habibi (Mar07) and (Jul04)
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12/22/2008 12:29:00 a.m.