My favourite topic of conversation at breakfast? Lunch. I'm not a morning person at the best of times, but the promise of lunch - and the eating opportunities it brings - is usually enough to put a sparkle in my eyes.
Talk turned to fafafel and the fresh zing of tabbouleh, and by the time the clock strikes twelve, we find ourselves heading to Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown for a much-needed Lebanese fix.
Rowda has always been a favourite spot of mine for group dinners, a cheap night out with its $30 banquet dinner in the cushion rooms, accessed by a dauntingly steep set of stairs.
Out the back is a recently renovated formal dining room but today we take a seat at the front, opposite the main service counter.
Much of the daytime trade revolves around takeaway kebabs, fresh rounds of Lebanese bread wrapped around chicken, lamb or falafel and packed tightly with salad. We're a group of five today and decide to make up our own share plates instead, pointing at random items in the bain marie.
Most of the items are cold, but can be zapped in the microwave to piping hot. We find ourselves having to curtail our choices as we start pointing at everything in sight.
Kibbeh and falafel $2.50 each
Deep-fried eggplant, tabbouleh, toum garlic dip and baba ghanoush eggplant dip
We start with a mix of vegetarian dishes first. The deep-fried eggplant is blissfully good, the flesh sweet and sticky, and caramelised to a golden brown. A basket of soft Lebanese bread is used to scoop up mouthfuls of a lively tabbouleh salad, fresh with parsley, tomato and lemon.
The baba ghanoush eggplant dip has a rich smokiness, and a fat dollop of toum is light and fluffy but deliciously fierce with garlic.
Mujadarah rice and lentil pilaf, falafel and kibbeh
Ping! goes the microwave, and our hot plate is ready. The kibbeh is generous with lamb mince but a little dry and the reheated pucks of falafel are missing their trademark crunch, however we find plenty of satisfaction in the spoonful of majadarah, a traditional Lebanese pilaf of rice with green lentils and slivers of deep-fried onion.
Inside the kibbeh
Green beans are the other surprise winner, the beans simmered in a tomato sauce until tender, reheated until warm for a comforting side dish. With a couple of soft drinks from the fridge, our bill ends up at $8 a head. It's too cheap for words, especially when we detour to Luxe Cafe for coffee and dessert and spend the same amount again.
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4/20/2011 12:43:00 a.m.