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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jasmin, Lakemba

Tabouleh $5.00
Crushed wheat, chopped parsley, onion, mint,

tomatoes, lemon juice and oil

If there's anything that brings people together, it's food. Communal dining is even better. Sharing dishes amongst the table means everyone has to engage with each other, and consumption is no longer a private affair but a loud and colourful group effort.

Jasmin Haldon Street

At Jasmin, in Lakemba in Sydney’s south-west, there's plenty of sharing and chatting going on. Groups of friends are talking amidst regular bursts of laughter, kids are swinging their heels mid-mouthful, and parents are clucking as they replenish everyone's plates.

We've visited Jasmin a couple of times now and each time the place is full. Despite the chatter, people tend to quickly eat and leave, and it's never long before our smiling host shows us to our table.

The decor here is strangely compelling. Rendered textured walls come complete with coloured stucco paintings framed with marble. The ceiling beholds three recessed church-like domes, each handpainted and inlaid with downlights.

Tables are a practical black marble, and the chairs--in 70s style brown or black--scrape with jarring regularity on the chequerboard floor. The menu is short and sweet: 19 options of which five are combination meals. Pricing is simple. $5 if it's vegetarian, $8 for meat, and $12 for a mixed plate of almost everything.

baba ghannouj
Baba ghannouj $5.00
Mashed eggplants, sesame seed paste, lemon juice and garlic

For me, Lebanese food is all about the dips. A basket of Lebanese bread, cut with scissors into manageable quarters, quickly diminishes as handfuls are torn off into makeshift spoons. Splodges of smoky baba ghannouj are mopped up with gusto, alternated with packages of bright green tabouleh, zinging with plenty of lemon juice.

Foule $5.00
Broad beans, lemon juice and garlic

We try the foule, a comforting dish of simmered broad beans in garlic and lemon. Fateh is another homestyle dish with cooked chick peas on a bed of yoghurt-soaked Lebanese bread and dusted with paprika, parsley and a handful of crunchy pine nuts. There's plenty of plate passing and friendly reaching as arms criss-cross all over the table.

Fateh $5.00
Chick peas, pine nuts and yoghurt

Falafel $5.00
Cracked chick peas, cumin and other herbs

The greatest test of a Lebanese joint, however, is the falafel; on both occasions Jasmin doesn’t fail to disappoint. The falafel are superb. Giant orbs of deep-fried darkened brown are irresistibly crisp, and they remain so even until the end of our meal. The chick pea mash inside is flecked with green, the texture is light and fluffy and tasty too. These are reputed to be the best falafel in Sydney and I see no reason to disagree.

toum and condiments
Complimentary condiments
Toum garlic sauce, tahina sauce and salad plate

If I could only eat two dishes at Jasmin, they would be the falafel and the toum. Toum, a kind of garlic fluff, is made primarily of garlic and oil, whipped until fluffy and addictively delicious. It's like garlic fairy floss and its lightness of texture makes one quickly dismiss any superficial concerns about resultant garlic breath.

Also complimentary are tahina sauce, made from sesame seed paste, and a salad plate of assorted greens. There are chunks of raw onion, tomato quarters, olives, gherkins, jalapeno peppers and sprigs of mint and parsley. Plenty of fun for the tastebuds.

chicken tawouk
Chicken tawouk $8.00
Sliced chicken thigh fillet (thin)

We try chicken tawouk twice, sliced thick and sliced thin. Thick is the way to go.

chicken tawouk
Chicken tawouk $8.00
Sliced chicken thigh fillet (thick)

We also sample charcoal chicken: whole thigh fillets grilled on charcoal, and lamb shish kebab.

 Charcoal chicken
Chicken grilled on charcoal $8.00

Both arrive hiding within a pocket of Lebanese bread, the bed underneath soaking up all the tasty juices. This chicken isn’t as spicy as the tawouk; the lamb alternates between somewhat rubbery and delightfully tender.

lamb shish kabab
Lamb shish kabab $8.00
Lamb cubes grilled on skewers

Hot sausages $8.00
Mince meat, hot chilli and spices

Hot sausages are spicy little fingers of mince. Meaty with bits of pine nuts, there are washed down well with mouthfuls of sweetened tamarind drink, a Lebanese national drink.

tamarind drink
Tamarind drink $2.50

The food is fresh, fast and ridiculously cheap. On both occasions we’ve eaten ourselves to burst for under $10 including drinks. Forget about the mixed platter for one. Bring your friends and dig on in.

Jasmin exterior

View Larger Map
Jasmins Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

30B Haldon Street, Lakemba, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9740 3589

Open 7 days, 8.30am-10pm

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Jasmin, Lakemba (Feb10)

Lebanese - Al Aseel, Greenacre
Lebanese - El Jannah, Granville
Lebanese - El-Manara, Lakemba
Lebanese - Emma's on Liberty, Enmore
Lebanese - Jasmin I, Punchbowl
Lebanese - Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown (Dec09), (Mar07) and (Jul04)
Lebanese - Sahara, Parramatta

13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 4/23/2006 11:41:00 pm


  • At 4/24/2006 1:28 am, Blogger deborah said…

    i-canner-believe how cheap it is. actually i can... but you know ... its always nice to be reminded that one need not spend a lot of money at fancy pants lebanese restos when there is this amazing array of food a drive away. i think the boy would love this place. thanks for sharing!

  • At 4/24/2006 8:53 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    I love lebanese food! a girl at work use to always bring in her mothers home made dips and the vegetarian vine leaves which was divine. Unfortunately Jacky doesn't really like it and Mum isn't a big fan of the meats so it gets a big hard tryingt o find people to come with me. I think you need at least a group of 4 so that you can order a few things to try.

  • At 4/24/2006 12:33 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    Another place added to my must-eats. That garlic fluff sounds so interesting...imagine the muscles you'd get whipping up garlic and oil!

  • At 4/24/2006 1:27 pm, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    What a find that place was.

    The garlic dip is so good.

    They just need to get some baklava on the menu and it would be good as gold.

  • At 8/22/2007 2:31 pm, Blogger Sydneyguy said…

    I recently been to Jasmin, a place during my uni days i would come often, because it is so cheap!! A mixed plate costs $12.50 but can fill up 2 people!! The mixed plate not only contains meat but also hommus and one other dip. Bread is free as far as i know and they bring out a complimentary dish of vegies, which some people will say is too sour, while others just dig into it!!

    If you pass punchbowl and want something to eat, this should be the first place you drop by!!

  • At 8/26/2007 6:28 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Sydneyguy - Jasmin is a firm favourite of mine, and yes the bread, salad, toum and tahina are all unlimited and complimentary with your meal :)

  • At 10/29/2008 8:59 pm, Blogger A said…

    I was googling Jasmin recently, remembering the garlicky lebanese goodness that resulted from my multiple visits there in my visit to Sydney in March. Honestly, after the authentic stuff in Dubai, and the mid-east, I think Jasmin comes extremely close. That's why I went there about 3 times, including once before going to the airport, in my 5 day Sydney jaunt.
    Unfortunately, there are no decent Lebanese places here in Singapore.
    By the way, does anyone have a recipe for that fluffy toum? My version never comes off correctly. Cheers!

  • At 5/15/2009 2:11 pm, Anonymous devi said…

    Omg. I just ate at Jasmin and the babaganouj just about gave life new meaning. The place was absolutely pumping. What an amazing experience!

  • At 5/17/2009 1:39 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Aboobaker S. Omar - Wow, 3 visits in a 5 day stay is endorsement indeed. I tried making toum once but it failed too! The trick, I believe, is to use a mortar and pestle or blender, and add the oil super slowly.

    Hi Devi - Glad it's found a few fan in you. It's amazing isn't it? I love everything - the decor, the people, the prices, the food. Reminds me I should head back there sometime soon :)

  • At 8/17/2009 10:00 am, Blogger A said…

    Did it Helen! This is the way to make it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMAXyq0gR9o&feature=response_watch


  • At 8/18/2009 1:38 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Aboobaker - Thanks for the link. I think you've inspired me :)

  • At 9/24/2009 9:17 am, Anonymous Grace said…

    haha I was looking out for the baklava too! but damn those falafels look awesomely crunchy

  • At 9/24/2009 8:12 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Grace - The falafels are amazing - so crunchy on the outside, and yet so soft within. There are a few Lebanese patisseries along Haldon Street - a walk up the road is probably needed after such a feast!


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