#navbar-iframe { display: none; }

« Home | Churrasco, Coogee » | Freebie Friday winner: And the love is free » | Elvis Cupcakes and a Sydney Food Bloggers' Christm... » | Freebie Friday: Win tickets to see Bright Star » | Popcorn cupcakes » | Malacca Straits, Broadway » | South Restaurant, Neutral Bay » | Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant, Kensington » | Elvis, a wedding and 99 macarons.... » | Freebie Friday: Win a copy of "And the Love is Free" »

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown

Baba ghanouj eggplant dip

It's always funny to watch your friends get pulled up to join the belly dancer, until you realise, with horror, she's coming straight for you.

There's a belly dancer at Rowda Ya Habibi most Friday and Saturday nights. This spot seems to have become my fall-back venue for group functions. It's not hard to see why. The most expensive banquet will only cost you $30 per head, there are private cushion rooms upstairs, and its location in Newtown is central to public transport with limited parking options too.

It's also a cuisine that is not altogether familiar to our guest of honour tonight, Lady Iron Chef., aka Brad, one of Singapore's top food bloggers on a whirlwind visit of Sydney. When Singapore is blessed with stellar Asian food, our get together of Sydney food bloggers resisted any danger of comparison and rejoiced in the flavours of Lebanese cuisine instead.

Fresh soft Lebanese bread

We climb up the steep stairs to the cushion room, a little run-down looking these days, with some obvious plater patchwork on one wall, but there's still a secluded sense of privacy, with a canopy over our heads and hanging tapestry rugs on the walls looking down on us.


We order the Extra Special Banquet at $30 per head, starting with baskets of soft and fluffy Lebanese bread which we rip by hand and use to scoop up dollops of hoummos, smoky baba ghanoush eggplant dip or the zingy freshness of tabbouleh.


Ladies fingers

Brad seems a little perplexed by the ladies fingers until we point out there no, the name does not refer to sugar bananas. Instead these hot-from-the-fryer pastries are wadded with a fine filling of lamb mince, its meatiness refreshed by a generous squeeze of lemon.


Egg-shaped falafel are next, and whilst fresh, these are not a patch on my favourite crunchy-shelled version from Jasmin in Lakemba.

Shish kebabs

We move into the meat section of the banquet next, the charcoal skewers of minced shish kebabs moving onto strong and almost gamey flavoured lamb kebabs and concluding with succulent cubes of garlic chicken.

Lamb kebabs

Garlic chicken

It's at this point we're starting to regret our over-indulgence of dips earlier on in the evening, as skewers are abandoned in defeat.

Beans in tomato sauce

Our final two dishes are barely touched, although I do welcome the beans in tomato sauce and find some starchy satisfaction in the rice cooked with vermicelli, the rice fragrant with stock and the fried noodles adding a nutty richness.

Rice cooked with vermicelli

The banquet carnage

Baklava $2.50 per piece

We conclude with diamonds of baklava - not syrupy enough for some, but I've always preferred mine on the drier side. Fat cubes of pink Turkish delight dusted with icing sugar are stretchy and chewy although most people can't find theirs (I have no such problem).

And in amongst that all, our own personal show of belly dancing. Our shimmering belly dancer got half of us up to join her, myself included - here's a tip: sit on the outside edge of the table and be prepared to join in!

Our belly dancer with Yas

View Larger Map
Rowda Ya Habibi on Urbanspoon

Rowda Ya Habibi
101 King Street Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9557 5368

Open 7 days 10.30am - 12 midnight

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/17/2009 02:04:00 am


  • At 12/17/2009 6:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen, In Spore (and indeed in Malaysia as well as India) ladies fingers (in cuisine speak) refers to okra, not bananas as they are here. Perhaps that was Brad's confusion?


  • At 12/17/2009 7:55 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Interesting place. Looks good enough to try. Thanks for the review.

  • At 12/17/2009 8:00 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    For our $30, there was plenty of value there, especially with belly dancer. Had $30 worth of laughs right there!

    It was an interesting experience seeing someone eat Lebanese food for the first time, as well as to meet with an International blogger such as Brad.

  • At 12/17/2009 12:02 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    omg, I think I haven't laughed so hard for a long time! And guess what, I accidentally deleted all the belly dancing videos without downloading them from the memory card... SO SAD!!!!

  • At 12/17/2009 12:04 pm, Anonymous ladyironchef said…

    HAHA the ladies finger really got me confused! thanks for organising this dinner helen, otherwise i won't be able to get to newtown :D

    "..until you realise, with horror, she's coming straight for you." Initially when the first one goes up i thought all was safe, not me. but when the second was pulled up by her, i was like shit, it's gonna be our turn next. lol

  • At 12/17/2009 4:14 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Haha - I hate those situations when you're pulled into the spotlight and suddenly expected to perform. Ack! But sounds like a great event, good food and excellent value!

  • At 12/17/2009 4:59 pm, Anonymous Howard said…

    lol @ Belly dancing. Glad the food is good too, at $30 a pop it's good value for that end of town. Saves a trip to Auburn too.

  • At 12/17/2009 5:07 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    The dips look so moreish! I wouldn't be able to stop either. I wish I had some way of getting to Lakemba, the felafel sound delish! Ive never tried Turkish Delight but I do prefer my baklava not as syrupy. Ladyironchef is lucky to have such a wonderful host. Sounds like you had a great time.

  • At 12/17/2009 5:10 pm, Anonymous Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks) said…

    For $30 a head, I'm sure you were stuffed. I've been quite full and made off for even less than that at Rowda Ya Habibi. The food is good, and the bellydancers are fun. Great choice for bringing an international food blogger!

  • At 12/17/2009 11:14 pm, Blogger Deb said…

    I think I should organise a group to come here - I've had takeaway from this place, but it looks like it's worth sitting down and having a proper meal!

  • At 12/18/2009 11:02 am, Blogger A said…

    No toum?

  • At 12/20/2009 4:28 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi gobsmack'd - You're right, ladies fingers do often refer to banana but in this instance, Brad did mention the banana to me. I allayed his fears immediately. lol

    Hi Joey - I think the food here is great value and the garlic chicken and baba ghanoush are always a highlight :)

    Hi Simon - lol. I think the floorshow was worth much more than $30. Next time you are totally getting up there!

    Hi Billy - I can't believe you didn't get picked, particularly as you were shimmying all evening. lol. And what a shame about the video deletion. So sad indeed! *phew*

    Hi ladyironchef - Always a pleasure to show a food lover like yourself around Sydney. Was great to meet you! And yes, I was convinced I was safe since I was at the end but lol, the dawning realisation prompted much horror!

    Hi Forager - I'm not one to hog the spotlight, especially when public shimmying is involved. All in good fun though :)

    Hi Howard - It's a great value restaurant and I like that it's close to the city and convenient to cafes for dessert afterwards too.

    Hi Kate - Jasmin in Lakemba is easily accessible by train - it's a one-minute walk down the road and highly recommended. Do go one weekend :)

    Hi Brittany - Ahh glad you approve. It's always nice having a large group in a cushion room and the belly dancer is always entertaining.

    Hi Food.4.two - There's plenty of seating downstairs on chairs if you don't want to sit on the ground, but the cushion rooms make for an intimate evening and the banquets are a great feed for a group.

    Hi Aboo - We had toum with our lamb skewers but alas no saucer of dip for our Lebanese bread. Perhaps just as well given our long night ahead in public!

  • At 1/07/2010 8:34 pm, Anonymous Carly said…

    Hi Helen, Ive been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first comment. We went to Rowda Ya Habibi yesterday for my birthday after I read your recommendation. We had the $25 a head banquet and we loved it! The dips, the fresh bread, the chicken.... it was all amazing! We usually travel from Baulkham Hills to Surry Hills to get our lebanese fix, but I think we will now be coming to Newtown. And the lady serving was so lovely "Thank you darling". Carly :-)

  • At 1/11/2010 1:23 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Carly - Happy belated birthday! So glad to hear you enjoyed Rowda. I think the value here is great, and the staff here have remained constant for ages.

    Thank you so much for making your first comment on GYF too - comments are always the highlight of my day! Keep them coming :) Always keen to hear others' thoughts!

  • At 2/02/2010 11:08 pm, Blogger An said…

    Thanks for this recommendation - I was going to Surry Hills for Lebanese, but through you got this review, and cheaper than the Surry Hills ones.

    Enjoyed the food with a fairly large group of friends (15) for a farewell party, and had heaps of food in abundance for the banquet. Unfortunately we miss out on the bellydancer coz it was mid-week, but definitely mark this place for another time.

    I thought the falafel was nice and crunchy, and very lemony tabouleh, and dips are awesome. Quite a few of friends are first time Lebanese food triers and they're ok with it as well :)

    Thanks for the recommendation! Thank you for all your reviews - you're pretty much my first stop for searching for restaurants to eat at, and to drool over places to eat :) Also probably one of the first restaurant sites I recommend to my Aussie friends :)

  • At 2/04/2010 1:53 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi An - Sounds like a great farewell party! Glad to hear that you all enjoyed the food. I think it's great value here although next time you'll have to try to schedule your visit for a weekend so you can enjoy the belly dancer!

    So good to hear you're enjoying the site and finding it useful. Thanks so much for your feedback too :)


Post a Comment

<< Home

      << Read Older Posts       |       >> Read Newer Posts