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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jasmin, Lakemba

Falafel $6

"Oh. My. God."

I tend to get nervous whenever I recommend a dish or a restaurant, plagued by a moment of self-doubt when the moment of truth arrives.

The falafel at Jasmin's are the best I've ever tasted," I confidently declare to Simon and Yas, but even when the dish arrives, I'm a little uncertain.

I needn't have worried. Simon takes a bite and then nods in approval. Yas adds a chortle of delight. Oh yes, Jasmin has done it again.

"It's so crunchy on the outside! It's still moist in the middle!"

I nod, clucking with approval.

This seemingly simple vegetarian dish, a disc of crushed chick peas mixed with cumin and herbs, is a whole other experience at Jasmin. The exterior is a deep golden brown, the insides are soft and flecked with herbs. But it's the crust that provided the joyous moment revelation, its surface corrugated and nobbly to create a crunch so satisfying it sounds like you're biting into a shattering potato crisp.

Baba ghannouj $6

The amazing falafel are not the only reason I love to revisit. Food is served with speed and a smile, and the prices are unbelievably cheap. Vegetarian dishes are $6 with meat dishes $10. Combination plates are available but I always prefer to order whole dishes and share them around.

The decor is something else too, with painted scenes of the sea, marble frames and recessed domes in the ceiling amidst a stucco-gone-wild backdrop.

There's a steady rotation of locals. Families, couples and friends eat their fill and leave. We always end up loitering over our meal, watching the tables next to us change over two or three times. There's always too much food.

Tabouli $5

Baba ghanoush is a crater of mashed eggplant, smoky from the char grill and tempered by tahina sesame paste, garlic and a spritz of lemon. A puddle of olive oil and a few generous shakes of paprika add extra flavour.

A bright and happy mix of chopped parsley leaves studded with tomato, onion and burghul crushed wheat forms the tabouli. Fresh mint leaves and lemon juice add zing.

Lebanese bread

Although cutlery is provided, it's much more fun to use your hands. A basket of fresh Lebanese bread, so soft and fluffy it's more like a bready crepe, is best torn into smaller pieces and then curled to scoop up dollops of baba ghanoush or pinches of tabbouleh.

Chilli sauce, toum garlic sauce and tahina sauce

The free side dishes are a generous gesture. Each person, regardless of what they order, receives a basket of Lebanese bread, a plate of salad with pickles, and saucers of tahina sesame sauce and garlic toum.

Garlic toum is one of those magical gifts from the gods, an emulsion of fresh garlic and olive oil that creates a fluffy vision of white. It tastes like a super strong garlic mayonnaise, without the egg, and is divine on its own or as an accompaniment to meats.

Complimentary salad and pickles

The complimentary salad plate is a useful source of ingredients for DIY kebabs, with mint leaves, tomato, hot jalapenos and strips of fluorescent pink pickled turnip. Green olives have a distinct salty flavour and whilst a whole onion is provided, we never use more than a layer or two.

Chilli chicken $10

For the protein component of our meal we order the chilli chicken, grilled chicken thigh fillets marinated in a spicy chilli sauce. The chicken is still succulent, spicy with chilli and an undertone of garlic.

Kafta $9

Kafta are the Lebanese version of rissoles, but moulded around a skewer to form a sausage shape and grilled. The lamb mince is flavoured with parsley, onion and spices, served with curls of paprika-dusted raw onion and wedges of lemon.

Lebanese dessert at Rabieh, Punchbowl

Despite groaning stomachs, the others don't need much convincing to continue on to dessert. It's only a short drive across a few suburbs to Punchbowl, where we feast on a Lebanese smorgasboard of sweets. The ice cream doesn't have the stretchiness we'd hoped for, but there's plenty of deliciousness in the kanefe, a semolina slice filled with creamy ishtar, a clotted huddle of cooked milk cream and garnished with rose water syrup and crushed pistachio nuts.

Zroud al sitt translates as lady's arm, a deep-fried pastry roll filled with ishtar and drizzled with rose water syrup. We also share a selection of baklava - they're a little drier than usual although Simon and Yas both say they prefer their baklava drenched with syrup.

It's a cheap night of eats - about $30 per head for a two-stage banquet. Forget the doubt - just get out and enjoy. And make sure you order the falafel too.

Our feast at Jasmin

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

Open 7 days, 8.30am-10pm

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Lebanese - Jasmin, Lakemba (Apr06)

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

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Jasmins Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

El Rabieh Sweets & Ice Cream
Shop 5, 769 Punchbowl Road, Punchbowl
Tel: +61 (02) 9708 4103

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Baklava - El Bahsa Sweets, Bankstown
Baklava - Rabieh, Punchbowl (Aug07) and (Feb05)
Baklava - Sabbagh Patissery, Greenacre
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/10/2010 06:00:00 am


  • At 2/10/2010 7:55 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm the same, except my nervousness arises when making broad statements about books or movies. I would, however, trust your proclamations about food without hesitation.

    Just so you know! :D

  • At 2/10/2010 8:04 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    That falafel sure does look good, yum! Fantastic photos!

  • At 2/10/2010 9:23 am, Blogger Helen said…

    Hi Helen - have you tried Hijazi's Felafel in Arncliffe? I've gone a few times just for felafel rolls and chicken kebabs and they are delicious! and cheap too :)

  • At 2/10/2010 10:02 am, Blogger Choux Choux said…

    Oh yummmm i adore lebanese food. In melbourne on sydney rd, there's a place called Tiba's that does the best lebanese food. I recommend the chicken shawarma.

    Then there's this place called Tiba's that does the lebanese desserts. Oh, so good!!

    If you ever come to melbourne, you must go there. It's just awesome.

  • At 2/10/2010 10:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi - I have tried Jasmin many times. Love it ....love it....love it....But have you tried El' Jannah in Granville before? OMG, grill chicken to die for, and the garlic sauce - the best ever garlic sauce I have ever tasted. Highly recomded. At one stage - I was such an addict for their chicken and garlic sauce, I used to go there for dinner every week. Be ready to stand for a long Queue though, but the food is amazinggggg.....

  • At 2/10/2010 2:00 pm, Blogger Gabrielle said…

    Yum! I love Lebanese food but, sadly, Adelaide doesn't have many.

  • At 2/10/2010 2:04 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    I really have to thank you all - you all got me onto Lebanese food! Have yet to try Jasmin but so far I love El Jannah for their chicken and garlic sauce. Ummm...

    Will have to come here and check out the felafels!

  • At 2/10/2010 2:51 pm, Anonymous ATV said…

    food looks good. you should try the chicken at habibs in bankstown :)
    btw, i am so jealous that you're in japan right now

  • At 2/10/2010 2:55 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    a toum sent from god! LOL... and I see there are lot more variety of desserts there to try too!

  • At 2/10/2010 4:42 pm, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    The food looks fantastic!

  • At 2/10/2010 7:59 pm, Anonymous Claire said…

    Jasmin's is a family favourite - we drive across Sydney for it regularly and they are so friendly - we have kids so they know we'll be in and out so even if all the tables are reserved or taken they always find us a spot! Love it!!! And their baba ganoush.. yum. (Their homemade lemonade can hit the spot too!) We have taken all members of my family when they visit Australia there we love it so much so it could now be "internationally renowned.."

  • At 2/10/2010 8:24 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I also think that they make the best falafels!! But my lazy wife thinks any old falafels will do...

  • At 2/10/2010 8:57 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    Yummy Yum! Must try this with the kids. My niece who is half-Egyptian also swears by the felafel at Hijazi's

  • At 2/10/2010 9:14 pm, Blogger Gummi Baby said…

    Oh, if only it wasn't so far out! ALL the food looks fantastic and I love a good crispy/creamy falafel. I've eaten enough bad solid ones to want to take a bag home with me when I find the good ones! Yum!

  • At 2/11/2010 1:16 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    You've got me craving falafels! And they're so cheap as well! Who could say no?

  • At 2/11/2010 3:33 am, Blogger diva said…

    Everything looks so delicious, especially the lebanese bread which I really like :) I want lebanese now!

  • At 2/11/2010 12:06 pm, Anonymous devi said…

    Oh my god - the toum, the toum. I have to thank you Helen for your original review of Jasmin, which introduced me to your wonderful blog as well as the most frickin amazing Lebanese meal I have ever had. I can still feel my stomach groaning when I think of it.

  • At 2/11/2010 2:09 pm, Anonymous Katie said…

    I love how colourful all the food looks - definitely makes it look extra delicious. :)

  • At 2/11/2010 7:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    El Jannah is getting a name very quickly and deservely so

    I spoke to the owner of Jasmin in Punchbowl,though he didnt mention Lakemba, he said he sold the businesses in Bankstown and Auburn to other people but the name is retained!! So it sounds like Punchbowl is the orignal place to be

    Also change the title to Jasmin,you almost got it right (Jasmim)


  • At 2/12/2010 3:35 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - lol. Everyone has different palates but thanks for your vote of confidence!

    Hi Joey - The falafel photos barely do their taste justice. Hope you get her sometime!

    Hi Helen - I haven't been to Hijazi's but thanks for letting me know about them. I do like delicious and cheap :)

    Hi Bobby's Girl - Thanks for the Melbourne recommendations. Have heard about a few good eats on Sydney Road. Must be something about the name. lol

    Hi Anon - I have been to El Jannah in Granville. Their chicken is pretty tasty! Love the charcoal flavour!

    Hi Gab* - No Lebanese in Adelaide? The travesty!

    Hi Karen - lol. No problem. Better late than never, and I get the feeling you are really making up for lost time!

    Hi ATV - Haven't been to Habibs yet, but have heard quite a few people rave on about them. Might have to do a comparison!

    Hi Billy - The desserts are from Rabieh but yes, the toum at Jasmin is deliriously good.

    Hi Suzanne - The food is great and so cheap too!

    Hi Claire - I do love the turnover of patrons too. You never have to wait long. Glad it's such a hit with your family.

    Hi Jason - Oh no there's definitely an art to a good falafel! Glad to hear you are a fan as well.

    Hi divemummy - Hmmm will have to check out Hijazi's soon! Thanks for letting me know.

    Hi Gummi Baby - It's not too far - the falafel will make any journey worth it!

    Hi Jacq - lol. I'm easily influenced by food cravings too!

    Hi Diva - The Lebanese bread is really soft. Hope you managed to satiate your cravings!

    Hi Devi - Aww glad to hear that you enjoyed Jasmin. The food is so delicious and I'm always incredulous at the speed and low cost of it all.

    Hi Katie - You're right - I hadn't really thought about how colourful the food is!

    Hi Sydneyguyrojoe - Argh, how did that typo get through! Thanks for letting me know - corrected now. The trivia on the similar names is fascinating too - thanks for letting me know!

  • At 2/12/2010 3:44 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Ahhh that was such great falafels, and it's time for me to revisit soon!

    I can't remember what the purple colored drink was...?

  • At 2/14/2010 10:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think your mission should be to try out all the various JASMIN'S around and rate them accordingly LOL


  • At 3/06/2010 12:15 pm, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    The falafel were king! Best I've had yet in Sydney. Been back to Jasmins a number of times since that time.

    Thanks for introducing this place to me :)

  • At 3/15/2010 2:37 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - Ahh looks like you've made a few visits to Jasmin since. Good to hear you're a new fan of their falafels. Aren't they amazing? The purple drink was a tamarind drink. Yum.

    Hi Sydneyguyrojoe - lol. There are quite a few variations although I believe they're not all by the same owner? It's a challenge worth pursuing - purely for selfless research purposes of course! lol

    Hi Simon - Ahh great to hear the falafel met your approval. The place is amazing and I love that its so cheap *and* tasty. Winners all around!


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