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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown

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.

Bain marie

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.

Deep-fried eggplant

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

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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Rowda Ya Habibi on Urbanspoon

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

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 10.30am - 12 midnight

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

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/20/2011 12:43:00 am


  • At 4/20/2011 1:17 am, Anonymous pigflyin said…

    definitely my kind of food after a long day in office. the kibbeh looked great I bet they taste good when they are just out of the deep frier. That's something we should to make along with falafel.

  • At 4/20/2011 7:52 am, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    If they do deep fried eggplant, I wonder why Lebanese restaurants don't offer deep fried cauliflower anymore which seem to have disappeared altogether. I love the crunch of each floret.

  • At 4/20/2011 8:03 am, Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said…

    I love that opening sentence, Helen!

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • At 4/20/2011 8:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I must admit I don't find that place appealing at all... but now that you've reviewed it (again!) I might give it a go.

  • At 4/20/2011 9:38 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Rowda's. I love the super friendly ladies behind the counter and the cheap as chips food. I normally get a take away roll, but want to go there for a sit down plate of yums.

  • At 4/20/2011 9:55 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Always pass and never been in... the kibbeh looks yum!

  • At 4/20/2011 10:29 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You need to go to Fatima's on Cleveland St! It's open almost 24 hours a day, the falafel is always cooked to order (hot and crunchy), and the dishes for sharing plates are always exceptionally fresh.

  • At 4/20/2011 10:48 am, Blogger susan said…

    I am always thinking about two meals ahead of my current meal! I love good cheap lebanese food! One of the many things I miss about Sydney

  • At 4/20/2011 11:23 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i want a mountain of garlic dip to dive in

  • At 4/20/2011 11:27 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    See those blurred-out tubs of Turkish delight in the first pic? That's all I've ever eaten at this place. I go through a tub every couple of weeks, lately :/ They're insanely delicious and for $5 it's a bargain. Nice to see the rest of the food is good. Now, what's for lunch?

  • At 4/20/2011 1:02 pm, Blogger muppy said…

    Haha i love anywhere with habibi in the title :)

  • At 4/20/2011 2:04 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    You're not a morning person?! I don't believe you! Not aftee seeing the way you bounded out of bed on that recent Friday...

    Oh, and as someone who has been known to microwave packet felafel mix in a bowl? Bring on these soggy balls.

  • At 4/20/2011 2:05 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Not sure I am so keen on the microwaved hot plate but the rest looks pretty good and a bargain to boot as well...

  • At 4/20/2011 8:08 pm, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    The promise of falafels would of gotten me up too :)

  • At 4/21/2011 7:06 pm, Blogger Jonathan Maddox said…

    I always liked RyH especially the kebbeh ... but in the evening for lebanese coffee and baklava I go instead a couple of blocks down to el Bahsa. Best baklava east of Granville.

  • At 4/22/2011 2:19 am, Anonymous Jade said…

    At first I was skeptical about this place but since you put in a review I decided to give it a shot. Thanks!

  • At 4/22/2011 8:07 pm, Anonymous Oz said…

    Was introduced to RYH while studying at uni and always head back there when I'm in need of a feed in Newtown.

    People may get put off by how it looks but it is the best kebab you will find anywhere nearby. Plus it's open late!

  • At 4/23/2011 9:52 pm, Blogger retrodaze said…

    Ooh I haven't been here in a while but looks like it's still the same great, cheap food to be had! You didn't get a yummy turkish delight to finish off though....

  • At 4/24/2011 11:57 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Toum! I, perhaps sacrilegiously, slather it on almost everything in sight when having a Lebanese meal =p

  • At 4/30/2011 10:41 am, Anonymous Sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    Have passed this place quite a few times but never ventured in. They have a cushion room? That sounds fun.

  • At 5/23/2011 7:43 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort. .

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