Do your body a favour, and try the supremely fresh Lebanese food on offer at the newly opened AB Restaurant – part of the Ali Baba Empire, which was first established in 1979. If you haven't heard of them, they do kebab stores in many shopping centres, all over the eastern states of Australia.
In a section of George Street (where the tunnel comes out across from Central Station) best known for fatty, fast food, this is a delightful alternative that’s kind to both your waistline and wallet. For enthusiastic new franchisees, Lorraine & Ray Karam, this is their first venture into the restaurant game; but with fresh food provided by the experienced Ali Baba group kitchen, success seems assured.
One of my only complaints was the extreme lighting of the restaurant (it was very bright).I liked seeing the hand washing station at the front of the restaurant, after all Lebanese is a cuisine that is best eaten with the fingers.
They were keen to show off their dishes so we had quite a few! We started with the Marinated Baby Eggplant ($8.00), a vegetarian dish stuffed with red chili, crushed walnuts and garlic.
Next to arrive was a vibrant plate of Mixed Pickles ($5.00) which were zesty and fresh cucumber, turnip and peppers, also vegetarian, and also good.
The Labne ($6.00) was lovely and again, fresh and zesty - it's a pasteurized Lebanese yoghurt covered with a nice olive oil.
They also make a quite good "AB's Legendary Homos" ($5.50) which I did like, probably more than their Baba Ghannouge ($6.00) pictured below.
The next dish we tried were the Kebbe ($8.00) which are fried balls of ground beef and crushed wheat outer coating around sautéed onion, lamb, beef mince and slivered almond.
Even better were their Sambousik ($8.00) a similar minced beef, onion and pine nut mix in a nice, crisp pastry shell.
I really liked the simplicity of the AB's Special Herb & Leaf Salad ($5.50/sm, $13.00/lg) - it was baby spinach, fresh herbs and pomegranate dressed with lemon and olive oil.
Their Tabouli ($6.00/sm, $15.00/lg) was perhaps their least successful dish (sorry about focus on the photo) - they used too much tomato - but for all the right reasons (tomato is expensive and they're trying to give good value for money).
I’d suggest sharing a platter like the AB Grand Platter ($35). It includes the aforementioned salads, dips, bread, Shish Kebab, Shish Tawook and a Kafta Skewer, as well as the unexpected highlight - Flame Grilled Butterfly Chicken (available separately for $18) basted in chilli or lemon/coriander.
I walked out of here satisfied, and feeling perky. The food is fresh, and agreeable - I would recommend it.
Shops 5 & 6, 815 George Street (Opp. Central Station), Sydney
Ph: (02) 9211 1969