With the kitchen having outlets on two sides servicing the restaurant and a function space, as well as an outdoor seating area, the Parramatta El-Phoenician is a much bigger enterprise than its Walsh Bay cousin. The elegant space is purpose-built after the nearly twenty-year old restaurant outgrew its original Parramatta digs in 2004. It’s a family-run business owned by the El-Bayeh family, who started their run of hospitality businesses back in 1979.
As you’d expect in a more upmarket setting, you’ll be able to complement your meal with a decent selection of wines from France, Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon, or you can splash out on cocktails. The Beirut Mule ($19) is an El-Phoenician twist on a Moscow Mule, throwing some ginger liqueur into the vodka, lime and ginger beer mix. While fig liqueur makes the Fig Caipiroska ($19) slightly intense (think dried rather than fresh figs), the El-Phoenician White Sangria ($35/jug) is an affable summer quaffer, made all the more sharable by coming by the jug.
As you’ll see from the dining room layout, large groups are the bread and butter of this restaurant. The high quality Lebanese food coming out of their busy kitchen is well geared towards sharing; and despite the fancier surrounds, dishes are presented without foams, smears, height or other forms of plating pretentiousness. Lebanese mainstays, Felafel ($10/small), are crisp on the outside, with light, fluffy interiors.
Wrap them in Lebanese bread from the plentiful supplies on your table, with a slathering of Chilli Garlic Dip ($9).
If you’re bored with tabouli and fatoush, take care of you salad needs with Shankleesh ($12). Drizzling lettuce, tomato, shallots and spicy aged cheese in extra virgin olive oil, this is a common and enjoyable Lebanese breakfast dish.
At the heartier end of the menu you’ll find offerings from the grill section, like Shish Kebab ($33), with three plump lamb skewers cooked with restraint so their innards remain juicy and pleasantly pink. It’s presented with grilled vegetables – onions, tomatoes – and a small pot of fried potatoes you can also slather with garlic dip.
While nutmeg and yoghurt marination gives the Chicken Shawarma ($28) a somewhat pasty consistency, the red wine, black pepper, nutmeg and mixed herb marinade used on the Lamb Shawarma ($30) makes it a definite, well-balanced winner. Try the pair on a sizzling Combination Shawarma ($30) platter against a sauce trio of tahina (ground sesame paste), chilli and garlic dip.
Whack this one into your memory banks for next year, as a good post-Sydney Festival feed after a performance at the nearby Riverside Theatre.
328 Church Street, Parramatta
Ph: (02) 9633 1611