Trek out to Greenacre to visit the restaurant where the Al Aseel empire began, more than thirteen years ago. Patrons swear by this spot as producing the best Lebanese food, despite satellite stores having opened in Lakemba, Newtown, Wollongong and Penrith, with a new one in Alexandria on the way.
On a Friday night, the place is heaving. We’re briefly moved into a waiting area that offers a portal into the kitchen. Glimpses of a hard working, well-groomed crew wearing crisp, white, paper forage caps keep us entertained until we’re moved to a table on the large balcony – perfect for the balmy night.
Alerted that we’re first time visitors, floor staff self-assuredly steer us through the menu, swapping out the sautéed chicken livers we ordered for “better” sautéed Lebanese sausage.
The resulting dish, Monek ($14), consists of a pile of lean, pinky-sized fried sausages in a tangy mix of pomegranate molasses and lemon juice, freshened up with herbs and chopped tomato. They’re tasty but eclipsed by the free plate of pickles that lands the second we are seated.
It contains a compelling collection of tangy olives, pickled cucumbers and crisp pickled turnips, spiked with beetroot for their trademark magenta hue.
Being just two in number, we use the Vegetarian Mix Plate ($24) to give us a wide selection of dips and vegetables without over-ordering. Smoky baba ghanouj is a standout, as is a mound of mjadra - ‘pockmarked’ rice dotted with lentils. The vegetarian kibbe is a first for me – the same football-shaped oval covered in crisp crushed wheat, just with a fillng of spinach, onion and chickpeas. The felafel here number amongst the best you can find in Sydney.
We sooth our carnivorous hearts with a platter of Al Aseel Mixed Skewers ($32). The juicy, marinated BBQ chicken breast hunks sing against the accompanying garlic dip, and a well-rounded chilli sauce, that’s worth requesting for its charred chilli taste. Good seasoning on the kafta mishwee numbers it amongst the best I’ve tried, especially rolled in soft Lebanese bread with tabouli and hommos. The Laham mishwee (lamb) is also good quality.
Having previously been to their alcohol-free Lakemba store, I headed straight for the juices without thinking. The Lemon & Mint ($6) here surprised me with such flashy, frothy presentation; I didn’t think to miss booze at all.
You can satisfy any sweet cravings with znoud el sett (ladies’ arms) at neighbouring Sabbagh Sweets or a great frozen yoghurt at Dairee across the street. And if you're driving out from the city, consider teaming this venue with a visit to Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. Based in Casula, this multi-disciplinary arts centre has a great program of exhibitions and events, including most recently The 64th Blake Prize, a biennial exhibition concerned with expressions of spirituality (in all its flavours).
183 Waterloo Road, Greenacre
Ph: (02) 9758 6744