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Review - The Owl House

The Owl House has always been the kind of small bar where people quickly know your name. After an initial visit in 2012, I became somewhat of a regular, dropping back in whenever I had a review in the ‘hood. Longstanding bartender Owen Davies would get a Corpse Reviver #2 up on the bar virtually as soon as I poked my head into the Crown Street doorway.


The other attraction of the place was the talented Roy Ner – a chef I still eagerly follow to this day. At a time when bar food usually meant dive bar eats – hot dogs, sliders and tacos - Ner put up plates that screamed restaurant quality without the fussy trappings. While The Owl House also offered a popular cocktail degustation, it was the kind of food that called for the sophistication of wine. Their boutique, fifty-odd bottle wine list, all hand chosen by owner Amir Halpert, was always able to answer that call, usually delivered with an explanatory story to bond you to the wine. Tonight it’s the 2015 Torbrek ‘Woodcutters’ Roussanne Viognier Marsanne ($55) followed by a jammy off-list 2016 Harris Grenache by the same winemaker.

Knowing that the closure of this bar was imminent, I popped back in for a sad farewell, thinking it would be their last week. A last minute reprieve has meant they’ll still be operating until Saturday 14 July, so you’ve still got nearly two weeks to enjoy their current chef’s Pambula Oysters ($4/each) presented under a chilly mound of chardonnay vinegar sorbet.

While saying goodbye is never easy, here it’s alleviated by the fact it’s just the four walls you’ll be missing. Amir and his team will be reopening a new and improved Owl House at 292 Victoria St in Darlinghurst in the old Tigerbakers site. I console myself by popping two oxtail and bone marrow Croquettes ($7/each) into my gob rapid fire, their richness offset by the seeded mustard that glues them to the plate.

I lose myself in a classic Beef Tartare ($22) with eye-catching presentation, and good balance from capers, eschallots, parsley, chives, sherry vinegar and a quail egg yolk you stir through yourself. Blobs of mustard allow you to control sharpness too, as you consume your raw beef on a handful of crackers.

My dining companion goes for a Pork Loin ($34) main that could easily be a fast dinner for one on the way home from a late night at work. Smoked carrot puree joins fennel, red cabbage, fresh green apple and crackling on the well-kempt plate. It lacks the heights of Ner's cooking, but avoids rookie errors and shows room to grow.

I eschew my usual liquid dessert – the chocolate martini here is legendary – for Pineapple 3-Ways ($14). Despite the dated name, it’s a modern-looking U.F.O. of dehydrated, caramelised and grilled pineapple hidden inside a fluffy cloud of coconut,  capped off with a sphere of pistachio ice cream. A sweet end in more ways than one that makes me all the more eager to meet The Owl House Version 2.0. I’m sure it’ll be a hoot.

The Owl House
97 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9357 5060

The Owl House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Turka: Café | Meze | Bar

When your life revolves around seeking out new restaurants to write about, returning to one you’ve eaten at before becomes a lot more significant. Almost directly after my initial night-time review of Turka, I gathered up a crew and went back to try the Turka Big Breakfast ($25/head, $10/kids).

The bulk of the breakfast is arranged on a large sharing board that takes up most of your table. Stringy haloumi is the highlight of a series of Turkish cheeses, enjoyed alone or dragged though condiments like a little bowl of tahini and grape molasses. Fresh cucumber and tomatoes, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, and two different incarnations of olives give your palate plenty of little flavour bursts.

Sweet-toothed diners will enjoy the little log of pistachio halva, as well as the condiments – honey and Turkish jams – eaten on baguette rounds and simit (sesame-seed encrusted circular Turkish breads).

Separate to the board, you’ll receive little metal pans of eggs. Menemen (normally $15) is a light and summery scrambled eggs adaptation, tossed through with fresh tomato, capsicum and parsley.

Sucuklu Yumurta (normally $16) are fried eggs with tasty rounds of Turkish chorizo (sucuk) sitting in their whites.

We also got Spinach and Feta Gozleme (normally $15) though as this dish is pretty ubiquitous even here in Australia, I probably would have just preferred more bread so as not to waste so much jam.


We stayed thematic with Turkish beverages – little patterned teacups of Turkish Coffee ($4) and clear ones of bright Turkish Apple Tea ($2) – though you can have ordinary espresso if you prefer.

It’s a nice way to have a relaxed breakfast with friends, and our bill for the meal came to $165 for five adults and a kid. Don’t feel you need to gather up a crew – Turka will also do their big Turkish breakfast for pairs. In terms of everyone being able to easily access everything on the board-based brekky, to my mind it would work best for a table of four.

NOTE: You can see a dinner review of this restaurant HERE.

Turka - Café | Meze | Bar
4/6 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 8592 1267

Turka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Bistro Mekong

The music is great at Bistro Mekong. Massive Attack, Janis Joplin, Genesis and Zero Seven all feature on the diverse playlist, but, if you ask Victor Altavilla about it, he’ll tell you his favourite band is actually Nothing But Thieves.

Despite cold weather keeping the punters away, I really enjoyed my evening inside the heated plastic tent, set in the courtyard of the Quadrangle Shopping Village. Altavilla is a big part of why; more than just a music aficionado, he is warm and clearly experienced at managing the floor.

As Operations Manager, Altavilla is responsible for two restaurants within Dr. Stanley Quek’s expanding group. He currently looks after Viet, which sits below the original Mekong in Kensington Street, and this one that brings across mostly the same Mekong menu to Sydney’s North Shore.

The interior space here is very small, with one painted wall in the famous Mekong emerald green, and some fishing basket lights and bamboo poles for continuity.


So, like most patrons, we find ourselves sitting in the outdoor tent. It’s edged with leafy foliage, flickering flame heaters and fairy lights, giving it a quite romantic feel on this cold and drizzly evening. The 2014 Greystone Gewürztraminer ($65) is a good way to kick off your night.

The wine is soft with a sweet start, offset by a good spine of acidity; and, when drunk against the Bistro Mekong Shared Plate ($28), it’s a winner with every bite. The Mekong formula is simple and effective – update South East Asian favourites with higher quality proteins, modern touches and an eye to presentation. While the Vietnamese turmeric pancake is pretty standard, the grilled betel leaf parcels hide a surprise: they’ve switched out the usual beef for pork belly enriched by well-rendered fat. Run them through the chilli and anchovy-based brown sauce, they punch the mid-palate hard. Fresh coconut stained red with beetroot and topped with white spanner crab make the tacos both eye-catching and fun. Crisp chickpea crackers balance small mounds of wood-smoked trout set off by roasted chilli, Spanish onion and lime zest - it’s actually a pretty spectacular plate.

Mains, like the Soft Shell Crab Masala ($25), keep up the presentation and the high quality proteins. The soft shell crab is delicious, and cooked beautifully, but the surrounding sauce is too sweet and tame in the flavour department. With fresh tomato, it screams Kan Tong louder than curry, and has me wishing for some sambol to spice things up and give it a more savoury middle.

Pumpkin and sweet potato throw out the balance of the Beef Cheek Cambodian Curry ($30). The beef cheeks are cooked well, but with virtually no chilli, there’s nothing to cut against the sweetness bar some peanuts.


The prices here are good when you consider both mains come with their own accompaniment – three mini milk buns in the case of the crab, and a super-crisp roti with the curry. For five bucks apiece, you can also add these on to any dish.

With some trepidation, I dive into dessert expecting it to be super-sweet, but the Deep Fried Ice Cream ($12) turned out to be amazing! It sees vanilla ice cream fried inside savoury brik pastry, then drizzled in a moderate amount of dark sugar syrup against a row of freshly sliced banana.

Even the Charcoal Cake ($12) avoids the too-sweet trap with sesame, fresh coconut and dark chocolate ice cream all keeping the flavours nicely adult. Hoping with time some balance will be restored to the mains, which at this stage are better over in Kensington Street.

Bistro Mekong
Shop 5, 100 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag
Ph: (02) 9958 3177

Bistro Mekong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Bare Grill on Bourke

When I first met the Bare Grill team at their original, La Perouse outfit, I fell for the way the contemporary burger joint retained a bit of old-school, corner store charm. That charm is not quite as evident in their second Bourke Street restaurant, but it does have to cater to the more jaded Surry Hills crowd. To keep ‘em coming back here, they’re getting creative in the kitchen, and constructing three different eye-watering towers of breakfast, burgers and meat. Taking along a full crew, we managed to tackle two different towers before falling into food comas that knocked out most of the afternoon.

Since we were eating our whole day’s food requirements in one sitting, I eased into our adventure with coffee. Beginning with a smooth Latte ($3), I quickly advanced to an Espresso Martini ($15). Served in a curvaceous highball under a considerable head of whipped cream and lashings of chocolate sauce, it left me with sticky fingers.

With a twenty-year-old behind the bar, whipped cream and sugary syrups are strongly featured in the brunch cocktail list. Our minds eventually meld over a Whiskey Sour ($15) made on Chivas Regal. It's nicely balanced, and I use the cocktail's intensity to help digest my meat.

With the wintery weather at their wind-exposed La Perouse site getting a bit cold, the Bare Grill team has opted to shift breakfast here. We ease our way in with a pair of their new breakfast favourites. Brisket Hollandaise ($20) stacks tender beef brisket on rocket, then tops the lot with Hollandaise sauce and a pair of poached eggs. It’s actually my favourite eat, despite being dwarfed by the platters that follow.

On the sweeter side, Souffle Pancakes ($15) arrive in a tower with crisp edges that remind me of chimney cake. They’re decorated Pro Hart-style with a dusting of icing sugar, summer fruit, lime wedges, whipped cream, ice cream, and a mixed berry compote that has been warmed up in deference to the season.

The Bare Burger Hibernator ($25/person) gives you three tiers of burgers, snacks and sides. From a shortened list of six burgers, you can each choose your poison. Ours arrived sliced, for more convenient sharing, which allowed each diner to get their mitts on two different burgers. The Original (normally $12) is a good way to get properly acquainted with their trademark, logo-stamped milk buns, charred beef patties cooked so the middle stays pink, and oozing double serve of American cheddar. It’s rounded out, as all good burgers should be with gherkins, ketchup, American mustard and caramelised onions. My only complaint is that halving the burgers loses the usual explosively juicy first bite.

The burgers are artfully laid out on paper with sauces and fries. Climbing up a tier, you’ll find a whole lot of fried. Cheeseburger spring rolls, mac’n’cheese croquettes, onion rings and jalapeno poppers give you plenty to work on; with buffalo wings and celery sticks to help break up the crisp and crumbed carbohydrates. With it sitting above my eye line, it’s easy to neglect the top tier – a bowl of the famous Epic Fries (normally $18). The crisp waffle fries are lashed halal snack pack style with Bare Grill’s own holy trinity – homemade BBQ, chipotle mayo. and liquid cheese. Two types of pig – pulled pork and bacon bits – and a cursory handful of green shallots complete the dish, which is more my speed than the straight up fried.


The Smoked Meat Hibernator ($70/head) is a bigger fiscal commitment, but that’s because you’re getting a metric shit-tonne of meat. There’s so much meat in fact, you won’t have the energy to argue over who has gnawing rights on the tomahawk.

You’ll be too busy licking your fingers after diving into three different species' smoked ribs, all arranged around a perfunctory portion of Greek salad.

What I liked about this platter is that there were less fried items. You can punctuate stretchy slices of beef brisket with loaded potato skins, or dig deep in the crowning tier of Epic Mac’n’Cheese (normally $18). This platter certainly looks grand, and if you add up the items, it does represent value to the diner; if - and it’s a pretty big if - you can consume that much meat. While my Instagram cache will undoubtedly rise from having consumed one, if you want to know what I’d personally come back to Bare Grill for, it's one of their burgers all to myself.

Bare Grill on Bourke
Shop 15, 425 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8964 4214

NOTE: See a previous review back HERE.

Bare Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - King-T

Move over bubble-tea, there’s a new tea craze in town. For a reasonably short arcade, Burwood Chinatown has more than its fair share of tea outlets – I counted five on my recent visit.

None are quite so popular as King-T, a Taiwanese brand, which boasts a steady queue. Designed by Basalt Studio, the folks responsible for regenerating the look of this whole dining precinct, King-T is an attractive little kiosk.

It’s designed to look like an old-style house with jutting roof poles; wooden slats and caged windows that highlight decorated tin tea containers.


Old-school paper signboards tell you everything you need to know in English and traditional Chinese, from the range of drinks on offer, to exactly how to operate the little red lids on your resulting beverage (they work like a cork). The outlet's most popular beverages dangle on picture boards over your head.

If you prefer the human touch, the pretty young women manning the counter are happy to advise. We’re told to try the Cheese Foam Uji Matcha ($6.80/large). It’s a milky matcha green tea topped with a floating raft of almost salty cream cheese. Even friendly people in the waiting queue let us guǐ lǎo (ghost people) know we should first try our beverages without using a straw.  Mixing is a crime, so we sip it straight from the cup without blending the layers. It's ridiculously compelling, and I wonder why I haven’t had cheese foam tea sooner. For contrast we also opt for a Coconut Jelly, Passionfruit Green Tea ($6.50), which drinks like a gentle fruity cordial, with chewy cubes of coconut jelly that you do have to extract using a wide straw.

As we walk through the arcade sipping our wondrous new drinks, we hear live music echoing down the stairs.

Following our ears we stumble upon a makeshift venue in a half-finished building site where a young and surprisingly competent Chinese covers band are singing to a small crowd, reading the lyrics off their android phones.

We pull up a padded milk crate under outdoor heaters and enjoy this impromptu musical find in an unfinished concrete space overlooking the urban backyard of The Burwood Hotel. If this is a typical Friday night in Burwood, I already want to visit again!

Shop 18, Burwood Chinatown
127-133 Burwood Road, Burwood
Ph: n/a

King-T Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Thornleigh Curry House

A recent masterclass with Peter Kuruvita reminded me about Sunil’s Spice Centre in Thornleigh. This local gem supports more than just Sri Lankan Australians - the packed shelves also cater to the needs of Thornleigh’s Indian community. While the suburb has seen some demographic shifts in recent years, India still ranks in the top three birthplaces for locals born somewhere other than our shores. This train of thought is what led me to Thornleigh Curry House. I was particularly interested to see if the suburb’s Indian population would mean a higher standard of curry as it does in areas like Harris Park.

Thornleigh Curry House is located in a dated and ugly business park that has been cheaply constructed with all architectural flourishes spared. The interior reminds me of a suburban Chinese restaurant, like the ones that sit above and on one side of it, with folded white cloth serviettes and bright red vinyl chairs.

From the seventies-style wooden bar hutch, lined with hanging glasses, we - perhaps optimistically - opt for a Martini ($10) and a Tequila Sunrise ($10). While crude, they're both drinkable, and have an air of retro-charm. Based on Bombay Sapphire gin, the martini is fruity with an unusual flavour that reminds me of pineapple.

For everything else there’s beer – a mainstream selection, but the Indian Kingfisher ($8) drinks fine – or you can have an equally retro wine, like the Houghtons White Classic ($26).

For a fifty-seater restaurant, the menu is quite extensive, making it quite quite hard to know what to select. With so many different curries, we opt to skip over entrees in favour of a balanced curry selection, so kick off with savoury pappadums and a lovely light mint raita instead. We tried to chosse three different curries that would contrast with each other. Achari Beef ($18.90) is a tangy beef curry that uses the same spices you’d use in an Indian pickle, and some pickle juices that help to give it a tangy, sweet and sour edge.

For something creamy, we chose the coconut-based Chicken Madras ($17.90). Listed as hot in their chilli rating system, it was actually a creamy and pleasant curry – great for dipping naan into – with just a lip-tingling amount of heat.

From the vegetable list, the Patiala Baingan ($15.90) with eggplant, onions, cashews and dried fruit appealed most. It's super-mild and the semi-sweet fruit elements would likely make it child-friendly if you happen to be dining with kids.

Despite the dishes looking small, we had enough curry left to construct a dinner for two from leftovers the next day. We had plenty of everything left, though we did did finish the serve of Kashmiri Pulao ($6.50) their nutty fruity rice mix.

The Aloo Paratha ($4.50) stuffed with a gluggy mix of barely spiced potatoes felt a bit damp and disappointing, but the Onion Kulcha ($4.50) filled with lightly spiced, slightly sweet onions was a definite win.

Put your mouth back together with Kesar Rasmalai ($6.90). It’s a little bowl of spongy cottage cheese balls sitting in creamy saffron milk, that will ensure you don’t find yourself tasting garlic, chilli and spices all the way home.

While I don't rate Thornleigh Curry House as highly as some of the Indian restaurants I've found in Harris Park, it's more than adequate for a casual midweek Indian dinner.

Thornleigh Curry House
Unit 6A, Central Park
4 Central Avenue, Thornleigh
Ph: (02) 9875 4040

Thornleigh Curry House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Travel - The Thoroughbred

Scone is a dry and dusty country town with a short main drag that offers more than a few country pub choices. The Thoroughbred has had a fresh lick of paint on the outside, but the walls themselves date back more than a hundred years to when it was once the Empire Hotel.

If you walk inside however, you could be in Paddington - the interiors are more Country Road than country pub. The answer for why is in the hotel's new name, and festooned on nearly every wall: Scone is horse racing country, and home to many prestigious horse studs. There’s money in them there hills, and it certainly shows in The Thoroughbred.


With white plaster walls give way to tastefully exposed brick in the modestly proportioned front bar. The few flat-screen televisions are, unsurprisingly, set quietly to horse racing.


Rather than the bar, the room’s centrepiece is a marble-fronted bakery – the first I’ve ever seen located inside a pub.

The moodier restaurant is lined with glossy black tiles and furnished with modern curvaceous chairs in alternating colours - black and yellow.

A collection of Edison bulbs hangs overhead, each housed in a different glass balloon. They let off a soft, golden light.

The menu reads like a steakhouse, with Black Angus beef taking pride of place, both in steaks and burger patties. The Spicy Stallion ($20) teams a cayenne-spiced patty with melted Cheddar, jalapeños, spiced onion relish, bacon, rocket and chimmichurri into a very honest burger that has some real heat. It’s served – predictably enough – on a wooden board, as are all of our meals.

I bite down my feelings about wooden boards not being washed properly in dishwashers and get stuck into my Buffalo Wings ($12/6). They’re doused in Carolina-style tangy hot sauce that speaks of chilli heat and vinegar in equal measure. Slathered in thick blue cheese sauce made on a pungent (rather than insipid) blue cheese, and punctuated with celery sticks, they’re a notch above standard pub fare.

With Stone & Wood Pacific Ale ($8/Schooner) on tap, and employed by the kitchen in the batter for their fish, it’s impossible to pass over the Wild Caught Tropical Snapper Fillets ($27). Both it, and the aforementioned burger, come with chunky cut steak chips. The board is rounded out with a cheeky little apple ‘slaw and house-made tartare, and suits an easy drinking blend of Hendricks Gin and Lemon Squash ($10).

This wasn't quite the modest country pub fare I was expecting.

The Thoroughbred
222 Kelly Street, Scone
Ph: (02) 6545 3669

The Thoroughbred Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Social Brew Cafe


Hugging the edge of a tiny park that’s pretty despite being low on leaves in winter, Social Brew Café is nicer from the inside than it looks from the outside.


The shiny metal, glass and grey paint exterior frames a mostly green urban vista.

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With plastic drapes protecting you from the wind, you can actually feel the warmth of the winter sun on your lily-white skin.

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Actually, there's so much sun, that five minutes into my recent al fresco lunch I started wishing I’d brought my sunglasses.

WEBSocialBrew-13.jpg WEBSocialBrew-14.jpg

The second thing that sets this café apart from its café brethren is that it is licensed, making it just the place for a cheeky wine with lunch. Or, if you feel the need to balance your indiscretions, a booze-spiked freshly squeezed juice. We try out Watermelon Passionfruit and Pineapple with Sailor Jerry’s Rum ($12). It’s good, but I’d probably ask for them to use Ketel One Vodka next time because the delicate watermelon was dominated by the rum. I’ve got no complaints about the Pineapple Orange and Turmeric with Beefeater Gin ($12) - I mean what could be a more perfect brunch drink than O.J. and gin?


The team at Social Brew Café regularly dream up eye-catching specials like the M&M Spill ($22) to woo in those who like to construct their personal identity through a curated Instagram feed. With a gravity-defying stream of M&Ms, this plate of waffles has it all – and by all, I mean two thick Belgian-style waffles drizzled with salted caramel sauce, a jar of milk chocolate and ristretto to pour over, a quenelle of Chantilly cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, all scattered with edible blooms. It’s too sweet to be my kind of breakfast, but I know many who would vehemently disagree!


What I do want to say though, is that while this café is clearly adept at luring in influencers, they also serve real food. I was super happy with The Brew Vego Board ($22). It’s not about looks, but flavour and balance, with a fluffy pair of corn and zucchini fritters and crisp kale leaves sitting on spiced, smoked labneh. There’s grilled haloumi, pickled egg, and a juicy cucumber and dill salad, with just enough bread to suffice. I’d come here to eat this dish again, even if it won’t lead to Insta-fame.

Social Brew Cafe
224 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9571 8792

Social Brew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Ichi-ban Boshi

With food court ambience, Ichi-ban Boshi clearly isn’t about fancy trappings. What lures in diners is simple and tasty Japanese fare. Located near the Japanese bookshop giant, Kinokuniya, mark it down as a solid spot for a night of wintery self-care - kicking off with a warm noodle soup and concluding with a new book to read.

When I arrive on the stroke of 6pm, Ichi-ban Boshi is already full. The self-serve waiting system allows you to request a table, either solo or shared, then hover in the wings as you wait for your number. Despite both of their tonkotsu ramen selling out at 3pm, I’m still delivered menu cards touting these signature items. It’s a bit of a tease, heralding the start of an affable but error-ridden table service.

Fair pricing across the menu sees us precede our ramen with snacks and sake. The house-brand junmai daiginjo, Ichibanboshi ($25/300ml), is pleasant enough, cutting against the intensity of cucumber dragged through salty pickled plum sauce.

Chikuwa Isobe-Age ($7) make even better drinking snacks. Shaped like bamboo shoots, they are battered fish cakes which have been seasoned with dried seaweed (nori).

For something more fun, the Tempura Salmon Roll ($10.50) is a deep-fried salmon roll. It has been lightly covered in tempura batter then drizzled with chilli mayo. and sprinkled with shallots. It’s filling and tasty, and cooked so quickly and gently that the interior salmon stays cool and raw.

Wanting something tasty, I eventually (after trying for both signature tonkotsu ramen) opt for the Aburi Chashu-men ($14). This noodle soup has a light soy pork broth, firm noodles, bok choy, nori, shallots and bamboo shoots, but the centrepiece is really the aburi chashu - charred slices of fatty roast pork.

I order it with a Special Boiled Egg ($2) that is forgotten, but rectified quickly. I find my ramen enjoyable but salty. When our second Sparkling Water ($3) finally arrives (a long time after the first one), I polish it off quickly.

My vegetarian dining companion also ordered a Special Boiled Egg ($2) to bulk up her Vegetable Ramen ($14), though this time the kitchen got it right. It was a generously proportioned mound of nicely firm egg noodles (ask for udon if you don’t want any animal products) and vegetables – corn, carrot, cabbage, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and more – presented a soybean stock. This stock also saw her work up a thirst.

Despite the continuing queue, we weren’t hurried, and enjoyed this unpretentious meal in a casual setting, right in the heart of the CBD.

Ichi-ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries,
500 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 7677

Ichi-ban Boshi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen

Making a splash on Darling Street, Balmain, Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen gave away free felafel last weekend. Along with adding some energy to the restaurant strip with pumping Arabic music and a colourful belly dancer, the felafel free-for-all heralded the return of Lebanese cuisine to a peninsula that has lacked it for many years.

Named for the red felt hat symbolic of Arabic culture, Tarboosh is a second outlet for owner and chef, Sam Matar, who opened a sister restaurant by the same name in Crows Nest last year.

With a wine list created by Robert Dessanti (the Wog with the Grog), Tarboosh is set to be a restaurant destination for more than just special occasions. Tuesday nights, for example, will be Mezze Nights, where the chef will send out all-you-can-eat mezze for $25/head with the purchase of a glass of wine.

While the dishes will be at the chef’s behest, they may include their moist Kebbe ($15/4). These football-shaped fried lamb mince balls are fragrant with cinnamon and cloves from the use of baharat, a Lebanese seven-spice blend. Ladies Fingers ($14/4) filled with feta and parsley are another winner; their oozing, salty cheese provided some amusement at our table.

Sadly the much-touted Felafel ($13/6) fell flat for me; I found them too crisp and brown, but I admit I'm currently obsessed with the Iraqi version. Wrapped up with Hummus ($11) in soft Lebanese bread, they’re still easy to eat, especially as the creamy chickpea puree is nutty (from tahini) and well balanced (with lemon).

I also tried Baba Ganoush ($13) and Labne ($11), with the latter proving my favourite, with the sharp tang of yoghurt offset by dried oregano and mint.

Served under a fresh tomato peak, the eye-catching Tabouli ($14) was more about parsley than mint.

It needed a good stir, because all the lemon juice was sitting at the bottom; so my fork kept gravitating towards the Fattoush ($14) instead. With red cabbage, tomato, cucumber, radishes, shallots, capsicum, mint and parsley, topped with crisp Lebanese bread, this salad is nicely complemented with a sweet and sour dressing of lemon and pomegranate molasses.

Bowls of Battata Kezebre ($11) – deep fried potato cubes dressed with sumac, garlic and lemon - rounded out my corners at this lunch. I did eye off the grills menu, and have earmarked one of the mixed plates for a later visit.

There’s plenty to explore on this wide-ranging Lebanese menu, and for afters, there’s a glass box of Lebanese sweets sitting on the counter that you can explore. Word is, there’s also going to be negroni sorbet...

Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen
237 Darling Street, Balmain
Ph: (02) 8068 0864

Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato