Lebanese Feasting

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been complaining to J that I really miss the great Turkish and Lebanese food that’s so easily accessible in Sydney – you know, the kind you can pick up in Surry Hills at 1am on a Saturday. As a teenager I often ate a seedy kebab on my weekend shopping trips with friends and have just been craving them recently, drawn to the food of my childhood. Mum asked yesterday what I wanted to eat when I travel home in a fortnight and I immediately answered “Stuart’s sausages!”, because Mum still buys her meat from the same place she has for the last 25 years!

Anyway because someone is clearly looking out for me, I got invited to a girls dinner last Friday that was being held at a Lebanese restaurant. *Hallelujah*. When I got a follow up message letting me know that it was a price-per-head “feast” type situation I pretty much started an hourly countdown.

Zahrabel is a relatively new Lebanese restaurant located in one of those giant-buildings-full-of-restaurants on Hennessy Rd in Wan Chai. We have dined there before at Pirata, which is fairly well known I think for its yummy Italian food and impressive Vermouth bar. God, I miss drinking! Aaaanyway it’s a fairly small restaurant , we were certainly the biggest (and loudest) table with 8 women, and it has a nice homely vibe.

The food is also very homely, in fact the aim of the restaurant is to provide the same experience as sitting around a Lebanese family table. The lady who booked the table is Lebanese-Australian and assured us that all the dishes tasted exactly like those her Mum makes back home. We had a range of dips and pitas, a fatouche salad (delicious!), tabouleh, pickled veg, falafel, lamb, fish and chicken skewers (another fav). The chicken skewers were served with that amazing garlic yoghurt sauce that I forget the name of – I also forgot how garlicky it actually is and COVERED my chicken in it, and could taste garlic for days. Oops!

Our group decided to order 10 dishes at $540HK a head, which includes dessert and was honestly too much food! And two of us were pregnant! For $490pp you can choose 8 dishes, which I think would be the right amount – each dish is portioned for the amount of people on the table, so it is plenty to fill you up.

Despite saying I couldn’t possibly eat dessert (which, wherever I’m concerned, is 100% always a lie), the Lebanese desserts were the highlight for me. We shared, and I had the best baclava I’ve ever tasted (not too sugary, just perfect) as well as something kind of date-y and chocolate-y and a citrus cheesecake that was SO good. They served the desserts with fresh peppermint tea and even though it was well past my bed time (almost midnight by this point) I felt like I could happily sit and chat all night.

Highly recommended!

Then, because obviously the gods of fate have really had enough of hearing my complaining, J and I ventured out last night for date night and ended up trying the new restaurant from The Black Sheep Group in Soho. The Black Sheep Group are behind some of the best (and trendiest) restaurants in Hong Kong including three of our favourites, Ho Lee Fook, Carbone and Motorino. If you’re heading to Hong Kong or living here, google them immediately!

Their latest opening is Maison Libanaise right in the heart of Soho on Shelley St. The cool thing about this restaurant is the bottom level is basically a fancy Lebanese takeaway (Kebabs! That’s what I’m talking about!), while the middle level is a mid-range restaurant and the rooftop is a bar. As with all restaurants from Black Sheep, it’s well thought out and well executed.

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At the moment they’re still in their “soft opening” phase, with the full menu to be rolled out next week. But even with a limited menu there is plenty to choose from. We were worried we’d have too much food with six sharing dishes between us, but the portions are fairly small and actually it was perfect.

We ordered the Labneh, pita, pan-friend Haloumi (OMG), fatouche salad (OMG), lamb (OMG) and chicken skewers (OMG). Seriously, all the food was THAT good. Even though we had to move tables at one point and check on our fatouche salad three times, we got a free cocktail out of it and had a great night. Where we DID go overboard was ordering two desserts (apple and date cake + pear custard), which were both good but so rich and filling…it was overkill. Of the best kind.

I’m sure I will be back there soon for a takeaway kebab, because I’m basically a pregnant teenager. Happily my obstetrician is also in the heart of Soho, so a visit is always an excuse for a nice lunch.

How about you? Eaten anywhere new lately? Have a secret fondness for kebabs?

Z x


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