Lebanese food holds a special place in my heart as one of my favourite cuisines. If I were asked to articulate why that was so though, I’m not sure that I would have a suitable answer. Probably the closest I could come to an answer would be that it’s food that I find is often good, uncomplicated and inexpensive. It’s food without the pretension that more often burdens formal dining than not. It’s food in a casual environment for the common man. My kind of food.
That’s precisely the experience that a couple of fellow food bloggers and I had received when we dined at Jasmins one evening. A casual environment, without pretension, serving good food. A feast of really good food. The kind of good food that frequently has you coming back for more, at prices that makes such endeavours affordable.
A couple of bottles of Pampa tamarind soft drink. Not as bad as it sounds. Actually, far better than it sounds. Having never tried this before, I was expecting a really sour, mouth-puckering sort of drink. Something that people may refer to as “an acquired taste”, often a euphemism for “most people hate the taste”. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no sourness at all. Just a pleasant, sweet beverage with a light effervescence.
If you’re looking for something different, give it a go. I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed :)
As with almost all Lebanese restaurants I’ve been to, a complementary side dish of various pickles (green chilis, gherkins, turnips & olives in this case) & fresh vegetation such as tomatoes, onions & mint is served with every meal. I’ve found that the items on the side plate are perfect accompaniments to grilled meats or dips. The acid, found either in the fresh vegetables or the vinegar from the pickles, helps to temper the richness of the fat in those dishes.
Another staple, and one that I consider a very necessary one for these sorts of meals, is the seemingly endless supply of Lebanese flat bread (no photo unfortunately). Nothing like the ones that you may find in a supermarket that tastes like it’s been stale for a week. No, this is the good stuff, at least by those standards. Soft, elastic, fresh tasting bread. Like with all good breads, I would be content with just eating these on their own.
We fore go the stereotypical and rather ubiquitous chickpea dip known as hommus in favour of the lighter, pleasantly smokey flavours of the eggplant dip baba ganoush ($6).
The smaller dishes (from left to right) consist of tahini (sesame paste), toum (a superb garlic dip, somewhat like aioli) and a chili sauce that is quite flavourful but without any heat. As with the side dish of pickles and vegetables, these dips were likewise complementary.
Tabouli salad ($5). Ok, zero points for originality but their version of this zingy salad is pretty good. Better than most I’ve had.
Falafel ($6). Of all the Lebanese restaurants that I’ve been to in Sydney, these would have to be one of the best I’ve had thus far. A thick, crunchy crust encases a soft, moist centre without being too greasy. A sublime contrast of textures.
Lamb kaftas ($8), which is great value for four fingers of flavourful lamb mince, grilled to juicy perfection. Lemon wedges are served to help cut through the richness of the fat, as well as to impart a complementary citrus note to this dish.
As nice as the lamb kaftas were, the favourite meat dish for the evening was the chili chicken ($8). For you chili-phobes out there, this is one of the tamest chili dishes that I’ve ever come across. For a person who likes his heat to pack a lot of, well… heat, this is one of the most disappointing spice hits you could possibly come across. Having said that though, from the perspective of flavour this is a great dish. One that I would certainly come back for.
We make our way out of the restaurant, utterly content with our meal and perhaps a little surprised with the amount of money we still had in our wallets. Though this was my first dining experience at Jasmins, it will certainly not be my last!
30B Haldon St, Lakemba.
Ph: 9740 3589