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Nicholas Fonseca
October 24, 2014

For two centuries, people from Lebanon have been migrating to Australia. In fact, nearly three-quarters of all Lebanese-born Australian residents call Sydney home. If you head to the city’s western suburbs, you’ll find heaps of businesses owned and operated by members of the community. As with many immigrant populations, it’s the food and drinks of the culture that has had the biggest impact: western Sydney in particular is dotted with restaurants serving traditional Lebanese banquets and signature dishes like fattoush and flatbreads. (I know one woman of Lebanese descent who lives in the inner city but refuses to buy bread anywhere but Auburn, a good half-hour’s drive from her home.) And you know how some cities are fabled for their late-night pizza joints? Sydney…not so much. Here, it’s a large, juicy kebab or a well-made falafel that fuels the antics of midnight revellers. Looking for a slightly more civilized meal? Check out these five eateries.

Fatima

A once-neglected stretch of Cleveland Street in Surry Hills houses a clutch of well-regarded Lebanese restaurants that make up for in flavor what they lack in atmosphere. Fatima is no exception: you can either dine in or order a hearty takeout meal from the front counter. Either way, you’re guaranteed an authentic meal prepared with masterful skill.

Arabella

Head chef Mohamad Zouhour has been cooking up authentic Lebanese cuisine for more than a decade at Arabella, an Inner West eatery that offers a mix of subtle and spicy dishes. Stop by on Saturday for the fasoulia (butter beans cooked with leg of lamb pieces, garlic, and cilantro in a tomato-based sauce) and a performance by local belly dancers.

Zahli

This sparkling new eatery in Surry Hills—formerly a branch of the popular Al Aseel restaurant—boasts that it serves “modern Middle Eastern,” but truth is, these are the same delicious classics everyone loves. There’s a small cold mezza menu (lamb tartare, mixed pickles, a spicy aged cheese known as shanklish) that works if you’re craving quick appetizers, but I suggest going whole hog and making a meal out of the extensive hot mezza menu that’s filled with dishes made for sharing.

Nada’s

Nada’s is another fine choice on Cleveland Street. What it lacks in atmosphere or a modern interior is more than made up for by the scrumptious dishes: stuffed vine leaves, roasted eggplant, green beans in tomato sauce…it’s all here. Opt for the set menu and you’ll get desserts like baklava and Turkish delight, served alongside cinnamon tea.

Al Aseel

This delightful restaurant in Newtown boasts an extensive menu of salads, dips, mix plates, meats, and wraps. Don’t worry about dietary requirements, either: Al Aseel can cater a meal to just about anybody, from vegans to those looking for a gluten-free meal. Be sure to try a Lebanese coffee to finish off the meal. 

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