Al Aseel, Surry Hills

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Lebanese, Surry Hills, Sydney City

al aseel mixed plate

On my way home from the office one afternoon, I find myself deep in discussion with my cab driver around food.

He’s originally from Lebanon and it’s not long until I beg him to tell me where to find the best lebanese food in Sydney. I insisted I wanted the real deal, the stuff that you would find back at home and throughout the Middle East. As my most vivid memories of the Middle East were of how spellbinding the food was.

So… with pen in hand, note pad on my lap. I furiously took notes and made a list.

Al Aseel was one of the restaurants that came out on top.

pickled vegetables

We are greeted with a traditional serving of pickled vegetables, olives and lebanese breads. I didn’t have the gumption to manhandle the pickled chilli’s but enjoyed the pickled turnip and olives. I was however, disappointed to find that the bread wasn’t served warm. A few moments on the grill wouldn’t have hurt.

mixed entree platter

In the mixed entree platter you will find:

Falafel, ladies fingers (homemade pastry filled with cheese, mince meat and parsley), sambousek (pastry pocket stuffed with spiced meat) and fried kibbe (spicy minced meat stuffed inside a tasty blend of kibbe and crushed wheat).

I’m not wild about kibbe, so I kindly ask if I could swap it for the spinach triangle and I am glad that I did. The ladies fingers, falafel and spinach triangle were the highlight.

Served with a side of tahini sauce, the falafel comes out piping hot. My impatiences gets the better of me and I’m lip wrestling between bite and blow. Piercing through the crunchy shell reveals the fluffy steamy green centre. The tahini is nice enough but already I am cheating on it with the robust baba ghanouj. (Pictured below).
But that’s what I love about Lebanese food. Cheating’s ok and you can always mix and match.

vine leaves

No surprises here. Love them or hate them. These vine leaves taste exactly like any other vine leaves you have tasted before. I am, more of a lover. Especially when double dipped and smothered in that crazy-good baba ghanouj.

fatoush salad

Fatoush salad is a common staple among Lebanese restaurants and this salad is as authentic as it gets. With the right amount of freshness, acidity I’m disappointed to find that only thing missing though is the crunch of the deep fried pita bread that is usually smattered across the top. Every mouthful should be full of that crackling crunch rather it had more of a soft touch. It is normally the textural highlight and tastes of everything that has been deep fried in that dirty dirty oil. Delicious.

baba ghanouj

The smokiness of the eggplants hits with impact and rounds off with the stinky creaminess of the garlic and tahini sauce. It’s so good, I find myself lathering it on anything I can find. Meat, bread, falafel,vine leaves. You name it. It had it. Anything and everything and whatever it was, it deserved a slab of that glorious gloop.

al aseel mixed plate

The mixed plate contains a mixture of skewers of marinated bbq chicken breast, lamb & kafta served with sides of tabouli, baba ghanouj, hommos, garlic dip & falafel.

This sizeable platter is already a meal in itself and my dress could probably do with some unzipping. The BBQ chicken showcased a nice charcoal flavour tasting tender and moist. The lamb tasted overcooked and was hard to the bite. The kafta was fatty and full of spice, it just wasn’t for me. And then I’m left torn between the baba ghanouj and garlic dip.

Hmm… can’t I have both?

Overall, I enjoyed my meal. If it weren’t for the chewy lamb and cold bread I probably would have enjoyed it even more. Whilst on the whole, it was a tasty meal, portions a plenty and service friendly. Only elements of this meal came close to what I would have found in the Middle East. But perhaps I am asking too much? I would love to hear from you. Do you know of any great Lebanese places?

Welcome to AL Aseel, for some decent Lebanese.

Al-Aseel on Urbanspoon

529 Elizabeth St
Surry Hills, NSW2010

  1. jbjose says:

    I know what you mean about the cold bread. They do that at the Greenacre branch too, which by the way has just been renovated (I think it’s now as dear as the Surry Hills branch). I looove the mixed plate, especially the baba ghanouj.

    I’ve heard ppl say that Jasmin1 is better. I haven’t been.

    Where’d you go in the Middle East?

  2. I really like the look of the fatuous, despite the absence of the fried bread. As you know I tried the Newtown branch of Al Aseel and found the food very hit and miss. Looks like they have an issue with overcooked and tough lamb at both venues.

  3. Tina @ bitemeshowme says:

    I really like Armarni at parramatta – I think that’s Lebanese? I can’t be too sure. I love a good mixed plate. Have you had deep fried lebanese bread? Now that with any dip is just out of this world.

  4. Hmm maybe worth it just showing up to order baba ganoush? 😛 I would totally do it! haha

  5. I love this place as well! Fatoush salad is my favourite thing there and they make it so well and tastes freaking amazeballs.

  6. It just hit me that I’ve been walking past this place for ages and never realised what it was. Will definitely visit next time I’m around!

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