Gordon Lebanese Cuisine, Gordon ($$)

Address: Shop 9, Gordon Village Centre, Pacific Highway Gordon

Tel: (02) 9498 8773

Website: http://www.gordonlebanesecuisine.com.au/

* * *

I have been craving Lebanese food for a couple of weeks now (yes, weeks!) and decided to try out one of the restaurants on the North Shore.

Atmosphere

The restaurant is quite spacious but there were only 3 tables (including ours) of customers. Not that great for a Friday night.

The decor is quite simple, cream coloured walls with framed he photos of Lebanon on hanging up. There was a red feature wall on one side which brightened the room a little.

Service

As soon as we entered the restaurant (without a booking too), we were greeted by a very friendly man (perhaps the owner?) who quickly showed us to a table.

He was our waiter for the night and was very friendly and helpful. Service was fantastic and he came to check on us a few times throughout the night, but not so often that we felt as though we were being disturbed.

The only thing I would mention in relation to service was that the skewers came out a little while after the dips and salad. I would have preferred if they all came out together or if the fattoush and skewers came out after we had finished with the dips.

Food

We decided to order the banquet at $28.00 per person (drinks not included).

The first dishes to come out were the dips: hommus and baba ghanoush with Lebanese bread and the fattoush.

1

I thought the dips looked lovely and appetising with the paprika and olive oil on top of them.

The Lebanese bread however was served in a small cane basket but was still in the plastic bag when they brought it out. I would have preferred it if they had taken it out of the bag and maybe laid it out on a serviette in the basket.

2MC and I really enjoyed the hommus as it was creamy and flavoursome and the olive oil meant it wasn’t at all dry.The baba ghanoush was very smoky and had an interesting flavour. While it was nice, I preferred the hommus.

Both dips had large portion sizes for two people and we didn’t finish either.

3

A fattoush is a salad with crispy bread in it.

This salad was fresh and had a tangy balsamic dressing over it. The lettuce was not soggy and the vegetables were crisp. The toasted Lebanese bread provided some added crunch and I also enjoyed dipping it into the hommus and baba ghanoush.

We got a huge bowl of the fattoush which was more than enough for the two of us.

I enjoyed the salad overall, my only comment would be that there was a little too much dressing on the bottom, but hey, you can’t please everyone!

6

Next out was the plate of kebabs and koftas.

This was the main event but was not presented very well as it was simply piled onto an oval dish. with pieces of Lebanese bread on top of and under the skewers. Some extra effort on presentation would really improve this dish and restaurant.

Presentation aside, there were 3 skewers for each of us of:

  • Lamb pieces;
  • Mince beef kafta; and
  • Chicken breast pieces.

They were served with a side of garlic sauce which went really well with the lovely meats.

The lamb and chicken skewers had large pieces of meat on them and all the meat was tender, well-cooked and juicy. Absolutely enjoyed these delicious and tasty skewers- they were some of the best I have had!

4

To finish off we were served a (very) small cup of Turkish coffee and some sweets.

I asked for the coffee sweet and although I generally don’t drink coffee without milk, I thought it was quite nice.

The sweets were two pieces of baklava, which is a kind of syrupy filo pastry filled with crushed nuts. Baklava is one of my favourite sweets and I really enjoyed it but thought that the presentation and the dessert overall could be lifted a little with the addition of two pieces of Turkish delight as well to brighten up the plate.

7

Cost:

Pretty cheap for quite a lot of yummy food. Decent portion sizes as well, so overall good value.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my dining experience (out of 10):

    • Service- 8.5
    • Food- 7
    • Ambience- 4
    • Value – 8.5

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Kazbah, Top Ryde ($$)

Address: La Piazza, Top Ryde Shopping Centre, Cnr Devlin Street and Blaxland Road, Ryde

Tel: (02) 9555 7067

Website: http://www.kazbah.com.au

Opening Hours:

Open 7 days:

Mon- Friday 11.00am to 3.00pm and from 5.30pm onwards

Sat and Sun 8.00am to 3.00pm

* * *

After a lovely post-uni/ pre-graduation massage with one of my best friends, we headed to Kazbah for a lazy Sunday lunch.

After checking out the menu and being seated,  the waiter asked us what we wanted to drink before she gave us the menus. Bad start.

We asked for a few minutes so we could browse the menu and then ordered the 2 courses + wine deal. Unfortunately my friend and I aren’t huge wine drinkers so we asked if we could swap the wine for a frappe or juice (both were cheaper on the menu than the wine). We were told that we could not and, a bit disappointed, we ended up ordering a coke and a lift.

We were served water from an interesting looking jug (see below), and we soon received our entrees, which included an assortment of dishes from the mezze section of the menu.

Source: Kazbah website

First out was a trio of dips with some soft and fried Lebanese bread. The dips were yummy and fresh and fried Lebanese bread is one of my favourites!

Dips & Bread 

Lebanese Bread- fried on the left and soft on the right

Babaghanouj, Tzatziki and Hummus (from left to right)

Thinking the entrée was over, we were surprised (but not displeased) to find a mezze plate being placed on our table. The waiter quickly explained what was on the plate, but we barely heard what he said as he spoke too fast.

The plate contained:

  • Vegetarian eggplant samosas;
  • Chicken wings;
  • Grilled haloumi cheese;
  • Smoked salmon with avocado salsa; and
  • Tabouli.

We tried them one at a time, but my friend skipped the smoked salmon as it wasn’t really her thing (more for me!).

I found the samosas quite nice and unusual as I am used to mince meat or potatoes in samosas. They were a little spicy but the pastry was tasty and enjoyable.

We didn’t really know what the wings were, having not heard what the waiter said when he explained what was on the plate. We tried to cut it and realised there was a bone in the middle, and eventually worked out that they were fried wings! There was a tangy but sweet sauce drizzled over the wings and the green leaves added a bit of freshness, which we appreciated. I’m not 100% sure but looking at the menu, they were probably the char-grilled quail with pomegranate sauce.

Next was the haloumi cheese. I had never tried haloumi before and was intrigued by the thought of fried cheese. I expected a tofu-like taste, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was firmer, and less cheesy than I expected. I really enjoyed this cheese and think I will order it more often and perhaps see if I can find some in the deli next time I’m there.

I tried the smoked salmon and avocado salsa and, being a salmon lover, really enjoyed it. It was fresh and the tomatoes in the salsa cut through the richness of the salmon and the creamy avocado. Divine!

The tabouli was a great way to end the entrée as it was fresh and light.

The mains which we had ordered soon came out: my friend had ordered the Lamb Kafta Shish Kebab, and I ordered the Squid ink pasta with prawns.

 When my dish came out my initial reaction was, “great I’m going to have to de-shell the prawns.” However it wasn’t too difficult and thanks to my years of prawn-eating experience, I had soon de-shelled them.

I was a little disappointed that there were only 3 prawns in the dish. Although they were large, by the time I took the heads and shells off, there wasn’t much of them. However, they were cooked well and tasted great!

Harissa King Prawns, Squid Ink Linguine, Feta, Chakchouka, Baby Spinach, $25.00

The squid ink pasta was something I had wanted to try for a while as I had seen it on MasterChef last season when the contestants were in Italy (see here for an interesting article with more information on squid ink and squid ink pasta). It looks a little bit creepy (like it should be in a halloween movie) but tastes much the same as normal pasta, if a little rubbery. I read somewhere that it should have a salty flavour, but I think the pasta sauce in this dish may have overpowered that flavour a little.

The sauce was tomato-based and quite spicy, but tasted nice and overall, I did enjoy the dish.

I tried a bit of my friend’s Shish Kebab and thought it tasted great. The lamb was well seasoned and slightly charred on the outside and came with a few condiments and sides.

Lamb Kafta Shish Kebab served on pita bread with condiments, pickles, chips, $23.00

On a previous visit to Kazbah I have tried the Lemon Baharat Chicken Shish Kebab ($24.00) and remember thoroughly enjoying it, so I think the Shish Kebabs at Kazbah are a good option for diners wanting a taste of the Middle East without going too far out of their comfort zone!

Cost

The meal cost us about $80.00 all up with a Sunday surcharge of $7.00 and a credit card surcharge (which we weren’t too pleased about) + a small tip to round it up.

Rating

Overall I would rate my dining experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6
  • Food- 6.5
  • Ambience- 7
  • Value – 7

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