I wish my photos were better but when you're dining in a BIG group it's the quick or the hungry I'm afraid. So you'll have to trust me when I say the food was really great.
I’ve been wanting to go here since we first moved to the ‘hood over four years ago now. Not sure why it took this long to make it, but it was always the baskets of crisp, fried Lebanese bread set alluringly on each table that had me wanting to come here. Fried bread = winning.
Because we dining in quite a big group we decide to go for one of the group menus – always the best way to go when there are so many people eating together. We choose the “Roche” banquet for meat lovers for $50 per person. Massively good value. I have have to give the staff two thumbs up for happily accommodating all of our varying dietary requests with hardly the blink of an eye.
The banquet kicks off with a trio of dips that are all very lovely. The Homous is a smooth, creamy blend of chick peas blended with tahina and lemon juice. The Baba Ganouje is a heady mix of smoky char-grilled eggplant blended with tahina and lemon juice. Yum. And last but not less a beautiful Labne made from fresh home-made yoghurt. I really love the tanginess of labne. Needless to say that all the dips go really well with that crispy bread I’ve been drooling over since 2010.
We also enjoy some fresh salads. I loved the tangy Tabouli (not pictured as we ate it too fast) – a mix of finely chopped parsley, tomato, shallot with crushed wheat and mint mixed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. We also get the chef's salad as part of our banquet. Bad photo but a good salad.
Possibly one of my favourite elements of the banquet is the feta cheese that comes on a plate with one of my all-time favourite foods, PICKLES!!! A plate of kalamata olives, pickled cucumber, turnip, radish and whole chilli (hot, but not deadly so) is nestled alongside fat slabs of creamy, tangy feta cheese.
And lastly we come to the “meat lovers” section of the banquet. This platter is piled high with a medley of mouth watering meats. All of them are deliciously charred and smokey after their treatment over the hot grill. So what do we have? Let’s have a look:
- Jawaheh (chicken wings) which are marinated in lemon, garlic and extra virgin olive oil
- Kafta (skewered minced lamb), one of my favourite Lebanese meat dishes that consists of premium lamb mixed with parsley, herbs and onions
- Shish tawouk (skewered chicken) which his Marinated with traditional Middle Eastern spices and a hint of garlic
- Shish kebab (skewered lamb) which is marinated in vinegar and traditional Middle Eastern spices
- Batata b-kizibra (potato coriander) a bowl of yummy diced potato fried and tossed in a fresh coriander dressing. Dip it into the garlic sauce provided to take it up a notch.
Because my sister doesn't eat lamb (long story) we also receive a plate of fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside falafel with tahina sauce for no extra charge. It's little touches like this that make me want to return to certain restaurants. Everyone at El-Phoenician was very accommodating, which is no easy feat given there must have been about 200 people there on the night we visited. Oh, and the falafel is served with mixed pickles so double win.
In keeping with the El-Phoenician motto that “food isn’t simply about eating, it’s an experience” as the night carries on out come the belly dancers. Lots of fun (though the music was deafeningly loud and quashed any conversation that people were having). I'm not sure what the deal is with balancing the walking stick on people's heads but it is worth nothing that Dave's brother (not the dude in the picture below) can balance a walking stick on his head for a VERY VERY long time. I'd totally be putting THAT skill on my resume for sure.
The only thing that would make it better is if they served homous with lamb mince (hint hint if you're reading this El-Phoenician).
El-Phoenician is at Church Street, Parramatta. Phone them on 9633 1611.