The real deal

Jenny Barlass
Lebanese street food served up with history and style

When I was a university student living in penury in Darlinghurst, my choice of dinner was always the fabulous takeaway roll of hummus, falafel and tabouli from a Lebanese guy on Crown Street who really nailed it with the flavours and the price – just $1.

It was fast, fresh, full of vitamins, and delighted my coffee-addled student taste buds.

Fast forward a few decades and dining at the newly opened Byblos Grill in Yarrara Road, Pennant Hills has that same affect – again without busting the bank.

It’s the Byblos walls you notice first on arriving – they have a deliberately aged patina with a cleverly distressed look with wall paintings of interesting looking characters sporting fez. There’s an artfully drawn faded map of the town the owners are from in Lebanon. Pretty lanterns, soft lights and just a touch of subway tiles bring the look up to date.

Though the food is dubbed “Lebanese street food” by owners Tracey, Julian and Jo Hassarati due to its speed and simplicity, the beauty of this place is you can either opt for the street food option, or stay longer and work your way through the menu with starters, a range of mains and dessert.

Having put ourselves in the hands of the owners, we begin with a starter plate of falafel which when bitten into reveals a vibrant green from the many herbs used, as well as crunchy golden Kibbeh balls, succulent with rice and mince.

One of my dining companions is gluten-intolerant and without notice of her needs, within minutes the kitchen has produced a plate of gluten-free falafel (the same recipe minus cracked wheat), as well as smoky-tasting roasted cauliflower and a delicate tahini sauce.

Next is the procession is Kousa – zucchini stuffed with rice and meet accompanied by just about the best sauce I have ever tasted – toum. This is raw garlic pulped with olive oil slowly drizzled in, and finished with lemon, producing a surprisingly white sauce perfect for dipping small pieces of food into. So garlicky it’s bound to clear any lift you step into the following day.

Our mains included a plate of char-grilled chicken pieces, piquant and vibrant tabouli, and bright pink turnip pickle accompanied by a good serving of creamy, homemade hummus far better than anything you could buy in the shops.

Other mains we didn’t have room to try but will be back to sample next time include the grilled meat platter – pieces of lamb, chicken and sausage with a smoky finish. Dessert is Knaffe, a feast for the eyes – a mixture of creamy cheese, cream and rosewater, adorned with shredded filo, rose petals, pistachios and Persian fairy floss. It’s a fitting end to a sumptuous banquet. We finish with Lebanese coffee tempered with cardamom which while strong, is not overpowering.

“All the recipes are very traditional and generations old,” explains Tracey Hassarati. “Many people cook beside the road in pans and sell at markets or to people passing and this is where many of our food traditions come from.

“There’s a large Lebanese community coming to Australia as refugees after the Second World War and these are the recipes they have brought with us from home. Each generation passes down variations on how they make certain dishes.”

The ingredients are traditional – sumac, mixed peppers, paprika, pickled vegetables, pistachios, all sourced from Lebanese suppliers in Auburn, while the meat is all Halal.

This is a welcome addition to the local dining scene, and destined for huge popularity for its fresh, authentic food delivered with traditional Lebanese hospitality.

Byblos Grill
74 Yarrara Rd, Pennant Hills.
Tel: 9484 9579
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 9pm.

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