Jumping into the spot formerly occupied by Al Aseel, restaurateur Mohammad Issmail has transformed the space into arguably the slickest-looking Lebanese restaurant Sydney has to offer. And it doesn’t stop at the marble bar, ornate blue tiles and quirky, upside-down desk lamps dangling from the cleverly integrated acoustic ceiling, either! White tablecloths set off carefully chosen earthenware plates, and quality (Bose) speakers deliver a fabulous modern Arabian soundtrack. I’m impressed, and that’s even before I get stuck into the smoothest, most flavoursome hommos I’ve tried; best in a Mixed Dips ($20) arrangement with companion smoky baba ghannouj and lightly tangy labneh. Fattoush ($15) is also resurrected here with vibrant capsicum and crisp cucumber showing Chef Abdul Shams’ commitment to good produce. In the hot mezza, Falafel ($12), adorned with sesame seeds, are brightly aromatic with cumin and coriander seed, while compelling Coriander Potato ($12) is red with chilli and goes well with Almaza ($10) beer. For the main event, if it’s hard to choose between moist chicken Shish Tawook ($26) or tender lamb Lahem Mishwee ($27), consider a mixed plate or banquet. The Mediterranean ($50/head) gives you everything I’ve spoken about (and more), but its generosity might preclude you from trying the signature Milk Pudding ($10); and that would either be sad, or reason enough to return.
529 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9318 2228 zahlirestaurant.com