When a friend asked me if I wanted to dine at the new El-Phonenician in Walsh Bay, I jumped at the chance. I remember when M and I had caught up at the Parramatta restaurant long ago – we really enjoyed the ourselves and I was keen to repeat the experience.
The menu at El-Phoenician is extensive, so what better way to peruse on what to order (a la carte or banquet?) than with a delicious cocktail. S ordered the The Phoenician, which consisted of Frangelico, amaretto, triple sec, orange juice, and lime. While it was nice, it was a tad on the strong side for me (a true Cadbury, I am!) and preferred my passionfruit cocktail that was more on the lighter, fruitier side.
We finally decided to go with the El-Phoenician banquet ($56 pp), as it pretty much had everything we wanted to try and more importantly, be able to finish.
Arp really wanted to us to do the Byblos banquet – the ultimate banquet – and I would totally have gone for it too if I didn’t have a bit of a jippy tummy and if S was hungrier. Not the best conditions to tackle an ultimate anything, sadly.
Although we had two options for bread, I couldn’t stop reaching for the crispy one. I loved the crunch and I thought the dips tasted better on it too!
S and Arp adored the garlic and chilli dip, as it had the right amount of spiciness, while I fell head over heels in love with the babaganoush. It was wonderfully smoky without being overpowering and just had so much flavour. The hummus was delectably creamy and the yoghurt was rather refreshing.
We tried to be mindful of the fact we had so many other dishes to come, but the creamy fetta, salty olives, and pickled cucumbers, turnips, radish and whole chillies were also irresistible. There may have been a moment where we thought, “Uh oh, I think I’m getting full already” Haha.
The El-Phoenician banquet comes with two sides: a garden salad and Tabouli; both of which were fresh and well-seasoned.
As a compromise for not ordering the Byblos banquet, we added some grilled king prawns that have been marinated in lemon butter sauce.
They were beautifully grilled – all juicy, sweet, and fresh! A real big hit with the table and I think, S’s favourite dish.
The fried cauliflower was quite lovely with the tahini sauce in its own right, but was a bit overshadowed by the fantastic Sambousik and an even better Falafel.
The Sambousik is a wonderfully crisp, thick pastry filled with perfectly seasoned minced lamb, pine nuts, and onions – personally I think its the pine nuts that makes this pastry pop! So delicious.
I would have to make a big call and say that this was probably the best falafel I’ve ever had. While the falafel was dense, it wasn’t super crumbly or dry and was packed with so much flavour for such a small ball. Even though the skewers had arrived and I was actually getting full by this stage, I had to have another one… or two!
I don’t know about you, but meat on skewers always seem to impress me. Lots. I also find it quite exciting in that I-get-to-tear-meat-off-a-big-stick-like-a-caveman way.
But I wouldn’t embarrass my friends like that… and mostly because I’d probably stab myself with the skewer. So, in the interest of “Safety First”, I civilly removed the meat from the skewer with my fork.
The chicken was tender and rather awesome with a strong, tangy garlic sauce, but the lamb was a teensy bit on the chewy side – it was still deliciously flavoursome (and not too lamb-y) though.
Although we were quite stuffed, we took one look at the dessert options and simply could not say “no”.
We couldn’t really decide on what to get and asked if we could get a selection of desserts instead, which they were sweet enough to do.
Along with some fresh fruit, there was a superb lemon tart topped with chocolate ice cream, a couple of divinely flaky baklavas and a pretty decent chocolate-vanilla semifreddo (I think, I had forgotten to take note in my fullness; apologies).
Oh my… we were well and truly stuffed by this point. And very well satisfied.
The El-Phoenician in Walsh Bay has only been opened since November last year, but it seems to have established itself quite nicely just off the quieter part of Hickson Rd.
Admittedly, it is a little expensive for Lebanese food (I know it’s hard to pass up places like Al-Aseel and Jasmin), but the cost is well worth it, as the food quite top-notch, service is attentive and friendly, and it is a lovely, relaxed setting for special events or a romantic date without being too stuffy.
es&t dined as a guest of El-Phoenician
7 Towns Place
The Rocks (Walsh Bay), NSW, 2065
Ph: (02) 9633 1611