Our favourite Lebanese restaurant in Sydney has to be Jasmin1, but living in South East Sydney it’s quite rare for us to make it out to Auburn. Al Aseel is a surprisingly upscale Lebanese restaurant in Alexandria, and while it is more expensive, is a fitting substitute.
We went for a late lunch, and did not have to wait. I am told that there is a long queue for dinner and it’s best to try and book ahead.
Special mention needs to be made of the decor and layout of the restaurant. Al Aseel is located in the same complex as South Dowling Sandwiches and Pholosphy, and there is adequate guest parking. It is a far more upscale establishment than Jasmin1, featuring a very extensive bar and a large dining area. The dining tables themselves are huge for just two people, which is a mark of the restaurant’s commitment to a slightly finer dining experience.
The Mansaf Rice ($9) was very nutty! It was good value for a reasonably sized bowl of rice, nuts, and a small amount of mince. It had a mild, nutty flavour, but more than the flavour I felt the nuts really helped to make the texture interesting. Went great with the excess garlic and lemon sauce from the garlic and lemon chicken.
The Meat and Onion Samobusek (4 for $14) was pretty standard. The pastry was good but not great, the filling was quite good but a bit salty.
If online reviews are to believed, Al Aseel’s Lemon & Garlic Chicken ($26) are their “unmissable” “flagship” dish. I had expected something truly extraodinary and out of the box, but what I found for $26 was actually a bit pedestrian. Their lemon and garlic chicken is simply tawouk absolutely drowned in a lake’s worth of garlic sauce and lemon juice. That’s not to say that it’s bad – it’s actually very good – just not what I was expecting. The chicken is in particular cooked very well, tender, and the sauces very flavourful.
It is the curse of all Lebanese restaurants in Sydney to be compared with Jasmin1. While I enjoyed the food at Al Aseel, I definitely felt that it was more of an upscale establishment, in terms of decor, the fitout, but also in terms of the price. While $49 at Jasmin1 can feed a small army, the same is not true of Al Aseel. Having said that, I do see myself coming back to Al Aseel more, just based on the proximity alone.