It's always funny revisiting a place after you've left it. After you've left your former career behind and you see things differently. The skyscrapers that I wanted to climb ten years ago no longer look exciting, instead they appear grey, cold and foreboding. When I worked in North Sydney I recall somewhat of a dearth of good places to eat at for lunch with clients yet there were no shortage of takeaway spots. But today I would be venturing back to the 'hood for Jordan National Day and dining at Safi on Ridge Street.
It's an unassuming restaurant. Indeed the taxi driver drives past it three times before we slow down and count the numbers and peer at the sign closely. Simply decked out, there are a few traditional items on the walls and banquet seating. There is also a section out the back with tables and a courtyard. We are eating from the banquet menu which is a fourteen course menu for $35. A shorter lunch time menu is also available for $25.
A large plate of soft, fresh Lebanese bread comes out-and even though our table is crowded, there's no way that we can finish it, try as we might!
The dips arrive first. The hommos is tasty and with some texture to it. It's slightly different from the kind that we received in Jordan which was very smooth. The baba ghanouj is lightly smoky and well balanced-I sometimes find it overly smoky but not this one. Labneh is one of my favourite dips as I love the slight tartness of the yogurt with the creamy texture. This is my favourite dip along with the baba ghanouj. There was also a small serve of beetroot dip for a vegan eater.
The salads and the dips are among my favourite parts of Middle Eastern cuisine andthe fattoush salad is a mix of crunchy, fresh cos lettuce, cucumber and tomato and crunchy little squares of toasted pita bread.
I particularly liked the tabouleh with plenty of fresh parsley, cracked wheat, tomato and onion to give it added flavour.
I was a bit less smitten with the felafel which are crunchy little pucks that are a little dry inside.
Served on a plate with large, bronzed, lemon and spice dusted florets, these were fried and very soft to bite into and a favourite at the table. They were served with a little side of tahini.
These slender vine leaf rolls had a little less rice filling than I've had but that meant that they weren't quite as heavy as they are which was good considering the amount of food we were having.
I'm must admit that I'm not the best person to judge kibbeh and I always find them a bit dry. These little meat parcels are oval shaped and made with crushed wheat, minced meat, onion and cinnamon.
The juicy little Lebanese sausages are grilled and full of spice, some sweet and aromatic. By now I'm getting quite full but there's plenty more food!
This was one of my favourites, the chicken skewers were tender and full of flavour and if I weren't already full from everything else, I would have eaten more. I particularly liked this with the fluffy garlic sauce.
And even though these came right at the end, I really enjoyed the tender marinated meat blended with spices and onion and served as a long, flat oval.
There's always room for Middle Eastern desserts for me! There were two desserts on offer in the banquet - chewy, sweet icing sugar dusted pieces of rose Turkish Delight and crispy, nutty baklava rolls which lets be honest both require tasting. I couldn't choose just one and both are a delicious way to end the meal.
So tell me Dear Reader, are there plenty of places to eat where you work or live?
55 Ridge St North Sydney NSW 2060
Tel : +61 (02) 9954 6146