It's takeaway time and El Jannah Express in Newtown is the newest branch of the Lebanese charcoal chicken and garlic sauce chain. The Newtown store located in the thick of King Street has an abridged menu of all the favourites but with another addition: fried chicken!
When the NSW government said that people could have two guests over to visit I asked Mr NQN, "Are you ready to socialise in person?". It was Wednesday afternoon and my sometime vegetarian friend Laura and I were discussing the possibility of eating together at our place. Although we had had plenty of balcony dates where she and I had conversations with her in my driveway and me on the balcony, nothing quite beat a low key food adventure and just being ourselves again.
Laura and I discussed where we would get takeaway food from and El Jannah was at the top of our list. We both adore fried chicken-we did after all do a fried chicken challenge all over Sydney. This was way before Covid-19 and the concept seems like a faraway dream full of danger now. I hop in the back seat of her car (social distance peeps!) and we drive to Newtown.
This Saturday evening there is a queue outside El Jannah which is brightly lit against the darker shopfronts that surround it. The queue is a mix of customers and delivery drivers. Most people are standing 1 metre apart in the queue and we reach the front. We squint at the menu above and get a bit carried away.
"We're going to order one of everything!" we tell the gentleman behind the counter who is friendly and humouring us. Maybe he has seen lots of people excitedly coming out of hibernation, their eyes glassy with the lure of takeaway chicken.
"Can I have the chips that have just come out of the fryer?" I ask him. "All our chips are fresh," he says proudly. "Yes but I want those ones frying right now," I say pointing to the basket frying away. "Sure," he says. We both look at each other. He knows he's not going to give me them, I know he's not going to give me them. He hands us our receipt and our number #69, we snicker and then go off to buy snacks while they put our order together.
We take everything home and unpack everything. The whole chicken meal ($27.90) has a whole charcoal roasted chicken, pickles, Lebanese bread, tabouli, fries and a small pot of garlic sauce or toum. But being us we upgraded to a large container of garlic sauce. The chicken is succulent, the pickles salty, the garlic sauce is creamy and the fries (although slightly cold) are sprinkled with chicken salt aka gold dust. This makes them highly addictive.
5 Pieces Fried Drumsticks $12 and 5 Pieces Fried Chicken Tenders $10.95
All of the fried chicken pieces are drumsticks or tenderloins which we weren't quite expecting when we first saw the menu. Part of why I like fried chicken is getting to choose the pieces and truthfully drumsticks are my least favourite chicken piece and I would rarely order a tenderloin as there's no skin. But this fried chicken is pretty good even though it could be hotter. It's particularly good when we dip it in the sweet hot sauce and the toum. There are also tenderloins which aren't bad but I really much prefer chicken on the bone because it's so much juicier.
El Jannah Crispy Chicken Burger $7.90
The chicken burger is a pretty decent one although it's channelling KFC rather than a chef burger. There's no finely toasted milk bun or massaged meat inside. It's also $7.90 so it's a plain burger bun with shredded lettuce, mayonnaise and a fried chicken fillet.
Okay hear me out - coleslaw is probably not going to be your first choice with Lebanese charcoal chicken but it works and it works a treat. We split open a pita bread and then fill it with chicken, coleslaw, tabouli, pickles and the sauces. We bought each of the sauces available ($2 each) and these include honey mustard, sweet and spicy and gravy (for dipping the chips in). The sweet and spicy is our favourite but they're all good really.
I love Babaghanouj because it's impossible to me to make it at home and it's creamy and lightly smokey and nice to dip some bread into for a reprieve from the chicken. It's a meal that we enjoy so much with our fingers dirty and sauce everywhere. If anything it shows that Iso joy can be found with food and friends.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite chicken piece? Have you had anyone over yet? What are you most looking forward to?
El Jannah Express
156-158 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
Open 7 days 11am–10pm