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ARAX

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese

Long loved by locals, Arax has been serving up Lebanese cuisine and excellent wood-fired pizza for so long the restaurant has actually been granted Heritage status by the local council. Start with dips: muhammara (red capsicum, walnuts, pomegranate and breadcrumbs) and cauliflower dips, both $12, taste as good as they look. Wood-fired pizza $18–$30 mostly follows the Italian formula but for the Thai chicken satay with peanuts and shallots $22 or the seafood supreme with king prawns, scallops and Atlantic salmon $30. For a main, the mixed plate $35 gives a sampler of kofta, laham michwee (barbecued lamb) and felafel served with dips. Samke harrah, grilled fish fillets with tahini, lemon juice, coriander and pine nuts $30, gives some relief from fried things. Book on Saturday night to see the bellydancer.

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EL KARIM

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese

This local Lebanese has been a north shore staple since the 70s but the arrival of current owner/chef Fadi Constantine from London in 2008 raised the Lebanese restaurant’s status from staple to standout. El Karim means “the generous” in Lebanese, which is a pretty good indication that you shouldn’t leave the place hungry. Start with a trio of dips $14 then try pomegranate-marinated baked lamb $16 or one of several excellent vegetarian options, such as falafel-like pumpkin kibbe $13. Seven spice lamb pie $17 is a winter warmer — and a winner. Banquets (vegetarian $30 per person or full banquet $40 per person) are excellent value. With lots of groups dining there , the place can get pretty lively, especially at the weekend.

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EL MANARA

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

Unless you’re a big fan of wood-panelled walls and bare tables you don’t go to El Manara for ambience. No, you go there for the warm welcome and arguably the best falafels in Lakemba as well as halal Lebanese meat delights that include lamb kebabs, spicy sausages and smoky, succulent barbecued chicken. You can get it all on the mixed plate groaning under the weight of falafels, homous, tabouli, chicken, lamb kebab, kafta and kebbe $15, easily enough for two. For something smaller, homous with meat $10 is outstanding, cheap and very satisfying. Whatever you have will be accompanied by a multi-hued side of hot pink pickle,  mint, olives, tomato and peppers. Mahalabia (rice pudding) $2.50 is a fine finish. Drop in for a wholesome breakfast of foule, broadbean dip $6, or fatteh, chickpeas with crispy bread, yoghurt and peanuts $7 — like everything else, fresh as it gets.

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EL PHOENICIAN

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

This Parramatta institution ticks all the boxes for a great night out: a sleek interior with excellent service, authentic food and live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. Any one of the three banquets $46/$49/$65 will ensure you are still around for the bellydancers at 9pm. The banquets come with dips, salads, grilled meats and platters of cold and hot mezze. Platters on their own (from $33 per person) could be the other way to go. If doing the choosing yourself, bundle together a mix of makanek, spicy sausages with a dash of lemon $18; sambousik, minced lamb and pinenuts wrapped in a fine pastry $14/$24; and maybe haloumi $18. King prawns $38 or chicken skewers on the grill go down well for a main. It’s a great all-round experience and a wonderful taste of Lebanese culture, though prepare for a bit of noise.

 

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GEBRAN LEBANESE CUISINE

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

A suitable venue for parties and celebrations, Gebran offers a choice of casual eating downstairs, a party atmosphere upstairs, dining and puffing on nagiles in the courtyard or booking the private dining room, which can hold 25 revellers. As always, if you’re a group, banquets are the easy way out: choose between the Deluxe $39 (minimum two) and the Royal $55 (minimum four), both offering a steady procession of dips, salads, pastries, pickles and meats that will keep you nibbling for hours. Of course, there’s an a la carte list of all the Lebanese classics to order individually, including seafood dishes such as the seafood mezza (deepfried whitebait with tarator sauce $16.50, garlic prawns $24, and barbecued prawn skewers $24.50) and a traditional samke harrah, fish fillet with tahini sauce $26. There’s bellydancing action on Friday and Saturday nights, too.

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MEZZA GRILL

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

Lebanese restaurants on the northern beaches are few and far between, so this charming little eatery stands out like a beacon to peninsula diners craving the garlic, lemon and charcoal flavours of a hot Lebanese grill. The premises have a warm, contemporary feel and the menu presents a huge range of traditional dishes. As suggested by the name, dishes are designed to be shared. The classic Lebanese fish dish samke harrah, marinated grilled snapper fillet $34, is all fresh Mediterranean flavours. Save yourself the effort of choosing with a banquet $35–$55, which will include all manner of dips, fried mezze, salads and shish (skewers of meat). With bellydancing on Friday and Saturday nights, this place can get lively.

 

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SAFI MIDDLE EASTERN DINING

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

It’s a not-so-Middle-Eastern-looking interior, with cool, clean lines and only a smattering of artefacts from the homeland to give it context, but the menu is direct from Beirut. The size of the banquets ($25 at lunch, $35 at dinner) is inversely proportional to the restaurant’s smallish space, with the evening feast rolling out no fewer than 14 mezze (relish the dips, cauliflower, potato kibbeh and olive pastry), plus sweets and traditional Arabic coffee. A specialty is muhammara dip, a spicy blend of walnuts, capsicum and chilli $11.50, perfect for bread mopping. Mixed platters $16 are popular at lunchtime, with dips, falafels, vine leaves, shish tanoak (tender chicken kebabs) with garlic sauce and kefta (minced lamb) kebab, but you could get away with a lemony spinach pocket $11 and still get that hit of authenticity.

 

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SAHRA

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

Dark wooden furniture, lanterns and views of the Parramatta River make this Lebanese restaurant a pleasure to dine in. Old fables scrawled on the walls put you in the mood to enjoy the moment, which might begin with baba ganouj, smoky and rich eggplant dip $10 best eaten lathered on oregano bread, or Egyptian dukkah $9, crunchy grains of pistachios and spices that stick to olive-oil-dunked bread. Ordering the harem’s banquet $43 takes the effort out of choosing. Prepare for a plethora of entrees followed by grilled skewers of lamb and chicken, and the delectable sambousek pastry of spiced lamb and pine nuts. For dessert, try housemade aysh al-saraya $12, which means “bread of the sultan’s palace” — a milky bread pudding with sweet syrup. Book a table now.

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SUMMERLAND

Cuisine: Pizza,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese,Lebanese

A typical Lebanese eatery set up for groups and big parties, two-generation family-owned Summerland, which got itself a style makeover a couple of years ago, has been feeding the hordes that flock here at the weekend for the great-value food and live entertainment, usually bellydancing or a singer. Though there is always the option to dine a la carte, most of the happy revellers at the white-clothed tables are having — indeed are encouraged to have — the banquet, which features the lauded house-baked bread fresh from the oven to accompany all the dips, aged cheese, falafels, salads, barbecued meats, chicken, sausage and kefte you could possible stuff in, finishing with an Arabic coffee and a sweet or some fruit $35. The addition of seafood brings it to $45.

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