If fighting for the last mouthful of hummos isn’t something you’ve had to do lately, it means you haven’t been to Zahli in Surry Hills. At the Cleveland end of Elizabeth Street, this Middle Eastern restaurant is a reminder that Lebanese food extends far beyond a greasy kebab. Owner Restaurateur Mohammad Issmail says he wanted a restaurant that didn’t look like a typical Lebanese restaurant – the clean, simple restaurant displays a series of aquamarine tiles lining otherwise bare grey walls. The marble bar, waiters in white collared shirts and industrial style lighting exudes an edgy, modern vibe. One glance at the menu, however, and it’s back-to-basics with traditional and authentic Lebanese fare, as it should be.
Kick things off with a mixed dip platter and ease yourself into a Lebanese state of mind. Creamy hummus, a dollop of tart, house made labneh (yoghurt cheese) and a smoky, textural baba ghannouj can all be soaked up with fresh pita pieces. A selection of hot mezza features falafel, light and well spiced and fried cauliflower, the perfect vessel for lashings of tahini sauce.
The fattoush salad, glammed up with radish and capsicum and studded with pomegranate seeds, is decidedly moorish while the samki harra, which features a barramundi fillet, coated in a thick tahini sauce and sprinkled with nuts and herbs, is deservedly a house speciality. Unanimously, the table favourite was an iron potful of sizzling garlic prawns, doused in a rich tomato, chilli and garlic sauce that begged to be soaked up with pita.