224 The Boulevard
Punchbowl, NSW 2196
It’s been literally yonks since I’ve had a good Middle Eastern meal, and as I’m only a few weeks away from moving out of Sydney’s southern suburbs – one of the best locations for no-frills Lebanese food in the city – I was keen to use that time to check out some of the more popular restaurants in the area. And if you prowl a little around the internet, you’ll see that Al Yasmin is a name that comes up frequently on the best-of lists.
Having expected a cramped, fluorescent-lit space, the reality came as a pleasant surprise. Not only is the space brightly lit, clean, and spacious, it even had some rather pretty paintings of desert scenes hung along the length of the dining room. Service is typical of what I’ve come to expect at places like these – brisk and no-nonsense, but nevertheless hospitable and friendly in its own way.
Like all Middle Eastern restaurants worth its hummus, Al Yasmin gifts each table with a generous plate of pickles, basket of bread, house-made chilli sauce, and my all-time favourite dip of toum – a rich, garlicky fluff that tastes good on anything you order. The flatbread is also much better than usual; instead of being semi-stale crud from a packet, this was actually soft and pliant, and I ended up taking the leftovers home because it seemed too good to waste.
I had ordered the Labneh ($10) under the impression that one platter and one salad between two would not be enough. And despite making the same mistake on half a dozen previous occasions, I never seem to learn just how generous these platters tend to be. The labneh ended up largely untouched as a result, but was instead taken home in a plastic container, where I proceeded to happily work my way through the generous serve of thick, creamy, and tangy yoghurt over the next few days.
Lo and behold, the Mixed Platter ($21). This seriously had it all – grilled chicken, kofta, lamb shish kebab, falafel, and kibbeh, accompanied by generous amounts of tabouli, hummus, and baba ganouj.
Although there was nothing that specifically stood out on the platter, everything was definitely up to scratch, making for a wonderfully satisfying meal. My top tip? Smash up the crispy falafel and stuff it into a pita, along with toum, pickles, and tabouli – it rivals any kebab for flavour.
And just to get a little more vegetables in, a bowl of Fattoush Salad ($10), made with fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, shards of crispy fried pita, held together by a tangy, fruity dressing of pomegranate molasses.
Al Yasmin is exactly what it says on the package – a casual restaurant for hearty, no-frills Middle-Eastern dining. There’s not much to say about it beyond that, but judging by the solid crowds of families and friends that filled the restaurant on a rainy weeknight, no more really needs to be said. Personally I’m more of a fan of Jasmin Lebanese Restaurant just a suburb over, but if it’s Lebanese food you’re after, you won’t be disappointed by Al Yasmin.
Rating: 13/20 – hummus bae.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.