22 Civic Road
Auburn, NSW 2144
Over the last few years, Lebanese food has really made its way into my list of favourite comfort eats. The ubiquitousness of it in Sydney, combined with the overall quality of the food, has really cemented my love for falafel and garlic sauce (I was always a fan of grilled meats, so no credit for that one). And one of the oldest, as well as most popular places to get Lebanese food in Sydney would be Jasmin1, which has stood on the corner opposite Auburn station for more than 30 years.
I show up to these cheap and cheerful Lebanese restaurants expecting loudness, minimal ambience, and brisk but friendly service. Jasmin1 takes that to the next level, but not in a good way. The place was so packed it was as if covid has never been, and not only was there not staff available to greet us, there was literally zero sign as to where or how we should make ourselves known. I ended up practically tackling one of the staff (half of whom appear too young to work) in order to get a seat. The service, or rather lack thereof, combined with the crowded yet spartan interior lit with fluorescent lights, gave the ambience of a canteen rather than a restaurant. I’m usually pretty low-fuss when it comes to my cheap eats, but Jasmin1 really toes the line.
I’ve come to expect the Lebanese restaurants in Sydney to serve up a great plate of Pickles to go with the mains, so I was surprised at just how lacklustre Jasmin1’s offering was. Everything looked kind of old and sad, and tasted it too. Thankfully the packet of pita bread was still perfectly good, as were the tahini and garlic dips.
The grilled meats are always a good litmus test for the quality of a Lebanese restaurant, and the Small Mashawi ($14) gave it a red hot go. All three skewers were deliciously smoky and flavoursome; my favourite was the juicy lamb kofta, whilst Chris favoured the tender chicken shish, though admittedly all three (the third being a lamb skewer cooked to a lovely medium-rare) are well worth your time.
During my time in Sydney, I’ve come to love the Veggie Mixed Plate ($15), which I find to be an underappreciated gem at most Lebanese restaurants. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. The best of the smorgasbord was the cheese sambousek, which was a flaky pastry crescent filled with creamy parsley-flecked ricotta. The falafel, dips, and salad were reasonable, but definitely closer to average than good, and the fried cauliflower and eggplant were more akin to oily sponges than any kind of vegetable I would want to eat.
Thankfully, things made a comeback with the Fried Kibbeh ($12, 4pcs), which had a light casing and a moist centre of lamb and pine nuts, generously flavoured with cinnamon and just the right amount of lemon. If you’re not careful you could easily down the whole plate.
For a restaurant so well-established and popular, I had expected more from Jasmin1. I will happily concede that the meat dishes were some of the best I’ve had, but the veggie plate was so far from adequate that it really brought the whole experience down. Though I wouldn’t specifically not recommend Jasmin1, I do think it’s not good enough to justify the overly hectic experience.
Rating: 12/20 – jasmin-maybe-6 at best.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.