Al Shami is that handicapped child with a heart of gold.
Deep in a Middle-Eastern brunch addiction, a good score needs a tasty feed married to either genuine innovation or ridiculous value. If Kepos (last week) is classy, modernised and almost pretentious, then AS is honest, cheap and unaesthetic.
9am Sunday – no long-waits on Crown Street behind hipsters in skinny jeans sipping a 3/4 almond latte. Out front a middle-aged Oriental in a wife-beater is juggling five pizza boxes, chugging a beer whilst spitting at my wife. Impressive and appalling. Across the road is 99c/kg bananas. Is this where Aldi produce goes to die?
Empty restaurant, waitress from Iran very charming. DSLR soft lense is no match for unnatural lighting and rubber table mat. We do our best.
Breakfast menu with unknowns (Foul, Fatteh), semi-knowns (Labneh, Tahini) and Lebanese cliches (Hommous, Falafel). Less adventurous may hide in Shakshuka or scrambled eggs (with lamb).
Pricing encourages irrational over-ordering. For four of us, such circumstance is a fast-track food coma and there is no shame. In fact, the chef (Ali) sends the whole menu our way in retaliation to my curiosity. Legend.
Shakshuka – $12. No ingredient description but needs no introduction.
Order one, receive two, eat two. Quite distinct from the inner city counterparts; no beans, no chorizo and no tomato base. Does it work?
Resounding YES – perfectly caramelised onions below three baked eggs! That’s right, egg count is 1.5x Redfern and 3x Bondi. The onion plus crispy egg combo is a proven winner in a sausage sizzle fundraiser and even more effective in the scalding iron shell. Yolk ooze and chorizo is not missed. 9/10.
Vegetarian platter – $14. Mix of falafel, hummus, fattouch salad and tabouli.
The word ‘fat-touch’ excites me much more than soy chips on Balsamic-drenched cucumber. Next is the falafel balls; nicely crunchy and not oily. I’ve had better in Enmore (Shenkin). Hommous not even close to Kepos & Co, being a little grainy. Nonetheless, good synergy with baked eggs.
Scrambled egg with lamb – $12
Effective enough, not worth reviewing. Conceivably a good hangover cure.
Foul and Foul with Tahini – $8 plus $8. Small version is shown.
Waitress explains ‘foul‘ is not a distasteful rugby tackle but actually a bean variety. Thrown with tomatoes, tonnes of olive oil, it’s a classic Middle East staple. Desperate to enjoy this, all I taste is soft beans and oil.
Replicating this from pantry leftovers suggests no future repeat order. The twin has tahini, which acts a cleanser.
Arabic street food falls one place below NY bagels on my int’l cheap-eats. The Subway motto ‘freshly baked‘ is not adopted by the kitchen in offering free flat bread. Mild disappointment.
After 2x baked eggs and a proliferation of authentic assaults on my palate, I’m in food-coma territory. Westmead Hospital is conveniently close by for recovering diners. Deep value dining near its best:
(♦ = terrible, ♦♦♦♦♦ = superb)
– Food (♦♦♦) – simple, hearty but hit-and-miss. Stand-out baked eggs.
– Value (♦♦♦♦♦) – $14 pp and a food-coma? Completely foreign concept to me.
– Other (♦♦♦♦) – lack of presentation subsidied by integrity.
– Overall (♦♦♦♦) – not quite ready to buy property in Merrylands.
Will I be returning?
Not worth a stand-alone drive, but conceivably if in the area. Please try.