Ah Jasmin, this post was always going to be a labour of love. Back when I was studying, Jasmin was a regular haunt for me. It’s a place that I often spoke about with a reverence often reserved for religious deities, and it’s the one thing that got me through some of the darker times at university. Where else could you feed yourself to the point of bursting, and then only pay $7 for the whole meal?! Needless to say, I really liked Jasmin.
Since I’ve moved to Canberra, my trips back to Sydney take place over a single weekend, and with so much food on offer, I tend to succumb to the hype and simply go to the new hip cafe with some sort of theme or swearword on the menu. Well, this time I decided once and for all that it was time I went back to my roots, and here’s the results of that journey. It involves a lot of eating, a tiny bit of crying, and a lot of takeaway. Enjoy!
I should note, my old favourite haunt was Jasmin 2 in Lakemba. However, here I’m eat at Jasmin 1 in Chester Hill. This was purely due to convenience, and based on my experience here, if these two aren’t part of the same franchise then someone needs to sue someone because this was exactly as I remember it.
Alright, so when you first go into Jasmin, like any decent Lebanese place, you’re greeted with a basket load of complimentary lebanese bread and condiments including some garlic paste, chilli sauce, and various veggies like pickles, onion, radish etc. These are bottomless, so don’t go easy on them, but when it comes to Jasmin, you’ve always got to be cautious about stomach space, you don’t want to waste your stomach on these, as good as they are. There’s always a temptation to get the bread, dip it in the garlic sauce and just start munching away but try to avoid doing this. Whilst it may be delicious, you’ll regret it as soon as the mountains of meat come out, so keep this in mind! One of the things that I’d like to pay particular attention to is the amazing garlic sauce. It’s kind of pasty, almost like the glue that you played with as a kid, and just absolutely full of flavour. A lot of people think the garlic sauce will make or break a Lebanese restaurant, and they are absolutely right.
First up, an entree of sorts, the Vine leaves ($12). These were like any good vine leaf, and you got a surprising amount of them considering the price. I’ll try my hardest not to really mention value for money from here on out, but let me just say now, that I’m constantly really impressed with the incredible value for money that Jasmin has or Lebanese food in general. Ok, won’t mention it again.
These are easily one of my favourite set of vine leaves, but to be honest, the range between the best and worst vine leaves I’ve ever had is not a massive one. One thing I really appreciated was that they weren’t super sour, unlike most other vine leaves that I’ve had. These vine leaves were really balanced flavour. The texture was really pleasant as well, it avoided the regular vine leaf trap of being really mushy. There’s not a lot of things that need to go right to have a really enjoyable vine leaf, and the ones here at Jasmin really do hit the mark. Definitely would order again!
As someone who loves meat and eats it constantly, this is really odd for me to admit, but the Falafel ($8) from Jasmin is up there as one of my favourite dishes from Lebanese cuisine. Weird story, so back when I first had the falafel here, (it comes as a part of the mixed plate, which we ordered below) I started craving falafel all the time and ordered it whenever possible. This meant that if I ever went to a kebab or takeaway shop, I’d invariably walk away with some falafel. That’s around the time when I realised that the majority of falafels out there are just plain bad (sorry kebab and takeaway shops). It made me appreciate the falafel here at Jasmin so much more. There has only been one time where I got a falafel from a non restaurant that I really enjoyed and I feel that needs to be acknowledged, so shout out to Street Falafel in Brisbane!
So I guess it’s time I talk about the falafel here at Jasmin. The main thing you’ll notice is how wonderfully crisp and crunchy it is. Most falafels you get from takeaway joints are either rock hard all the way through, or disappointingly chewy. The falafel here at Jasmin is crunchy on the outside, but once you get through that tough outer shell, it’s airy and fluffy on the inside, much like a Vietnamese bread roll. As far as flavour goes, the falafel here does a great job of not tasting too oily, it’s light and makes you feel like you’re eating something that could be considered somewhat good for you even though I’m sure it isn’t. The falafels at Jasmin comes with a really delightful hummus that takes it all to another level. Quick tip, the hummus goes great with the Lebanese bread above, so be liberal with it. Plus, I’m sure they’ll refill it for you if you ask!
Our first “main” of the night was the Chicken shawarma ($13). So, first things first, the way I eat Lebanese food (I’m not Lebanese, so there’s every chance that this is wrong) is that I’ll take the bread, coat the whole thing in garlic paste, put whatever meat on it, and eat it like a pseudo soft shell taco. It’s a bit undignified but it’s just the quickest way to deliciousness. As you might be able to tell from the above picture, this is literally just diced up bits of beautifully BBQ’d chicken, herbed and flavoured up, then just dumped on a plate. Might not win any awards for presentation, but if there is one thing that I could eat until the end of time, it’d probably be this. You may have noticed that the tzatziki sauce on the side there, that doesn’t actually come with this dish. It’s the sauce for the mansaaf prawn dish which I’ll talk about in a second, we got it a little mixed up when we were taking the pictures.
Not sure what to say about the actual chicken, it’s got a bit of spice to it, but definitely wouldn’t consider it a spicy dish. Oh! It’s kind of like an ultra high quality version of chicken kebab meat that you get from a kebab place like TC’s. I know that kebab meat is a bit controversial, some people really hate how “low quality” the meat is, how it’s indistinguishable from anything else. Others love how heavily flavoured it is and don’t seem to mind perceived quality issues. I personally subscribe to the second option, flavour trumps all, so if you can cook up a chicken gizzard and make it taste amazing, then I’m going to want to eat it.
Up next is the famous Mixed plate ($17). This was my first foray into the loving world of Jasmin and ‘real’ Lebanese food and it’s something I’ll never forget. So, what do you get for $17?
- two falafels
- a grilled chicken skewer
- fried kebbe (lamb puff type things)
- a grilled beef skewer
- kafta (flat beef layer thing)
- a series of dips including garlic sauce, hommus (chickpea) and baba ghannouj (eggplant)
So as you can see, it’s quite a lot of food! You can’t really go wrong with this and I recommend this dish to everyone who comes to Jasmin. One cool thing about Jasmin is that there’s a full main version of everything that you get in this mix plate. So once you eat this once, if there’s something that you thought “damn I want a TON of that next time” then that’s entirely possible! It’s like a gateway drug, if that drug was more Jasmin.
As far as my opinion goes, I’d say the falafel is my favourite thing on this dish, it’s just so damn crispy, with the kebbe coming in at a close second. To be honest, if I explained this dish in any more detail, there’s a chance you’ll start to form an opinion on this dish without ordering it. I don’t want that, so I’m going to stop here. Yep, go try it.
Next up is the Mansaaf with prawns ($15). This is probably the only dish that we ordered which could be enjoyed fully without the Lebanese bread, since it comes with a helping of rice. This reminds me a lot of a massive Biryani, with the meat and rice cooked all together and then piled into a lovely little pile of food in the middle of the plate.
The rice was really heavily flavoured in a way that can only be described as Middle Eastern. The prawns themselves were cooked absolutely perfectly. To be honest I was a bit concerned about ordering prawns from a place like Jasmin. Nothing against Jasmin, but prawns are one thing that’s pretty damn easy to under or overcook, and Jasmin doesn’t seem like a place with the delicacy to get prawns absolutely right. Well, let me say now, I’m a giant idiot and they cooked the prawns perfectly. The prawns were also really heavily flavoured and quite spicy too, not too much to be a bother, but definitely had a kick that you would notice. Between the rice and the prawns, this dish got quite salty and flavoursome after awhile, but once I started making liberal use of the provided tzatziki (in the chicken shawarma picture) everything balanced out exceptionally well. This was a really pleasant surprise.
As we were walking in, we saw on the front door that Jasmini was doing a Fried chicken and chips ($15) special and we couldn’t really say no to fried chicken, so here we are. As you can see, an absolutely massive heaping of food, so be sure to have your appetite ready before you tackle this one.
The chicken here is about as far from Korean fried chicken as you can get. This might be disappointing for some, but while I do enjoy Korean fried chicken as much as the next person, I do have a soft spot for the American variety, which the chicken here more closely resembles. The chicken here at Jasmin has a really subtle flavour and does not have a ton of spices like anything you’d get at KFC. The deep fried coating is nice and light, with little bits spiralling off into crispy goodness. One thing I really liked about this chicken was how stubbornly the skin held onto the meat itself. Unlike the many KFC memories I have, where the skin falling off the chicken before you’ve even opened the box.
I personally think that this chicken really benefitted from having copious amounts of garlic sauce and hommus around, which made it absolutely delicious, and definitely a unique fried chicken experience. As far as recommendations go, my preference would easily be for the more traditional Lebanese dishes above, but if you’ve got a hankering for fried chicken, you could do a lot worse than this.
So that’s it! A massive meal full of delicious dining nostalgia. My time at Jasmin was as good as it has ever been, and if you’re a fan of good food that’s real, then I cannot recommend it enough. We ended up with I think about five takeaway containers from the above meal. FIVE. They didn’t charge us for the boxes or anything either. Amazing.
174 Waldron Road, Chester Hill
Monday to Sunday
8:30am to 9:30pm