Review: Rowda Ya Habibi (Newtown)

Before tucking in this review, remember there’s a Xmas book giveaway going on. Type in a comment for a chance to win, you have time until this Friday 16th at noon.

Back to our regular program… Sunday was a crazy day. The clear, sunny sky turned into a black roof and all of the sudden it started pouring down. My sister and I met at Rowda Ya Habibi, which was pretty empty for weekend at lunchtime. I’d usually take it as a bad sign but in this case I blamed it on the weather. I mean, several trustworthy food bloggers and eating guides have praised this Lebanese place, so it can’t be bad, right? Wrong.

The front of the restaurant is like other budget takeaway joints, with ready-to-go food in a glass display and a few tables. There’s a sign annoucing a cushion room upstairs (more suitable for functions, I guess) and a dining room at the back, which was our chosen spot. The furniture and decor look worn out but I’ve learned that some of the best eateries ain’t fancy at all.

There are a few banquet options on a blackboard, and a la carte menu, both with reasonable prices. As always, we choose from the latter. I ordered the shish kebab (tender lamb fillet pieces grilled on skewers) and Gladys the kafta (lamb minced with parsley and onion grilled on skewers). Given the lack of salads we ordered a side of fried cauliflower and a Lebanese omelette (egg, parsley, mint and garlic, all combined and pan fried) to share.

Among the first things to arrive at the table was a basket of complimentary Lebanese bread that was appreciated but remained almost untouched (Gladys had a piece). The fried cauliflower arrived too, but with mashed garlic instead of the sesame sauce announced in the menu. The florets were swimming in not-so-fresh-tasting oil.

Fried cauliflower

Fried cauliflower ($8.00)

In the middle of the table there was a plate with what I thought were complimentary falafels, until Gladys told me it was the Lebanese “omelette”. It was visibly crumbed so I took out the outer layer and tried the interior. It was dry and cakey, with lots of flour in it. Bummer! Why on Earth did they mention all the ingredients except the gluten-containing ones in the menu? I ate part of the red cabbage tossed with tahini that was in the middle of the plate, the highlight of the entire meal.

Lebanese omelette

Lebanese omelette ($8.00)

Moving on to the main dishes: the meats were served with a pale slice of tomato cut in half, on top of some more cabbage and with some mashed garlic on the side. My “tender” lamb fillet pieces were more on the chewy side and underseasoned. Gladys’ kafta was easier on the jaw but also needed some salt.

Shish kebab

Shish kebab ($12.00)

Kafta

Kafta ($12.00)

Lunch was small but felt heavy on our stomachs, even without all that bread.

Rowda Ya Habibi
101 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9557 5368


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