The first time I had a lamb shish from Phoenician Falafel, a little Lebanese eatery on Kent Tce, I couldn't stop thinking about it for a week, until I finally gave in and went back for another. Things haven't changed much since then: on Thursday night, I went to Phoenician for dinner; woke up Friday morning with lamb shish in my dreams; by Saturday afternoon I was back there for lunch.
So, the lamb shish ($10). Not your average lamb kebab. Chunks of juicy, marinated lamb, cooked to order over a grill behind the counter, wrapped in a thin but airy pita bread along with lettuce, tomato, gherkins, and just enough hummus to hold it all together - but somehow, all together, it's one of the heavenliest things I've eaten. Thursday's was no exception; although it was E who had ordered it, I found myself sneaking bites almost every time he put it down.
In the spirit of trying something new, I had ordered E's usual, the sojak ($8). This was a few pieces of spicy Lebanese sausage, oblong and flattened a little, grilled to order and served simply with sliced tomato and a generously sized gherkin. Nothing complicated about this one, but the pared-back presentation showcased the flavours of the sausage beautifully. Juicy, with a little crunchy crust, the meat was savoury and spicy with a slow lingering heat and the gherkin and tomato provided a pleasant textural contrast.
So I was smitten, once again, by Phoenician's offerings. It isn't hard to see why I went back, on Saturday afternoon, alone, with lamb shish in my heart but keen to try something new. I'm glad I did: the chicken shawarma ($10) is another force to be reckoned with. Tender pieces of seasoned chicken were wrapped in pita bread with gherkins, salad and tahini. Oh, the tahini! The almost-smoky nuttiness of that sauce combined with the mild yet fragrant spices seasoning the chicken was profoundly wonderful.
Phoenician Falafel also do a pretty damn good baklava ($2.50). It's made with cashews which give it a distinctive flavour, and there's just enough rose syrup to give it a hint of sticky sweetness, though it's far from soggy. Truly swoon-worthy.
Phoenician Falafel isn't your typical kebab joint, and I almost feel it unfair to call it that. You don't get a choice from a long list of sauces or a counter-full of toppings; what you order is what you get, pretty much how the proprietors want to serve it. And, judging by the mouthwatering creations coming out of their little kitchen, they certainly know what they're doing. You may find it strange that for a place with "falafel" in the name, I've only mentioned meat dishes, but I've been so blown away by the quality of their meat-based choices that I keep going back for more. (I do have a vegetarian friend who had a less-than-great experience with their falafel kebab, which I kind of don't want to believe, but will have to check it out for myself soon)
This is not a place for the late-night Courtenay Place crowd seeking an alcohol-soaking feed at 4am (they close at 11pm on weekends). It is the place for those seeking great, unpretentious food in a casual atmosphere (or to take away - there aren't many seats). Check it out. And try the lamb shish. You'll be glad you did.
10 Kent Tce
(04) 385 9997
Mon-Wed 11:30am-9:30pm; Thu-Sat 11:30am-11pm; closed Sun.
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