Rowda Ya Habibi – I spent a bit of time mucking around in Google translate trying to work out what the name acutally means but gave up when Mr Google reckoned it was Swahili. I’m pretty sure it’s not, almost a hundred percent.
We are back in Sydney with the Davo’s after a week’s holiday gallivanting around the hinterland, during which Ian and Strop spent a fair bit of time discussing the ins and outs of punctuation (Davo’s with an apostrophe to replace the missing letters apparently, not Davos because he is a greek bloke, or possibly a Dr Who arch-villain). Oh, and I should avoid brackets (as their verticality interrupts the flow of the reader’s eyeball) whereas dashes – being horizontal – are oriented to present less resistance.
So on Sunday evening we decided to resume the quest and get back into some semblance of numerical order by visiting number 101. Rowda Ya Habibi has been a bit of a favourite for quick meals and takeaways for a long time. It’s an unusual establishment with a pretty standard looking takeaway place at the front, a large dining room in the back and, apparently, a banquet room with on-floor seating arrangements upstairs.
We usually don’t get further than the takeaway section at the front, which is overseen by a lovely woman who welcomes everyone with a loud “Hello my darling. What can I get for you?” She is supported by a chorus of old people who sit at the corner table, make comments, read the paper and help out when needed. It is a warm, friendly, family kind of place – perfectly fine as a takeaway.
Tonight though we are trying out the restaurant out the back where there are tablecloths. The large room is empty when we arrive, and stays that way for most of the evening. Out the front we can hear the takeaway section doing a steady trade in falafel rolls and shawarmas.
Not being able to find any wines from the Bekaa Valley at the local bottle shop, Ian has chosen a New Zealand white and an Oz red to accompany the meal. It’s a Lebanese restaurant so we order some baba ganoush and hummus to start while we make our way through the menu. The conversation ranges near and far. Lebanese wines, Lebanese wars, Terry Waite, hostages, and Israeli archeological sites all get a mention. Then there is something about the way smartphones are ruining the art of pub conversations by making it too easy to check the facts, but I don’t manage to get all the details typed into my iphone before the food arrives.
We have ordered a variety of dishes to share including Strop’s special favourite fried cauliflower, grilled chicken and kofta, as well as something called foul which turns out to be broad beans and is very nice. But overall we find the food disappointing, ok as a takeaway, but for a proper sit-down meal it was less than we hoped, less than we’ve come to expect at other Lebanese restaurants. Which is sad because we had been very fond of the whole idea of Rowda Ya Habibi. I suppose that is the risk of going to so many restaurants, the harsh light of comparison doesn’t leave any room for fondly held delusions – it’s a bit like smartphones and pub conversations, I suppose.
We ordered baklava and turkish delight for desert, trying to end the night on a high note. They are ok, and the bill is very reasonable.
We’ll probably still visit for the odd mixed plate or Strop’s favourite cauliflower roll, but it won’t be quite the same.