Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Everybody’s had that passionate argument before, screaming at their mates as they drunkenly stumble down Cleveland St, furiously scrunching at the paper bag encasing their longneck. Friendships have been lost over the endless quest to figure out which kebab store is better: Fatima’s or Abdul’s? Which dirty oil, dusty carpet, microwave using Lebanese institution is superior?

Those wishing to avoid that argument in the future can head around the corner, where Zahli recently opened on Elizabeth St. Zahli is clean, bright and modern. It’s like Fatima’s and Abdul’s had a baby who; went to finishing school, got rich and built a mansion next to mum and dads to rub its successes in their faces. The menu boasts ‘modern middle eastern’ but really this means ‘the same food you can get at most Lebanese restaurants but served very nicely on a plate that’s quite lovely’.

All the classics are here – the colourful pickles are great, the hommos and baba ghannouj nice and rich, the fried bread in the middle of the table as addictive as it is immediately replaced once you’ve finished it. The only misfire is the fattoush, which was too chunky and had too much capsicum. The mixed mezza plate more than made up for the fattoush, the ladies fingers, falafel, kibbeh and sambousik are all fresh and light, without that dank, old oil aftertaste.

Mains are where you’ll find a lot of dishes that aren’t found around the corner, among the mixed grill options are mjadra (lentils and rice), samki harra (grilled barramundi with nuts and tahini) and garlic prawns for some reason.

If memories of sitting on the floor at Fatima’s and awkwardly avoiding the gaze of the belly dancer as she knocks your tabouleh off the table have scarred you from returning to Fatima’s or Abdul’s, walk that extra hundred metres and spend that extra ten bucks a head at Zahli.

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