Directory

@ HOME THAI CUISINE

Cuisine: Thai

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled into a takeaway-only hole-in-the-wall as you weave your way through the cramped entrance of @home Thai Cuisine. Within seconds, a beaming waitress appears and you’re steered upstairs to the no-fuss indoor or outdoor seating. The balcony is the obvious choice for eating while people-watching bustling locals below. Standout starters include Peking duck pancakes with hoisin sauce (four pieces) $8.90 and mixed entree $7.90, the perfect plate for sharing old favourites. The order of gai yang (barbecued chicken) with sweet chilli sauce caught the eye of a nearby patron, who promptly followed suit. Main meal highlights include massaman curry of veal $18.90 and prawn pad thai $14.90, a simple twist on a classic. This unpretentious hidden treasure offers oversized portions at pauper prices.

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ALMUSTAFA

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese

This extraordinary place is packed and pumping over two floors most nights, especially weekends, but instead of just churning it out Madame Mustafa has one of the most interesting Lebanese menus in town. For instance, last time we asked, she only made kebe neyeh, little raw minced lamb crushed wheat, herbs and chilli rissoles $20, the dish every Lebanese mum is judged on, to order; now it’s on the menu. As is mulukhiyah, simmered Jew’s mallow with steamed chicken or lamb $28 (in season), a dish we’ve never seen in Sydney. All the classics are there, including a great fattoush salad $14.50 and nine delicious choices for vegetarians. Plus, there’s a mezze menu and banquets from $38 for two. Mustafa is a must.

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BAJA CANTINA

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican

This strangely tastefully decorated CalMex joint (no sombreros!) is always chockers with Mex lovers having fun eating beans and drinking beer, either in the restaurant or in the beer garden. The restaurant makes its own dips, including guacamole $8 served with corn chips, and plays around with the cuisine with a starter such as masa and ancho chilli-coated squid in a passionfruit sauce $10. But then it’s back to tradition with the big enchilada — eight inches (whatever they are) of corn tortilla with shredded chicken, beef, carnitas or cheese and beans baked in a guajillo chilli sauce and smothered in cheese. There’s sangria if you’re not into beer. Don’t forget to book on weekends. 

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DARBAR

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian

In southern India, if you’re a meat eater, you’re a second-class citizen, often relegated to the “non-vegetarian” dining room. At this mainly southern Indian restaurant, housed in a lovely sandstone building in Glebe, entrees are headed “VEG” and “NON-VEG”. But you don’t have to leave the room to enjoy saffron sahi chicken cooked in the tandoor with saffron mint and coriander $13.90 while your neighbour raids the VEG for beetroot bonda, beetroot and potato balls $11.90. When you get around to mains, all prejudice is gone and hot and sour lamb vindaloo $17.90 lives happily with vegetable biriyani $12.90. There’s an extensive and eclectic dessert menu and, curiously, only liqueurs on the list of alcoholic beverages.

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MAMAK VILLAGE

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian,Malaysian

Walking in, it looks like there are only two tables but upstairs a cosy little balcony awaits and there are a few more seats inside with air-conditioning. To go with the name, there’s a bit of a tropical village theme, with some bamboo screens, timber furniture and cute little “banana leaf” plastic plates. Roti canai $4 comes with chicken and daal curries and a mild but full-flavoured chilli sambal. Pandan chicken $6 is a moist, salty morsel that’s prepared wrapped in a pandan leaf. Nasi lemak $10 with a beef rendang is sweet and a little spicy — a great match with the coconut rice. For what you get, the prices are excellent, but just remember to have cash on hand.

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NA ZDROWIE

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian,Malaysian,Polish

Who would have thought? A Polish restaurant fitting so well into Glebe. Well, it’s not without antecedents. Who remembers Rasputin? But Na Zdrowie is way better than that with its faux-rustic interior and food served on beautiful Polish crockery (it’s called Boleslawiec) — and what food! A favourite is the clear, delicate barszcz $9.90 (borscht to you), unlike any version we’ve tasted, with mushroom dumplings floating in it. Pierogi (dumplings) are special and come in three flavours, boiled or fried $15.90/$19.90 — a mixed platter may be a good idea. Our favourite is the bigos $19.60, whose description as smoked pork and sauerkraut does it no justice. If you’re not familiar with Polish food (that would be most of us), go for the set menu $45.

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RED CHILLI HOT POT

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian,Malaysian,Polish,Szechuan,Chinese

This is your one-stop shop for hot pot, Szechuan style. Wall-to-wall rosewood furniture and a cavernous atmosphere at Red Chilli Hot Pot offer a peek into a typical provincial Chinese eating house and a spice onslaught to remodel your eyebrows. This third outpost of the Red Chilli empire revolves around selecting your broth ($14 per person) from the bustling waitstaff and then choosing from an inventory of familiar (beef $8, pork $7) or challenging (pig’s kidney $5) meats. Word to the wise: unless you have an iron gut, go for a 50/50 broth to provide some respite from the Szechuan pepper-laced pork stock. A supporting woodland of mushrooms $7, tofu skin $4 and quail eggs $5 leaves little room for dessert but you didn’t come for that.
 

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ROXANNE

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian,Malaysian,Polish,Szechuan,Chinese,Modern Australian

A real charmer with its bordello-style crimson curtains, chandeliers, bar and — more importantly — accomplished food from an eclectic menu, Roxanne has proved a stayer on the Glebe eat street strip, surviving the infamous roadworks horror. There’s no particular theme to the ever-changing menu, which might yield a lemon and rare beef salad with Vietnamese sauce $8 to start before moving to a risotto with roasted vegetables and Napoli sauce $17 (there are always good vego options) or a Cajun-style seafood hotpot $26 brimming with king prawns, scallops, squid and fish. Desserts, all $8, change constantly — ask on the night. Tip for romantics: a good first date/anniversary/proposal restaurant.

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SAIGON SAIGON

Cuisine: Thai,Lebanese,Mexican,Indian,Malaysian,Polish,Szechuan,Chinese,Modern Australian,Vietnamese

There’s a lot to like about this gleaming red jewel bang in the middle of Glebe’s eat street where the food is good, the portions generous and the prices unexpectedly low, especially for a place where you dine off crisp white cloths in elegant surroundings. There are two ways to go: have a mixed entree (tailor your own from the menu) or choose the superb Vietnamese pancake for two, banh xeo, both $18.50. After that, there are many ways to Saigon Saigon heaven: duck salad with slivers of roast duck in a tangle of Vietnamese greens $17.50 is one; a rich and aromatic pork claypot another. And then there are the famous and famously cheap softshell crabs with salt-and-pepper butter sauce $23. Tofu options, like a tofu and vegetable hotpot $15.50, are particularly good, too.

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SPICY SICHUAN

This large space evokes a city yum cha den but the cuisine and service reflect a different region of China altogether: the central province of Szechuan. Known for the use of chilli and the unique, prickly Szechuan pepper, this cuisine celebrates spicy, sweet, salty and numbing flavours, all showcased through menu photos here. The choice can be overwhelming but the staff are happy to point you in the right direction. Order a Tsingtao beer and get your bearings with pan-fried dumplings, which arrive crisp outside and juicy within $9.80. Kung pao chicken $15.80 is not as tangy as we’d expect but lamb ribs in spicy sauce $18.80 are a treat with surprisingly lean meat. Dry-fried diced chicken with chilli $18.80 is a touch oily but flavoursomely fiery. A good option if you’re looking to step outside your Cantonese comfort zone.

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