Time Out says
With the addition of modern Middle Eastern, this spicy pocket of Sydney is pretty much complete
Kensington Street is a playground for the indecisive diner. The Asian continent is thoroughly covered by Spice Alley’s lantern-lit lane, and Europe is well represented, but stepping into the Middle Eastern gap is Barzaari, and they’re packing a whole lot more into their kit bag than falafel. The second outing for Darryl Martin and Andrew Jordanou’s thoroughly modern riff on the hummus-loving region, housed within the Old Clare complex, is aimed squarely at the occasion dinner set. Not once-in-a-lifetime graduation event (though it could certainly fulfil the brief), but rather a nicer than average double date, a meet-the-parents, or a birthday shindig.
This isn’t the sort of place that’s winking at its origin story with souvenir décor or an oud-heavy soundtrack (classic rock is more their speed). The sleek industrial space is a neutral base that could just as easily be slinging barbecue or high-end Canto fare, but in this instance the focus is on the food from Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, which means you should prime your palate for a high-definition menu punctuated by intense treble pops from preserved lemon, garlic, sumac and harissa.
The bites list is very literal – each no more than a mouthful. But if you love tiny food with a big impact you could do worse things than order a little shell of pickled pink onion piped with white tarama and wearing a puffed rice cracker like an jaunty beret, given extra oceanic opulence from grated golden bottarga. Comparing the duck pastilla to a mini-sausage roll, while visually accurate, is woefully underselling the appeal of this densely packed pastry puck that you swipe through a glossy pool of date sauce.
Concentric circles of intense flavour start with a burnt molasses syrup (a cousin to a sticky balsamic in texture, if not taste), ringed by a thick labne and a moat of fig leaf oil. Their herbal, sour and sweet powers, when combined with the intense citrus aromatics of preserved Egyptian lemon peel, provide drama to fresh figs – all the dishes here lean saucy and shimmering with oil, so you’ll need a side of bread for mopping and sopping.
Get the spatchcock, deboned and swathed in vine leaves, but it will require a garlic pact before anyone starts swiping this juicy bird through the toum. And while there’s no denying the appeal of a fall-apart beef rib, such a fatty cut in yet more golden olive oil is a challenge to even the most ardent calorie lover. Enlist the help of blistered green beans served with bouncy pearl couscous, chilli and a little sea spray, the succulent marine vegetable without which no modern menu in Sydney is complete. Also consider a bottle of dry Turkish rosé for its fresh fruitiness – it’s one of only a couple of Middle Eastern drops on an otherwise globe-hopping menu that’s also partial to a craft brew.
It’s worth leaning into dessert here and ordering the kataifi chocolate cake, an elongated chocolate pudding hiding a molten core inside a protective crunchy shredded-wheat shell. It’s co-star is a surprisingly gentle bitter orange sorbet that shares the limelight instead of using brash citrus power to snatch at the last note of your meal. Nearly out of storage space? There's a sweets trolley with bite-sized items you can purchase individually.
Nowhere in Sydney are so many different cuisines packed into such a tight space, and here you’re getting alfresco night market vibes into the bargain instead of fluoro lighting and muzak. But the cherry on the top of this United Nations layer cake is the scale of price points. You can get a plate of dumplings for under a tenner at Spice Alley, a chopstick’s throw from one of Sydney’s most creative degustations at Automata. Champagne tastes happily rub alongside beer budgets here, but Barzaari takes the molten cake in the middle weight category, making the Kensington Street collection pretty much complete.