Freshly re-opened after being shuttered for a year and a half, Bar Tikram is one to add to your list. This outdoor venue, the only one at The Star that grants an alfresco experience, offers a tightly curated Middle-Eastern menu, and everything on offer earns its place. Inspired by his mum, come see what Chef Dany Kagan has in store for you.
My friend Lena and I are always on the lookout for fresh dining experiences, and this is one we couldn’t wait to get to. The menu is right up our alley with sauces and spices that elevate food without being fussy, and flavours that welcome in the warmer weather like a mate you haven’t seen in ages. We’ve got an elevated position sitting side-by-side (making sharing easier) at a table for four, with water glimpses across the street and an excellent people-watching vantage. Although the restaurant is considered an outdoor venue, there are some covered areas near the bar, along with long tables that are perfect for groups who want to sit together and socialise. Outdoor umbrellas keep the sun’s rays at bay should you wish, and clever cocktails will make sure you’re hydrated.
Sitting down, we get right down to business. And by that, I mean the business of ordering pretty much everything on the menu. We’ve been sticky-beaking other diners’ food while we sip our [very good] wines by the glass, and we haven’t seen a single thing we don’t want. Ordering is via a QR code at each table, but they’re happy to bring you a printed menu should you prefer that. The QR code works seamlessly, and I appreciate being able to pay when I order, so there’s no waiting for a cheque when it’s time to leave.
The food begins arriving, and quickly… we’re glad we nabbed that table for four – we need the space for our feast. We’ve ordered labneh ($14) and hummus bi tahini ($14) to start, along with the housemade fresh baked Lebanese bread (khebez) ($3 each). Can I just say that these two simple dishes are not to be underestimated when they’re done well? The hummus is perfectly smooth with generous amber lashings of smoked paprika oil, and the labneh is separated into three creamy puddles, each seasoned separately with za’atar, mint and olive. With the pickles they bring, turnip and pepper and gherkins, we’re off to a banging start.
The tabbouleh, though. If I could write a song to celebrate this tabbouleh ($18), I would. Often it has way too much parsley and lands with a bitterness and an unpleasant mum-said-to-eat-your-veggies severity. This one may be my favourite dish of the night. Baby gem lettuce frames finely chopped parsley (just the right amount!) cucumber, onion, pomegranate arils, tomato and a splash of citrus dressing. Can I recommend you try this, please? It pairs so well with the mains, too.
There’s a wood-fired oven here, and they sure know what to do with it; in fact, all of the main dishes come fresh out of this smoky goddess. Of the four mains, we order three; the chicken taouk ($26), the wagyu beef shawarma ($28) and the arnabit mishwe ($25). Servings are generous and come with sauces that we promptly dig into.
The chicken taouk and the wagyu shawarma are two of Bar Tikram’s most popular dishes, and it’s not hard to see why. Not another boring chicken dish this one – the meat is cut into pieces and seasoned before it enters the fire nestled in a cast-iron ramekin. The Lebanese bread lining the pan catches the caramelised juices, making for a luscious meal from start to finish. The toum that accompanies it is great for dipping, and we leave not a bit behind.
Lena’s favourite dish is the wagyu beef shawarma with tahini, parsley, red onion and sumac. Like the chicken taouk, it too enjoys the ritual of fire in a fresh flatbread-lined ramekin that soaks in the juices like a prize for the winner at the end. The beef is delicate, if well done, and there’s no need for a knife. Once placed in the mouth, it flakes and dissolves. We like it with a bit of pickle to tease the balance of richness, and we add some of the tabbouleh to the flatbread with what we have leftover of the labneh and hummus.
We do enjoy our vegetables, so ordering the roasted cauliflower, or arnabit mishwe is a definite. We enjoy this one a lot; the cauliflower head roasted to a juicy tenderness amidst a velvety pool of tahini sauce, pine nuts and delicate green scallions. This too is fork-food with no knife required, and gives the meat dishes a run for their money. We’ve [shockingly] got some of the khebez left in the basket, so we drag it through the cauliflower’s creamy liquor. Waste not, want not, right?
We do have room for desert, thankyouverymuch. Both of them sound superb, but we ultimately go for the Lebanese coffee parfait ($15) largely because we stalked the ladies at the table next to us, and it looked irresistible! Was it? Oh my gosh, yes. Comprised of frozen white chocolate coffee mousse with crumbled baklava, orange blossom syrup and rose petals, it hits all the right notes. Neither too cloyingly sweet nor overpowering with the rose, orange or coffee, this was made with a light hand and a great recipe. In a nod to self-control, we split one, but to tell you the truth – I could have smashed one on my own.
Bar Tikram is located at The Star Sydney, 80 Pyrmont Street, Harbourside, Ground floor
Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday from 12 pm to 9:30 pm
Good to know: No bookings are required, so walk on in. From Thursday to Saturday evenings, enjoy a summery mix of music, or on Sunday, delight in a sunny day of acoustic sets.