Good Food on Sunday: Faheem Fast Food

Fluorescent lighting and wipe-down tiles belie the dishes’ authenticity at Faheem Fast Food.
Fluorescent lighting and wipe-down tiles belie the dishes’ authenticity at Faheem Fast Food. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

 
WHO
Christiaan Van Vuuren​, Bondi Hipsters and Soulmates comedian, from Randwick.

WHERE
Faheem Fast Food, Enmore.

WHY
"Faheem's is extremely tasty, extremely accessible traditional Pakistani and Indian food. They do a great range of really nice mild curries if either your mouth or your arsehole isn't prepared for the assault, but they also do some really hectic vindaloo.

Christiaan Van Vuuren as the Bondi Hipsters' Dom.
Christiaan Van Vuuren as the Bondi Hipsters' Dom.  Photo: ABC

"It's open late and it's cheap – it's hard to eat 20 bucks' worth of food there.

"Faheem's is everyone's secret place – for a lot of people, it's their secret late-night feed. The greeting is the same for everyone, whether you've been there once or 50 times. It's 'what do you want, how do you want it?' You order takeaway and wait and it's been sitting there for 15 minutes. The service is quick and they know they serve good food, so they don't have to give you any special treatment."

WHAT
"Tandoori chicken is probably the best tandoori chicken you'll ever have. Their garlic tandoori is insane. And it's got my favourite lamb vindaloo.

Christiaan Van Vuuren says he's a "meat specialist" who is handy with a barbecue.
Christiaan Van Vuuren says he's a "meat specialist" who is handy with a barbecue.  Photo: Jessica Hromas

"Sometimes they force you to buy a certain thing from the menu – they choose a dish for you and once they've chosen, you can't go against it; the pressure's too intense.

"I watched them force Nick [Boshier, his comedy collaborator] into this fried tandoori fish and when it came out, we were both mind-blown. [The staff member] just gave us this knowing look. It's insanely good. I had it last night and the other special thing is the Cow and the Moon is across the road, so you smash Faheem's and then go to the best gelato shop in Sydney."

ABOUT
"I'm a meat specialist. I reckon I can cook a better steak than most restaurants. I've been barbecue trained – it's my expertise. I cook it on a really low heat and I cook it for as long as I can to get it rare.

"You don't have to have a barbecue – give it a super-quick sear in a really hot pan, then stick it in the oven. I can also do that trick with a frozen steak and still have it tasting great. The trick is to have great-quality meat.

"Nick and I have been developing season two of Soulmates, so we're writing at the moment. Last year, Nick and I won comedians of the year at the GQ awards. It's pretty cool. I feel like a lot of it is owed to Connor, my brother, who writes and directs for us. He doesn't get any glory, because Nick and I are in the shows, so everyone assumes it's all us."

Faheem Fast Food
194 Enmore Road, Enmore,
9550 4850, faheemfastfood.com.au.
Mains $6-$21; sides $1.50 - $4.50; desserts $4-$6; $50 for two. 

Cooking the tandoori chicken at Faheem.
Cooking the tandoori chicken at Faheem.  Photo: Domino Postiglione

★★​★★

REVIEW

If there's an antidote to Bondi's ever-more pretentious side – the one that is so deliciously lampooned by the Bondi Hipsters – it might be this outpost of Lahori fast food, common-sense service and unerring unchangeability.

Fluoro lighting, wipe-down tiles, a menu that has never knowingly branched out and a strict halal and no-alcohol policy, not to mention it being nowhere near the eastern suburbs, pretty much hammer any remaining nails into the coffin of this being a place the Bondi Hipsters would ever frequent. They wouldn't dig it. Not that Faheem's management would give two hoots. As Christiaan Van Vuuren hints, these guys know how to cook a curry, stoke a tandoor and serve up a fast meal. The rest is academic.

But the Hipsters' real-life creators love it, and so do we, particularly after a show at the Enmore Theatre, which is a stone's throw away on the energy-high Enmore Road.

First up, what Faheem lacks in the way of organic, cold-pressed cred and fancy jars to drink out of, it makes up for on the best barometer we know for judging a decent feed: the authenticity index, which dictates that food quality is positively correlated to the number of diners hailing from the place of origin of that food. Simply put, this place has a steady and seemingly never-ending stream of Pakistani and Indian clientele who fill its tables until last service at midnight. This, according to our Why I Love This Place index, is a very good sign.

So, we don't hold back. Lamb, goat, chicken, beef, fish, paneer, lentils, eggplant, spinach, naan, mango lassi and Fanta land on our formica table in a whirl of spiced steam and straightforward, speedy delivery. There's offal for those who are so inclined and the brain curry has its devotees, I hear.

Lahori fish fry is as spicy as it is fantastic. It's an instantly addictive blast of heat and curls of fried, crunchy and soft flesh, armed with punches of cumin and chilli that are painful and exhilarating.

A bowl of mixed dal is topped with strips of fresh ginger and a handful of coriander. Doing that clever curry thing, it's rich and light and hearty and refreshing at once.

Aloo baigan is oily, the eggplant soft and slippery alongside glossy, firm potato. Goat korma masala is to your average butter chicken what AC/DC live is to a school recorder lesson. Damn, it's good, intensely fiery and fatty, with whole spices dotting the bones and their soft meat.

Lamb karahi and chicken dopiaza are cut from a similar cloth, distinctive and heady and with depth that speaks of ghee and cold nights and long, hot days. Best of all - and this is a comment on the general level of Indian food in Sydney, which seems to boil "curry" into one flavour across the board - each dish has its own flavours, its own attitude.

Lassi, mango or otherwise, is the fire-engine of the curry world, its cooling sweetness the perfect chaser for a chilli hit. Naan is soft and charred and elastic and spot-on.

The only dud for me was the recorder lesson, that great Aussie favourite, butter chicken, which tasted like tomato ketchup in disguise.

On the way out, we buy a little pack of sweet paan each - betel leaves stuffed with sugar-coated fennel, anise and sesame seeds (and, depending on the batch, coconut, dates or areca nut). These taste faintly like a squirt of bathroom cleaner and feel like munching on a wig that has been left at the back of a long-forgotten Bollywood props cupboard, which is fine by me. Faheem Fast Food can do what it likes and I'll still return for more.