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  1. I often poke fun at Tom Sietsema for his disregard of Lebanese and Levantine cuisine in our area. But he just did a very nice review of Zenola in Vienna. It's on my list for a try-out in the next few weeks, but his review probably complicated the reservations list. The owner ran Cafe Paradiso for a while, and is now settled into the former Le Canard pace in Vienna. I'm dying to have a few plates of the Kibbeh Nayyeh. See --> Zenola.
  2. We had our rehearsal dinner at Bacchus (in Dupont) 2 years ago. It was pretty good; much better, I thought, than Lebanese Taverna. The prices are pretty reasonable so I'd give it a shot.
  3. It's about time we had a topic dedicated to Zikrayet, which means "memories" in Arabic, and might be appropriately named. After all, the Washington Post restaurant critic recently broke his apparent disposition against Lebanese restaurants by reviewing Zenola in Vienna, and by my memory that was a first for him. So why not dip into a few others? The Washington DC area is slowly becoming one of the hot dining scenes for Lebanese fare, and there are many more to sample....let's start building some memories. Zikrayet was a by-chance opportunity on a Sunday afternoon, and I can't say I did much more than give it a minor sampling. I had the kibbeh nayyeh for lunch (pictured), and I also took home a mezze sampler and an order of kibbeh balls. All of these were very good. Let's start with the venue, which is spacious. I counted about 100 seats inside and at least 50 on the front patio. The waitress told me they get a good crowd on weekends for live music. Yesterday's band was from Iraq, last week's was from Lebanon, and so forth. The fact that hookah was available tells me that the clientele skews youthful. The staff, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, paid more attention to each other than to the single customer, but that tracks with my observations of Middle Eastern hookah lounges. I'm sure they step it up a bit during the rush. From the pictures, note that the seating is pleasantly uncrowded, and the bar is moderately stocked. I didn't see any arak, but that might have been my oversight. I noticed that al-Massaya wine is on the menu, along with a good selection of other Lebanese wines, and al-Massaya makes the best arak I've ever enjoyed. Next time, I'll make sure to seek out the arak, but that might require an Uber ride. The staff confirmed that the chef is from Beirut, and the pictured kibbeh nayyeh was about as good as kibbeh nayyeh gets. Far more lamb than burgol, nicely seasoned but not overly so, and accompanied by fresh garnishes like toum (garlic paste), mint, sweet onions, jalapeños, and bread. Slight downgrade on the bread because it wasn't hot out of the oven like other restaurants, but it was fine. A few olives and pickled turnips would have also been nice, but were not served. Having not visited them all yet, but based on reputation I'm assuming that Zenola, Albi, and maybe Ilili would join Me Jana at the top of our list of local Lebanese restaurants, but Zikrayet might not be far behind these places. I'll work my way selectively through the list and let you know.
  4. OK, I couldn't find a listing for this restaurant, so here it goes... I have tended to only go to the take out place in Arlington and the new "cafe" in Silver Spring recently, but Friday I found myself at the Lebanese Taverna in Woodly Park. I used to go here all the time in years past, so when were were looking for a quick bite to eat, we thought we would give it a try. I would say the food was ok, but not as good as I remembered. I think ultimately knowing you could go to Zatinya and have similar food, but prepared in a more inspired way, you would pick Zatinya. We ordered a bunch of the mezza. Some items were fine (the Kibbeh and hommus), one item was very good (sharaht ghanam- which was sliced lamb), and others were average to not very good (the lamb kabob appetizer was terrible, the pieces were so fatty my piece was impossible to eat as it was all fat). I know that its location near the hotels means that there are many tourists, but I think they may have dumbed down some of the food for them. I used to remember this restaurant as a fun and interesting place to go. I still like the take away in Silver Spring, but if I want to sit down and eat, Zatinya is the winner, with better food and atmosphere. I wonder if they are successful with the 100 King restaurant in Alexandria, they will go back to to Woodly Park, and give it a much needed update.
  5. I am more than mildly excited about the opening of Shababi, a takeout-only "ghost restaurant" operating out of Roro's Modern Lebanese Cuisine at 5655 General Washington Drive, Unit A, in Alexandria. Musakhan is more or less the national dish of Palestine, and when executed well, it is among the best of the world's chicken meals. And I have a feeling to believe it will be executed well, because Marcelle Afram was the former executive chef at Michelin-starred Maydan in DC, and is teamed up with Roro Asmar, who own's Roro's. If you've never had musakhan, it's a real treat for chicken lovers. It's a rotisserie-style halal chicken with amazingly crispy skin, coated with allspice, sumac, cumin, fenugreek, and cardamom, and cooked in a special oven imported from Lebanon. And as if that wasn't enough, za'atar fries and onion flatbread, followed by funnel cake-like zalabia for dessert, shoudl make for delectable meal. And for you vegetarians, I'm betting the mushroom shawarma will hit the spot. They will start taking pre-orders on January 18 and will go live on January 22.
  6. Don asked where we've eaten recently. Last night we walked to the Pita House in Old Town. website It was our second visit this year. It is a nice walk though old town and a casual and inexpensive spot. They seem to do a fair amount of takeout, as well. I had the chicken shawarama salad and my husband had one oft the specials - it was lamb stewed with okra and other veggies. He loved it. The lamb was tender and he really likes okra. It came with a basic salad and rice. The shawarama salad was a basic garden salad with feta cheese and chicken shawarama. Pretty tasty, although a the chicken was a bit dry. The tahini sauce was a nice addition. I didn't try the pita bread, but my husband pretty much demolished the basket on his own. We've been eating out a lot lately - this last week has also included: CD Cafe - Solomons Overwood - Alexandria plus festival food at Zoofari and the Brew-and-Que (St. Mary's county)
  7. The relatively recently-opened Sala Thai at the corner of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Adams St. in Courthouse is closed. There's a large sign in the window advertising a new restaurant: "Me Jana." The sign states that the restaurant will feature "Fine Mediterranean Dining." Some quick Googling didn't turn up anything relevant for "Me Jana," though there seem to be one or more Mediterranean restaurants in other cities called "Mejana."
  8. Opened about six months ago, Ayse (pron: eye-shae, 6 North East St, 240 651 5155) specializes in small plates of Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese origin, but the primary emphasis is on the Turkish offerings, which are hard enough to find even in the DC area. We stopped in for dinner last night, and left with a very positive impression of the food. The menu itself is rather long, and will take several visits to sample fully. Most dishes were in the $6-8 range, with some items as low as $4, but hardly anything that could even be considered moderately expensive. Value was generally spot on, although some items like the mantı were a bit precious at $8 for three not-too-large dumplings. The whole fish, on the daily specials sheet, are noteworthy. FedExed from Turkey, they were a steal at $18-19 for authentic branzino or dorade. Limited availability, by their very nature, and no indication of how frequently he has these flown in. There was a definite pecking order to the "cigars" (aka sigar boregı), although all of them suffered slightly from a rather thick pastry which fried up more like a wonton wrapper than like a delicate boregı pastry. I was a bit underwhelmed by the cheese version, where it was difficult to detect any of the non-cheese components of the filling. The lamb version was nice, and boosted by an excellent yogurt sauce which also accompanied a number of lamb-based items. The duck version was excellent...do make sure you try this item. Vegetable-based items were delicious all around, the squash fritters having a nice bit of salt to their crispy exterior. I found the use of dill to be more restrained here than in Turkey. The housemade suí§uk and also the Adana kebab were decidedly spicy, and well-moderated by the yogurt sauce. Both had a somewhat dense chew that is authentic. The kebab here is served curiously unadorned though, over a thin layer of rice and without the customary heaps of chopped onions, tomatoes, or other green. It turns out that somebody *does* import salep dondurma (orchid root mastic ice cream) to the USA by way of New York, if our server was correct. You can choose that, or two other housemade flavors. I had the salep, which might not have been the most refined version I've had, but definitely had the characteristic elasticity and stretchiness. I don't know if real salep or credible substitutes were used in the ice cream, but again, it's a Turkish specialty worth trying. We didn't really explore the beverage list much, but there are five types of rakı available, plus a short list of beers including a number of Oliver Ales on draft. The wine list is also appropriately Mediterranean, and organized into sections labeled Greek, Turkish, Israeli, Lebanese, and "other". Our tab for two, including beverages but before tip, was under $90 for a face-stuffing variety of dishes. Two could easily assemble a nice meal here in the $75 range all in, but you'll probably want to explore instead of holding back. I'm probably damning the place with faint praise, but this is an excellent addition to the area (not quite Family Meal good, but better than any of the Market St options close to Carroll Creek) and I can't wait to get back and dine on the outdoor patio as the weather warms up.
  9. Although this will end up in the 'lovable quirk' known as Multiple Locations, where all geographical reference is lost, it merits a mention. I stumbled across the Perfect Pita mother lode on Fullerton Rd., which is walking distance from my home. I didn't realize it was anything other than a Perfect Pita lunch counter to feed the droves of workers in the industrial parks that surround it, but I went in today on a tip from a cashier at Giant who noticed I was buying tabouli and mentioned that Attila's had very good tabouli. She was right. Attila's is the parent business, and Perfect Pita is its 15-shop chain in the DC area. But....the one on Fullerton Rd. is its central kitchen and bakery, so it has fresher bread and more cooks in the kitchen to pump out the goodies. I took a sampling of pita bread, tabouli, hummus and white bean salad, and I can declare it to be worth lots of return visits. What I liked most was its uniqueness. They clearly have their own cherished recipes, so the tastes are very different and very good. The tabouli led with tomatoes instead of parsley, and the hummus led with tahini -- the sesame paste -- instead of chick pea puree. The white bean salad wasn't bad, but the tabouli and the hummus are addictive. Except for these various dips and the bread, you almost wouldn't know it has any other Mediterranean food. The bread leads the sandwich lineup, and there is a gyro and a filafel and almost nothing else from the eastern Mediterranean. Oh well....that bread is good enough to eat by itself, and that hummus is really delicious.
  10. If you don't attend this event, then you're missing out on one of the finest Lebanese food fests in the DC area. The KN family will be present.
  11. I didn't have the kabob today, but the Falafel and the Hommos with Shawarma at Raouche Cafe are still the garlicky goodness they have always been, and the folks are so nice!
  12. A virtual food board "friend" from another venue (eGullet: "hassouni") is also a real life friend of someone we know well & eat with pretty often. He, real name Chris, opened "The Green Zone" in Adams Morgan not that long ago (2226 18th St NW). We went and had some great drinks and some truly good small plates. The falafel was a major standout & I know from falafels, having eaten them for 50+ years from places serving foods of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Greece & Palestine. And the "F--K Trump Punch" made my evening (hey, that's its name... politics embedded and I can't do much about that, can I?). Its a loud, partying type of place with a crowd to match and I don't think that we're the target audience, but its a welcoming place & clearly already well loved. I recommend it and congratulate Chris on getting this venture off the ground. Jul 23, 2018 - "Eyeball the Menus for The Green Zone, Officially Opening on Thursday" by Laura Hayes on washingtoncitypaper.com
  13. I've stopped going to any Lebanese Tavernas, except the "express" one in Congressional Plaza in Rockville (because my mother, who lives there, likes it). Instead, I'm now devoted to the consistently good and MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant on Annandale Road in Falls Church: http://www.lebanesebutcher.com/ My only warning is that this place is very much a hole-in-the-wall haunt of Muslim men, which can be somewhat off-putting for a non-Muslim woman who wants to dine-in on her own. I always go in with a book and focus on the page as I eat, do my best to ignore the curious, sometimes hostile glances from men at the other tables. More often I just take away. The food is good enough to keep patronising the place despite the odd vibes. I'm not sure what troubles them more - a woman dining out alone, or a Western woman invading their space. Actually, since the place has been written up in the Post, Washingtonian, etc., the vibe has got somewhat less weird as the long-time patrons have had to get used to a diverse variety of interlopers. I guess I was just a pioneer, as I've been going there almost since it opened. And keep going back. Karen Mercedes
  14. Drove past Darna today, and then checked its website. While I haven't stepped inside yet, a few things caught my eye.... First, the stylized "D" logo is actually "Darna" in Arabic, with the letter "D" accentuated to appear as a fancy letter "D" in Arabic, and "arna" in Arabic script inside it. Clever and artistic. Second, the place is apparently laid out like a house, bedroom and all. I can't wait to see the inside to see how they pulled it off. Third, this isn't a Muslim Halal place -- liquor is on the menu, including three different brands of Arak, wine by the glass including Ksara (Lebanon), and cocktails like "Beirut" (vodka, Frangelico, lime juice and simple syrup). Fourth, but most important, there is kibbee nayee on the menu -- spelled "kibbiniya"...!! Having performed reconnaissance, I now intend to tuck in and check it out.
  15. (The Google couldn't find an individual thread about this place, just a couple of posts in Dining In Bethesda) I've only been to Bistro LaZeez for lunch, and found the food pretty good, with a couple of exceptions. The chicken sandwiches can be a little dry, so ask for extra sauce. Their felafel sandwich is my favorite: cruchy felafel with plenty of tahini, and lots of delicious slices of pickled turnip. Mazzas have been tasty, but IMO the hummus is better at Lebanese Taverna so get the Baba Ghanouj instead. Lentil soup was disappointing, consisting of just a few lentils floating in a thin, sour broth. Grilled chicken is very tasty. It's a cute little place, service is pleasant, and the owner is very nice.
  16. I had a really flavorful version at Nora in Gainesville a week or so ago. It had a little raw onion and picked turnip with it, but alone, it was very good. Not bland at all due to a healthy addition of what my mom always referred to as "Syrian allspices" which are not the same as the allspice berry. I think the "allspices" are also referred to as "7 spices" but I have no idea what's in them.
  17. My Board moniker is a colloquial transliteration of the Lebanese national dish, and I also have Lebanon in my DNA, so why not start a topic on Lebanon? On the one hand, it's a beautiful country of 6 million people, with mountains and coastline and forests and valleys. On the other hand, it's in a relatively bad neighborhood, surrounded by Syria to the north and east, Israel to the south, and Cyprus across the water to the west. Its capital is Beirut, long known as the Paris of the Middle East. Lebanon's history is painful, not only to Lebanese, but also to Americans. For 400 years, under the Ottoman Empire, it was part of greater Syria along with what is now Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. When the Ottoman Turks joined with Germany in Word War I, the European allies began working behind the scenes to carve up the Middle East after the war. These colonial shenanigans, planned mostly in Paris and London, have given us today's map of the Middle East, with lines drawn in all the wrong places. Lebanon was one of those countries that was created by the European powers, and France was the nation that carved it out of Syria, drawing the borders such that 6 out of every 11 people within the borders were Christians. I could go into detail on the next century of pain and strife, including the bombings of our Marine barracks and two of our embassy complexes, but this is a food-related board. And Lebanon truly has a culinary history that may be second to none in the Middle East. The French influence was particularly responsible for the quality of today's Lebanese cuisine and wine. Chateau Musar is one of the world's great wines, and the national drink, arak (عرق), is an anise-flavored liqueur that compares with Turkish raki and Greek ouzo. It has found its perfect refinement in Lebanon's Al Massaya arak. For me, heaven is defined as kibbeh nayeh (كبة نيئة) accompanied by arak. Throw in some fresh-out-of-oven pita bread and a platter of fresh crunchy veggies and Lebanese pickles, and you have my final meal. If you're an American who loves good food, a few pieces of Lebanon's troubled history have conspired to bring us some delicious local meals. The French influence on the food, plus its Christian-mostly heritage, took the hardy fare of the Levant to a more delicate European finesse, along with delicious pairings of wines and cocktails. And the horrific civil war between Christians and Muslims in the mid-1970s brought us the like of Dory Abi-Najm, who, soon after his arrival, opened the little Lebanese Taverna in Arlington's Westover neighborhood in 1979. He has since doubled that little space by expanding into the next-door property, and there are now 6 sit-down restaurants, 4 cafes, and a market in the Lebanese Taverna empire. The arak tasting at Tysons Galleria is not to be missed. My signature picture on this site is the platter of kibbeh nayyeh that Gladys Abi-Najm prepared for Roberto Donna for his birthday. We are blessed in the Washington DC area to have some very good places to enjoy Lebanese cuisine. Lebanese Taverna is obviously one of them, and Me Jana in Arlington is at least its equal. Zaytinya also qualifies, although its menu blends most of the eastern Mediterranean, not just Lebanon. Mama Ayesha's downtown has faded a bit, but it has the best tradition of all. Bacchus in Bethesda is an honorable mention. Let us also not forget the impressive collection of Lebanese Americans who almost go unnoticed because they are truly Americans first and foremost. Helen Thomas, long the dean of the White House press corps, was a regular at Mama Ayesha's. Paul Anka, Danny Thomas, Casey Kasem, Ralph Nader, Joseph Abboud, Sammy Hagar, General John Abizaid, John Sununu, and hundreds of others who you know as Americans, and they derive their heritage from Lebanon.
  18. Not trying to go totally off-topic, but Orthodox church festivals in general are a chance to eat some high-quality ethnic cuisine for a reasonable price, take a dip into that culture with music/dance/arts/books, and rest assured that your modest expense is going to good causes. The best ethnic Egyptian food I've had lately was at the St Abanoub Coptic Orthodox church festival in Springfield a month ago. The St Aphraim Syriac Orthodox church festival in May had some excellent Syrian food. St George Antiochan Orthodox church downtown has wonderful Syrian food too. When you go behind-the-scenes and see all the moms and grandmoms show up a few days prior, and start rolling grape leaves in the kitchen, you know you're in for the real deal. (With that, I'm sure Don will begin a new topic on Orthodox church festivals.)
  19. Wow. That should be under "Events" or something. Not to be missed. Thanks, hmmboy. Rocks -- thanks for the tip on Neyla. I will not rest until I find the best kibbee nayee in the DC area, or my name is not Kibbee Nayee! I never thought of Musar being bretty, but I used to joke with my Middle Eastern friends that each bottle had shrapnel in it. Probably that danged Cinsault grape.... --- [The following posts have been split into separate threads: Neyla (Kibbee Nayee) Nora Taste of Lebanon (Biotech) Kibbeh Nayeh in the Shopping and Cooking Forum (Kibbee Nayee)]
  20. Wellllll I don't mean to be quite the debbie downer between contra and Karam for while this was better then my bad contra experience, if they can be compared, this wasn't great either. Now this isn't a totally fair argument as one is fine dining and one is a Lebanese "snack shop" but I believe experiences can be compared across restaurant genres. I digress though.... Tonights resto just wasn't great. Perhaps I am becoming tooooo demanding but I got the chicken shwarma sandwich with falafel in it and I got a mezze spread cuz like you can't have Lebanese without some hummus. Nevertheless, I expected more from this spot sadly and left disappointed. Firstly, the falafel didn't taste all that fresh. It had that sitting around falafel taste and texture which is like chewy falafel that loses its crunchy skin etc. That was a big disappointment!! The chicken was fine but I wouldn't label it so good that it outweighed the falafel tragedy!!! Next was the mezze. Now Hummus is something I feel like I've really honed my knowledge of in terms of how it's supposed to taste. I expect a certain sourness and bitterness to it bursting with chickpea flavor (I know they use other beans but the flavor should still have a bursting quality in the mouth at least to me). It should not be bland which precisely this was. I dunno if it was the beans used or something but this just wasn't the best I've had. I also got some other spread they were fine but I just didn't feel this place was up to snuff. My anxious side thinks I'm being to tough recently but I dunno I think I'd stick to this negative review if pressed. HOWEVER.....the day was redeemed by a nice Lebanese pastry/ice cream shop which I shall wax about in another post!! I promise next post will be positive!!! Is there another one of these I should be giving a hard look at going to?? My feeling is that Turkish food is on average better in NYC then Lebanese but I haven't had enough of either during my short sojourn here in the city to absolutely confirm or deny that feeling.
  21. Halalco, which is in the shopping center on Hillwood Avenue near the intersection with Annandale Road, has a fairly extensive selection of halal meats. However, it is a big step down from the Lebanese Butcher -- it's cramped, crowded, and has a much smaller selection. Still, at least in the Arlington/Falls Church area, it's the only source I know of for fresh goat. Troika Gastronom, a Russian grocery in the same shopping center, is worth checking out too. Their house-made borscht is excellent and they have a wide selection of Eastern Europe and Russian canned goods and teas.
  22. Drum roll....it's re-opened! Sort of.... Lebanese Butcher is open just around the corner and up Hillwood about a block away from the former place. The butcher shop and grocery is open and doing well. I scored kibbeh, tabouleh, hummus, baba ghanouj, olives, shankleesh and bread today. A mezze feast will be on my table tonight. The butcher shop has an overall better layout than previously -- the meat case is much larger and loaded with more selections, and the checkout counter is much nicer. The grocery shelves and refrigerated cases are about the same cramped size as before. Overall, the look and feel of this space is much better and cleaner. Kheder told me that the restaurant will reopen next door in about a month (inshallah!), and the renovations to the space are under way now. If it's as nice an upgrade as the butcher shop and grocery, it will be a right fine Middle Eastern restaurant. I feel a Rockwellian get-together when it opens.....
  23. I haven't seen much about this restaurant other than occassional mention in the Wed. chat, but a friend and I went there last night for dinner. In comparison to Lebanese Taverna, I must say this is much better. Note: we split 5 mezzas and they were all vegetarian as my friend doesn't eat meat. We stuck with your basics standards but thought they were well executed. Had a pomegranate hommass-your basic hommos with with pom. juice on top. (we actually ordered a 2nd one later since we liked it so much). It was well made, very smooth and creamy, not too garlicky, but the juice just added a nice sweet/tart note that is a bit unexpected (but in a good way) Had the moussaka-eggplant, onion, tomatoes, chickpeas. We both enjoyed it, but definitely had other favorites of the night. It was cold which we weren't expecting, and came as a bit of a shock since we were expecting something else. It was a good melding of flavors in more of a vegetable stew kind of dish, rather than a layered casserole that I think of when I think moussaka. Middle Eastern cheese-2 1/2" thick, maybe 6" long slice of cheese, said to be served warm, we found ours to be at best lukewarm. Probably the least liked of the bunch. One was covered in black sesame seeds, the other in zaatar. I just found it didn't have a whole lot of flavor. Spinach Fatayer-a good rendition, nothing mind-blowing, not too inventive, just a good spinach pocket. Very generous on the filling, which I have found can be stingy at some places. Last, vegetarian kibbeh-I think this was my favorite of the night. Triangle shaped filled wheat shells with walnuts, peppers, and pom. sauce, then deep fried. The outside had a wonderful crispness to it without being greasy at all. The inside was so hot I burned my mouth a bit, but is was a wonderful oozy gooiness. Not to oozy to spill everywhere, but enough to feel a wonderful texture contrast in your mouth. That's it, sorry to be so long, hope I didn't bore you! Our bill was $42 (6 mezzas and one iced tea), not including tip. The interior was very nice-the usual Middle Eastern decorations, but tastefully done. It was not crowded at all when we were there, but I could see this being a nice place to bring a date on a weekend. Very large selection of vegetarian choices-I would say over half of the menu actually.
  24. Lady Kibbee and I were looking for something quick on the way home tonight. Cedar Cafe never disappoints. Cedar Cafe is a spare lunch (or dinner) counter on the corner of the Rolling Valley strip mall where Shopper's and Staples occupy the larger spaces. It offers a medium-sized Lebanese menu, along with a few related grocery items and packaged goods. Dinnerware is plastic, but the place is clean and nicely appointed. The special tonight was the stuffed cabbage (also called "malfoof"), five cigar-shaped cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat, which came with a nice fresh iceberg lettuce salad dressed with oil and lemon juice, a yogurt-mint-cucumber sauce for the stuffed cabbage and a half pita, for $11.99. I liked it very much and would order it again. We also ordered the mixed mezze, your choice of six of the items in the display case for $9.50. We had a kibbee football (really good), tabouli (fresh and refreshing), baba ghanouj (good), hummos (very good), lubieh (green beans in tomato sauce, and very good), tomato and avocado salad (not sure it's actually Lebanese, but it was good), artichoke salad (good), and Lebanese-Syrian potato salad (dressed with lemon and parsley, and exceptional). OK, that's eight items, so I paid a little extra. The ingredients were fresh, the flavors were very good and the food was actually quite remarkable for a lunch counter. As I said, Cedar Cafe never disappoints. http://cedarcafeonline.com/ We went home and ate to our fill and satisfaction for about $24. Not bad.
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