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Al-Saray (السراي) - Middle Eastern and Egyptian Restaurant in Springfield Plaza - in the Former Momo's Space - Closed


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Lady KN and I dined at Eleni's in Springfield this evening, but as we returned down Backlick Road, the signs announcing the Grand Opening of Alsaray -- or Al-Saray, (or السراي which means "the palace" in Arabic) -- drew my attention.

It is the same spare lunch counter establishment (hardly a palace) as was Momo's, which it replaced, with the very Arabic addition of two tables out front for outdoor seating to accommodate a handful of people. We didn't eat there tonight, but I did a menu reconaissance, and there is a decidedly Egyptian flair to the offerings. First and foremost, "kushari" makes its first-ever appearance in Springfield! Once my zero-carb diet is over, I will be all over that dish, for sure! In addition, foul madames and kibdah iskandarani ("Iskanderun" is Alexandria in Arabic, the city on the Nile near the Mediterranean), the latter dish being pan-fried beef liver with garlic. chili peppers and spices. The standard Middle Eastern mezze dishes, accompanied by kabobs and shawermas, highlight the menu.

I would like to say that Alsaray is a welcome addition to the Springfield dining scene, but I'll wait until I actually taste the food. However, there's kushari, so I'm looking forward to tucking in. The website isn't up quite yet, but stay tuned....

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Here's another interesting note on their site:
 
Supporting Art and Music

Every Friday and Saturday we host an open mic and karaoke night. Come out and enjoy the sounds of local singers, poets, songwriters, and entertainers.

We also host a monthly starving artists gallery show where local artists can display and sell their works of art.

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The website also says they're located in the heart of the East Village (in the same blurb that says they have a banquet room with capacity for 200).  And yet the address given is Backlick Road.  Is this an expansion of a NYC restaurant?

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Something totally weird about the website. It boasts a banquet room for 200. In the former Momo place? No way. I think it deserves a personal visit. 

Here's another interesting note on their site:

Supporting Art and Music

Every Friday and Saturday we host an open mic and karaoke night. Come out and enjoy the sounds of local singers, poets, songwriters, and entertainers.

We also host a monthly starving artists gallery show where local artists can display and sell their works of art.

The website also says they're located in the heart of the East Village (in the same blurb that says they have a banquet room with capacity for 200).  And yet the address given is Backlick Road.  Is this an expansion of a NYC restaurant?

A little bit of Google browsing takes me to a number where you can place a reservation -- 09/937111 -- and it traces to Lebanon....which indeed has an "East Village"....the location on its Facebook page is Jounieh, which is a Christian enclave about 10 miles north of Beirut. But THAT restaurant also resolves to al-saray.com, so I'm guessing some search engines redirect and combine locations....but alsaraycuisine.com is NOT the website of the Springfield restaurant, although someone planted its phone number on it....we need a Web specialist to tackle this case!

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I wouldn't make any assumptions about the website's content - it's obviously a template, copied from either an example, or another restaurant, and they're using Website Builder - it's a nice-looking website, but it needs a thorough once-over by an editor which shouldn't take more than a half hour.

Someone would be doing them a service if they pointed out this conversation to them - they probably don't even know (either about the website issues, or about us). Kibbee, here's your chance to make some new friends.

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Someone would be doing them a service if they pointed out this conversation to them - they probably don't even know (either about the website issues, or about us). Kibbee, here's your chance to make some new friends.

KN is on it....!

Field Report:

(First, Momo's isn't completely gone. It's now a food truck, which it probably should have been from the beginning.)

I stopped in Alsaray today, and I chatted up the two young Middle Eastern women at the lunch counter. When I mentioned the web site snafu, they knew nothing about it and were visibly surprised, and they had me write a note to the owner on a notebook one of them kept with her. These young ladies were gracious and welcoming, and wanted me to stay for lunch....instead, I ordered carry-out so Lady KN could enjoy the fare. "Next time you eat here!" was their plea.

And I can honestly report that the food here is very good. The menu is spare, but they clobber just about every item.

First, run, do not walk, for the kushari. Alsaray offers one of the few versions of this dish in our area, and while every kushari is different, I haven't had a better version. The tabluleh is all-green, fresh with parsley and mint, with almost no (but some) tomatoes or burghol. The hummus topped with beef shawerma was very good, and the hummus itself had a creamier consistency than thicker versions most of us are used to. Their kidbah iskanderani ("iskanderani" is Arabic for Alexandria, Egypt) with tahini sauce, which is pan-fried beef liver with spices, was absolutely excellent. Simply excellent. We also enjoyed their chicken shawerma-topped salad, which I would order again.

This is some really good food from a kitchen that cares. Had I taken them up on their offer to stay for lunch, the dishes I enjoyed might have even been a touch better from not being packaged and transported home, and the appearance of other dishes for the people eating in the restaurant looked very appealing.

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