We visit Philly often to visit family and have tried to get reservation in the past, to no avail. This time it was a last minute trip to Philly and we got the reservation.
Our first take on being handed the menu was to have one of everything. Then we got ourselves under control, and agreed we were no fan of Hummus. When the waiter took out order, he asked why we did not order one of the many Hummus dishes. We explained that we did not like it ( I know, why were we at this restaurant... we love Middle Eastern food, other than hummus). Rather than saying we must try one,yada yada yada, he asked about our reasons for not liking it, and then said try the warm Turkish hummus with butter. He gave cogent reasons for trying it. We agreed and were not disappointed at all. It was light and not cloying or overly chickpea in taste and texture. An absolute delight with the Laffa (pita like bread).
Our disappointment was that they just ran out of watermelon salad. Oh well, next time. But, we were in a "protein" mood anyway that night.
We then had the Crispy Lamb's Tongue. I love it, but my wife did not. It was crisply and quickly cooked so that the outside had a crisp crust, while the center was quite soft. If you are a lover or kidneys or liver or other organ meat, this is for you. It had a wonderful, fresh and intense lamb taste, as it should.
Next was the Duck Kebob. This was small balls of ground duck served with a fragrant blueberry sauce. Great combination.
Next, the Veal stuffed grape leaves. Well prepared, and a very nice take on a traditional dish.
OK, there was a vegetable... the Spiced Eggplant. This was the failure of the evening. The sweet eggplant was quickly overpowered by the spice, such that the eggplant lost its distinctive taste. If you like spicy, then go for it, but the eggplant seems more a vehicle for serving hot spice.
Finally, the Kofte of ground beef and lamb. Again, a bit of hot spice, but not as with the Eggplant. It worked much better.
The waiter was quite good in arranging the dinner order, keeping the spice items for last. This way, there was nothing after that would be compromised by the residual heat of the spices. Well played indeed.
Usually we share a dessert, but this time not. My wife had the Ma'amoul (Date Tart) and I had the Kanafi with blueberries (in season after all). Both were outstanding and a perfect way to end the meal. The date tart was not cloyingly sweet, as one may think dates are, and the crust was perfect. The Kanafi was just so good, what more can I say.
But be warned, the portions are quite small. Even the items from the grill are but two or three pieces. So if you are one who packs it away, you may go away feeling disappointed. This is about the intense flavor, and after a while those small plates fill one up.
The wine list is quite extensive and moderate to expensive. It has a great selection of Israeli wines and what was most amazing was the selection of wines from Chateau Musar located in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. We had a bottle of the Musar Jeune red. Absolutely perfect with the food. It is a vibrant, fruity (but not sweet fruit) wine that is not heavy and does not fight the food. Perfect for a summer dinner of flavorful food.
Finally, cannot say enough about the service. As well trained as any wait staff at a Ritz Carlton. Not only our waiter, but the waiter for the table next to us, took the time to explain and advise. They never hovered, but were always at hand. The meal was paced beautifully.
My only complaint is with the ambiance. As with most new, and "in / hip restaurants", there is nothing to absorb sound and the incongruous pop/rock music is a bit jarring and seemingly loud. How about some lovely and soothing Middle Eastern music? Next time some Oud music.
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