Go to Phoenicians Restaurant with a group. Seriously. 8 people and you’ve got yourself set up for quite the meal. Of course, it also helps if the main meal organizer is a charismatic and the owner loves him right off the bat.
Luscious labneh on the left, and creamy hummus on the right. Both topped with olive oil and paprika. I like how thick the labneh is – it’s kind of like a hung curd yogurt, but it’s less tart while still being light.
Here’s where our group got adventurous – Kebbeh Nayeh. Raw beef tenderloin with some bulgur and onions, topped with olive oil. These plates were massive – larger than a forearm. And note I said plates – we got served two of these gigantic platters for 8 people for $29.99. We made some good progress, but wow, if we had known we were getting so much, I would have just skipped ordering an entree.
Texture-wise, it’s smooth. Flavor-wise, it’s actually quite mild. This might be due to it being filet mignon, which is pretty flavor-lite when compared to other cuts of the cow. It’s quite different from beef tartare, which is the only other ground/minced raw beef dish I have to compare this to.
One of our group of 8 was a vegetarian, so the plates of raw meat were off the menu for him. When the owner heard that there was a vegetarian at the table, he brought out vegetarian cheese made from coconut milk. It was topped with zatar and olive oil. The coconut made it just a bit sweet, kind of like a dryer and less tart cream cheese.
I tried an order of fatayer ($4.99), which are baked spinach pies. The pastry was more bread-like and a bit tough than a flaky pie crust. Spinach filling was good, though. This was great slathered in labneh, or paired with some of the raw kibbeh.
And then evidently I entered a photo coma and forgot to take a picture of my lamb shawarma ($7.99) with cous cous. Which I managed to eat about 3/4 of because of all of the raw kibbeh nayeh I had eaten. I swear I had at least 1/4 of that plate of raw beef.
Any way, the shawarma was good – tender lamb slices wrapped in a pita with some veggies and just a few dabs of garlic sauce. Yum.
And then it was dessert time. They already had the crepe cooking for us – it was a special of the day, filled with bananas and hazelnut. Cute presentation. I’m not a huge banana dessert fan, so I just tried a nibble.
Oh, and then there was the coffee, which was much less bitter than Turkish coffee, but boy is it ever full of caffeine. I had about 1/3 of a small cup, and I was up until about 2 am (but that was a productive housework night).
Word of warning – if the owner likes you, you are gonna get fed to death. I’m not even sure what we were charged for or not charged for because we ordered so much food and the bill just comes out as a bunch of line item charges without detailing what they’re for. But we all got out of there for under $40 for all of the food we ate.
Creme brulee for me. Not bad, pretty decent brulee and a rich custard underneath that was just barely warm (yum).
We also ordered a rice pudding, and haleweh (aka halva). So many sweet delights.
And here is a sure sign of my sugar high – this blurry photo of mhallabiyeh. Mhallabiyeh is a milk pudding layered with pomegranate syrup, rose syrup, pistachios, roasted coconut, and honey. That rose adds just the right amount of lightness, and the pomegranate, and the…. oh, just order this. It’s rich, sweet, and such a great way to end your meal.