Monday, May 5, 2008

Tanoreen

Becca emailed on Saturday to declare her intention to dine at Tanoreen, a Palestinian restaurant in Bay Ridge I've heard many great things about. Several yeses later and we had a reservation for five at 9pm.

Bay Ridge seems really far, but hopstop put it only 33 minutes away on the R--and in fact it took us only about 20ish minutes to get there! (we'd aimed to get there at 8:30 and try to get an earlier table, but arrived at the restaurant at 8:07 and couldn't sit down until 9 anyway). we wandered Bay Ridge waiting for our table...at one point an old woman accosted us and asked for help. I thought she wanted money and was going to keep going but she said her husband had fallen (!). we offered to call 911 but she said no, just help me lift him. so she led Karl and I into this huge, creepy house, up stairs, past televisions the size of pingpong tables, past a disturbed-looking teenager sprawled (paralyzed?) on a bed, to an old man who clearly had no idea what was going on. we lifted him onto the pillow and she was like "that's enough, thanks!" and offered to give us money. we declined and beat a hasty retreat and wished we could sit down so we could wash our hands. (I got the armpits, but Karl got the pee-y pants).

anyway, the food. we'd looked at the menu outside and more or less chosen our dinners, but Tanoreen has a big glass counter with giant heaping dishes of specials inside, and once we'd sat down and taken at look at the specials, we changed up our whole plan.

first, appetizers:

very top center, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves...which were FANTASTIC. I always kind of shy away from stuffed grape leaves because they're always...okay. but these were great. probably the best I've ever had, in fact! top left, hummus...good, very tangy, but Karl later opined that Sahadi's hummus was better. bottom left, brussels sprouts...again very good, but no better than the ones I make myself...maybe even a bit worse (theirs aren't sauted in bacon fat...)! upper right, fava beans with shells...oh, so good, grey-green and looking a little artichokey (because of the chopped shells mixed in), but deeply flavorful. dead center, maybe the appetizer hit of the night: musakhan, which looks a little like a lambajin pizza but has ground chicken (super spiced and meaty, with pine nuts...) on taboon bread. Dave also impulse-ordered pureed roasted red pepper and walnuts, not pictured, that was great because it did not overwhelm with the roasted red pepper flavor (even Karl, a notorious pepperhater, liked it). Karl thought it might be milder because they may have removed the skins before pureeing the peppers?

for entrees...



front-and-center was the thing Dave wanted as soon as we saw it on the menu: shepherd's pie, made with lamb and a perfectly crispy toasted crust of mashed potato on top. not at all watery and boil-y like some more traditional British pies I've had (not including Mooney's bok choy shepherd's pie)...the spices mixed with the ground lamb were cinnamony and nutty and fruit all at once (that's a good description for many of the things we had, such as the musakhan). right side, vegetarian eggplant, layered with crisped peppers and onions...almost like Lebanese moussaka? and upper left, yet another special: cauliflower and pomegranate stew with chunks of beef. the beef was kind of strange with the cauliflower, but it was a nice respite from all the lamb. I did wish, a bit, we'd ordered the smaller appetizer of toasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and pomegranate syrup. we saw it in the glass case and it looked so good, but we went with the special entree instead and...oh, well, it was good anyway. the entrees came with red cabbage lemony slaw (yum) and cucumber salad (yum) and rice/vermicelli.

finally for dessert we got a little plate of baklavas (good, but not super amazing to me...they seemed to be made with honey and not just corn syrup, but still not the best I've had) and also knafeh, which was strange...shredded phyllo dough and mozzarella-like mild stringy cheese with pistachios and red sugary syrup (NOT rose or pomegranate--just food coloring according to the waiter) all over it.


Karl also got a date roll (pictured above) which nobody wanted but him, but which was, in retrospect, pretty good (but I would've preferred more date and less roll).

Dave and Karl rounded things out with thick dark Arabic coffee. they didn't have decaf so the rest of us abstained.

the bill came to about $28 each! pretty cheap, considering we were all full and satisfied. could MAYBE have ordered another appetizer or something just to try, but then we'd have had scattered leftovers and/or been overstuffed. the BYOB definitely helped--we polished off three bottles of wine over the course of the meal.

I guess the Middle Eastern food kick continued 'til today, cause I spent the day making loomi with loomi limes I managed to scrounge up at Sahadi's, and I can't wait for summer so I can drink this stuff every day.

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