Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Trip to Lebanon is Only Minutes Away...

Traveling to Lebanon is a little difficult these days, and often ill-advised, due to political and religious turmoil. However, one can still enjoy wonderful Lebanese cuisine without leaving the country. Lebanese Taverna opened its doors 29 years ago in Arlington, VA. I visited this location for the first time, many years ago with my parents. Since moving to Arlington I have had the pleasure of being only 5 minutes away from the Restaurant, and its Market location. The Market offers a wide variety of Lebanese groceries, as well as sandwiches, salads, and catering options.

The kabob sandwich is really messy, so bring lots of napkins. My only qualm with takeout, is the bread can get a little soggy. (The flatbread is fairly thick and held up for the most part.)

I usually venture to the Market, and go for the platter option, where you can pick out a number of different salads and homemade goods. I usually go for the tabouleh, lebanese salad, grape leaves, hommus, and kibbeh. And don't forget the pita!

This time I decided to switch things up a bit. I opted for the Kabob sandwich - tempted by the thought of warm chunks of grilled lamb. The meat is grilled when ordered, so it comes out warm and tender. (One bite and I knew it hadn't been sitting out under a heat lamp drying out.)

The sandwich is essentially a kabob served on flatbread with hommus. The lamb meat is skewered next to onion, tomato, green pepper, and mushroom. The veggies are super fresh, with a slight charred flavor from the grill. The hommos is light and creamy, with hints of lemon, and nice tahini flavor.

As delicious as it is beautiful.

The tabouleh is one of my favorite dishes at Lebanese Taverna. It is how parsely was meant to be served! The dish is primarily parsely, with flecks of bulgar, chopped tomato, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and a bit of olive oil.

The flavors are so bright and fresh. I can't get enough of the stuff. Tabouleh is one of the many salads that can be packed up in a container(of various sizes) to go. This is a great option if you're hosting a dinner, or you just want to have enough to last you through the week.

Starting at bottom going clockwise: falafel with tahini, baby eggplant, kibbeh with yogurt sauce, pita, hommus, and grape leaves.

The Market isn't the only location with to-go options. My sister and I often make pick-up orders at the restaurant. Just peruse the menu, give them a call, and dinner can be ready in 20 minutes.
A couple of weeks ago, Malia, my Mom, and I ordered a bunch of their mezza(small plates) to share. We ordered the hommus, falafel (fried chickpea and fava bean fritters), grape leaves, kibbeh (fried wheat shells stuffed with meat), and makdous (spicy stuffed baby eggplants).

The baby eggplants were adorable and tasty. Stuffed with walnuts, herbs, garlic, and pomegranates, these were hearty eats in a small package. The vinagrette offered a slight tang. However these "spicy" eggplant offered no heat to speak of. Not a bad thing in my opinion.

The falafel were crispy on the outside, with a warm, soft center filled with mashed beans and herbs. If you love chickpeas you won't be able to resist these, especially with a side of tahini (a sesame seed paste) sauce.

The kibbeh are also excellent. I was first introduced to these meat filled delights by a Lebanese friend (she herself says the Taverna offers the closest thing to her mother's Lebanese cooking). Again, these were crispy on the outside with a light doughiness to the shell on the inside and stuffed with meat, herbs, and nuts. The grape leaves were stuffed with rice, parsely, mint, and chickpeas. They were tasty, but nothing special.

The hommos is creamy and light and served with a bagfull of pita (both wheat and white flour). I had to stop myself from filling up simply on warm, soft pita and hommus.

I can honestly say I could eat here everyday and be happy. Malia can testify to this.

3 out of 3 JAMs

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