Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Phoenicians Restaurant: Good

Nothing like dropping a friend off at Subaru on Central Avenue to make an excuse to go to the nearby Phoenicians together for a home style Lebanese dinner. Last night, while I waited for her to get her car I got my GPS ready to direct me. It was 5:30 and the estimated arrival time was 5:32. Good thing: I was hungry.

Traffic was thick, but there was only one car in the parking lot. Not a good omen. I don't think the sign out front gets much attention, what with everything else that screams at you along the strip. The building, too, is pretty nondescript (and there's a strange little house in the parking lot). The grass next door needed to be mowed. That said, we ventured in and were welcomed by owner Robert Rahal and seated directly. Only one other guy sat in a corner but he ordered take-out and was soon good to go.

The decor was nice, good enough, colorful for sure, but what's with the TV (at least it wasn't on; we listened to.... [wait for it]....opera)? Simple tables topped with plate glass reminded me of diners, the glass protecting beer, wine and dessert menus that looked up at us against the glare. A regular menu was delivered that listed a nice selection of starters, a few salads, a number of pita wraps, as well as a pretty standard selection of entrees including kabobs and shawarmas.

Robert is the owner, host, and waiter. His wife, Rindala, worked the kitchen. We ordered drinks - a cold beer (nice and cold!) for Zena, white wine for Subaru. Also a plate of hummus ($4.99) to start that was very good - a nice balance of creamy chickpeas, sesame, garlic, and salt. Too bad the basket of pita bread was so dry. But Zena had an appetite so I ate my half and then some. The hummus was actually some of the best I've ever had, which is when index fingers come in VERY handy. Another table of three came in and seemed to be celebrating something, which was nice to be around, especially for Zena, who likes to go out to be seen. They took lots of pictures. Not of me. I didn't take one. Sorry.

Anyway, friend Subaru ordered the pita wrap with the lamb (not on the online menu), which came with a side of rice. I had a Lebanese salad with grilled chicken (on the online menu; not on the in-house menu, and $2 more than was listed online). Both dishes were good, plentiful, although the chicken was a bit dry and the salad a bit heavy on the vinegar. We especially enjoyed "wild cucumber pickles" and marinated turnips (also a pickle flavored with wine and salt). Our host showed us jars of the cucumber pickles and told us more about what they were. He even brought us an extra dish full at no charge, which was sweet. Robert is very gracious, and talkative, and attentive. Maybe a bit too much so, but still it was charming and his wife, too, always had a smile. So home style cooking in a place that was sort of homey, too. I liked it.

HOWEVER: the specials were never mentioned. There's a white board near the doorway that we didn't even see. Something about lamb chops that I was sorry to miss.

I was interested to see that there were all kinds of cans and bags and boxes and jars of specialty foods for sale, as well as a lovely selection of baked goods in the cases, including enough baklava to feed my sister's oldest boy. The web site doesn't mention groceries.

It was a good supper. We got a discount using a Double Take coupon, which was good, because the prices seemed just a bit on the high side considering what we had and the overall ambiance. The place overall was good, pretty good, but short of really good, in small ways that I think wouldn't be hard to fix. But still good.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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