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Posts from the ‘Middle Eastern’ Category

Mazzat

Mazzat certainly isn’t going to help re-gentrify Red Hook or that isolated sliver of Carroll Gardens that some call Red Hook. I was excited to see something new show up on Columbia Street earlier this year but the Mediterranean tapas (so says their awning) aren’t really any great shakes. Then again, they’re not horrible either. If the urge for Armenian string cheese and a glass of wine ever strikes when in western Carroll Gardens, you’ll know where to go.

Mazzat_chicken_cigars
Chicken cigars aren't such a crazy concept, but served with honey mustard?

Mazzat_hummus
Don't worry, there's no honey mustard in the hummus.

Mazzat_sausage
Soujouk, a crumbly, mildly spicy Armenian sausage with cheese.  It's not pretty, but at least it's something you don't typically see at a tapas bar. I also don't think Armenia is Mediterranean–maybe it's one of those Carroll Gardens/Red Hook debates. 

Read my Nymag.com review

Mazzat * 208 Columbia St., Brooklyn, NY

Cafe Noir

1/2 I never eat in Soho, mostly because I’m never in the neighborhood. But there’s always a sense of style over substance, as well. Café Noir strikes me as one of those good enough restaurants, more geared to sustaining drinkers with passable Moroccan/Spanish/Middle Eastern/French bistro nibbles.

I knew I was in trouble when I ordered steak tartare and the waitress felt the need to explain, “you know that’s raw, right?”

Cafenoirtartare

And the customers weren’t much better. Bare feet don’t belong in a dining establishment and they most definitely don’t belong atop the long shared booth, inches from my leg. The offending appendages belonged to a sweet young girl who seemed very interested in probing her Swiss “date” about his income and career goals. When he mentioned that he might just go back to school, she then offered up that she had an investment banker boyfriend. Clearly, this dinner mate wasn’t enough of an upgrade to maintain her façade.

Cafenoirmerguez

The merguez wasn’t half-bad, though I felt like the scoop of couscous should’ve been warm since the carrot salad was also cold.

Cafenoircroquettes

Seafood croquettes were ok too.

Read my less anecdotal Nymag.com review

Cafe Noir * 32 Grand St., New York, NY

Alfanoose

Not only am I still sussing out the Financial District lunch scene, I’m also figuring out office eating etiquette. Like do the women actually eat, do people take full hours, are these expense account steak folks or Subway buy one get one free coupon types (the latter, it turns out), are there brown baggers in the house, is desk eating ok or a gross out. Personally, I like getting something relatively cheap and eating at my desk so I can use the time to visit mindless internet sites. The major hindrance so far is that I don’t have a desk, which is getting peculiar since I’m going on week four as of today. I imagined the situation would’ve been rectified by now but since on any given day someone is working from home there is usually a random desk and computer available. There hasn’t been any sense of urgency.

Being a refugee, I feel weird about eating in near strangers’ workspaces. I try to leave during lunch and stay gone for an hour (so far I’ve discovered the weirdo fried chicken udon at a Korean deli and Bento Nouveau. At both places I just wanted plain hacked up chicken like my old favorite from midtown’s Yagura, yet was presented with broth filled with chunky chicken nuggets. I like fried food but you’re getting the calories with none of the crispness from the skin so it seems like a waste. I also think the $6.45 lunch special at Taste of Tokyo is great value but it’s take out only so it doesn’t solve my midday seating problem).

Last week I was careful because I was sharing a space with my supervisor and I suspected she was a particular person and possibly vegetarian. I’m good at gauging who’ll be sensitive to food smells (usually the skinnier the more stringent). But she was out one day and I was feeling abnormally hungry and wanted something more substantial than sushi, soup or salad, my three big S’s.

I decided to check out Alfanoose, a popular Middle Eastern (technically Syrian-Lebanese but I don't add more specific categories until I have at least two restaurants to tag and I'm not sure that I have other Syrian eateries–I'll have to check) place, not all that near the office. I never spend $9 for routine lunch and it’s been paining me to break the $5 barrier but it was my first payday so I went wild. And even soup breaks that budget, it seems.

I was more impressed than I thought I would be. I expected Alfanoose to be rattier (not literally rat-filled, though I don’t quite get all the recent vermin hullabaloo) and more of a take out joint but it’s slightly more welcoming. Good signs were in place, like a case with homemade desserts (I’m curious about what looked like butterscotch pudding with a rectangular cookie placed flat on top like a sinking raft) and snacks like spinach turnovers and kibbeh. If someone’s taking the time to bake and concoct, they must care about their offerings. I’ve never set foot in Pita Grill, closer to my office (there’s also one in my home neighborhood) but it doesn’t seem like they’d whip up goodies from scratch on a daily basis.

I get nervous about lunch time heavies with long lines and regulars because I’m impatient, myself, and don’t want to mess up the ordering flow with clueless questions. That’s why I’m a big scrutinizer of online menus pre-meal. Normally, I would opt for a sandwich, but since I was starving I couldn’t resist the platter, my nod to temperance was ordering falafel instead of meat (I’m not sure if fried chickpeas have any health advantage over grilled lamb).

That’s the easy part, then come the questions. Hummus, baba ganouj or tabouleh, then I was confused by a choice of three grains which you could see through the glass. I think there was a reddish tomato rice, a rice with lentils and couscous with lentils, I went for the latter. I always agree to “everything,” it’s easier. That includes sliced red onion as well as sweet carmelized onion shreds, tahini and hot sauce. People are very particular about the amounts of condiments, lots, less; I got into the spirit of things and asked for a few extra squirts. Oh, and there is a sprinkling of those beet-stained pickled turnips that I could eat a small plate of, plus regular pickle shreds too. You also get a large pita rolled and wrapped in foil that doesn’t manage to maintain heat. It’s a lot of food, practically a whole cup of hummus and too much starch which is way better than typical filler. The couscous and lentils were soft, chewy and cohesive. I never got bored like I tend to with pasta and grains and had to force myself to stop eating the entire serving.

Alfanoose_falafel_platter
This looks like crap because I'd been carrying the carton sideways for seven blocks.

I brought my bounty back to the office and attempted to furtively eat in peace but the aroma of my Alfanoose styrofoam platter elicited “what is thats” from numerous people and then prompted, “you picked a good day,” implying that that the person who’d normally be sitting ten feet from me wouldn’t be as tolerant of the scents. I’ve never been bothered by food smells but I’m also chronically stuffed up.

The only time I took issue with unwelcome odors was when I moved into my first NYC apartment that had been occupied by an Indian family of five. I always thought curry was a pleasant scent but after a month the madras powder situation (and severe roach and mouse problem) still hadn’t dissipated. And matters weren’t helped any by my using their left behind mattress for three years because I couldn’t afford a bed (they’d been using two on the floor for all of them so I figured I was better off in some inexplicable way). It was as if cumin, turmeric and grease had seeped into every surface, and I don’t know if it ever went away or if I just got used to it.

But enough about work (and soiled mattresses) I don’t want to ruffle any feathers if someone inexplicably decides to Google me (I do work in the research department). Next time, I’ll get a sandwich instead of the full on platter and go late enough in the afternoon to snag a seat at the restaurant. I should take advantage of my full hour anyway and stop being a desk eater. Computers probably contribute to brain rot anyway, that’s why I can’t write a concise, non-meandering critique.

Alfanoose * 8 Maiden Ln., New York, NY

Thankfully Yours

For no reason at all, this year I couldn’t bear making a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pie type of Thanksgiving meal. I did want to cook, though. My alternative criteria included strong flavors, vegetarian-friendly and not Asian (my usual inclination). The M’s: Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Mediterranean seemed wise (and had nothing to do with Turkey bird/country puns). I was finally able to use the restaurant cookbook, Moro, a 2004 Christmas present from my sister. Ultimately, I settled on the following:

Squash Fatayer
Turkey Bisteeya
Green Beans with Cinnamon Yogurt
Golden Rice with Cranberries
Pumpkin Flan with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

I’ve never understood the guilt, family obligation, whatever that comes with celebrating the holidays. I just had a few other orphans over for mini slumber party, low-key Thanksgiving dinner. Where I get this apathy from became apparent when my mom called Thursday and mentioned that she was shirking a family celebration, herself. Those relatives all practically live in Portland so it’s not a long haul travel issue for anyone. It’s very much a case of why bother with things that are unpleasant or difficult (fine for family gatherings but it inevitably extends to concepts like going to the doctor, fostering relationships, exercising and eating well, career advancement and the like).

The best part of the conversation was when I asked what she was doing at that moment. “Oh, I’m baking cupcakes from a spice cake mix.” No harm in that though it only reinforces how cooking from scratch was, and apparently still is, exotic (the last time I went home for Christmas, maybe in 2004, my cousins had done a bit of home baking. Unfortunately, everyone was on an Atkin’s bender and in my mind Splenda and artificial lemon extract cancels out the whole scratch thing).

I was originally going to work Thanksgiving and then said fuck it. I didn’t want to be a martyr but losing a day’s pay also sucks. While I would prefer it to be metaphoric gravy, the last article I wrote could cover two day’s lost wages with a little left over so I took the initiative to be lazy. I probably should’ve worked yesterday (Friday) now that I think about it but I couldn’t get out of bed until 1pm. (Besides, I’m being positive and counting on some good news next week. It would be very strange to start 2007 with another new job especially since I already did the exact same thing this January. I think 2007 will have to be an entire do over of 2006.) So, I had more time to prepare food than I’d anticipated but it still took way longer than expected and there were a few flubs. But there always is.

ThanksfatayerFor the fatayer, which is a pastry typically filled with spinach, I used a combination of butternut, carnival and acorn squash and ultimately hand mashed rather than pureed. Next time I would use all butternut because the other two were a real trauma to peel and I wasted over half an hour messing with them. The end result was probably a little chunkier than called for but that was no biggie. I doubled the recipe and played a little loose with the measurements due to the grams/ounces conversion and made round pastries rather than triangular ones. The strange thing was that I had more than half of the filling left over after crafting eight doughy orbs. Maybe I understuffed, though based on the illustrative photos in the book I was right on.

With the exception of peeling the squash (which thankfully, I did the night before) these were pretty easy to make. I whipped them up while guests were watching Iron Chef America. Don’t be scared off by the yeast, rolling and rising (I usually am), it goes quickly.

Pumpkin Fatayer

Dough
220g all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried yeast
100ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Filling
800g pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into small chunks
½ garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
80g feta cheese, crumbled and mixed with ½ small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon, pinenuts, lightly toasted
sea salt and black pepper

To make the fatayer dough, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour the oil into the water. Now pour the water into the flour a bit at a time while mixing. When all the water is added, transfer to a floured surface and knead well. If the dough is still sticky add a little more flour; if it is still crumbly add a little more water. Continue kneading for about 5 minutes until the dough is no longer tacky, but soft, elastic and smooth. Set aside to rest on the floured surface covered by a cloth.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. To start the filling, toss the pumpkin with garlic and olive oil, and season. Place on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until soft. Remove and cool. Puree and taste for seasoning.

To make the fatayer, divide the dough in four and roll into balls. On a generously floured surface, using a rolling pin, gently roll each ball to approximately ¼” thick, making sure the shape is a rough circle about 6.5” in diameter. Put 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin and put a quarter of the feta (with oregano) and pinenuts on top. Moisten the edge of the circle with a little water, then lift the dough into the center around the triangle of pumpkin. With your fingers, gently squeeze the adjoining edges together until sealed. Trim the edges of the triangle of any excess dough and pinch together again.

Place the four fatayer on an oiled baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the dough begins to color, but not totally crisp.

Serves 4

Recipe from Moro by Sam and Sam Clark. Ebury Press. 2001.

I’ve always wanted to make a bisteeya (b’stilla, b’steeya, whatever) because I’m nuts for sweet savory combos. I can’t understand people who are grossed out by fruit and meat cohabitating. This Moroccan pie would kill them because it’s not even subtle like sweet and sour pork; this monster is strewn with powdered sugar, cinnamon and almonds. It’s a total dark meat danish. I was also drawn to it because traditionally the entrée would be made with pigeon or alternatively, squab. Two birds I’ve never tasted, but clearly it’s about richness, which seemed like a perfect match for dark turkey meat.

I’m all for banishing dry poultry so I ended up poaching three turkey drumsticks as my base. This did prove tricky because all the recipes I found used chicken parts (the only turkey version I saw called for ground meat and that’s just wrong) which would require shorter cooking times. I was thinking I could simmer the drumsticks in an aromatic broth for maybe two hours but it dragged on all afternoon.

BisteeyainsideI adapted a recipe from The Traveler’s Lunchbox, who had already adapted it from various sources. Mine was definitely a mishmash. In a nutshell, you simmer dark bone-in meat in broth steeped with saffron, ginger, cayenne and cinnamon and onions. After the meat is cooked and removed, you boil the liquid down and add beaten eggs mixed with parley and cilantro until the egg is firm. Almonds are toasted, chopped and tossed with cinnamon and powdered sugar. To assemble the bisteeya, you layer lots of phyllo dough (warka for purists, but I wasn’t trying to prove anything) and butter and create layers of sweet almonds, shredded turkey and herbed egg and fold the phyllo sheets around the filling to create a big blobby pie. Then you bake until the pastry turns golden. That’s it. If it wasn’t for the turkey taking an eternity to cook, this would’ve been a fairly streamlined operation.

Admittedly, mine looks naked. I didn’t go the extra step and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. By this point, I’d already had enough to drink that presentation had lost importance and only two people were eating it anyway.

I also needed something green and crunchy to balance the starchiness of the menu. These super easy vegetables did the trick. They look kind of grotesque in the photo, though.

ThanksbeansGreen Beans with Cinnamon and Yogurt

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
14 ounces Greek yogurt, thinned with 1 tablespoon milk
1 ½ pounds green beans
sea salt and black pepper

Mix yogurt, garlic and cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Boil beans for 1-2 minutes, drain and toss with yogurt.

Serves 4

Adapted from Moro by Sam and Sam Clark. Ebury Press. 2001.

Thanksrice At the last minute (ok, the night before but that’s cutting it close) I decided we needed a side starch so I made do with things on hand and bastardized this Golden Basmati with Apricots. I used jasmine rice rather than the recommended grain (I only had half a cup) and dried cranberries instead of apricots since that was what was in the cupboard. It came off without a hitch and seemed more seasonal with the berries anyway.

I didn’t want to fuss with a crust so pies were out of the question, but this seemingly straightforward Pumpkin Flan with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds turned out to be a real pain in the ass. You’re essentially making a flan and combining a custard with a can of pureed pumpkin. Easy right?

Er, no. You’re supposed to push the mix through a metal sieve, but there was no way all of my goop was squeezing through the holes. Nowhere did the recipe say to discard solids either, so I spent at least 45 minutes fussing, forcing, trying different mesh strainers to no avail. I eventually gave up, and threw the remaining cup of too-thick batter into the dish as is. At the rate I was going the six-hour set time wasn’t going to be until after midnight (which ended up being fine since we weren’t ready for dessert until after 12am anyway). Not only did the flan not gel completely, it wouldn’t come out of the dish. I ran hot water over the back of the pan until it finally plopped out in an oozy block. I didn’t take a picture because it looked like shit.

Food aside, I’m always baffled how these types of evenings progress. Originally, there was a loose plan to play board games and watch hot gay teen hustler flick, Mysterious Skin (a perfect double feature would’ve been Brokeback Mountain, but that doesn’t air on cable until this Sunday. Though we did get a little unexpected man-kissing when we randomly clicked on original Cronenberg Crash, [I love how the decade-old website still exists] not cheesey Oscar Crash. I still think it’s weird how Elias Koteas ended up in all these arty flicks because I can only think of him as skinhead Duncan in Some Kind of Wonderful, which happened to be on TV today) but none of that happened. Five bottles of wine and a pack of Kools (I’m still not clear on the whys of how a friend started carrying menthols. For the record, I’ve only been smoking one-to-two cigarettes a week rather than a day so I figured a holiday binge wouldn’t kill me) will cloud good judgment.

Somehow we got sucked into the truly amazing, Kirikou and the Sorceress on the Black Family Channel (this French animated film is bizarre and charming in its utter un-American style. Without spoiling the story, it’s kind of about a precocious brave baby that’s born walking and talking and saves his village. That doesn’t sound terribly enticing, but one of my friends ended up having Kirikou show up in her dream the next night. It sticks with you). Next thing you know, I was watching the kind of crap that I’d normally chide James for putting on like Control, and marveling at Willem Defoe’s weird beauty. Then it was 6am and I was unable to turn off VH1 Classics, showcasing the hideous slightly before my time Rush, as well as the hideous firmly within my era Soundgarden. Somehow the night always ends with VH1 Classic (I have photographic reminders of how I practically cleared a room with my dancing to George Michael’s “Monkey”).

Thanksfriends
I’m not one for people photos but I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I was a true Thanksgiving orphan (no, I’m not pictured).

Anise

Anise_interiorI had to have one "nice" dinner in Montreal since I felt compelled to mark my seven year dating anniversary somehow. The trouble was that we didn't decide to go to Canada until Thursday and most higher end establishments are closed on Sunday and Monday (the technical date) and Saturday reservations with 48-hours-notice isn't the wisest. Brunoise and Le Club Chasse et Peche wouldn't work, but Anise, another on my list was doable.

Coming off my recent Spain extravaganza. I wasn't completely bowled over. But that's hardly a negative because Barcelona and environs set the bar fairly high. I think I'm just used to past Montreal visits when the exchange rate was more in our favor. I'm cheap, duh, even when celebrating (and not footing the bill). Currently, it's almost one to one so a $90 bottle of wine is really a $90 bottle of wine. I'm focusing on wine here because I thought the list was slanted a bit heavily towards the higher end. Anise_breadSpain is unusual because wine is a bargain even in expensive restaurants. We had the six-course tasting menu for $70, which was absolutely reasonable, and ultimately opted for the $115 version with wine pairings because it would be tough, given the choices, to spend any less anyway.

I appreciated the Middle Eastern inflected dishes, which isn't something you typically find being done in the U.S., at least not in New York. We have nouveau sorts of Indian, Latin American, Chinese, Thai and so on, but I've yet to sample this style. In a way, it's very Montreal in that both French and Lebanese food are popular in the city.

Pardon the off-color photos. I'm no whiz in the best of circumstances, but the room was very dim and moody. There wasn't even candlelight to rely on.

Anise_watermelon
Watermelon shot with mint, arak and feta cube
This opener scared me. Melon is easily my least favorite food and the licorice-ness of the arak was pungent. It was nice with the cheese, though.

Anise_lentil_soup
Lentil soup, pita crisp
This was like a fancy dal.

Anise_goat_tartare
Goat gigot tartare scented with spices and marjoram, allumette potatoes
Yes, raw goat meat. I was amused by this dish because I'd just read a bit on Montreal by Alan Richman and he ends the piece with looking at Anise's menu in the window and being kind of horrified by the inclusion of duck tartare. I don't think duck has anything on goat as far as creeping Americans out. I have no problem with the furry beasts, raw or cooked.

Anise_quail
Quail breast crusted with pine nuts, stuffed date with almonds scented with orange blossom water and cubeb
James I were joking, holding up the Lilliputian quail bone up to our mouths and pretending to nibble. But damn, if this wasn't one of the most amazing things I ate, miniscule or not. I love sweet and savory combos with the same passion that I loathe melon and extreme bitter flavors. Nuts, dates and dark meat blend wonderfully, creating a bisteeya effect (even Emeril makes bisteeya). I could imagine a duck leg being done this style in a heartier portion. Learn about cubeb, unless you're already a culinary historian. I had no idea what it was.

Anise_venison
Venison shawarma, parsley salad with sumac, hummus coulis
A perfect example of doing something fairly traditional, but amped up. Despite the baby proportioned quail dish, we were very full by the time the shawarma was presented to us.

Anise_cheese
Raw milk comte, onion sprouts and hazelnuts
I need to start learning more about creative cheese presentations because all the little flourishes really make a difference.

After three glasses of wine and a lavendar syrup champagne cocktail, the finer details get lost. But there was gooey chocolate dessert and parting cookies.

Anise_dessert Anise_cookies

Anise * 104, Rue Laurier Ouest, Montreal, Canada

Yemen Cafe

In the nearly two years I've lived vaguely near Atlantic Avenue, Waterfalls is the only Middle Eastern restaurant I've visited. I fear that whole strip is going to be gentrified into oblivion within a couple of years, so I'd better start branching out while I can. Yemeni cuisine is one that I could stand to learn a little bit more about.

I took the opportunity during the first flakes of the blizzard. After seeing Cache at that odd Brooklyn Heights Theater on Henry Street, Yemen Cafe was a short (albeit wet) walk down the street (and home, 15 blocks south of that). As I'd suspected might be the case, I was the only female in the sparse, spacious room that was maybe a quarter full. I think that's why I tend to be wary of many of these restaurants: the lack of women. Am I breaking a rule by wanting to try new and delicious food?

Many of the items on offer were highly tasty and not quite like things I've had before. The pita was large, pizza-sized and comes on a platter. It had definitely come straight from an oven, warm with charred, bubbly edges. I didn't order any appetizers because I assumed the entrees were meal enough, which they were. However, the foul madamas and the Yemeni fateh, bread with honey and butter, grabbed my attention. Maybe on another visit.

James had a lamb fateh. I gather fateh means things served atop torn pieces of bread. The gravy soaks into the flaps of starch and creates a chewy flavor combination. I had the house salta, which comes in two parts. I think the salta is the stew, which is laced with potatoes, carrots and zucchini and comes most interestingly topped with a white herby foam called houlbah. I'd never seen such a thing, at the same it's time ancient and avant-garde. You mix the strong flavored swirl into the liquid. I couldn't put my finger on what the bitter component was, but later I deduced that it was fenugreek. A roasty browned, juicy lamb shank comes on a separate plate (you can also get chicken). A lot of picking and dipping is involved.

The foam came as a surprise, and so did the hot sauce they bring on a small saucer. I swear it's a dead ringer for salsa. We were joking that there was a jar of Pace in the kitchen. The components were there: tomato, onion, jalapeno, but lighter on the tomato on higher on the heat. Not chunky, but a puree. This is what I enjoyed about Yemen Cafe, unexpected tid bits like the Yemeni salsa, foamy toppings and pita strewn stews.

Yemen Cafe * 176 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Waterfalls

They changed the menu once again. I think it's been different ever time I've dined there, which is more times than I've actually documented here. Now "gourmet wraps" and hamburgers are prominently featured on the front. Clearly, they're trying to rope in customers who aren't in the mood for Middle Eastern fare, but why you'd go to Waterfalls for a burger is beyond me. And they changed the sandwiches, and not for the better. I swear you used to get hummus or baba ganooj, but that might've been a $1 supplement, which I don't see offered anymore. Now you choose your meat, I went for shish tawook, grilled chicken, and it comes cubed in a pita with a shitload of dressed lettuce and a drizzle of tahini. The meat to roughage ratio is about 40/60. It felt super healthy, but kind of blah. It needed some serious jazzing up. I would've liked to have crammed some of those fuchsia pickled turnips into the mix, but that's just because I apparently have a minor fixation with them. (11/12/05)

The menu has changed. The dishes aren't glaringly different, but they've revamped the categories into things like "mom's homemade specials," "healthy food diet & salad" and "gourmet wraps". If they start adding pannini I might balk.  I had a combo dinner with shish tawook (chicken), kafta square and baba ganooj. It was all good, but I missed the pickled turnips. I guess they don't use the relishes anymore. (2/11/05)

Lately they've ended up serving as an unintentional brunch venue. At night it never occurs to me to visit, but early weekend afternoons while doing neighborhood errands it makes sense. I invariably get the chicken sandwich while James does the kebab version. The only difference this visit was a shared bowl of thick, rich lentil soup served with pita. Interestingly, there is always a white male/Asian female (duh, like it's ever the other way around) couple with a stroller inside. Not the same couple, mind you, just the Cobble Hill archetype, I suppose. (12/2/04)

It wasn't the brunch I had expected, but perhaps better. I don't know if it should be a source of concern, but in the month since James has moved into the new neighborhood, it seems that restaurants are closing shop right and left. Max Court shut and was reborn as Fragole, Harvest turned into Lobo, Latin Grill just plain closed, and the same is true for Red Rail, which we thought we'd try for brunch since it's so near. No such luck, but I'd been meaning to try Waterfalls for ages and this was a ripe opportunity.

I went for the simple and ordered the chicken shawarma with baba ghanooj. What I really go nuts for are those pink pickled turnips. At least I think they're turnips. Even though they are neon fuschia, I think they're just colored with beet juice, not actually beets. I've heard that Waterfalls isn't what it used to be, but compared to the mediocrity I've experienced in Carroll Gardens and environs so far, this meal was more than welcome. (11/16/03)

Waterfalls Restaurant * 144 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn,NY

Zaytoons

This was just a quick, light pre-Halloween dinner, so I only have a cursory
sense of the place. I had a chicken schwarma pitza, which was nice and
grilled just right, but I always wonder if it's OK to say "pitza" without
sounding silly. I almost don't want to order it, but it's nothing compared
to the inexplicable embarrassment I'd have as a teen ordering The Super Bird
(a glorified club sandwich) at Denny's. I'd always crack up while saying it,
though I never had a problem with Denny's Moons Over My Hammy (ham and
scrambled egg sandwich with Swiss and American cheese on grilled sourdough,
as per their website). Funny.


Zaytoons * 283 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY

Moustache

1/2

This is a Portland guy's idea of a date place: one step up from burritos,
but less than $10 per person (assuming you don't order appetizers or
alcohol, which might be a correct assumption). At least that's what Jessica
and I have speculated when thinking back on the guys we're used to. To be
honest, I could see her getting dragged to Moustache well before I would. I
just don't date those kind of guys (pot-smoking, head-in-the-clouds, full of
unrealized dreams, singer/songwriter/artists who say they're going to move
to NYC). I'm at the haggard point in my life where a date should be a date
— thought-out, aiming to impress a little, care-taken, particularly in the
dining choice — I'm fussy about food, alright? I differentiate between
simply going out to eat with a guy and going on a dinner date.

This particular night was just getting something to eat because I was
craving Middle Eastern food, didn't want take-out falafel and Moustache was
nearby. I had a merguez sandwich, James had a lamb "pitza" and then we got
into a fight and I can't even remember what over. He left in such a huff
that he forgot his credit card at the restaurant. See? Moustache is no place
for couples (or couples to be).


MoustachePitza * 265 E. Tenth St., New York, NY

Karam

I was on a crazy Middle Eastern kick that only lasted this week, but it was
good while it lasted. Nothing beats a shawarma sandwich after a hard day
shopping at the Bay Ridge Century 21 (yet before going to the gym down the
street — there's nothing like doing crunches with a stomach full of lamb).
I've barely delved beyond basics, not because I'm scared of brain or tongue
or anything, but because NYC-style ordering at cramped, busy places like
this frazzle me and I end up blurting out the things I know. I must learn to
slow down and study a menu, no matter how spazzed out this city makes me.


Karam * 8519 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY