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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.


Entries in Lebanese (4)



You don't find Lebanese food much here at home. Of course, there's Reef, but Reef is one of a kind. Not so in Sydney, where there is apparently a pretty big Lebanese immigrant population. The result is that Lebanese restaurants are actually quite common. I remember one block near Surry Hills that has about 6 in a row. Closer to where we stayed is Almustafa (sorry for the lack of photo) on Glebe Point Road. Almustafa is very different than Reef - it's much more of a restaurant, with proper sit-down service and an emphasis on ambiance. The atmosphere is dark and exotic, and they even have a belly dancer on some nights (not when I was there, unfortunately) and a hookah lounge in the back (also not my thing). Accordingly, they charge real restaurant prices. They offer banquet menus for groups at around A$30 per person, though we decided to order a la carte.

hommous - A$8 We started off with some hommous for the table, and it was pretty good. The bread, though looking a bit dry and lifeless in the photo, was actually warm and very delicious. A$8 is a bit much for hommous, but at least it was a pretty big plate. It had a nice bean/olive oil mix.

falafel - A$15 Falafel was just okay, and again, a bit pricey. More fried than the Reef version. Also, notice the pickled turnips that you also find at Reef - must be a Lebanese thing!

cauliflower, lightly fried and topped with tahini - A$11 To my surprise, this was a star. I'm glad the fine SED ladies wanted to get this, because there's no way I would have ordered it on my own. The cauliflower was fried just enough to have a nice tender texture, and an ample amount of butter made it lusciusly rich. We shoulda gotten 2.

chicken shawarma - A$16 We went the safe route with a couple of shawarmas. I was eager to see if they resembled Reef's shawarmas, which are different than the typical rotating-big-piece-of-oddly-geometric-meat that you find at kebab and non-Lebanese Middle-Eastern places. As it turns out, this preparation was almost exactly the same as Reef, complete with the dollop of white garlic sauce on the side. It was tasty, but overall I think Reef's version is better.

lamb shawarma - A$22 The lamb shawarma, also similar to Reef's version. This tasted great, though it was quite expensive.

shish barak - homemade pastry ravioli filled with lamb, pine nuts and onion served in a bowl of lightly herbed yoghurt sauce, with white rice on the side - A$22 Now this was something I'd never seen before. It's too bad you can't see the stuff under, but they were kinda like little lamb dumplings. Hard to describe - they looked like big gnocchis I guess. They were fairly doughy with a nice bite of ground lamb inside. The dish was quite good, but the yoghurt sauce was quite overpowering. It was almost soup-like actually, and made for an interesting congee-like concoction when mixed in with rice. Interesting dish.

baklava - A$8 We ordered a few baklava, which came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Nice, nutty, pistachio flavor, though still a tad sweet for me. It didn't have the overwhelming syrup that many versions do though. So I'm a little torn about the second Lebanese place I've ever tried. The atmosphere is cool for the right occasion, but not really my thing. The food is good, but I can't get over the fact that I can get just as good stuff at Reef for half the price (or less). So I guess that Almustafa would be a nice place to go to once in a while... but I'm glad I have Reef in my backyard to go to regularly.


Reef Cafe


So I've posted a few times about Reef Cafe already. You guys know the story. Family-run Lebanese joint in Allston; delicious food. Unfortunately, the Mexican place right next door had a fire earlier this week. This has caused some power problems and whatnot on the block and Reef has been closed for a ocuple of days. Hopefully they'll be open again soon... I won't be back in Boston for 6 months after July, so I need to load up on my Reef intake for the rest of 2005. Anyway, in my previous posts, I never posted a photo of the true lifeblood of my Boston diet - Reef's chicken shawarma sandwich. I finally got a shot of it a while back.

chicken shawarma sandwich - $4.75 The sandwich is just their chicken shawarma, tomatoes, pickles, and lemon-garlic spread from the gods. Everything is rolled up into a pita and put on the little grill for a bit. The result is amazing. I'm not a big fan of pickles, but this sandwich has really converted me. The sourness of the pickle complements the chicken and the lemon-garlic perfectly. I have honestly lost count of how many of these sandwiches I've consumed in the past year. 40 might be a good ballpark number... Then again that sounds extremely high. I dunno. But I've eaten a lot, and you should too!


Reef Cafe


So I'm finally back to posting about Boston. As some of you know I tend to eat a lot of the same stuff over and over again while I'm at school, so this post is as appropriate a start as any. I hereby continue to work through the menu at Reef Cafe, my food destination of choice around here in Allston. I eat at Reef Cafe usually at least every 3 days or so, often in the form of takeout or delivery (see a previous post here). It's a very small, family-run, styrofoam-plate Lebanese joint, and damn the food is good. The people there are as nice as anyone you'll ever meet (usually, younger brother Salam is at the counter when I walk in). I implore you to go if you get the chance!

meat pie - $1.5 The meat pie, which took me a while to discover, is a revelation. They're not too big, and I usually get one as a side for whatever other item I'm eating, but to be honest I'd be happy eating 3 or 4 of them and calling it a meal. I have no idea what exactly is in it - it's some kind of lamb mixture if I'm not mistaken - but it really is delicious. The crust is doughy and thin, and if you're lucky and the pies just came out, wonderfully crisp.

chicken shawarma rice plate - $7.95 Perhaps the most go-to thing I get at Reef is the chicken shawarma. Like many of the items, it comes in either as either a rice plate or a sandwich. I usually get the sandwich (actually, I like it better that way), but I for some reason don't have a good photograph of that, so I'll leave it for another time. When I'm a bit more hungry, I get the huge rice plate. Again, I have no idea what goes into the chicken shawarma - the color seems to indicate a tomato-based sauce, but I don't actually know. I just know it's delicious, and I have to have it at least once or twice a week or I go into withdrawal. That white stuff at the top of the plate next to the pink pickled radishes is a devilishly good lemon-garlic sauce/mixture. More posts about Reef Cafe will surely come in time. They just have so much more good stuff, including lamb-beef shawarma, chicken livers, soujouk... even their french fries. I've contemplated selling out and getting a Reef Cafe t-shirt.


Reef Cafe

Here's the first of likely many entries about Reef Cafe. This is a Lebanese place is a few blocks away from my apartment, and this past semester I've been going there a lot (and that's quite the understatement). Usually I stop by for lunch to grab a sandwich (which means a pita roll up) of some kind, and I think I eat there probably at least two or three times a week. At least. And I haven't gotten sick of it yet...

spinach pie - $1.50

baked lamb with rice - $7.99

lamb with okra - $7.99 Everything at Reef Cafe is homemade. The place is essentially run by a family - there's literally a Lebanese mother in the back cooking everything up. The two brothers work the register and stuff, and once in a while the dad is around. The spinach pies are cheap and delicious, with plenty of steaming hot and tasty spinach goodness inside. Every day, they have a "daily specials" board, which is a rotation of different stuff. The descriptions are simple, but they're damn good.

The baked lamb with rice was great - fork tender lamb with extremely fragrant rice. The rice plates are all served with their wonderful pink turnip pickles and a tangy tomato/cucumber salad. The lamb with okra was also great. I'm usually not a big fan of okra but this stew-like mixture was delicious, warming (it was around 0 degrees outside), and perfect with a plate of rice. Pretty much all of the specials are great, especially the "spinach" - a lamb/spinach stew with lots of lemon and nuts. I have no idea what's in this stuff, but whatever it is I love it...

Often I order the much less photogenic sandwiches. The menu offers all kinds of different stuff. I've tried and loved the chicken shawarma, chicken livers, roasted chicken with potato, lamb shawarma, lamb kebab, soujouk, baked kibby... the list goes on. Each one is unique and delicious. Everything is rolled up in some pita-like bread along with some veggies (tomatoes, onions, sometimes pickles, depending on what you get) and some sauce (somtimes tahini, or a lemon-garlic sauce, depending on what you get) and thrown on a little toaster/grill thing that crisps the outside. Each sandwich is $4.75. This is the best food I've found for a college budget in the area.

Also be sure to try the baklava and the coffee. I've heard they have a great soup too, but haven't tried it because there's always something else I'm craving.

Anyway, this is the last Boston post until I get back there after the new year. I'm doing the holiday thing with the family in Vancouver now. I've got one meal to post from my night in SF, then it's on to Vancouver stuff, which of course never fails to satisfy.