i admit it. although i really love all asian and latin american goodies , i have never been a big middle eastern fan which i think is a little strange. hummus is fine, and i can deal with a kebab here or there but i don’t usually pick felafel as my first choice. after my visit to tanoreen last week, that all might change. my cousin, who is definitely an expert as her husband is israeli, suggested that we try tanoreen as she had heard a lot about this place tucked far away in bay ridge.
the restaurant itself is nothing special. a pretty boring smallish box (there are rumors that they will be moving to a bigger location) with some nondescript tables and a lighted counter at the back in front of an open kitchen. the night we were there tanoreen had a small wait for a table for two, and the service was friendly and quick. tanoreen’s food, which focuses on traditional and some more innovative takes on middle eastern, on the other hand, was pretty great.
we started with hummus which my cousin declared among the best she had ever had so i think that’s pretty impressive. i was enthralled with the labaneh, which i had never had before (pictured above). this yogurt spread topped with mint and olive oil was spectacularly creamy, tangy and super smooth. i could have kept eating that all night but fortunately i didn’t as my main course was just as good. the bread basket also included some crispy flatbread (maybe pita) toasted with za’atar that was also great. the regular pita also in our basket was fine — not the fluffiest or freshest though it did the trick of basically serving as the vehicle for that amazing labaneh.
i had the not so attractive but oh so delicious baby squash stuffed with rice and lamb and cooked in tomato sauce special. pictured above, the dish does not look like much but the squash was firm, and the tomato sauce was vibrant, filled with herbs, and the mix of meat was a perfect counterpoint to the sauce. my cousin had the vegetarian combo which included a lentil pilaf, cracked wheat in tomato sauce and vegetarian grape leaves. and there are many more dishes i want to try at tanoreen including anything with eggplant (the baked mediterranean eggplant and the eggplant salad with tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil) or lamb (lamb shank, the cabbage leaves with lamb and the deep fried kibbie balls with several layers of ground lamb) as well as the cauliflower salad.
and i guess tanoreen is really going to become a family thing too. my father and stepmother, who come to visit quite often luckily for us, stay out in bay ridge. and while they have their favorite haunts, i think that it won’t be too hard to get them to add tanoreen to the list. tanoreen, 7523 3rd avenue at 76th street, brooklyn, new york, 718.748.5600. (in december 2009, they moved to a bigger, fancier location — which is this address. i haven’t tried it yet but reports are it is much nicer space.)