The newly opened Lebanon Restaurant & Café welcomes fans of Lebanese cuisine and culture | Food News | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander

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The Lebanon Cafe’s sampler platter includes hummus, dolmades, falafel, and more. | Carrie Scozzaro photo

Tthe downtown medical community recently got a new neighbor in Fifth and Wall and offers a convenient place for culinary exploration of the Mediterranean diet, which is touted as heart-healthy cuisine especially in Italy, Greece and the countries of the Middle East on the Mediterranean. Anchored on the ground floor of the Cooper George Apartments, the Lebanon Restaurant & Café opened in June, much to the online buzz of local foodies.

The restaurant’s most popular dishes, explains General Manager Saif Alazrai, are doner kebabs, gyros, kofta kebabs, and a tasting plate ($ 16).

Although the dishes on the menu can be found in culinary traditions across the Middle East, the emphasis here is on the Lebanese version, says Alazrai.

Shawarma, for example, refers to the way meat turns when cooked – rotisserie style – into a ubiquitous dish in the Middle East. The Lebanon Café offers chicken, beef, or lamb doner kebabs in pita ($ 13-15) or on a platter ($ 14-17) drizzled with a creamy, nutty dressing called tahini. But the basmati rice that accompanies all starters is uniquely Lebanese.

Gold tinted with turmeric and saffron, the Basmati of the Lebanon Café is enigmatically fragrant – is that fenugreek? a hint of cumin? – of what Alazrai describes as the Lebanese seven spices. Available from spice dealers as baharat, a Lebanese spice mix can vary greatly, similar to Indian curry, Japanese togarashi, or North African Ras el Hanout.

For newbies to Lebanese cuisine, ask your server questions or keep your phone handy for Google dishes. For example, the hard drive ($ 44) contains two vegetarian and beef kofta kebabs each and one chicken and beef shish kebab each.

On the sampler platter ($ 16), find Hummus, this thick, creamy spread made from pureed chickpeas, hot like garlic. It’s usually spread on flatbread, but it’s also a tasty bite when paired with a fork full of tabbouleh salad, a grain of wheat that is smaller than rice and also nuttier, with finely chopped parsley and tomatoes. You get too dolmades, Grape leaves preserved so that they are robust but tender to the mouth, and filled with seasoned rice and vegetables. And fried falafel patties and spinach pie both go well with spicy tzatziki sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, and spices.

You can see the restaurant making Lebanese coffee (US $ 5) on their Facebook page. First, they grind beans from a Lebanese coffee brand called Maatouk and use a long-handled metal coffee pot heated over hot sand to produce a cup that is likely stronger than any espresso.

The perfect accompaniment to coffee is dessert, and Lebanon Café has three options. Known to fans of Spokane’s annual Greek food festival, Baklava ($ 5) is a pastry made from layers of thin, flaky filo pastry, plus walnuts, cinnamon, and honey. Knafeh ($ 7) uses the same filo batter but contains Arabic cheese, pistachios, and honey. and qatayef ($ 6) that many Lebanon Cafe online fans have longed for are dumplings filled with walnuts and cinnamon and coated with syrup.

Lebanon Cafe has a robust to-go store, including breakfast pitas ($ 5), smoothies, and shakes. The owners plan to add more dishes in the near future, including baba ghanoush and shakshuka, with live music and belly dancing performances through the end of December. ♦

Lebanon Restaurant & Cafe • 707 W. Fifth Ave. • Open daily 11 am-8pm • lebanonrestaurantandcafe.com • 509-279-2124


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