Monday, September 19, 2011
Tanoreen: A Study in Over-Ordering
Though not an official rule, it's by tacit agreement that Steve and I over-order whenever we eat out together. It's unavoidable (not that we try to avoid it anyway), especially with large groups, where we'll order an exponentially greater amount of food until a concerned waiter or waitress vainly presses us to relent. It seems as if we suffer from a lethal combination of wanting to try everything and the concurrent realization that the cost of said extra items will be spread evenly throughout the group (who invariably must be as willing in their eating habits as us).
A recent meal at Tanoreen presented textbook opportunities for our brand of over-ordering. OK, so we stuffed ourselves so full that my post-dinner tahini burps almost made me regret the meal (and make others regret it) as I staggered home. Almost. That said, I've passed my monthly quota of tahini.
Before our obligatory Baba Ganoush and hummus arrived, we snacked on crisp, spice dusted and sesame covered fried pita and pickled vegetables.
A special of fried brussel sprouts came topped with tahini-yogurt-pomegranate sauce and panko breadcrumbs. These were fabulous, with the yogurt and pomegranate cutting the bitterness of the brussel sprouts.
Fatoush Salad is so known because of the crunchy, fried pieces of pita bread which soak up the lemony dressing. Tanoreen's version, with spectacularly fresh vegetables, did not disappoint.
Lamb sausages came as a replacement to our sujok. Tasting somewhat like merguez, these were excellent, with a tangy, slightly spicy tomato sauce.
The trio of pies was unmemorable. The lamb pie was spiced exactly the same as the musakhan below. Besides, I think I only got a bare bite of the cheese pie and nothing of the dumpling shaped deal whose stuffing remains a mystery to me.
Grape leaves filled with lamb and rice were surprisingly bland and more than a little watery. Not even a spritz of lemon could give them life. Maybe we got a weak batch, but I'd avoid these next time.
What can I even say about rice?
One of our most unique appetizers, the "Eggplant Napoleon," sandwiched two pieces of fried eggplant around a mozzarella-like slab of baba ganoush sauced with a moat of chopped tomato and basil salad. The chefs at Tanoreen certainly have a way with eggplant, but I doubt it's what Napoleon had in mind when he designed his eponymous dessert.
Musakhan, a flatbread topped with sumac spiced chicken, caramelized onions and sliced almonds was one of the best dishes of the night. The sliced almonds added crunch to a flatbread that held more chicken than was really necessary. (Note to self: I miss eating things spiced with sumac, I need to step that up.)
Kibbe appeared as a trio of brown zeppelins, and they went down my throat like the Hindenburg (too soon?)
How could we not order the kabob combo plate? Featuring ground lamb kabobs with "Tanoreen spices," lamb shish kabobs and chicken kabobs, it was the chicken that turned out to be the best-- the other two tasted undersalted.
It was our final dish that put me over the edge. Another special, fish tagine. A whole branzino (or was it a red snapper? Either way, it sure as shit wasn't tilapia) was crusted with a tahini chili sauce and topped in caramelized onions, shallots, pomegranate molasses, lemon and olive oil. Whoa. Big flavor, so much so that it hardly mattered which fish it was, it all would have tasted of the same delectable sauce anyway (except for tilapia).
I somehow forgot to mention that I'd eaten a slice of pizza from the spot across the street while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive as Steve looked at me in horror. Proudly, I still managed to (nearly) keep up with everyone else. Drinking helped, too.
Despite the brick of food in our bellies (with tahini for mortar), we had to order the knafeh, a pastry consisting of phyllo dough, "Rawia's homemade sweet cheese," orange blossom syrup and a sprinkle of pistachios. We made our first, and only non-gluttonous decision of the night by opting for the small rather than the far more massive large. It was plenty of food.
Some people are turned off by cheesy desserts, but I dig this. Maybe it's the pistachio, which I'd eat in any situation, but the stretchiness of the cheese really makes this a unique dessert.
What did we learn today? Absolutely nothing. Steve and I will continue to over-order, and I (and most everyone else, judging by the crowds) will keep eating at Tanoreen and all will be right in the universe.
7523 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209