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Lebanese Arabesque in Nicosia October 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia.
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New Arabic restaurant in Nicosia that actually shows some promise

Leaving the city and travelling along Strovolos Avenue, fork left at the traffic lights situated at the junction with the new Strovolos Theatre and take the Tseri Road. About 500m on the left, is a Laiki bank, turn left and the restaurant is the second building on the right.

The standard for Lebanese food in Cyprus is set by Abu Faysal and long may it continue; there have been many challengers, but all have fallen short in my opinion; Ghazi reigns supreme. But, tucked away in a side-street off the Tseri road is a little gem. Established a few months ago, it offers traditional Arabian dishes in an intimate setting, served by a young, attentive and charming staff. We arrived on a Friday night at 8:30pm and had a choice of sitting in the main room or on the veranda. On being informed that we would not be able to see the belly dancer if we sat outside, my companion immediately opted for the veranda, it’s not that she has anything against the dancing, but thinks that I might be distracted from my task of reviewing; very thoughtful. How we finished up sitting inside I can’t remember, but we did.

Normally our aperitif is ouzo, but ‘when in Rome’ we go for arak, this is served with a small bucket of ice and a pitcher of water. Menus are produced and we go to work, ‘what is this’, ‘what is that’ all met with a smile and an explanation. In the interest of thorough research we eschewed the meze, and attacked the full card.

Our selection started with Tabbouli, a traditional salad that includes very finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, bulgar wheat, lemon juice and olive oil, the important thing is the fine chopping. Next up, the wine list; a good selection of local and foreign wines, but we selected a dry white Ksara from Lebanon; it seemed appropriate. We then chose a number of dishes from the cold meze list: Houmous, followed by Taket matet, a dip made from pomegranate syrup, red peppers, walnuts and breadcrumbs; followed by Labneh bel thoum, which for the uninitiated is strained yoghurt with garlic, and then my particular favourite, Patata bel thoum, yes you’ve guessed it, mashed potatoes, drizzled with olive oil and laced with crushed garlic; superb. All these dishes are served on a silver salver, and cost £l.25 and were accompanied by those delicate Lebanese pitas.

Next, the hot section. Four small pieces of Sfeha Balbakia, home-made pita topped with minced lamb, fresh tomato and parsley. Then the Falafel, which verified a very light touch in the kitchen, as did the Harah, deep fried potatoes in a traditional sauce.

For the main course I went for Shukaf Orfaly, small pieces of charcoaled grilled lamb, and the companion selected Farrouj Mashwi, grilled boneless chicken breasts. These are served, in a huge pita, on a silver platter, and proved the undoing of us. It would have taken the National Guard to finish the meal; portions are generous.

Did I mention a dancer? Of course I did. This girl danced to a frenetic percussion rhythm and generated enough kinetic energy to light up Strovolos, and surprise upon surprise, she is Cypriot, seventeen and of course, accompanied by her mother; so there.

We were served with Mahalabi and Arabic coffee, which contains cardamoms, not cloves, all courtesy of the house. Thank you very much.

Every aspect of this establishment pleased me, from the seamless service to the high-backed wooden chairs. Give it a go, it opens for lunch and has a take-away service.

Vital Statistics
SPECIALITY Arabic food
WHERE 4 Phythagorus St. Strovolos (off Tseri Road)
CONTACT 22 317839
PRICE Dinner for two including spirits, wine and water, £33.

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