Category Archives: Middle Eastern

FOOD - "The Delicious" - Middle Eastern - Moroccan

Lunch at Cafe Mogador

June 25, 2012

By Bilal Mohammad

If you need to take a quick vacation, but you only have a lunch break to spare…then Café Mogador, located in the East Village, is the spot for you. When I walked into the Moroccan restaurant, I was drawn to the authentic design of the place. A quaint terrace, rustic wall treatments, and tiled mosaics all work to give the place a certain je ne se quois. On the inside, the restaurant feels very airy and breathable, despite being fairly busy during lunchtime.

I’ve found that I’ve grown bored with the fashion in which seafood is typically served at many New York restaurants. You can only eat grilled salmon over caesar salad or a fillet doused in lemon dressing so many times. I wanted to find a seafood entrée that was refreshing and scrumptious. I think I’ve found this in the Sautéed Salmon Crab Cake sandwich.

salmon crab cake

Despite offering an array of authentic Moroccan and Mediterranean items, the menu at Café Mogador remains friendly to those who might not be so experimental with cuisines. I was looking for seafood, but I was definitely conflicted before ordering because all the lunch sandwiches sounded so delicious! After I had narrowed my selection down to three sandwiches, my server helped me choose the crab cake over the grilled feta panini press and the signature Mogador burger.

salmon crab cake


It tasted fantastic. From the second that I bit into this sandwich, it must have taken me a quick five minutes to finish off the whole thing. The onions and tomatoes complemented the salmon cake very nicely, but it was the horseradish mayonnaise that took this sandwich to another level. It is a great option for those who might be a pescatarian diet, but would definitely taste just as good to all the meat lovers out there! [Read about brunch at Cafe Mogador here — if you haven’t been, you should change that!].


REPORT CARD

Meal: Lunch
Price: $$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: **
Would I go back?: Yes!


Restaurant Info:
Café Mogador

101 St. Marks Place
btw 1st Ave. & Ave. A
212-677-2226
East Village

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Dessert - FOOD - "The Delicious" - Middle Eastern - Travel Feasts

My trip to Georgetown, by way of food

August 3, 2011

I recently spent a weekend in DC to attend my friend Ritu’s gorgeous wedding in Potomac, but also to visit another friend, Anum, and her hubby in their new digs (which HAPPENS to be only a mile away from Georgetown). I’ve passed by the area before by car (doesn’t count), but never really wandered around. On a pretty scorching Sunday, we decided to make a day of it. And also because Anum still doesn’t have a couch. First stop: Zenobia Lounge for lunch.

Zenobia Lounge

It’s so refreshing to get out of NYC sometimes, because the restaurants EVERYWHERE else have so much more room. This Middle Eastern restaurant is interesting because it calls itself a “multicultural cafe and bookshop.” It has loads of literature on all the different Arab countries, and even a small gift shop by the entrance. They also host Arabic classes and other workshops year round.

Inside Zenobia

We made our way to the back garden, where people were already smoking hookah in the afternoon. We ordered the mint lemonade which is the “mintiest” you’ll probably find on this side of town — so much so, it’s actually GREEN.

Mint Lemonade

I felt like i hadn’t had a latte in forever, so why not:

Latte

We then ordered some kibbeh to start, chicken shawarma with fries, and fatteh chicken.

Kibbeh


Chicken shawarma


Fatteh Chicken

The kibbeh came out steaming hot and delicious (I always feel like kibbeh is a cross between a falafel and beef samosa). The chicken shawarma and fries hit the spot. When I ordered the fatteh chicken, I was not expecting what I got at all, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a yogurt dish with toasted pita, tahini, garlic, grilled chicken, pine nuts, cilantro and drizzled olive oil. It’s just so flavorful and delicious, but being ahem South Asian, we don’t know what to do with dishes without bread or rice on the side. So we ordered some:

Rice

The rice dish was a monster, and we ended up only eating a fourth of it because it just became too much food. But if you can manage, the fatteh chicken really is delicious on its own. When we managed to reach a satisfied full, we moved on to shop around a little (I scored some flares that would make Rachel Zoe proud), and then made our way to foodie stop #2: Serendipity 3.

Serendipity 3

I didn’t even know they had a Serendipity 3 there also, but the cool thing is it was still just as whimsical, but a little DC flair (check out the giant Abe Lincoln):

Inside Serendipity 3


I spy our 16th prez

My friends got the requisite frozen hot chocolate, mostly as a means to escape the heat for a little while:

Photo Credit: Faraz Hamedani :)


The two straws were for Faraz and Asghar

FINALLY, I refused to leave unless I tried some Georgetown Cupcake. Everyone in DC talks about them, and the 20-minute line out the door didn’t scare me at all.

Georgetown Cupcake


Decisions, decisions...

The lovely staff made the wait pretty bareable, giving everyone glasses of water who were waiting and just generally…happy? I think if I worked at a cupcake place, I’d be generally happy too though.

Display inside Georgetown Cupcake


Display inside Georgetown Cupcake

After poring over the menus they handed to us while we waited in line, I decided on carrot cake, red velvet, vanilla birthday, and less-than-promising-but-whatever-I’m-gonna-be-experimental mint julep.

Our cupcake feast

The verdict? I’m probably going to get hate mail for saying this, but I wasn’t totally impressed! Carrot cake was good but standard, red velvet was decent but I’ve had better, and the mint julep was barely ingestible. Granted, I didn’t even try anything chocolate (I’m generally not a chocolate cupcake person), and to their credit they were freshly baked and all. My favorite was the vanilla birthday….vanilla on vanilla. I don’t know if that says something more about me or the rest of the selection. And I appreciated that the sprinkles even had a little flavor, and not just the usual waxy toppings like most. I just felt they were slightly lacking in its texture (I like them really soft) and maybe I’m comparing them to the Sprinkles and Buttercups of the world. What do you guys think?

But alas, a day where 2/3rds of my meals are sugar still makes perfect sense to me.

Trip well done, kids



Anywhere else I should stop by next time I’m in G-town?


Restaurants’ Info:
Zenobia Lounge

1025 31st St NW
(at N K St)
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 339-0555

Serendipity 3 DC

3150 M St NW
(between N 31st St & N Wisconsin Ave)
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-5193


Georgetown Cupcake

3301 M St NW
(between N 33rd St & N Bank St)
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-8448


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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Middle Eastern

Moustache in the West AND East Village

April 28, 2011

The first time I’ve ever heard of Moustache, a Middle Eastern restaurant with three locations dispersed in the city, was when I was sleuthing around for a dinner spot and came across my friend, Archana’s post about it on her food blog. I feel like I’m never disappointed when I follow her good taste(buds).

Moustache in the West Village


Moustache - West Village

I went there the same night with a friend to the West Village location. It was small and buzzy and the aroma coming out of the kitchen (which is barely separated from the dining area, and in fact, overlooks it), was intoxicating. We promptly ordered a Moustache pitza (their Middle Eastern version of pizza!), and the Merguez sandwich, made of spicy lamb sausage, and two big glasses of mint tea.

Moustache pitza


Merguez sandwich

The pitza is unlike traditional pizza with tomato sauce. Instead, the mozzarella cheese is topped over a mix of roasted red bell pepper, tomato, onion, parsley, and chili. It’s unlike any pizza I’ve ever had, and soo good. The Merguez sandwich is cooked to perfection and topped with onion and tomato but the tahini sauce really brings it together.

My friend, Samia, wanted a little more spice and the waiter gave us a small plate of chili paste (harissa). If you like your food spice, you HAVE to ask for this. We topped it on our pitza and sandwich. Later, Samia asked the chef what’s in it and he said it takes a long time to make and started listing the ingredients for us (he mentioned a mix of coriander, cumin, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and of course, chili). When he saw how much we were enjoying it, he went to the back and put a generous amount of harissa in a plastic container for us to take home!

Our very own take-home harissa

I never did this before but I was so impressed with the food here, I decided I HAD to go to the East Village location — the very next night. I had plans with another friend and kept warning him this place looked tiny. I was totally wrong. If you account for the back ‘garden’ space, this place is considerably bigger than the one in the West Village. The back makes you feel you actually might be somewhere in the dessert. It’s set up like a tent, with streaming lanterns and Arabic painted across the wall.

Moustache East Village


Moustache East Village


Moustache East Village

I was pleasantly surprised that the food was identical and just as good as the other location.

Moustache pitza - East Village

OK fine. Maybe I went ONE more time with two more friends. This time, we also ordered a juicy chicken sandwich:

Chicken Kebab sandwich

The only thing about the East Village location is they need to hire more wait staff. The food at both places do take a long time to come out (I really think it’s because they take their time to make the food so good!), but the service in the East Village each time I was there was extremely slow. I realized it was because both times there was only one poor old man serving both the front and the back of the restaurant. Even to get water took a while, and the second time he completely forgot about the spicy sauce. The first time I went there, he actually came and apologized for the slow service. Hopefully, he’ll get more help, because this place is so worth coming back to for more. Totally support the combo of tasty and relatively inexpensive food (everything on the menu costing between $5-$14!).

Restaurant Info:
Moustache – West Village

90 Bedford St.,
nr. Barrow St.
New York, NY 10014
212-229-2220

Moustache – East Village

265 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10009
212-228-2022

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FOOD - "The Delicious" - French - Mediterranean - Middle Eastern - Moroccan - Tapas

Nomad in the East Village

March 17, 2011

Nomad

I’ve been passing by Nomad in the East Village almost every day this week and it always looks so warm and inviting inside. The Moroccan/French restaurant serves traditional plates and tapas and has the most gorgeous decor of jeweled lanterns, tiled tables and dim lighting. Man, even their bathroom is so pretty I almost took a picture, but that would be weird so I didn’t. In the back, they have a beautiful enclosed courtyard-like space. The food, I found, was equally impressive.

Moroccan bread starter

Duck pastille

If you go, you HAVE to try the duck pastille a l’orange appetizer. It’s a filo pastry stuffed with duck, almonds, and pieces of orange. It has the most interesting mix of flavors, a little sweet and salty. The lamb tajine is also really tasty, made with prunes, carmelized onions, spices and comes with a side of couscous.

Lamb Tagine

Sorry, it’s a dark pic but the best I could do! The service was also very friendly. Overall a pretty great find I think. If you’re looking for entertainment, they have a live band and belly dancers on Thursday nights, along with a $25 prix fixe meal. I also found that if you sign up for Village Vines (www.villagevines.com), you can get 30% off your entire bill here (and also get a discount at a bunch of other reputable restaurants). Definitely worth a pit stop.


Restaurant Info:
Nomad

78 Second Ave.
btw 4th and 5th Streets
New York, NY 10003
212-253-5410
East Village

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Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious" - Middle Eastern - Moroccan

Best brunch ever at Cafe Mogador

December 22, 2010

Holly Jolly Christmas at Cafe Mogador

In my defense, I’ve known about Cafe Mogador‘s celebrated brunches for years, but just never had the chance to experience myself. Until last weekend. It was every bit as fantastic as I hoped. It’s easily now my favorite brunch spot in the city (definitely up there with Cafe Orlin!).

I’ve been there for dinner few times before, and it was good, but I I realize now that if you haven’t been there for brunch, you really haven’t experienced the best this place has to offer.

Moroccan Benedict

If you do go, get one of the brunch specials, like the Moroccan Benedict (above), which also comes with a glass of fresh orange juice and your choice of coffee, espresso or a cappuccino for only $12. The Moroccan Benedict is amazingly good — poached eggs over spicy tomato and green pepper sauce on an english muffin. It also comes with home fries and a side salad. I savored every morsel.

My other friends got an omelette with goat cheese and spicy sauce inside and also comes with an additional side of sauce, home fries and salad as well. Everyone left full and happy.

If you have space for it, order a chocolate croissant too. It doesn’t come out warm, but the chocolate filling is divine. Even our coffee tasted great.

One thing to keep in mind is there will be a wait, and they MAY tell you it’s 20 minutes when it’s really 45. But it’s worth it. So worth it.


Restaurant Info:
Cafe Mogador

101 St. Marks Place
btw 1st Ave. & Ave. A
212-677-2226
East Village

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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Homemade - Mediterranean - Middle Eastern - Recipes - Vegetarian

The Falafel Fail

November 11, 2010

Falafel attempt 1

I’ve been cooking a lot these days (pat on the back)…but every once in a while, things can go horribly wrong. My first stab at making falafel — or Failafel, as coined by Christina from the writing class I spoke at last night — was one of those times. As I began to realize that it wasn’t going so well, I almost stopped taking pictures, deeming it now useless for my blog. But I think it’s part of learning…and also a chance to pay further homage to the pure awesomeness of our mothers who could work that kitchen as if they never burnt toast in their life…and probably haven’t.

We’re not worthy.

My mom might as well watch some of my cooking trials as if she’s watching a comedy. BUT this story has a happy ending at least…

SO. I found this falafel recipe in a cookbook that seemed super easy. I got all the ingredients and began chopping. Until I realized skimming the recipe four times doesn’t equal one thorough read — halfway through I realized I needed a food processor (amateur mistake #1).

Seeing there was no way I could improvise with my paltry kitchen tools, I started scanning my brain on where I could get one. I called a friend who lived near by, and she didn’t have one either. I knocked on the door across my apartment and no answer. And let me just say right now, my apartment floor is one of those where other people might as well not exist. I’ve NEVER seen any of our neighbors, so I decided I just had to set out and buy a new one. I literally walked out my door, and (cue angels) a girl I’ve never seen before is walking back to her apartment, a door away from mine.

“Hey! Random question. Do you own a food processor by any chance?”

“I do! Come right in.” Turns out she moved in just last week. I decided at that point God really wanted me to make these falafels. I returned to my apartment triumphant. I was following the recipe exactly and everything seemed to be going just as planned so far.

My borrowed food processor

Falafel mix

I scooped out the blended mix and began making them in tiny balls. The recipe called to fry them in four inches of oil, but I thought that seemed a little too much, so I tried with only an inch to begin with. I heated the oil in a frying pan and dropped in six falafel balls.

Deep fry

Everything was going great…until I realized one of the balls went missing. Then two…then three…they were disintegrating in the oil! I tried draining some of the oil, but it was already too late. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I decided to try baking them. I made ten more balls and stuck it in the oven, which seemed to work better…but then the outside started to get too brown and the inside wasn’t baking thoroughly. I ended up with this:

Falafel mush

Falafel mush, which basically looks like what the balls should have looked like…but in…umm…ball form? I was just about to give up and default to a frozen dinner until I tasted the mush and truth was, I still thought it tasted good. And the worst thing to me ever is to waste food, so this is the part I decided to take a “lemon and make lemon juice” as they say (oh God, I really am turning into my mom). I decided to make it a falafel spread.

I had these Arnold sandwich thins (the Fill ‘Ems, which I think everyone should have in their kitchen…they’re 100% whole wheat and so much healthier, only 100 calories each). I toasted them and spread the failafel in them.

I then chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley and added them to yogurt and added that over the spread.

Yogurt sauce

The combination of the warm, flavorful falafel and the cooling yogurt ended up being phenomenal. My roomie was so full from dinner and said she would just have a bite…ten minutes later she said “I think you have to make your own, I’m finishing this one.” Success.

My improvised falafel sandwich

After the whole fiasco, I tried looking online to see if anyone else had the same issues, and found a lot of people complaining about the same thing with their falafels melting in oil. It was weird though, because I followed the recipe exactly. I called my mom later to tell her about my failafel. “Oh. You just had to add bread crumbs to the recipe,” she said.

How do they know?? My roommate’s mom also said egg is a good addition. I found this recipe online that is very similar to the one I used, but with flour and baking soda. I’m assuming those added ingredients stabilizes the mixture, so I would go with that if you want real falafels, and not my improvised version.

In case you do though:

Failafel
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Put the chickpeas in large bowl, add water to cover by about 2 inches and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next morning, drain the chickpeas and toss them in a bowl with the onion and garlic. Run the mixture through the medium blade of a meat grinder. Toss the chickpea mixture with the parsley, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander and run through the grinder again.

3. Heat 4 inches of oil in to 350 degrees in a large pot over medium heat. Using a tablespoon, shape the falafel mixture into balls and fry, adjusting the heat as necessary, until browned, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels [Note, this is where I just baked the mixture instead of frying].


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