Day: August 19th, 2006

Bay Ridge adventure

Saturday, August 19th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Due to a change in the publication schedule, I was granted another reprieve from the Saturday duties. At this rate, I feel I’ve been in the office as many Saturdays this summer as I’ve been out.

The day before, DK had issued an invitation for the old crew to visit his new home in Bay Ridge. So after the morning trip out to Queens, I returned to Manhattan to run a quick errand before girding myself for the ride out to 77th Street. As it happened, DK and his bride were in the city running errands of their own, and offered me a ride back into Brooklyn in the Silver Bullet. Sweet!

After a stop at the Red Hook Home Depot, I got a grand tour of Chez C-K: from the Brazilian cherry floors to the George Kovacs lighting fixtures to the triple-coated, artist-paintbrushed walls — the impressive end results of their months-long renovation efforts. And it warmed my heart to see the newlyweds look so genuinely happy in their new setting. HH arrived soon afterwards, and the four of us set out for dinner at nearby Lebanese restaurant Tanoreen.

Bay Ridge’s Tanoreen was named the best cheap eats in the city by New York Magazine. No secret to hardcore foodies, who have a way of scoping out these far-flung gems: the place has received scads of glowing reviews since its opening in 1999. I’d never eaten there myself, though, and Saturday’s visit afforded the perfect opportunity.

Modest storefront, and a basic setting. But within…

Tanoreen

Tanoreen Interior

The bustling restaurant’s air was warm and thick with the aroma of the famed “Tanoreen spices”: allspice, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, ginger, dried rosebuds… The exact components and proportions remain a secret closely held by chef-owner Rawia Bishara, who has the propietary mix roasted, ground and shipped to Brooklyn from her hometown of Nazareth. We snagged the last available table for four, near the front window, through which we could watch the queue of hungry diners form.

So much of the menu looked tempting, but we finally decided upon three appetizers and three entrees, two of which were special off-the-menu recommendations by our enthusastic server (who, given the huge publicity jump this place received a few weeks ago, is no doubt accustomed to directing Tanoreen newbies.)

Times reviewer Eric Asimov pronounced, “There may be no better hummus in town than Tanoreen’s smooth and airy version, just touched with lemon juice and garlic, perfect with the crisp house-made zatar bread.” SK mentioned investigating this claim last week, and finding their hummus a little runny, but ours was thick (but not overly so) and brightly flavored, and well accompanied by the crisp breads, thickly brushed with zesty, herby paste.

Hummus

By the time the rest of the appetizers started rolling in, we were ravenous. The “Eggplant Napoleon”: perfectly crisped slices of eggplant layered with tangy babaghanoush and topped with an impeccably fresh tomato and basil salad. Also, the “Sambosek” (not pictured): deep-fried dough crescents stuffed with ground lamb and those “Tanoreen spices,” served with a thick, bright-green cilantro-basil dipping sauce.

Eggplant Napoleon

We devoured the meze and awaited our entrees, which soon arrived all at once: the “Kafta” (ground spiced lamb, topped with tahini sauce), the wonderful, tender spicy beef and the moist, garlicky, herb-coated salmon. All came with a heavy sprinkling of fresh parsley and were served with what the server called “Egyptian rice”: a spiced, textured rice mixture interspersed with thin brown noodles. So good!

Entrees

Washed everything down with a tall pilsner glass of iced mint tea. I must admit that when the generous platters first hit the table, I didn’t think it would be possible for our foursome to finish all of the food, but finish we did. Strolling along Third Avenue afterwards, our satisfaction was such that we couldn’t even manage room for dessert from the nearby H√§agen-Dazs.

Best cheap eats in all of New York City? I don’t know. But certainly worth the trip.

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