Kahwet Fairuz

Karakol bostan sokak No:13, 34367 İstanbul • (0212) 219 6530
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I loved this place walking in and hated it walking out. Reason primarily being my own fault I suppose. I clearly had baklava on the brain and when we stopped here for teatime, we should’ve just walked back out when we saw they didn’t carry any regionally authentic desserts. But nooooo, me and my stubborn ass just had to see if a Lebanese place could actually pull off a decent cheesecake. Well, I think we all knew the answer before the plate ever hit the table, but the depths to which this cheesecake sank are only rivaled by the core of the Earth.

And while it may seem unfair to throw a place under the bus from such a minute sampling, if you clearly ask the server to suggest the single best thing on the menu and he says “the cheesecake,” it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the food if their best is the worst.

On the plus side, however, I must give props to the decorator. The place is simply impeccable when it comes to detail and charm. Not a inch of this place went without thought from the fez lighting to the upside down hand mirrors to the bright colors and hookah centerpieces. Which brings me to an observation… I think the restaurateurs of Istanbul have handily cracked the code on how to make a place look cool. Now they just need to get their acts together and hire chefs worth their salt, because in four days we didn’t eat a single meal north of three knives.

2 teeth

 

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Almayass

24 E 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 473-3100almayassnyc.com

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Attention all Ilili lovers, there’s another game in town. And what’s especially nice about this game is that it’s easier to play. In case my obtuse analogy isn’t tracking, what I mean to say is that it’s way easier to get a table, especially at lunch.

But settle you will not. Almayass is not just an alternative. It’s very much a destination in its own right. From the moment you enter, you are immediately taken by the elegant décor which is much warmer than Ilili,, blending more classic elements with contemporary, and accented with wonderful works of art.

Another plus is that the staff is much more pleasant and much less snooty than at Ilili, which is nice if you don’t want a side of attitude with your fattoush, speaking of which, it was very good.

In fact, most everything was good. A few misses. A few homeruns. And lots in between. Among the homers would be the Soujuk Almayass. Best thing I’ve ever had with this Middle Eastern sausage. It’s painfully simple really, just a slice of sausage sitting on a crostini with a sunny side quail egg on top. But holy Lebanon was it good! Chased with a little arak (Lebanese anise liquor) and I was all like “Ilili who?”

Another dish that was surprisingly better than any I’d ever had before was the mantee. It’s the same thing as the Turkish dish “manti, which are tiny ravioli filled with meat, covered in yogurt. What made it so special, however, was how crisp it was on the outside, and so most and creamy on the inside. And we all know what a softy I am for contrasting textures.

Three other dishes that were also very strong were the kebab made with filet mignon, the baba ganoush served with pomegranate seeds and the lentil soup. Granted my review of the soup is only hearsay, and by that I mean “MMMMMMMMM!!!” from across the table.

In the middle of the road was the pita bread, tzatziki and hummus. And bringing up the rear, the three biggest misses for me were the olives, the tabouleh salad and the sarma.

The olives because they were served pitted, which I can only assume was due to the fact that they’re afraid of getting sued by someone for cracking a tooth on a pit, because no self-respecting restaurant from the region would ever serve olives pitted otherwise.

The tabouleh because it was very leafy and dry. I like mine more moist and hearty.

And last but- well actually least, the sarma. Among the worst stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had. Such a shame too, because this place was so close to five knives, but I’m afraid they fell shy by one.

4 teeth

The Ultimate French Fries

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Ilili – New York, NY

How random is it that a Lebanese restaurant should happen to have the best fries on the planet? My tongue literally did a double take when I had them the first time, but my friend who was with me was just as floored, so I knew my mouth wasn’t crazy.

Sure, fries in general are pretty hard to screw up. In fact, the only place I know that manages to do so is In-and-Out Burger, but the fact remains, the French have nothing on these Phoenician fries.

So what makes these Phoenician fries so special that they reign supreme over all the others? Well, consistency is key, that’s for sure. But there are many a good fry out there if consistency was the only metric. However, since we’re on the subject, to me, the perfect fry is one that has a slightly crispy exterior, but a soft, fluffy interior, which these do.

What these also have, mind you, is a consummate dusting of herbs and spices that will make your tongue so happy it’ll whirl like a dervish. And the harissa aioli they serve with it is pretty tasty too, but personally, I find these fries so incredible I down them naked. Not me. The fries.