DINING OUT:Lebanese hospitality at Phoenicia

April 28, 2007|By Melissa Hatef

The ancient Lebanese, known as Phoenicians, were well-known for their maritime expertise as sailors and navigators, and for being adventure-loving merchants. Lebanese cuisine has been around since pre-Biblical times and its popular Mediterranean diet consists of a simple fare that is fresh and flavorful. Close your eyes and picture yourself near the sun-drenched waters of distant shores surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, exotic music playing softly while dancers gently sway to the hypnotic melody.

Earthen tile floors are cool under the feet. The scent of strange yet wonderful exotic spices waft in your direction from a nearby kitchen. This is Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale. Opened in November, the owner, Ara Kalfayan offers a wide assortment of appetizers and entrees on the restaurant's generous menu.

My husband and I ventured out for a Mediterranean evening of great food and lively entertainment. The restaurant offers patio as well as inside dining. The evening was warm enough to sit outside under a moonlit sky with heaters nearby in case the night cooled down.


We started out with appetizers of hummus ($5.50), a light, fluffy mixture of garbanzo beans blended with sesame oil and lemon juice, accompanied with lavosh, thin unleavened bread. Great for tearing apart and dipping into the hummus. We also tried the warak enab ($5.95), grape leaves stuffed with flavorful rice, oil and vegetables, cooked in lemon juice and lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Hot appetizers are also offered: kibbeh makli ($5.95), beef dumplings stuffed with ground beef, bourghoul, onions and pine nuts; or soujouk ($6.50), spicy Armenian sausage, air dried and sautéed with onions and tomatoes. We stayed with the cold appetizers as we wanted to save room for our main course.

I opted for grilled shrimp ($17.95), prepared with lemon, garlic and a touch of cilantro. It was the right decision, as the shrimp was cooked with perfection, succulent and tender. My husband decided on the chicken kebab ($12.95), tender, marinated chicken breast grilled on skewers.

Both entrees were accompanied with broiled tomato, an onion-parsley mix, seasoned pita bread, house salad, hummus and rice. We both ordered tahn ($2.25), a refreshing, tart and tangy drink made of yogurt that was the right addition to both our meals.

The portions were not overly large, which left just enough room for cold, crisp fresh fruit ($4) for dessert.

During our meal, a small band of musicians played lively exotic music, setting the toes tapping and hips swaying. Several couples got up to dance between courses in the main dining room. The restaurant lights were dimmed and candles glowed softly on the tables. Warm sand-toned walls designed to give one a feeling of being inside ancient Phoenician walls were graced with stunning artwork.

All in all, a memorable evening. We will return.

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