Easton's Phoenicia opened about a month ago, but most of the tables were filled on a recent Saturday night. Word travels fast when there's something to talk about.
That something would be an extensive menu of well-made Middle Eastern and Lebanese fare along with comfortable decor and friendly service.
Extensive renovation has rendered the white tablecloth restaurant, once a bus terminal, inviting. Neutral colors and a few wall tapestries set the stage for the color and excitement of live music and belly dancers on weekends.
The menu features common Middle Eastern fare such as "tabbooli," falafel and "hommus," but many items are uncommon -- "soujouk" (dried, spiced Armenian sausage with onions, tomatoes and wild cucumber pickles), "makanik" (sauteed mini Lebanese sausage with lemon juice glaze); "firri" (charbroiled quail in garlic lemon sauce) and frog legs with garlic, cilantro and spices.
From the mezza menu of more than two dozen selections, we shared "baba ganoush" ($5) and "fool moudamas" ($7).
As much as I savored the smoldering smokiness of the "baba ganoush," it's the pomegranate seed garnish I remember most. Those brilliant crimson jewels added crunch and a burst of clarity to the creamy eggplant dip. "Fool" featured fava beans cooked with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Served warm, the beans were infused with depth and freshness from the lemon; pieces of onion added piquant taste and texture. What a wonderful way to eat beans.
Just as flavorful was a "Phoenician specialty"-- baked kibbi ($17). Seasoned and sauteed ground meat, onions, pine nuts and almonds layered with lamb and beef mixed with crushed wheat and spices created intriguing taste and a satisfying meal. Its accompanying cucumber yogurt sauce was light, cool and bright counterpoint. A side of caponata was standard.
Filet mignon ($27) was excellent. Twin 6-ounce filets, enrobed in a beautiful mushroom cabernet peppercorn demi-glace, tasted as delectable as they looked.
Skipping over standard desserts such as cheesecake and decadent chocolate cake, we opted for the Middle Eastern sweets made on the premises. Cashew baklava ($5) was light, crispy and rich in an earthy, nutty way. Baked filo stuffed with dense, sweet cheese ($5) was rich in a simpler, cleaner way.
On an otherwise inhospitable January night, Phoenicia offered enveloping warmth -- live music set a warm, welcoming spirit; an attentive, friendly server made sure our experience warranted coming in from the cold, and the warm flavors of the food woke up tired winter taste buds. I'll bet the experience is just as good any season of the year.
Dinner for two, including tax and tip, totaled $88.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Jodi Duckett, editor
154 Northampton St., Easton
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday
Prices: Appetizers: $5-$8; Entrees: $12-$27
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted
Bar: BYO (liquor license expected in 3-4 weeks)
Accessibility: Premises and restrooms wheelchair accessible
Location: Across from Phenom restaurant on the south side of Northampton Street, in the middle of the block between South Second and Green streets. On-street parking, two-hour limit; Pine Street Parking Garage next to Crayola Factory.
Easton's Phoenicia friendly, flavorful and entertaining
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