Ambiance: Rock N' Hookah is nestled in a pathway that leads to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's biggest restaurants. It's a small, Middle Eastern-themed place where patrons sit outside chatting, feet up, smoking hookahs and snacking on falafel and hummus. On a recent visit, a DJ was perched in a corner inside, 10 televisions broadcast an NFL playoff game and plush couches had been placed toward the front of the room, giving it the look of a neighborhood club as much as that of a restaurant. Thick, dark, wooden trusses frame many of the couches, and are wrapped in flowing, maroon drapes, evoking a hospitable Bedouin tent in the desert. At 10 p.m. (the venue caters to a late-night crowd), guests are treated to a show, usually starring a torch-wielding belly dancer.
Overall impression: The ambiance at Rock N' Hookah, paired with plenty of hookahs and tasty, shareable appetizers, combines for a trendy, yet warm setting to relax with friends during a late night out. You can walk away with a satisfied stomach without dropping as much cash as you might at pricier Hard Rock venues. However, the grilled fare and desserts could be better.
Starters: We began with a bowl of thin, acidic lentil soup ($5). We loved the accompanying pita chips, an idea more restaurants would be wise to emulate. In the mood for sharing, we ordered two combination platters, the first with labneh, grape-leaf wraps and savory baba ghanoush and hummus ($18). We followed it up with a platter of falafel, kibbeh, arayes kafta and some fairly standard chicken wings ($18), the highlight being the perfectly fried falafel, for which we nearly went for seconds. Beef kibbeh -- bulgur shells with seasoned beef, sauteed onion and roasted pine nuts -- were overly mild and forgettable. Grilled imported cheese ($9) -- with tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a blend of Mediterranean spices -- was fragrant and rewarding before the cheese got too cold.
Entree excellence: Go straight for the highlight of our meal: a set of four lamb chops ($28), perfectly moist and crisp with a mild marinade. We adored the succulent, buttery rice on the side. The grill overall was a mixed experience, though. Kafta kabobs ($20) tasted dry, while the moist chicken kabobs ($18) featured a nice, mild marinade. Beef kabobs ($22) were decently seasoned, but we nearly snapped the wooden skewer pulling on the tough meat. Chicken and beef shawarma ($18 each) was serviceable, tasted similarly seasoned and were served in diced chunks with tahini sauce. It was a close call, but we enjoyed the chicken a bit more.
Liquid assets: The restaurant's cocktail list is a tourist-friendly mix of tropical drinks, such as daiquiris, mojitos and margaritas. Seven cocktails are made from Hpnotiq and various fruit liqueurs. The wine list is centered on Californian wines, most costing from $7 to $9 a glass, and from the upper $20s to mid $30s for a bottle.
Sweet! It was perplexing to see a dessert list focused almost entirely on generic Italian desserts in a place that primarily serves Middle Eastern and Greek fare. The restaurant also was out of baklava on a Saturday night. We settled for tiramisu ($4.95), a ricotta-heavy version with a light sweetness, and almond cream cake ($4.95), moist and uber-sweet but lacking in the light, nutty flavors of other almond cakes.
Hot air: Rock N' Hookah offers a funky variety of tobacco flavors for its hookahs, including safari melon dew, sex on the beach and mojito. Al Fakher tobaccos in standard flavors such as apple and other fruit also are available.
Rock N' Hookah
5791 Seminole Way, Hollywood
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Cost: moderate to expensive
Hours: noon-1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Credit cards: AC
Bar: full bar
Sound level: loud
Outside smoking: yes
For kids: $8 kids menu. Only one high chair available.
Wheelchair accessible: yesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun