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CAFE MAPS OUT A MEDITERRANEAN COURSE Its decor evokes a time when area was cradle of Western civilization


There's a lot of heart at the Syrumie Cafe. You can see it on the walls.

AOne whole side of the restaurant -- the right side as you come in the door -- is covered with a huge map in relief of the Middle East -- not the Middle East we see every minute these days on television, but as it was 3,000 years ago, when it truly cradled what we know as our Western civilization.

There are no lines dividing countries here, only names: Greece on the far left, then Cyprus, down to Minoa, then Egypt, then Canaan . . . Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Persia, Media . . . over to Urartu on the far right.

"It's not done," Mohsen Zohir, chef and owner of the Syrumie Cafe says softly. "We're going to put description on both sides of the map. Each civilization, when it starts. Each sculpture, what is its name. And it's going to have actually some words from the Koran, on peace.

"I don't have the exact words," he continues, "But I can tell you the meaning. God said, 'You people, we create you as men and women, nations and tribes, to know each other.' He didn't say, you have to push the other people to do something. God said, People, don't fight. We create you different. To know each other, to learn, not to fight."

Instead of fighting, Mr. Zohir has a better idea: Everyone can sit down to eat. To the soft strains of Egyptian songs playing in the background and the wonderful spicy aromas floating from the kitchen, Mr. Zo- hir serves up the food of his native Egypt and the whole nearby crescent of the Mediterranean.

There are falafel, beef shish kebab, chicken kebab, babaganush, lentil soup, hummus, tabouli, a half-dozen salads including Mediterranean salad with feta cheese, fried spinach, fried vegetable combination, burgers, cappucino and expresso.

Everything is homemade at the restaurant, even the desserts, which include baklava, Cleopatra (phyllo dough with dates and nuts) and -- what else at an American/Middle Eastern restaurant? -- lemon meringue pie, cherry pie, apple pie and coconut custard.

The Middle Eastern recipes, Mr. Zohir says, are his mother's. Many members of his family are in the restaurant and hotel business back home in Cairo, he adds.

A new menu, to be printed on papyrus, will be done in two or three weeks. It will add several new Middle Eastern dishes such as kibbeh, "holy zucchini" (stuffed zucchini), kosharie (lentils with rice topped with pasta and sauce) and stuffed grape leaves. Until the new menus arrive, he is starting to do some of these items as daily specials.

The restaurant seats just 30 people. Although he could have squeezed in more tables and chairs, he says, he wanted to leave enough room for people to be comfortable.

At the cafe, they do catering and have carryout available.

In Egypt, he majored in business and after graduating, worked as an accountant in Saudi Arabia for a time. He has been in the United States about nine years, first in New York City, where he worked in the restaurant business. He came to Baltimore first to visit friends and moved here a year and a half ago.

He opened the Syrumie Cafe last summer, while work was still in process on the walls. For the past five months, part of the allure of the restaurant has been to see what the artist -- a friend of Mr. Zohir's, Samy Tabet, who was born in Lebanon -- has done to the walls.

The Syrumie Cafe is located at 3219 Eastern Ave. (look for a tan awning around the door that says, "Middle Eastern"). The hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays. Sometimes they are open a little later on weekends depending on the crowd. They are closed on Mondays. The telephone number is 563-2787.

New at Scarlett Place

If you're going to open a new restaurant, it's always good to have something that makes you stand out from the crowd. The new Scarlett Cove Cafe, which opened about a month ago at Scarlett Place, does just that: It has Angel Sanz from Tio Pepe in its kitchen.

And what's even better, he brought his recipes with him -- shrimp in garlic sauce, paella, pine nut cake, flan, mousse cake.

The restaurant, which seats 140 in two dining rooms on two levels and another 60 in the lounge, was built from scratch over the past year. The owners are Tom Quaranta and Jerry Ludwig, who before they entered the restaurant business owned nightclubs in a nearby section of downtown.

In the spring, according to one of the managers, Tom Quaranta Jr., they plan to have an outdoor cafe.

The Scarlett Cove Cafe is located at 200 S. President St. at thcorner of Pratt. Although it's on the lower level of Scarlett Place, you enter not through Scarlett Place but through a door facing the canal and Pier Six. The hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch Mondays to Fridays. Dinner hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m Saturdays and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. The telephone number is 783-8760.

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