Meat Kibbe, Anyone?

Life has gotten so busy lately… but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re working full-time and completing a Master’s degree!  Hopefully after a couple months, I’ll only have to focus on work and have more time for blogging.  In the meanwhile, I still eat out — but just don’t have as much time to blog about it.

Anyhoo, my latest food adventure was to a Lebanese restaurant (and apparently hookah lounge) in Miami called Layali*.  The restaurant’s interior felt authentic/local, so I was pretty excited to see the menu.  There weren’t very many people inside when we got there though — only one or two other tables — so maybe I shouldn’t have been so excited after all.

I liked that the restaurant had lunch specials, which spanned $9 and $12 each.  Fairly reasonable prices for lunch — in Miami.  Feeling adventurous, I ordered the Meat Kibbe.  I had absolutely no idea what it was, and had never even seen it on a menu before.  It was described as “Meat and crushed wheat, filled with pine nuts, onions and minced, baked in the oven.”  Sounded promising.

20150130_layali_meatkibbeBoy was I wrong!  Firstly, I was pretty disappointed by the portion size.  It was basically a 3-in by 3-in by (less than) 1-in piece of meat, which a lot of my colleagues mistook for a piece of wheat bread, accompanied by a square ramekin of yogurt sauce — I probably got more sauce than meat!  There was also some diced tomato on the side, but it looked more like garnish than part of the meal.

Taste-wise, I wasn’t impressed either.  I mean, the meat was fine and didn’t taste bad or anything, but it wasn’t particularly tasty either.  Kind of reminded me of plain meatloaf.  The pita on the side was also not very exciting… I’d compare it to something you’d get at your general grocery store.

Overall, I’d have to say this meal was solidly below average.  I wasn’t very impressed, but to be honest, I didn’t think my last Mediterranean meal was all that spectacular anyway.  Maybe I should try something else next time.

*Location:
11402 NW 41st St #115
Doral, FL 33178

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Harvest Delights. Looks So Great, But Up for Debate.

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food looks amazing, but doesn’t quite meet your taste buds’ expectations?

IMHO, Harvest Delights* is one of those places.  I first dined in about half a year ago, and while the menu looked great, I ordered something — something that was pretty standard Mediterranean fare — and it didn’t taste as great as I had hoped.  I wasn’t exactly sure what was off about what I ordered, but for some reason, my taste buds just weren’t satisfied.

I decided to give Harvest Delights another chance recently, and despite ordering something different, was disappointed again.  I ordered the Shawarma Platter this time.  Marinated beef “seasoned to perfection,” topped with red onions, and served with tabouli, hummus, and pita bread.  (FYI, tabouli is a vegetarian dish made from tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.)  Again, standard Mediterranean fare, so I was expecting the restaurant to nail it.

010715_harvestdelights_shawarmaBut for some reason or other… they just didn’t.  For me, at least.  Maybe it was because the beef was rather dry and not very flavorful.  Or maybe I’m just not used to eating a salad of parsley.  Or maybe the overall meat-to-veggie ratio was a bit small.  I mean, the presentation was great — look at the picture, the plate looks delicious! — but it just didn’t hit the spot for me.  I rate this platter a below average, even though I enjoyed the hummus and pita.

I likely won’t visit a third time… at least for a very long time… there are other better Mediterranean places in town… but in case you’re curious what else is on the menu, here’s the link.

*Location:
3470 Northwest 82nd Avenue #105
Miami, FL 33122

Chips at Caffé Oliva on Ohio Street Beach

Today’s dreary, gloomy, and rainy weather made me long for sunshine… and that brought back memories of a month ago when I was visiting Chicago, enjoying the gorgeous weather at the “beach.”  (FYI, a Floridian like myself would naturally laugh at the thought of referring to “land by the water, with sand and rocks” as a beach.  Real beaches don’t exist in Chicago!)

Caffé Oliva*, located right along Lake Michigan, is an outdoor beach-side restaurant, set up on Ohio Street Beach.  With tables for two and wooden cabanas (among other seating arrangements), this somewhat-out-of-the-way cafe is perfect for soaking up the sun and people watching, while eating a meal or even just snacking.  (The restaurant also serves a short and sweet brunch menu on the weekends!)

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Since my friends and I were headed to a BBQ later in the day, we just ordered some chips and dip.  Kettle chips, sumac aioli, and hummus, to be exact.  The combination was fine!

*Location:
E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611

Greek-Turkish Fare at Mandolin Aegean Bistro

First bite… quite good.  Last bite… borderline disgusting.  That ever happen to you?  ‘Cause it just happened to me.

Pick for the evening… Mandolin Aegean Bistro*.  This Mediterranean shop offers a Greek-Turkish menu with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and (heavier) entrees.  I had read good things about their fries + yogurt combination, so definitely wanted to try some.  I ended up getting the Grilled Halloumi Cheese Sandwich with Turkish Chorizo, which came with fries on the side.  Yay!  A small side of yogurt was an extra $1.  Fine, no biggie.

In case you were wondering, Halloumi is a semi-hard, brined white cheese that’s made from a combination of goat’s and sheep’s (and sometimes cow’s) milk.  Because of its high melting point, it’s actually relatively easy to fry.

062814_mandolin_halloumi

The first bite of the sandwich was pretty tasty, but sadly, it went downhill from there.  There wasn’t anything super exciting about cheese — and IMO, cheese is usually pretty exciting — and the Turkish chorizo was really salty.  I mean REALLY salty.  Ate dinner more than four hours ago and am still thirsty.  Won’t lie… had a semi-difficult time finishing the meal.

I probably shouldn’t have waited until the end to eat the french fries because they got kind of soggy and limp.  The oil they were cooked in didn’t seem to be the freshest.  Despite dunking the fries in the yogurt (which was actually pretty decent with its subtle sour cream flavor), there was no salvaging them.  I had a bit more than half before tossing — and that was only because I always feel bad about wasting food.  Unfortunate.  Very unfortunate.  Especially since I ❤ french fries.

Rating, you ask?  Below average, maybe okay.

062814_mandolin_menu

I will say though, that the ambiance was cute and the service was excellent.  They have a covered patio seating area with vegetation and lanterns, and the waiters and even busboys were very nice and personable — but not obsequiously so — which was great!  Kudos there, Mandolin!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go have another cup of water…

*Location:
4312 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137