Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lebanese Taverna: Baltimore's Latest

Last night, Mrs. Yi and I had the pleasure of dining with some friends at the just opened Lebanese Taverna in Baltimore's Inner Harbor East. Aware of its grand reputation in the Washington, DC area, we expected the experience to be wonderful, and it was. The space, both the bar, where one enters, and the dining room, which looks across Lancaster Street directly to the water, are expansive in a way that suggests expensive, which is by no means the case.

Despite a well considered wine list with a number of Lebanese choices, it was over a pomegranate martini that I perused a menu on which every selection was less than $20, and "mezze" portions of most main dishes were available for less than $10. We began our meal by passing around some hummus, which was the best I've ever tasted. Soon, my first course arrived, a Fattoush salad distinguished by its incorporation of pomegranate extract, toasted pita bread, and sumac. Never before have I relished a serving of anything so healthful with such zest. Perhaps what did it was the sumac, a favorite ingredient that I was encountering for the first time in a Baltimore restaurant. Almost as pleasing were my other two choices, chicken shawarma (rotisseried with rice), and "camel wings," or chicken wings sauteed with garlic and lemon. Total cost for all three was $19.50.

Although such cuisine has always been perfectly agreeable to me, I've rarely prepared it at home or been inclined to seek out Middle Eastern restaurants. Lebanese Taverna has changed my perspective. It's all about enjoying quality and healthfulness at very reasonable prices where the setting exudes high end. This is just what downtown Baltimore needed.

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