Lebanese Butcher Report
Eight Chowhounds got together yesterday for a very satisfying lunch at this NoVa restaurant attached to a butcher shop. Although I liked all of it, certain items were so good I seriously thought about going back for dinner.
For starters we had:
Hummos, baba ganouj, fettoush salad, taboulleh, mini-sausages, kibbeh, foul
And the main courses were:
lamb ouzi, chicken fatteh, soujouk (sausage), lamb shawarma, and roast quail
Everyone delighted at the fried pita chips that are customarily part of the fettoush and the chicken fatteh - these were well above what we've come to expect at other Lebanese. Add to those the juicy mini-sausages, the crispy kibbeh, and the shawarma - and I know I'm heading back as soon as I can.
I have eaten here many times, but it was nice to have such great company and to try new things. I can now add to my list of favorites the makanek (mini link sausages), fried kibeh, and soujouk. (Before long, the entire menu will be my "favorites.") The latter is very spicy, and I wouldn't want an entire meal of just that. It's not so much that it's spicy (since I eat much spicier Thai food) but that it would be too monochromatic.
The baba ghanouj is pretty good. I normally do not like a lot of tahini in it (or in hummous), as it deadens the taste for me--even with a lot of garlic and lemon. In their version, you could really taste the smoke on the eggplant, which greatly redeems it for me.
As I've mentioned before on here, the lamb is very fresh, as they have their own slaughterhouse in Warrenton. I don't know much about halal slaughter procedures (a question for the general board I guess), but I wonder if lack of aging makes it taste less "lamby."
The quail is, in fact, a simple roast quail without the flavoring that one gets from grilled quail in a good Vietnamese restaurant. However, it tasted rather more gamy than the typical flavorless farm-raised quail you get in most places. I'm interested in a comparison with wild quail, which I have not had since I was a child and couldn't possibly compare.
I happen to be quite a pickle fan. The torshu here is pretty typical of most lebanese places (the same supplier?). But their small cucumber pickles are to my taste unique. I need to see if I can get them in the store next door next time.
They have the chicken dish with garlic that Jim Zurer mentioned. It's called chicken tawook (aka shish taouk or shish tawook), which we did not get. It's available as a platter with rice or fries and as a sandwich. It's my favorite sandwich on the menu. The version here and at Bacchus is much superior to that at Lebanese Taverna. However, you can buy a mashed garlic and olive oil sauce separately at the Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington. It's great to have around and add a dab to this and that. I use it with moules instead of making aioli.
This just demonstrates that tastes can vary--the lamb ouzi and the quail were our two dullest main courses in my opinion. The lamb was falling-apart tender, but the flavor was too mild; I like my lamb to taste a bit more lamby. The quail was underseasoned for my taste.
I thought the baba ganoush was particularly nice, probably it had more tahnini than usual, making it extra creamy. The chicken fatteh and soujouk were real winners.
I just will chime in to support Steve's assessment of Lebanese Butcher..definitely worth a return visit.
JohnB.....hard to compare to Pyramid but I would say that Lebanese Butcher--although quite austere and no-frills--is a more professional and much busier place than Pyramid. This doesn't mean that I wouldn't return to Pyramid..as a matter of fact, I think the overall quality of the dishes at Pyramid may be a bit higher than at the Butcher (and it is certainly easier for me to get to Florida Avenue NW than to Falls Church.
Sorry I couldn't be there, but I did have BBQ at the Macon County fair that same evening.
I'm moved to ask how did it compare on the overall pleasing scale with Pyramid? I know they aren't the same cuisine, but it seems a reasonably valid comparison among Mediterranian places.
I didn't like my first visit to Lebanese Butcher. Ironically for a butcher, the lamb doesn't seem to have much punch unless it's accompanied by a lot of seasoning, like the shawarma. The Chowhound lunch was someone else's idea. But it turned out to be a great idea.
I'd say everyone at the table had their favorites, as where at Pyramid everything I've tried has been stellar.
Also please note there is another post from a New Yorker who makes a beeline to Lebanese Taverna everytime he's in town, linked below. Maybe this area is a stronghold of Lebanese cooking after all...
re: Jim Zurer
I used to fly into DC once a week from Chicago for a day or two. Whenever possible, I'd eat here before flying back out. Now that I live here, I find myself eating there 2-3x/week. The I get a little tired of it (or my GF does and refuses to come along) and stay away for a month or so.
Amazing how many of the other diners work in some capacity for the various Arab and Middle Eastern embassies.