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Oct 16, 2007 05:28 PM

Update on Tanoreen in Bay Ridge

I ate dinner at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge on Sunday evening and it was delicious, as it has been every time I've eaten there in the past. Very delicious. Extremely yummy. And the service, as usual, was gracious, warm and welcoming. There was about a half hour wait for a table. It was well worth the wait.

I think of Tanoreen as a great example of the life philosophy for success: "Do what you love...." It is so clear when I am sitting in Tanoreen's small room, that chef-owner Rawia Bishara loves what she does and loves to see people enjoying the food she created. I feel like I'm eating in her home kitchen when I'm there. It is a special place.

Anyway, in the way of updates, here are two new things that I learned while there last Sunday night:

(1) Zagat just named Tanoreen the best Middle Eastern restaurant in all of New York City. Congratulations to Chef Bishara and Tanoreen (see link below to an Oct 10, 2007 NY Daily News article).

(2) Tanoreen is in the process of applying for their liquor license. It will be nice to be able to order a bottle of wine with dinner there once that license comes through.

Oh, for the record, what I had the other night was this: First I shared an order of hummus and an order of an eggplant appetizer from that night's specials menu the name of which I can't remember. Both were yummy. Then I had the mixed grill platter which comes with delicious rice and salad and a mix of grilled lamb chunks, chicken chunks and lamb sausage. Delicious. Have I overused that word? I drank refreshing iced mint tea since wine isn't available yet. I was too full to even consider dessert.

Here's a link to an October 10, 2007 NY Daily News article about Zagat naming Tanoreen the best Middle Eastern restaurant in all of New York City (with a nice photo of a beaming Rawia Bishara serving up one of her platters):

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  1. Thanks for this update! Always meant to try this place, and now I MUST! So if I order one entree, what do you think it should be? The grilled platter doesn't sound as intriguing as other dishes; it's just a bunch of grilled meats. Or am I wrong? And do you need reservations?

    For anyone wanting menu or address, here's the website:

    12 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      Brian -- this is a tough place to go alone. The food's "big portion" style and it's best shared so you can get some variety. The best orders are the "fatoosh" salad w/cheese and a mezze platter made up of things in the showcase -- the usual baba g., cheese, etc is supplemented by some great innovative tasty salads w/fresh veggies. Then, my favorite main is the Baked Mediterranean Eggplant or one of the fresh stuffed squash entrees. All with lamb, pine nuts & on a bed of rice a roni (I mean that in a good way) type rice. Obviously the above requires 3-4 people minimum to do it justice. Think of it as a Lebanese "Spicy and Tasty", from the display counter to the mains. Bring a good bottle of white wine if you're ordering the above. Red if you're hitting the grilled meats instead.

      1. re: Steve R

        Steve -- I just wanted to make you and others aware that you cannot bring your own bottle of wine to Tanoreen anymore. I'm not sure when that changed but it was definitely true this past weekend. Hopefully, the liquor license application process won't take too long.

        I agree that ordering up a big mezze platter of assorted cold and hot appetizers is a great way to go at Tanoreen and, yes, it is good to have a group to share with so you can order more selection. But I've gone with just two of us with no problem. You can always bring anything you couldn't finish home. I cannot go in there and just order an entree, even though it would be enough to eat. I have to share at least two appetizers first. That case is just too....appetizing.

        They have lots of good entrees too. And eggplant, prepared any number of ways, is definitelyone of THE foods to eat at Tanoreen. I've only been to the restaurant a handful of times but I live in Bay Ridge and I'm working my way through the menu.

        The people at a table near us one time recently had a very nice looking fish that I must try sometime. Have you ever had any fish at Tanoreen?

        1. re: Kitchop

          Any update on this no wine situation or their license?

      2. re: Brian S

        Brian -- I guess the grilled combo platter might seem a little boring written in a post but it's not when it's on my plate. Plus I had a craving for it and it is all in the spices she uses. Both the chicken and lamb are so tasty. Turkish salad goes good with it if you want to spice it up some more.

        As Steve suggests below, the Baked Mediterrean Eggplant is good. Eggplant any way she makes it is good. I've also had the eggplant napolean appetizer and the babaganoush and the eggplant salad. I've probably tried more appetizers than entrees so far. But I'm planning on working my way through the menu. I've only been there a handful of times so far but I live in the neighborhood and it is definitely now one of my go-to neighborhood restaurants.

        The first few times I went, I went late in the evening around 9:30pmish or even 10pm and was part of the last round of tables to get dinner. Those times, I don't remember seeing the specials menu. I'm guessing that they were out of all or most of their specials by that late in the evening, which would not surprise me at all. This past Sunday I went earlier, around 7:30pm and the specials menu greatly increased your choices. Everything on it looked great. But, as I said, I went in with a craving for her grilled combo. It may sound boring, but it is very good.

        1. re: Kitchop

          one reason to go early are the amazing "breakfast" dishes! My first experience at Tanoreen was eggs and a cold drink mint tea.

          1. re: carfreeinla

            The iced mint tea is my standard beverage there if I'm not drinking wine. But could you please give us more details on how they make eggs at Tanoreen? How were they amazing (and different) from typical eggs?

            1. re: Kitchop

              I have not had it in a while- but if you look on the website under "breakfast" you will see the descriptions. I had the eggs with potatoes. What I remember most was how flavorful it was.

              1. re: carfreeinla

                That makes sense. Eggs and potatoes, but a very flavorful memory of them. A lot of very basic food at Tanoreen is yummy because of the way spices are used there. I will definitely try breakfast there some weekend very soon.

          1. re: josh L

            The lamb shank entree isn't on the regular menu is it? It must be one of the specials that I haven't been early enough to get there for yet. If the lamb shank is ever on the menu when I go, I'll definitely try it. My most usual time for getting there is sometime between 9 and closing. I apparently have been missing out on some great specials with that timing.

            1. re: Kitchop

              the lamb shank is indeed a special and very tasty esp on a brisk evening.

              1. re: josh L

                As I reluctantly let go of the summer, I will definitely be trying some briskweather-worthy meals at Tanoreen -- like your lamb shank and the last time I was there the specials menu had several yummy sounding lamb stews on it. Add a bottle of red wine and the warm, cozy room and I've got a good little place for chilly weather meals within walking distance of home.

        2. Going tonite so we called to confirm that no liquor allowed. Yep. I cant help but wonder if I'll like this place as much sober :-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Steve R

            What??? You doubted me?!? You thought I'd get a fact like no BYOB wrong? ;-) Well, I like many meals better with a bottle of wine (or a pitcher of margaritas) too but I enjoyed my meal last Sunday very much even though I only had iced mint tea. You can always stop for a drink first. Enjoy!

          2. So I got aboard the N train and headed out to Tanoreen. Got there about 4:30 PM and the place was empty. A great time to go -- except that about 5 the place seemed full of squalling, bawling children and their bemused parents. The place was lovely, bright and clean, and the owner and staff were pleasant and helpful. You guys recommended getting anything with eggplant, anything with lamb, anything with spiced rice. So when I saw a daily special of eggplant stuffed with ground lamb and rice, I pounced.

            An eggplant and two baby squash, stuffed with a lamb-rice mix pleasantly spiced, the predominant note being nutmeg. Around it a lake of tomato sauce surrounded by a berm of chopped parsley and spicy radish. It was quite good, but I don't think it was extraordinary enough to justify 45 minutes each way on a train, or the price of $16. I might go back anyway, though. There's a bakery a few blocks up, between 79 and 80th Street, which has great Middle Eastern pastries made with phyllo dough and stuffed with ground nuts, and the rain held off long enough for me to stroll down 3rd Avenue to see all the little shops and restaurants and then up 86th to see the huge Century 21 department store.

            7523 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

            10 Replies
            1. re: Brian S

              Tanoreen has been on my list, too. Sorry to hear you were disappointed. What's your go-to spot for a dish like this?

              1. re: Brian S

                I've been disappointed by their ground lamb entrees too. Too dry and uninspired (and yes, too expensive and too far to Bay Ridge). But they have some standouts--the knafeh (shredded phyllo over cheese), the pomegranate/walnut dip, the kibbeh, and the chicken appetizer with pine nuts served on fresh soft chewy pita (offered as a special both times I've been there).

                My friend highly recommends Sally and George's, which is right across the street, but I haven't yet tried it.

                1. re: rose water

                  Interesting. I noticed that Sally & George's had stuffed eggplant for $9.50

                2. re: Brian S


                  I too am sorry that you were disappointed. One of the pitfalls of enthusiastically recommending a restaurant is that not everyone will love it as much for any number of reasons (different experience, different taste). Not to mention overhype (which I guess I just contributed to) and high expectations. I mean, "best Middle Eastern restaurant in all of NYC" is lot to live up to.

                  What you had sounds delicious to me. I like your description of what was on your plate. I'll have to try that entree sometime. I've never been there at 4:30 or 5PM. I'm usually there between 9PM and closing, which apparently significantly ups my chances of missing some of the daily specials I've heard so much about.

                  The whether-its-worth-the trip issue doesn't factor into Tanoreen for me since I live in Bay Ridge within a 15 block walking distance. And, believe me, after a meal there, I do walk home, not ride. That makes it a very good little neighborhood place within walking distance from home for me. And I admit that, now that I've gone a handful of times the place is really growing on me and I'm starting to get emotionally attached to it -- Tanoreen has just been added to my list of regular comfort places. I love to try new restaurants but we all have to have our list of go-to emotional comfort restaurants, don't we?

                  Last year it was named one of NYC's best Cheap Eats. It may not be the dirt cheapest place, but it's certainly not expensive. Half the time NYC chowhounders are talking about restaurants I can't afford to eat in, many of them in my old neighborhood (Park Slope, where I can no longer afford to live either). But I think Tanoreen is very reasonable. I do usually end up spending more than I planned to though because (sigh) I can't resist appetizers before the entrees. And wine is about to get more expensive there too now that they're getting their liquor license. But it's still in a basic good moderate price range for me.

                  Sometimes it seems like many Chowhounders love a lot of really cheap or really expensive restaurants, but moderate (entrees around $15 and not ala carte!) restaurants, in general, are not loved as much. And really, that's the price range of restaurant I'm most often looking for.

                  Glad you got to go to Century 21 while you were in the neighborhood. I hope you found a way there to make the trip to Bay Ridge worth your while. ;-) I love Century 21.

                  1. re: Kitchop

                    Oh I'm glad I went. I think if I'd been with a really big group and we got six appetizers and six entrees and shared them all, so I got a bit of twelve different things (assuming they weren't all spiced the same) instead of a big plate of one thing, it would have been sensational. The owner was very nice too.

                    4:30 was a good time to go. By the way, the specials are on a separate piece of paper and they didn't give the list to me until I asked. So maybe that's why you never find specials.

                    1. re: Brian S

                      I'm glad you're glad you went. It is a good place for a small group. Big groups take up too many of the limited tables. ;-) Four or six dinnermates would be nice in there, I think. I've only been there with two people but we seem to be able to make it work for us. The last time I was there, I did get that paper with the daily specials without asking for it. I was there more during prime dinnertime though, between 7:30 and 8PM, I think. I would not be surprised if they run out of most of their daily specials by 9:30PM though, especially things like long-cooked stews and lamb shanks. Maybe you had to ask for the dinner specials at 4:30 because it was almost pre-dinner time/late-lunch time. I don't know. It never hurts to ask if they have any specials, that's for sure.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        As I mentioned in an above post, I went within a couple of days of you (Brian) with some friends. The 4 of us got an even better than usual array of mezze as an app. (along with a fatoosh salad). Then, I had the special entree you had (stuffed eggplant and squash in tomato sauce). I didnt think it was very good either... mediocre for Tanoreen, although the $16 is her going rate for these entrees. The other saucings (warm yogurt, brown sauce) are definitely better than this tomato based sauce. Additionally, since I'd gone to the counter to consult on what went into the mezze platter, I did notice these stuffed squash and eggplant in the display case, refrigerated. It only occurred to me afterwards that I should have realized and expected a nuked entree by ordering this dish. Oh well.

                        The other thing is that eating without wine is strange for me and may have colored my meal. By the way, they're moving in less than a month (the old Mr. Tang space) so there'll be better chances of getting a table and more room in the kitchen for them to prepare more dishes. And a liquor license.

                        1. re: Steve R

                          Does this mean I should avoid the specials (except for the lamb shank)? In some places, the specials are made that morning or the day before and kept in the fridge and microwaved, but if you order something from the regular menu it is made from scratch when you order it, and is thus much better. Is Tanoreen like that?

                          1. re: Brian S

                            Good question. Not from my experience. Someone at my table almost always puts in an entree order from the specials menu & I havent heard anything to suggest these dishes are worse (or better) than the standard menu choices. I'm wondering whether the impending move has her making more food in advance and keeping the same specials longer. If so, I think it'll shake out over time after the move. I guess we just wait and see. I'll miss the byob... even with $5 (very reasonable) corkage.

                            I think I might use the opportunity to take rose water's friend's recommendation and try Sally and George, across the street. Always room for one more go to place.

                          2. re: Steve R

                            Oh, that's interesting! -- that they're moving to a bigger space (thankfully, still within 20 blocks walking distance of home). I never ate at Mr. Tang so I'm not quite sure how big the space is. The current Tanoreen space though is definitely tiny. I guess they've applied for the liquor license for the new address. The stuffed eggplant with baby squash special sounded better when Brian described it. ;-)

                    2. I just returned from my first visit to Tanoreen. I live two blocks away and have been wanting to visit for a long time but just hadn't made it until tonight. We got there around 8:30. There were three empty tables so we were immediately seated. The service was attentive and the appetizer and entrees were perfectly timed. We ordered the mousakahn which was very good but obviously not freshly prepared. Then we got the shepherd's pie and kibbie entree which was on the specials menu. The shepherd's pie was accompanied by fatoush (tomato cucumber salad). The salad was nothing special and the lamb in the shepherd's pie was dry and bland. The kibbie was also dry and the yogurt sauce was a bit too sour for my taste. The kibbie did come with rice that was quite good. We ordered the macaroni cookies for dessert. The cookies were ok, nothing special.
                      After all of the raves, I was really disappointed. The food was fine but I find it hard to believe that this is the best Middle Eastern in New York. Like I said, Tanoreen is two blocks from my house, even so, I don't think I'll go back. We've been to La Maison Du Couscous several times and I wish we would have gone back tonight. The prices are similar to Tanoreen but the decor and, more importantly, the food blow Tanoreen out of the water. I think the Zagats should have walked up 77th until they found La Maison.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PAnhandler

                        Yeah, my last visit to Tanoreen last week had more "eh" dishes than any meal I've had there before. Still excellent were the eggplant napolean, baked eggplant with meat, and the stuffed cabbage with the lemony sauce. The fattoush was nice too. The lamb shank was fine, but not great. But not so good were the mouloukhiya special -- I expected a lot more mouloukhiya, but they sort of used it just as a garnish for chicken and rice, and it didn't have much taste -- and some filet mignon special the waiter talked us into getting, and that was completely useless. I don't know why he raved about it. And the cauliflower salad was ice cold, and i think it works best at room temp.

                        Nothing to get upset about, but it definitely rated a good notch below my other meals there.

                      2. I visited Tanoreen this past Saturday with a large group of fifteen (we made reservations). The restaurant was full and almost every table had brought their wine or beer with them.

                        I loved the freshness of the fatoosh salad. The herbs and tangy dressing went well with the diced vegetables.

                        Regarding an earlier comment about fish, we had a braised tilapia with a nicely spiced tomato sauce.

                        There was also a stewed beef and cauliflower special that hit the spot on a cold night. An earlier poster mentioned that the chef has a lot of pride in her food. I agree. Every dish had a freshness and flavorful blend of spices. As Steve R mentioned, it's a great place for four or more. I will definitely return.