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Phara's on North Loop / old Ararat location

I walked past last night and noticed there is a sign indicating the restaurant will open Mar. 14th. Does anyone know what will be in the building next door? It currently has the sign "Christopher's" above the door, but it is decorated similar to Phara's.

Thanks,
Eric

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  1. Ouch! my good friends went to the grand opening of Phara's. Before I say anything, love to know anyone else's thoughts who has been. Christophers is the name on the menu (Phara's and Christophers) so maybe the new place next door will be like what Enoteca is to Vespaio.

    2 Replies
    1. re: manisubra

      We had high hopes for the place and really miss having Ararat in the neighborhood. Perhaps they will straighten out some of the problems we experienced on Friday night, but they have a long way to go. What were your friend's thoughts?
      They are apparently still working on the final menu so we only had the choice of about six entrees and a couple appetizers. Our waitress was very uninformed about the dishes and could not pronounce most of the items (easy things like pilaf were a problem). Overall, she was quite rough around the edges.
      As for the food, my wife and I split the rice pilaf which consisted of fairly bland rice with various rehydrated fruits and nuts placed on top of it. It was pretty disappointing to pay $14.95 for this. Our friends had the lamb shank and beef kabob and were much happier with their dishes although the prices for their entrees also seemed high.
      They still have Ararat's BYOB policy, but they charged us $3 a glass for a corking fee. I can't remember if Ararat had a corking fee, but this seemed excessive.
      It was surprising that they seemed so unprepared for the opening given the length of time they had. I hope they work the problems out with service and the food really needs to improve. The restaurant space is nice and it seems like a good place for a restaurant. Unfortunately, they won't be around long if they don't fix things.

      1. re: ebloom

        Okay, I am going to put my two cents in...It looks like the negative posts from last week have been removed. Based upon those I had no intention of trying Phara's. The BF and I went to the parlor on Friday to grab a pizza and while we were waiting we decided to take a look at Para's. It actually looks like a really neat place to have a lazy dinner with friends. The outdoor area looks really inviting and is very festive. The menu looks good as well. A lot of good appetizers/salads (reasonably priced) and entrees right in line with most restaurant prices. I was disappointed in myself for not wanting to at least give it a try as last friday was the last night I was going to be able to eat with my favorite dining partner for a while. I actually hope they get on their feet and do well....

    2. I know there is a new middle east buffet opening up on 183 near where the old Serannos was can't remember the name of it but I know it was close to opening.

      Ralph

      3 Replies
      1. re: angelfoodmaker

        DiMassi's Mediterranean Buffet. Doesn't say when it will open, but they have been working on it.

        1. re: amykragan

          As of today, the banner says DiMassi's is open.

          1. re: ssouth

            I'll try them for dinner this weekend

      2. We had a large party at Phara's last week (April 17) with about 22 people. The space was nice and Phara's belly dancing was appreciated, but I was completely appalled at the amount of food served for the money. The waitress suggested that we could pay a fixed price of $20/person for "a large assortment of food served family style" and recommended this as the best bang for the buck. This seemed like a good idea, but what they served was a couple of skimpy appetizer plates, 2 meager bowls of rice, and an even smaller bowl of cooked okra, and a couple of handfuls of meat -- for the entire party. I got about a tablespoon of rice, a couple of slices of one okra, and 2 bite-sized pieces of beef, and 1/2 of one very small piece of baklava. Other members of my party got even less than that, and the waitress seemed extremely reluctant to bring out more rice (which apparently would erase any profit margin since we were only paying about $440 for the 2 small bowls she had already served us). Then there was the matter of the corking fee. Phara's doesn't server alcohol, so it;s BYOB, but the corking fee is charged in a rather unique way: anyone who drinks is charged $3, no matter how many bottles you have. Did you have a sip of wine? Then you get charged an additional $3. Consequently, with tax, the cost per person came out to around $27 for NO FOOD. I was completely appalled: a serious eater could have consumed ALL the food that was served for 22 people at this restaurant. Since I had suggested this place, I was actually embarrassed that I had put all my friends up to a $27 boondoggle. OK, maybe it's all about quality rather than quantity. At best, the food was bland and mediocre, although this is the first middle eastern restaurant in Austin where I've been served lebneh. Needless to say, I won't be going back to Phara's despite the fact that it's only a couple of blocks away from my house.

        3 Replies
        1. re: pgoetz

          That sounds just what happened to our large group when it was Ararat. So we weren't surprised when it shut down. I was hoping the new version would be better, but guess they are still using the same practices. Too bad!

          1. re: amykragan

            We tried Phara's the first night they were open and had a bad experience: bland food, very bad service, and high prices. It sucked to have the closest restaurant to my house also be the worst in town.

            We went again last night and although there are still some issues, it is dramatically improved from opening night. Their menu is much larger and the bad dishes we had previously are gone. My wife had the vegetarian sampler and enjoyed it except that both the tabouleh and rice were fairly bland. I ate the grilled vegetable platter and enjoyed it. The best thing in my opinion about Ararat was the baba ghanoush and Phara's version is pretty similar.

            Their pricing still seems a little high for the food served and the $3/person corking fee is annoying particularly since they don't even open the bottles for you.

            They have tried hard with the outdoor seating and it is more pleasant than the Ararat version. We sat outside and listened to a pretty good band while smoking a hooka after dinner.

            Ararat was always an uneven dining experience and it seems that despite the new personnel, etc. Phara's is carrying on the tradition. If they continue to improve as they have over the last couple months, I think it will become an occasional restaurant for us.

            1. re: ebloom

              My husband and I tried out Phara's about 2 months ago, just after they opened. We were both fans of Ararat. With all their faults we would go knowing what to expect and really enjoyed ourselves. At Phara's we were very disapointed in the limited menu and for the prices, we felt it should have been better service and also details such as paper napkins and no bottle service seemed worthy of 8-10$ plates rather than 12-16$.

              Our book club just finished The Kite Runner and we are going to have our meeting at Phara's. We are really hoping that things have gotten better but just in case we are going there tonight for apetisers and hookas. Also, I hope they have gotten enough complaints about the corking fee for that to be gone!

              Wish us luck!

        2. I had a nice meal there last night. I got the shawarma plate and my partner got a veggie sampler. Nice hummus and the lamb was very tasty. Great service too! I have seen a lot of complaining about the corkage fee here and on yelp. First, I am happy to be able to bring my own wine since most restaurants have lazy wine lists. Second, by Texas law they are not allowed to serve the wine or open it since they don't have a license. Lastly, understand that restaurants make a good amount of their profit margin on beverages and the waiter's tip is based on your bill. If you are bringing your own drink, you are cutting into the places profit and the servers tip. So, cut'em some slack. At $3 a person, even factoring in the cost of the wine you paid retail for, you are still going to come out way ahead of the cost of a restaurant marked up wine and you are going to get to drink what you like. All this love, and I am not even restaurant industry!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chub512

            Andrea and I went to Phara's the night before last along with her parents, and had a really good time. This is a great place to go for a group with some vegetarians and some meat eaters, because the meat dishes are very good, but the vegetarian dishes are too.

            Andrea had the Channa, which was very good although a bit on the mild side. I had the vegetarian platter, which was very filling, and everything on it was very good except for the tabouleh, which is just a dish I don't like. The hummus was exceptional - very creamy and flavorful.

            Andrea's mom had the lamb chop, and took half of it home to eat later; her dad had the shawarma, and said he quite enjoyed it. And Andrea's mom and I both had the Haluwa for dessert, which was very tasty.

            Anyway, the point is that whether or not the earlier reviews were accurate, I really think this is a place worth checking out if you like middle eastern food. I've been disappointed by middle-eastern restaurants in the past, but was very happy with the food at Phara's.