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Apr 29, 2008 11:28 AM

Middle Eastern catering in NoVa?

A question for the sage hounds:

Can anyone recommend a caterer that could provide food for a birthday party of say, 25-30 adults in early June?

I'm thinking middle eastern cuisine as it's good, different, somewhat healthy, and not too heavy. I'm thinking a Lebanese or Turkish restaurant.

I know some restaurants will cater, but I'd like to know of any recommendations or, just as important, warnings about any of them.


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  1. Clarification please. Are you asking for a source that will provide food only or a source that will provide food, utensils, and wait staff? If it is the first option here are some thoughts.

    Turkish: Kazan Restaurant in McLean. Their taramasalata sets the standard. Literally translated, iman bayildi means the "iman fainted" and this restaurant's version qualifies for that honor. I often buy this as an item to round out a buffet table or to serve as an appetizer when I've run out of time to fix my own. (Warning: be sure you tell the folks not to warm the pita bread. They do this in the restaurant and routinely do this for take out, too. It's of no use when you won't be serving the food until hours after you walk out of the restaurant.Ditto for the olives that decorate each serving of tatamasalata.) Incidentally, I've always bought the food for my own catering needs by the portion rather than by the weight or volume measure which would be typical of a prepared food place. Ask if they will sell their dips by volume otherwise, this may not be the most cost-effective way to buy the food for your party.

    Syrian/Lebanese: The Gourmet Basket in McLean. Ignore the decidedly non-ethnic name and try their food. They make superb pumpkin kibbe along with the more common meat kibbe. Their little spinach pastries and cheese pastries are fabulous. I like their open-faced spicy meat pastries, but I'm indifferent to the "regular" meat pastries. They make a sliced eggplant salad which is amazing. There's a wonderful interplay between the inherent sweetness of the eggplant and the bite of the garlic. If you need to save yourself from driving all over the place, their babaganoush and hummus are acceptable, but I like Lebanese Taverna's versions better. This Middle Eastern deli has lots of other options, but I've listed my go-to choices here.

    Lebanese Taverna Market (the take-out oriented place on Lee Hwy -- not the restaurants); So much is exquisite here that I'll just cite a couple favorites: stuffed grape leaves both meat and vegetarian versions, hummus, babaganoush; the spinach triangle pastries, and tabbouleh. The restaurant offers an appetizer called Camel Wings that are beyond amazing. If you've eaten LTM's roast chicken, you'll know what the Camel Wings taste like. I don't know whether the market sells these; we've only eaten them in the restaurant. Perhaps they make a platter of the Camel Wings with advance notice; I've certainly never seen them offered in the deli cases.

    I love LTM's hindbeh, but it sure doesn't have much eye appeal to sit on a table at a party. Ditto for their avacado salad.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Indy 67

      gourmet basket's pumpkin kibbe are the bomb!

      i think they are more reasonably priced than leb taverna. lt's kibbe are 1.75 each (just bought on sunday). gourmet basket's menu shows theirs at only one dollar each.

      sunday, i drove by on the hopes it was open. closed on sundays. ;-(

      1. re: alkapal

        Thanks for the link. I've been shopping there since the place opened and never realized they have as many options for prepared foods. For example, I've never seen Mouhammara ready-made in the case. If so, I would have snapped theirs up in a second. I love that stuff. When I get the craving, I buy it at Pasha Cafe, a restaurant on Lee Hwy that's close to the LTM. Now, I'll have to see what The Gourmet Basket's version is like.

        1. re: Indy 67

          pasha cafe is so close to me, but i've never been. there is a deli next door. i think same owners. tell me about pasha, and your faves there. and the take-out, if you would please!

          1. re: alkapal

            We used to go to Pasha Cafe more often when it occupied the space now occupied by Portabellos. In either location, we make a meal of mezze. We'd always order maramar (a red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate dip that is addictive) and hummus shwarma. We fill in with a rotation of their other Middle Eastern appetizers.

            Our last time at Pasha, one of our friends ordered a lamb chop entree and complained and complained about the quality of the meat. Meanwhile, my husband and I were eating our babaganoush, stuffed grape leaves, maramar, and hummus and enjoying our meal thoroughly.

            I don't know about the Pasha Cafe and the neighboring deli connection. I do know that the owner of Portabellos helped Pasha financially to re-open in its current location. Portabellos didn't push Pasha out of its old space; Pasha had failed and vacated the Pollard Street space.

            1. re: Indy 67

              thanks, maybe we'll give it a shot, then!

              1. re: alkapal

                btw, an update, the gyros in the deli next to pasha are the best in the area, in my opinion. i think they call themselves "cherrydale deli", but they are the same folks as pasha (the gyro meat is from the same gyro doohicky (forgive my technical language ;-)).

                edit: ok, it's a "vertical broiler" ... hey, i haven't had my coffee yet.

                and...pasha cafe is expensive for what you get, imo. they have some coupons out though, recently, so it is a bit more reasonable. their gyro meat is really tasty -- moist and well-spiced. better than tarbouch down the road.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Thanks for the tip on that deli, I pass that place every day on my way home, and have been wanting to get gyros from a place that really has the "doohicky" ; ) with the compressed meat cone on it.

                  1. re: MsDiPesto

                    ms. d, let me know what you think, ok? i believe that they close at 7 pm, though pasha is open later. i'll have a look and post back.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      they open at 8 am and close at 7 pm.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        I'll give it a try I'm no gyro expert, but I usually go by there around 6:30 depending on how my trip out of Geotown goes

    2. in the Ashburn Area: Mezza Grille- Turksih, Lebanese and Greek- excelllent! Hookah bar after 9pm. http://mezzagrills.com/

      Silk Road- Afghan cuisine- spectacular. In Lansdown off of Rt 7- the most tender, flavorfuil lamb io have ever had... http://silkroadcuisine.com/

      if you google my screen name with the restaurant names, you can read review and get coupons foir both...

      1. Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria might be a carry-out option. They have over a dozen different meat, cheese, and veggie-filled pastries that can be arranged into platters for on-your-feet grazing, as well as the usual containers of hummus, baba ganouj, etc.

        2 Replies
        1. re: PollyG

          Wow, I didn't think I was going to get any answers, but you have given me a plethora of choices! I live just inside the beltway in the Falls Church Annandale area, so Ashburn is not likely an option for me, but thank you for your suggestions, Aphioni.

          I think I may have to stop at all these places and pick up a sample of their food!

          Thanks again all you Hounds!

          1. re: MsDiPesto

            there is a place near raaga resto, between bailey's and 7 corners....it is called jerusalem cafe, or something like that. you also might want to check there. (the strip mall is small, and perpendicular to rte. 7)

        2. call "layalina" in arlington, too.

          1. In the Springfiled / Burke area, Cedar Cafe (Lebanese) is excellent. In Fairfax, Temel (Turkish) does a lot of catering.

            3 Replies
            1. re: HSBSteveM

              I was going to say: Lebanese Taverna Market too.

              1. re: beauxgoris

                I am investigating Temel as well, as my experiences eating there have been positive.
                Just to clarify, I am looking for just food, no service or utensils are needed for my purposes.
                I don't suppose the Cedar Cafe on Lee Highway near Merrifield is any relation to the Cedar Cafe that HSBSteveM suggested??

                1. re: MsDiPesto

                  I don't know. best to call Cedar in Sfld (maybe a Burke address) and ask.