manakeesh cafe review
swung by this place over the weekend. it's across the street from saad's halal, and owned by the same folks. it's a very nice looking cafe (sort of starbucks-chic) with seating for about 25-30 people and a counter for ordering. you can eat in, in which case a runner brings you your food as soon as it's ready, or get your fix to go. the place was packed, with a nice mix of lebanese and non-lebanese. they're clearly still figuring out their assembly line process as the atmosphere behind the counter was insanely hectic, but the pies were flying out of the oven.
i ordered the classics, the yardstick by which all lebanese places ought to be measured: a za'atar manoushe (manoushe being the singular noun of manakeesh) and a lahm bajeen. a quick primer for the unfamiliar: za'atar is an aromatic thyme/sumac/olive oil mixture, which becomes "manoushe" when spread on flatbread and oven baked. lahm bajeen is a large flat meat pie, traditionally ground lamb, which is what this place serves.
verdict? really, really good. i mean, nearly indistinguishable-from-beirut good. all the indicators of skill were there: just the right amount of za'atar on the manoushe, perfect charring on the bottom of the pies, succulent and properly spiced ground lamb on the lahm bajeen. i couldn't find a flaw with any aspect of the food.
this is the real deal, people.