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Mamnoon?

kaleokahu Jan 5, 2013 09:20 PM

Breezed past here with a porchetta from Rain Shadow underarm this afternoon...

Maitre 'd' invited me in for a look. Menu was fascinating--Syrian, Lebanese and Persian dishes. Decor was *interestingly polished*. Looks like fine dining--with takeout window. Yelp has it about 75% 5-star.

Who has been, and opinions?

Aloha,
Kaleo

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  1. d
    dagrassroots RE: kaleokahu Jan 5, 2013 11:36 PM

    I had the lamb mana'eesh off the to go menu for lunch last week and it was delicious. Very promising.

    1. alarash RE: kaleokahu Jan 8, 2013 12:30 PM

      I'll be in town in a couple of weeks. Want to grab lunch there? I'm pretty sure it's my turn to treat!

      1 Reply
      1. re: alarash
        kaleokahu RE: alarash Jan 8, 2013 09:14 PM

        I'm there, Brah. You have my number...

      2. a
        amybobamy RE: kaleokahu Jan 8, 2013 04:54 PM

        Yelp complaints were about value for quantity vs. quality. Thoughts?

        1 Reply
        1. re: amybobamy
          Charles RE: amybobamy Jan 8, 2013 08:24 PM

          Yelp should be ignored... Mamnoon was fantastic and well worth the price.

        2. babette feasts RE: kaleokahu Jan 9, 2013 08:22 PM

          I stopped by in late December and got some za'atar mana'eesh, baba ghanoush, and labneh to go (along with some oysters from Taylor to round out the meal). I loved the mana'eesh, was happily surprised by the thick layer of green stuff, delish. Baba and yogurt very good as well, but the eggplant was a bit stringy. They gave me 2 pitas to go with the 2 mezze, which would not have been nearly enough if I hadn't had the mana'eesh.

          I liked the look of the room (a new take on subway tile!) and want to go have dinner and watch baker boys make pita all night.

          1. e
            equinoise RE: kaleokahu Jan 11, 2013 10:32 AM

            Went for dinner last night. Easily the best middle eastern food in SEA. We had mana'eesh with cheese, fried cauliflower, batteresh, okra, and kefta kebab. Bread operation is dead serious there. Everything was a superlative version of whatever dishes we'd had before, or an interesting novelty to us. (Well, except for the semolina pastry dessert with chocolate and dates, which tasted like a trumped up fig newton, and didn't really work for me).

            The pricing will raise questions. The larger entrees (fish or lamb shank) are high-end level, and several similar mezze are available for less at more homley Cafe Munir in Ballard (though not as high quality). The Mamnoon space is large, modern and they play beats. For me, the extra flavors and spark and the bread make Mamnoon the winner despite higher tariffs.

            13 Replies
            1. re: equinoise
              dagoose RE: equinoise Jan 11, 2013 11:15 AM

              Interestingly, I also went for dinner last night! And while I thought it was good, probably even very good, I would say that it doesn't hold a candle to Cafe Munir for best middle eastern in Seattle. Sorry. I find CM is better, cheaper, and a far more pleasant place to sit and eat a meal.

              1. re: dagoose
                e
                equinoise RE: dagoose Jan 11, 2013 11:40 AM

                We'll agree to disagree. I found Mamnoon's flavors brighter and fresher, while CM I though was more homely, in both ambiance and taste--an item or two there had a sort of warmed-over air, but can't say that was literally true. Obviously if one is annoyed by beat-driven music Mamnoon will dissapoint. But you've got to give Mamnoon an edge just for the bread, no?

                Maybe also we have geographic bias working for us in the backgroun...I live in the South so I would need more incentive to drive up to Ballard again for CM.

                1. re: equinoise
                  dagoose RE: equinoise Jan 11, 2013 01:31 PM

                  Of course! Always fun to agree to disagree. Definitely geographic bias--Cap Hill is a trek from Greenwood for us. I didn't mind the beats, but the space felt large an empty to us, while at the same time, felt like I was in the middle of the conversation next to us, since tables were so close.

                  Again, I really enjoyed Mamnoon, and if I lived near it, probably wouldn't trek to CM either. Falafel were good, bread was very good, though they were having trouble keeping up with pace while we were there (darling server, I'd advise you hold off on dropping that olive oil and za'atar until the bread is ready, BTW). The hummus was good, though the lamb/eggplant thing was a little off. The shish taouk was the one thing where I yearned for CM's version--more tender chicken (I actually think that is a meat quality thing), and the amazing garlic sauce.

                  A little stream o' consciousness for you on it...

                2. re: dagoose
                  kaleokahu RE: dagoose Mar 3, 2013 12:12 PM

                  Hi, dagoose:

                  Wahine and I ate at Cafe Munir last night because I remembered that you recommended the place.

                  Let me start by saying I'm not easy to impress. And then let me say this is *the* best meal I've EVER had for $50/2. The Hommus bi Lahem ou Snobar (hommus with lamb and pine nuts fried in butter) absolutely swooned us, the grilled cauli with Tahini was great, the Rikikat bi' Lahem (philo cigars stuffed with spiced lamb and pine nuts) was fantastic, and the Shish Taouk (chicken skewers roasted with garlic and lemon and served with garlic aoli) was perfection. The dessert special we chose was a dry baklava with pistacchio meat--unspeakably good and only gently sweet. All that food, two drinks, two Turkish coffees, $48.

                  I'm not posting this as its own thread because I don't want to have to wait in line. I will if I must, but since you've been there, you already know how good Cafe Munir is.

                  THANK YOU,
                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

                  1. re: kaleokahu
                    dagoose RE: kaleokahu Mar 4, 2013 07:54 AM

                    Kaleo! Thank you so much for posting this! It makes me so happy to know that people have enjoyed my suggestions so much. And of course I'm glad that you now also know the magic of Cafe Munir! Happy eating.

                    1. re: kaleokahu
                      gingershelley RE: kaleokahu Mar 22, 2013 10:03 AM

                      Must get up to this place - thanks for reporting on the meal. I trust your taste, Kaleo, as we usually agree on most places.

                      Thanks for the report!

                      1. re: kaleokahu
                        Tom Armitage RE: kaleokahu Apr 19, 2013 01:22 PM

                        I haven’t been to Mamnoon, but I’ll add my two cents worth about my experience at Café Munir. Overall, what I particularly liked about the food here was the fact that the spicing was in general more subdued and subtle than I’ve experienced in other Lebanese restaurants. (During the years I lived in Los Angeles, my place of work was located in an Armenian/Lebanese neighborhood with many wonderful restaurants.) Some people, like my wife for instance, may find the preparations at Café Munir “blander” than they like, but not me. For example, I thought the preparation of m’tab’bal (baba ghanoush) let the eggplant flavor sing without being overpowered, as it often is, by tahini. My wife, on the other hand, missed the more usual prominence of tahini and cumin. My wife and I also disagreed on the pastry turbans filled with spicy lamb and veggies, which I liked and my wife didn’t. But we both liked the winter greens with tomatoes and the chicken wings with a garlic sauce that was strikingly similar to the much revered garlic sauce at Zankou Chicken, one of my Los Angeles mainstays. And we both loved the Sheik Al Mahshi, eggplant stuffed with lamb in a tomato sauce. I liked the space and ambience, and thought the service was friendly and helpful, even if a little inattentive at times. Although the Ballard area is a schlep for me, since I live in the northeast corner of Seattle near Lake City (generally a culinary desert with a few exceptions), I’d happily return to Café Munir, even if it means twisting my wife’s arm a bit to do so.

                        By the way, with respect to the mention of Golden Beetle in this thread, a non-Seattle-based award-winning chef who specializes in Eastern Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, found the food at Golden Beetle “terrible.” Based on this chef’s privately expressed opinion, which I greatly respect, I’ve never been to Golden Beetle.

                        1. re: Tom Armitage
                          RandyB RE: Tom Armitage Apr 20, 2013 12:43 PM

                          I've only been to Munir once. I loved it for many of the dishes Tom or others mentioned. The hummus with lamb and pine nuts fried in butter, and the "cigars" filled with lamb - both really wonderful.

                          It is exactly the same schlep for me as for Tom. However, since a good friend who lives even further away works in Ballard, it is a great place for us to meet when he gets off work..

                          1. re: Tom Armitage
                            j
                            JayDK RE: Tom Armitage Apr 21, 2013 08:19 PM

                            I agree with the opinion of Golden Beetle. Group of 4 split many items on the menu and for the most part they just missed the boat.
                            To make things worse, had the hardest time getting the eye of staff to remove finished plates and in the end just started putting them under my chair. At least when I returned from washing my hands those plates were gone.
                            Never had to do that in all my years.
                            Odd experience was when the waiter told us of the "natural" practices of the restaurant and I asked him about rodent control. He said they do it humanely! I didn't ask for details.

                            1. re: JayDK
                              f
                              FoodDee RE: JayDK Apr 21, 2013 08:39 PM

                              I really wanted to like Golden Beetle but also found it disappointing - being fairly empty during Restaurant Week (we ate off the regular menu) should have been a clue. I hate to comment on a restaurant after only one visit but unfortunately nothing enticed me to give it another try since I live on the Eastside.

                            2. re: Tom Armitage
                              m
                              mrnelso RE: Tom Armitage Apr 28, 2013 05:47 PM

                              Go get the whole happy hour menu, once...

                            3. re: kaleokahu
                              klsalas RE: kaleokahu May 31, 2013 09:57 AM

                              Just noticed this thread in looking for info on Mamnoon. Great review. I have eaten there quite a few times since they opened. The owner Rajah is also a Scotch whisky aficionado and their list features some interesting and hard to find bottlings.

                          2. re: equinoise
                            q
                            Quintious RE: equinoise Apr 22, 2013 09:12 AM

                            I enjoy the restaurant, but it's a stretch to call it "easily the best Middle Eastern food" in the area. Pretty sure that distinction still goes to Caspian

                          3. terrier RE: kaleokahu Jan 13, 2013 11:41 AM

                            $32 for lunch of a lamb mana'eesh (good), fleifleh (red pepper mana'eesh, peppers not hot as advertised), falafel (very, very disappointing), and baba ghanouj (meh). 2 adults. We left hungry. Breads were all cold, not fresh, and the falafel was particularly inexcusable - tough white flatbread, cold - not fried to order - patties.

                            I might - might - go back for dinner and give it another try then, but I was really disappointed. I think the complaints about value for money are right on, at least at lunch. Food is not up to the standards of the space or the prices.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: terrier
                              e
                              equinoise RE: terrier Apr 22, 2013 04:56 PM

                              I went back and had the mana'eesh sandwich from "to go" menu. Nice flavors, but very small portion and consequently poor value ($9-plus). This same concern was marginal at dinner, but at lunch it is a major factor. I note the menu also states exorbitant extra prices for items that one might consider adding to make the sandwiches more substantial (cheese, etc.) Ill-advised.

                            2. GourmetLight RE: kaleokahu Jan 13, 2013 01:33 PM

                              I wrote a Yelp review dated 11/26 under Carolyn L. My husband was part of the crew who rehabbed the building, so we were excited to try the new restaurant. I was very disappointed with the price/quality ratio, as well as the authenticity of the so-called Persian dishes. I'll go to Harissa for my Lebanese fix.

                              1. babette feasts RE: kaleokahu Mar 19, 2013 08:35 PM

                                Just got back from dinner @ Mamnoon. I'd say good overall. I was a little surprised that their non-alcoholic options were not listed on the menu, considering the predominant religion of the middle East, but then again most Cap Hill infidels do want booze...

                                The mana'eesh jibneh za'atar was my favorite thing, rolled up with tomato and olive, and plenty of flavorful cheese and herbs. $7. If I went back, it would be for this. I hope the leftovers survive for lunch tomorrow without getting soggy or weird.

                                Fried cauliflower with tartar sauce ($7) was nicely cooked and not oily. Sauce was delicious, I would have liked more sauce.

                                Grilled chicken (shish taouk, $14 with choice of side) was very flavorful but a little dry. If any meat is an argument for sous vide cooking, it's chicken breast. I chose the cucumber and herb yogurt for a side, didn't get a lot of the promised tarragon but that's ok, it was a nice balance to the garlicky chicken.

                                Mint lemonade ($3) was too lime-y, better after I watered it down a little.

                                The main disappointment was dessert, the lime sorbet with pomegranate molasses and crispy fried rice noodles. Also too intensely lime-y to be enjoyable, but mostly I think $9 for a scoop of sorbet is ridiculous. They could have charged $6 and still made $5+ in profit. And, considering the chef's former illustrious pastry career, I was expecting the best sorbet ever. Perhaps we just have different tastes. (Garrett had been exec PC for Tom Douglas and at Campton Place Hotel in SF.)

                                Service was friendly and fast enough, but the banquette seating was not particularly comfortable due to a vertical back and shallow seat.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: babette feasts
                                  kaleokahu RE: babette feasts Mar 20, 2013 10:02 AM

                                  Hi, Babette:

                                  How would you say the food compares with that at Cafe Munir?

                                  Aloha,
                                  Kaleo

                                  1. re: kaleokahu
                                    babette feasts RE: kaleokahu Mar 20, 2013 07:20 PM

                                    Kaleo,

                                    I haven't been to Cafe Munir yet, but if it is as good as or better than Mamnoon and a little more affordable, I will have to try it. How have I lived without za'atar for so long?

                                    -B

                                    1. re: babette feasts
                                      m
                                      mrnelso RE: babette feasts Mar 20, 2013 08:24 PM

                                      No kidding. I hope you've had the za'atar fries at Golden Beetle.

                                      1. re: mrnelso
                                        babette feasts RE: mrnelso Mar 20, 2013 08:36 PM

                                        Clearly I need to get to Ballard more! Or get to Ballard more and NOT go to Walrus & Carpenter every time :)

                                        1. re: babette feasts
                                          m
                                          mrnelso RE: babette feasts Mar 20, 2013 08:55 PM

                                          Golden Beetle is the best. We like to just go in and order the whole happy hour menu. Full Tilt Ice Cream (and pinball and beer - go figger) is a block or two on Leary. Make Revel your next trip stop and then go to work on the rest of historic Ballard Avenue. Maria tends the bar from time to time, so keep your eyes open. On a pizza day, go to Veraci for Mole Pizza, a Caesar, and a Maritime Pacific ale. Armendino's Salumi puzzled me til I tasted it on the Veraci Mole Pizza. Perfect.

                                          1. re: mrnelso
                                            babette feasts RE: mrnelso Mar 21, 2013 07:50 PM

                                            I actually went to Revel on Monday! It was good, loved the squid pancake, pork dumplings were good but didn't love the texture of the pastry. Chocolate pistachio dacquoise was great, I could quibble that there wasn't much caramel flavor to the blood orange caramel, but the cake was nice, super chocolatey yet light. And priced appropriately :)

                                            Sometimes getting to other neighborhoods from West Seattle seems like such a trek, but when it's not raining, the viaduct is actually open, and there is deliciousness to be had, it's not so bad.

                                2. babette feasts RE: kaleokahu Mar 26, 2013 09:05 PM

                                  Out of curiosity tonight I trekked up to Cafe Munir for a comparison.

                                  I liked the longer mezze list at Munir, there were a lot of things I wanted to try. I ended up with the greens (kale?) with coriander and aleppo pepper, probably my favorite of the mezze. Also had the grilled & stuffed eggplant with farmer's cheese, nice and light but a little bland. Generous on the cheese, at least. I had wanted the red lentil and tomato besara but received the green. It was pretty good, a little bland, and I wished I had caught the error when they dropped it, there was a reason why I wanted the red (no onions). Oh well. Grilled lemon-garlic chicken wings were hot off the fire and nicely cooked, not dried out at all. Accompanying garlic sauce was insanely garlicky but I know people who would like that. I may regret it if I'm still tasting it tomorrow.

                                  Ma'noosh was the most disappointing in comparison to Mamnoon. Munir's reminded me of frozen pizza and lacked the fresh herbs that helped make Mamnoon's so stellar. The flatbread accompanying the mezze was fine, plain and slighty sweet (not from sugar so much as a lack of salt and long fermentation. Maybe long fermentation isn't traditional to this bread, but I do prefer that more complex flavor). I wanted more salt or spice or aggressive herbs or something overall (except for the chicken). Did not have dessert.

                                  Price-wise, while Munir does seem much more affordable, I think their portions may also be smaller, though they did seem generous with the flatbread, so you could fill up on that. The host tried to deliver some wrong plates to me, one of which was the cauliflower with tahini, not more half the size of the fried cauliflower I had at Mamnoon, so not such a great deal at $5 vs $7.

                                  I would go back to Cafe Munir if friends in Magnolia or points North wanted to go, otherwise Mamnoon is much more convenient and I would definitely grab take-out on the way home from work, especially that za'ataar maneesh/manoosh.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: babette feasts
                                    kaleokahu RE: babette feasts Mar 29, 2013 07:20 PM

                                    Hi, babette:

                                    I trust your opinions, so now I must try Mamnoon. If it's better than the meal I had at Munir, I may just have to move to Lebanon. Can you use "Druze" and "Hawai'ian" in the same sentence?

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: babette feasts
                                      alarash RE: babette feasts Mar 29, 2013 09:00 PM

                                      Thank you for the extensive review. I hope to try both of these restaurants sometime soon.

                                      I wonder what you would think of Mamnoon if it were inconveniently far, and if Munir were close?

                                      1. re: alarash
                                        terrier RE: alarash Apr 2, 2013 12:16 PM

                                        I tried Cafe Munir on Sunday. I'll be going back, even though I now live within walking distance of Mamnoon. Price isn't a differentiator for me, as having to rent a car to get to Cafe Munir more than offsets any savings from their lower prices.

                                        Cafe Munir doesn't just have better food (though it does), it gets the other basics of a restaurant right - faultless service, a well-edited room, and great cocktails. (A mint julep with my meze? Oh yes!) Call me a convert.

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