This Middle Eastern restaurant in Grandview is a worthy addition to the culinary scene.
Well-prepared Middle Eastern food is a joy. Sparkling with lemon, redolent of garlic, enriched by olive oil and fragrant with mint and other herbs, the flavors of this cuisine sing a resounding chorus on the palate. Lucky us, Columbus has more than one restaurant that does this cuisine justice, including the newest place, Mazah.
It sits on restaurant row along Grandview Avenue, amidst plenty of other good, and some very good, dining establishments. With all that competition, the food better stand out—and, indeed, it does, at least in freshness and quality of preparation. You will not find much in the way of new recipes; you’ve had this all before, but maybe not as well-made as it is here.
Take the ubiquitous baba ghanoush, a mash of roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic and olive oil. This version was garlicky and rich, but, unlike some versions around town, it retained real eggplant flavor and wasn’t overwhelmed by garlic or salt. Similarly, char-grilled strips of lamb were beautifully marinated with a sweet marinade and caressed with a garlicky yogurt sauce.
Freshness is a byword here. The purple cabbage salad was supremely crisp, as if it were made to order. Ditto the famous parsley and couscous mixture, tabbouleh. Three bean salad with corn, black beans, fava beans and chickpeas had some canned items, but it was at least freshly mixed and dressed. I can recommend every appetizer I tried, including hummus, falafel, grape leaves and mujaddarah (a mixture of lentils, cracked wheat and darkly cooked onions).
Larger plates included grilled lamb and grilled marinated chicken—both served with salad. There were excellent shawarma sandwiches, beef or chicken, and a nice pita bread pie called “fatayer” that was stuffed with spinach, cheese and onions.
I think the best way to enjoy the food here is to order the small or large sampler platters. Each contained two or three dips, falafel, tabbouleh, cabbage or parslied potato salad, pita bread and meat or another vegetable component. (The large plate was enough for two.) For two hearty appetites, there was a “couples sampler” that included all the above mentioned goodies plus two bowls of soup. At $18.95, that’s a bargain.
The lunch and dinner menus were the same, but at lunch you may want to try something a little less substantial. For just $5.95, there was a choice of chicken, fatayer, kefta (seasoned ground beef nuggets) or falafel, with a Greek salad or soup and rice of the day. There also were several sandwiches, meat or vegetarian, in which one of the various items (hummus, lamb, falafel, kefta etc.) were stuffed into fresh pita, with numerous accompaniments to choose from.
Naturally, there were the honeyed-sweet desserts of this cuisine, such as walnut or pistachio baklava. If the baklava isn’t sweet enough for you, try it on ice cream as in the baklava sundae. Tiramisu may not come from the Middle East, but it is Mediterranean, at least, and the creamy rich thing was yummy.
No alcohol was served. The setting was plain and modestly decorated, with not so many tables. Service was sweet, like the baklava.
1439 Grandview Ave.
Atmosphere: Grandview Avenue storefront.
Price range: Soups $2.50-$3.95; salads $3.95-$7.95; combination plates $9.50-$16.95; dessert $1-$3.95.
Recommended dishes: Just about everything, especially the sampler plates.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday till 10 pm; closed Sunday.
Reservations: Not accepted.