Meatless Monday: Dinner Sampler at Mazah

Anthony Dominic, Crave

Since reopening this spring, Mazah has quickly become one of my go-to lunch and dinner spots. The family-operated eatery boasts a thoughtful yet unfussy menu of varied Middle Eastern fare with no shortage of meat-free options. (And if you'd rather not sift through the lamb and chicken offerings, just ask for a condensed vegetarian menu.)

The Dinner Sampler for two ($25) is a great date-night pick, allowing you and your partner the chance to try a little of everything Mazah does best. It starts with a choice of soup or salad, currently a hearty red lentil or a light Greek salad, respectively. If you're big on soup, the thick red lentil is a great first course-but it's served fresh and often sold out by 8 or 9 p.m.

Next up is a cold-appetizer plate, with hummus, a nutty baba ghanoush, a Three-Bean Salad (black, pimento and kidney beans with corn and greens) and a Cabbage Salad (think extra-savory coleslaw)-and, of course, all-you-can-eat pita bread. The pita is exceptional, always served warm, still steaming in the basket. (I've been noticeably pickier with store-bought pita ever since my first visit.)

Your entree-a choice of veggie grape leaves, fatayer, mujadara or falafel-is served atop a bed of saffron rice with crispy falafel. My tried-and-true favorite is the grape leaves, hand-rolled with rice, chickpeas and peppers and cooked with tomato and spices. The pepper and tomato really come through, imparting a natural, earthy sweetness.

Lastly, after the plates are cleared, I like to bounce back with cup of Turkish Coffee ($2.50), which is pot-boiled with cardamom.