Sunday, May 23, 2010

Clintonville: Lavash Cafe

Lavash Cafe is probably one of the best additions to the Columbus scene.  Well, I guess I should say "returns" as the owner of Lavash used to have a restaurant in Columbus, closed it, and recently re-opened this spot.

Fresh, authentic, and casual, Lavash is a great place to go with family, friends, or just by yourself, with an extensive menu to choose from.  The interior is very welcoming.  Wooden tables, including two long family style tables in the front window, provide a plethora of great seating.  The walls are covered in beautiful patchwork fabrics that really brighten up the space.  When you enter Lavash, you order at the counter, kind of like a cafeteria.  The food is made for you, and your name is called out and you pick it up.  It is very unpretentious, and definitely a breath of fresh air to places that have bad wait service.

And when I say that there's something to eat for everyone, I mean everyone.  My mother loves Lavash.   My mother is a strict vegetarian, and often times has trouble finding food to eat when my parents come to visit (we usually end up going to Panera, or Macaroni Grill for the make your own pasta).

I went to Lavash last week with my friend Andy (see Press Grill post) for his inaugural Lavash visit.  Andy and I have both been trying to watch what we eat, so what's better than some home made hummus?

I ordered us the vegetarian platter to start with.  A delicious assortment of falaffel, hummus, tabouli salad, and stuffed grape leaves.

Lavash gives you nice, big baskets of fresh pita to scoop all of the deliciousness with.  I like making little tabouli, hummus, falaffel sandys with my pita.

Hummus: the hummus is definitely fresh made.  It's not like the store bought hummus that is packed with salt and preservatives.  You can taste each ingredient in every bite: chick peas, garlic, olive oil, tahini.

Falaffel:  At home, my dad makes a type of falaffel (called a bonda) with green lentils.  He fries them up all delicious like, but my mother commented they don't come up poofy-like like Lavash.  Lavash's falaffel are smaller than most in town (Happy Greek's are ginormous) but they are small and crispy.  Very good.  Andy commented that he could eat a whole basket of them (and I could too)

Tabouli salad: the national salad of Lebanon.  Pretty standard here.

Stuffed grape leaves: At first, I never liked grape leaves.  The texture of the leaf itself reminded me of paan, an after-meal digestive aid that's served in India after meals.  But these grape leaves are pretty good, filled with rice and other spices. 

Now onto the main meals.  Lavash has a very good selection of sandwiches, salads, and entrees on its regular menu.  However, every day there are different specials which are incredible.  I would definitely recommend going on Fridays for the muncef (delicious lamb with rice and a special yogurt sauce, all wrapped in a thin pita), or on Sundays for the biriyani.  Lavash does a pretty good job of keeping its facebook page updated, so you can find out what the daily specials are very easily.

On Tuesday, the specials were a variety of kebabs, rice dishes, and mousakka (the lasagna-like dish, but it was made with lamb).  I opted for a lamb biriyani like dish, and Andy went for the spicy chicken kefta.

My dish:

Lamb is my guilty pleasure and I really don't eat it that often.  Here, the lamb on the rice dishes is awful Fred Flinstone like.  I feel like that picture above is very caveman, yes?  Anyway, this dish was pretty good.  The rice was a lot like my mom's, spiced with cardamom, garlic, and black peppercorns.  It made for nice leftovers for the next couple of days.

Andy had the special chicken dish for the evening, spicy chicken kefta.  I kind of wish I would have gotten this instead.  The chicken had the perfect spice and was so very flavorful.  A nice side of basmati rice complemented the dish.  The chicken had a nice char from the grill.  I would definitely get this again.

CONCLUSION: If you haven't gone to Lavash yet you're really missing out.  You should probably go today and get a biriyani special.  Quit denying your tastebuds from deliciousness.

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