The legend of Tanoreen’s exceptional food has spread far andwide, from the pages of the New York Times to lifestylemagazines in London hotels. But for all the droves of salivatingtourists who arrive on weekends to her restaurant, owner and chefRawia Bishara counts her neighbors as among her favoritevisitors.That is because the long-time Bay Ridge resident, mom and businessowner, who runs the establishment with daughter Jumana, continuesto be guided by her original vision of a restaurant that providesauthentic and honest Middle Eastern cuisine, not far removed fromwhat her own mother used to make by hand from freshingredients.For example, the cold meze platter (not on the menu, so ask) is adelight to all the senses, its colorful array of a dozenvegetable-based appetizers (between $2.50 and $7 a la carte)tantalizing the palate with items as familiar as Hummus, BabaGhanouge and rice-stuffed grape leaves and as homey yet unique asMhammara, a rich red pepper purée mixed with walnut chunks andenhanced with pomegranate molasses; a refreshingly cool cauliflowersalad drizzled with tahini; and a lightly tart mound of sautéeddandelion greens garnished with tiny curlicues of frizzledonion.The hot appetizer platter (another off-the-menu special) alsooffers a savory spread of flavors and textures – Falafel that aresoft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside; Lamb Kibbee that is amasterful dish of spiced chopped lamb that is breaded then deepfried; and Sambosek, which are like vegetable empanadas, whosesoulful filling contrasts delightfully with the doughexterior.Fatoush ($8, small, $10, large, extra for feta cheese) is also awin, the quintessentially Middle Eastern salad spiked with lemonysumac, mint and parsley.Entrees include Spinach and Beef Stew ($16) served alongside asavory mix of rice and vermicelli – comfort food with a twistprovided by a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of coriander – andChicken Fetti ($18, $24 made with lamb), which is shredded chickenbathed in a tart yogurt-tahini sauce and garnished with toastedpita shreds atop a bed of rice and vermicelli.Whether you are dining alone, are on a date or are celebrating abig occasion, don’t forget to try the offerings of the well-stockedbar, as Tanoreen’s bartenders create signature cocktails to goalong with their range of liquors and non-alcoholicbeverages.The Pomareen ($10) smells and tastes strongly of the fruit of thegods, while the Pistachio Martini ($11) is a strikinglytranslucent lime green concoction of vanilla bean vodka, hazelnutand fruity apple flavors. But it is the Nazareth Sunrise ($10) -named after Bishara’s birthplace in Palestine – that captured ourattention. We loved the combination of pear vodka, fresh orangejuice and rose flower water, which tasted as beautiful and sunshinyas it looked.At this point, whether you are hungry or not – and you probablywon’t be – you simply have to make room for dessert, especially thehouse specialty of Knafeh (large – $12), comprised of cheeseenveloped in shredded filo, glazed with honey, sprinkled withchopped pistachios and baked fresh upon order so that it is pipinghot when served. It’s well worth the 20-minute wait.Tanoreen is one of those rare restaurants that both deserves theaccolades bestowed upon it and never seems cowed by all theattention. So make sure to stop by, whether for a relaxing sit-downmeal in the bright and beautifully decorated dining room or for atake-home order from their deli counter around the corner. You’llbe glad you did.
Tanoreen7523 Third AvenueBrooklyn, NY 11209718-748-5600Free delivery in Bay Ridge. Catering and parties available.Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.Tuesday through Friday from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.Weekend brunch available