Monday, July 13, 2009
Is Austin ready for Lebanese food? Yes. Is this Lebanese eatery ready for Austin? Maybe.
Located in what I think is the site of the old Texicali Grill on Oltorf (it's right next to Curra's), Tarbouch has been open since May, according to something I just read (and how I found out about them in the first place). Entering just after 12 noon, there was only one other table with customers, and the hostess/waitress said to sit where ever we liked. She gave us menus and took our drink order.
I ordered the gyro wrap, which came with a Greek salad on the side. My friend ordered the vegetarian sampler plate, and picked hummus, baba ganoush, dolmas, Greek Salad, and falafel. The meat on the gyro, a combo of pressed lamb & beef, had a nice texture -- almost a lightness to it, and fairly good flavor. The sauce, onions & tomato inside the soft pita were very underseasoned; salt certainly helped, and upped the flavor on the meat as well. The hummus was overly pureed, and really tasted of tahini; the falafel was well-fried and while not oily, fairly dry. The real kicker though, was the dressing on the Greek salads appears to be a Wishbone salad dressing. Certainly NOT a homemade dressing, as it's got that distinctive bottled flavor and xanthan gum (or other stabilizer) texture. How hard is it to make a vinaigrette?
The menu only listed baklava for dessert, but a closer inspection of their cold case also had another small square spongy looking one, so we ordered both. When she brought them, I asked the name, and it's something with an "n" but I should have written it down. She said it was made from cream of wheat, coconut, and I'd also guess pistachios (because they were on top) and honey or simple syrup. It was heated, which we weren't expecting, and it was quite hot at first. Pretty good, though better at room temp than hot. The baklava (and yes, there's a million ways to make it) was layers of phyllo at the top and bottom, and a walnut/sugar/cinnamon mixture inbetween. The more I ate it, the more cloyingly sweet it was. Almost couldn't finish my half....almost.
When eating at a sit-down restaurant (someplace with actual menus, not fast food), one expects plates and silverware. Nothing fancy, but "real" ones. Cleanup at Tarbouch is obviously fast because our cups, silverware, and plates were all disposable (yeah, great for the environment too). Nice heavy duty Chinet there, as you can see in the photo.
All in all, Tarbouch wasn't bad, there just wasn't anything overly exceptional about it.