Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Superlative Middle Eastern at Galit in Chicago

This is one of those reviews that we could have sworn we already wrote, since we were so impressed with the meal. Better late than never! The food at Galit (2429 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614) was so amazing, it was definitely one of the best meals we have had in 2019! Galit is owned and operated by Andrés Clavero and James Beard Award-winning chef Zachary Engel, previously Zach was the Chef de Cuisine at Shaya Restaurant in New Orleans. We enjoyed Shaya so much on a previous trip to New Orleans that we were delighted to learn that Engel was opening a restaurant in Chicago.

The theme at Galit is Israeli cuisine, with some modern touches and showing the influences from the diverse groups in Israel and around the Middle East. Galit’s sign is not visible from the street, and the only sign that lets you know that you are in the right place is a small blue and white address sign with “Lincoln Ave.” written in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The inside of Galit is clean and bright, and centered around an aqua-tiled bar and open kitchen (note the pita oven). We went with two other friends so were fortunately able to sample more of the dishes.

We ordered the Salatim ($22 for all – pictured above) which are a variety of dips and nibbles:

  • Labneh: creamy yogurt dip with sumac and sesame
  • Yemenite, Bulgarian and Israeli Pickles
  • Ezme: a paste of tomatoes, peppers, walnuts and chives
  • Pumpkin Tershi: Pumpkin spread with Urfa biber pepper, cumin and garlic
  • Cipollini onions with feta

Don’t sleep on the pita either, like at Shaya, the pita at Galit it is freshly-baked, and comes right out of the oven hot, puffy and fresh. To be honest, we could have made a meal out of only the pita and the salatim dips. The Labhen and Ezme we our favorites from among the Salatim, the labneh was like the best version of queso you could imagine, and the ezme was bold and smoky. And don’t forget the hummus, another signature plate at Galit. There were 4 varieties of hummus ($9-16) including the classic version alongside more interesting varieties like “Bubbe’s Brisket” with smoky cinnamon, tomatoes, and carrots. We went with the Masabacha, which was made from chickpeas, herby tehina and aleppo pepper ($12). The hummus was superlative, silky smooth and delicious, and the herbs added a bright punch not usually found in hummus.

Another section of the menu was called “mostly over coal” and included a wide variety of small-to-large plates ranging from glazed carrots ($13) to shakshukah ($16) to Foie Gras ($18). We sampled the falafel ($12) served with “funky mango” and labneh. Iraqi Kubbeh Halab ($14), a crispy ground lamb fritter served with golden raisins and almonds. For mains we ordered chicken thighs with pine nuts, mushrooms and Bulgarian feta ($18), along with two orders of the fried fish Tunisian style ($22). Everything was delicious, but our favorite small plates had to be the falafel and the kubbeh, which were both absolutely bursting with flavor. The falafel was our favorite kind, bright green and herby, and was perfectly combined with the acidic mango pickle.

For dessert, we shared a chocolate cake ($11) with cardamon and hazelnut and a phyllo pie with apples and sahlab ($11) which were both tasty, but just not as amazing as the savory dishes. Other dessert options included date Ma’amoul cookies and apricot and hazelnut rice pudding. We also appreciated the original drinks on the menu, spanning spirits and spirit-free, including mint and yuzu fizzy lemonade and parsley, cucumber and cumin. For after-dinner aperatif pairings they have a variety of Araks, a anise-flavored spirit. There is also Yemeni coffee with hawaij and a variety of blends from the Rare Tea Cellar. Everything we sampled at Galit was fresh, delicious, and served with great attention to detail. This was definitely one of our best meals of 2019, and we encourage you to visit ASAP.

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Sultan’s Market, fast and fresh in Lincoln Park

Sultan’s Market
2521 N Clark
Chicago, IL

jordanWe recently came upon yet another ranking of Chicago’s top falafel spots, and this time Sultan’s Market came out on top. Why had we still not been there? So many friends raved about it, so we finally made the decision to go, trekking down to Sultan’s Market hoping for falafel paradise. The space is super tiny, with just a few tables a food counter and a salad bar. You order at the counter where your sandwich was prepared for you with freshly fried falafel and shewarma from the spit. The food is super quick and you pay after you eat (I guess they assume you are pretty honest!). There is shiny golden tin on the walls and ceiling which adds a cool ambiance, amplified by a few colorful glass lamps.
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The value-ratio at Sultan’s Market simply cannot be beat. Matt ordered a lamb shawerma dinner ($7.00), expecting a light meal. He got a big plate of marintaed, spiced lamb, accompanied with pita, hummus, cucumber salad, and a *small* lentil soup ($2.00, which, as you can see from the photo below, was by no means small). Meanwhile, Lindsay ordered a falafel sandwich ($3.75) and another small lentil soup. Total bill was less than $20 for two people, and we had way more food than we needed – we ended up taking about half of the food home for lunch later. Everything was very good, especially on the falafel front. Lindsay enjoyed hers, very delicious, fresh, and it comes in regular or spicy versions. It also has the characteristic green tint, provided by fresh herbs, that we appreciate.
Sultan's Market
One brilliant aspect of their business model is how they seamlessly integrate self-service into a sit-down restaurant concept. Everything seems made-to-order, but they have a salad bar There is also a salad bar where you can fill up a container with tabbouleh, baba ghanouj and other Middle Eastern favorites (oh, and salads…), as well as mounds of take-home containers for those who inevitably cannot finish their meals. Keeps costs down and portions big! We are totally smitten with Sultan’s Market, and will certainly be back. The menu at Sultan’s Market is so cheap, it is just a bonus that it is so good!

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A Place for Spices in Rio de Janeiro: Casas Pedro

brazil

The Saara neighborhood is one of our favorite areas in Rio. It is a great place to shop for anything under the sun, people watch, and get a bite to eat on a sunny afternoon. The name “Saara” is rumored to derive from the word “Sahara,” an explanation that has entered into the public lore of Rio. Nowadays, the area is mostly given over to selling clothes, home goods, party/Carnaval supplies and any kind of bric-a-brac you would ever want (there is an entire store dedicated to Tupperware, for example). However, there are a few places in Saara that do specialize in Middle Eastern spices and foods. Our favorite, Casas Pedro, has several branches are sprinkled throughout Rio, including 3 in the Saara. You can get nearly any spice you could imagine at Casas Pedro, several kinds of cinnamon, tumeric, coriander, cumin, along with nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips and other oddities (even baking soda) sold by weight. You can also find “Pao Sirio” a kind of flatbread popular in Brazil, tahini paste, honey and other Middle Eastern packaged goods. If you are feeling hungry, a counter sells meat and cheese esfihas to go. 

Casas Pedro in Rio

Casas Pedro in Rio

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Middle-Eastern Food in Brazil: Al Kuwait

Al Kuwait
Av. Treze de Maio, 23 – Centro
Rio de Janeiro

KuwaitbrazilsyrialebanonRio de Janeiro is full of middle-Eastern restaurants, ranging from
four-star white-tablecloth places to corner botecos, owing to the large Arab Brazilian population. Al Kuwait falls into the latter category, and does a brisk lunch trade selling Middle Eastern dishes, salgados and juices. Moreover, we figured we had to try this place since Al Kuwait claims to have some of the best kibbe in Rio.

Kibbe

Kibbe at Al Kuwait

Kibbe is extremely popular in Brazil, and is found in almost all snack bars, Middle Eastern or not. A kibbe in Brazil is basically a miniature football-shaped meatball (again, sounds like something Ron Swanson would appreciate, right?) composed of ground meat, bulgur and other fillings, which are then fried. For lunch we each ordered a kibbe and an esfiha (one cheese and one meat), another iconic Middle Eastern salgado. Now, we always eat at Middle Eastern restaurants in Chicago and we have never encountered esfihas there. However, in Brazil they are nearly as ubiquitous as kibbe (you can even get them on the beach). Esfihas are savory triangle pastries filled with meat or cheese, which are prefect to eat on the go.

Esfiha

Esfiha at Al Kuwait

However, Al Kuwait had a nice outdoor seating area, so we took a seat to enjoy our snacks. The kibbe was much larger than we expected, but true to advertising, was excellent and had a great texture and flavor. The esfihas were also oversized, but not as memorable as the kibbe. We also enjoyed that we could wash down our somewhat-heavy meal with some fresh juice (Mango, Passion fruit and Pineapple were on order). There is also a full menu of entree-sized middle-eastern specialties if you would like something a bit more substantial, including hummus, baba ghanouj, kebabs and Brazilian specialties like picanha sandwiches. Al Kuwait is a great place for lunch, especially if you want a taste of typical Arab-Brazilian cuisine in a laid-back setting.

Al Kuwait

Dining Al Fresco at Al Kuwait

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