I grew up in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire (West Africa) where there was a strong Lebanese (or should I say Northern African) presence in the city.
Things like Shawarmas were definitely no strangers to our pallets.
A small geographical lesson:
Lebanon is a Middle Eastern Country bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Syria and Israel.
When Lebanese Taverna opened in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland years ago, I was so eager to visit in hopes of revisiting the flavors of the Middle Eastern cuisine I was so familiar with.
I was tremendously disappointed as it was not what I expected and I did not waste time on whether I should give them another try.
Fortunately for me, last Summer, I won a contest through Bethesda Magazine with gift cards to Bethesda restaurants worth $250 and Lebanese Taverna Restaurant was one of them, a $50 gift card to dine Lebanese-style!
After almost 8 months of winning, I decided to give them another chance.
I made plans with my girlfriend Harlette, booked dinner reservations and off we went!
I was super hesitant about this dining experience as I recalled my previous visit years ago.
The restaurant setting was nothing like what I remembered.
Wow, an upgrade I thought to myself.
The setup was truly for diners.
Mohammed (with my Arabic accent) was our server and very helpful with recommendations.
We started off our Lebanese escpae with some wine, of course.
For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the wine I had, which was sweet and Lebanese as well.
It was very similar to Moscato, a win for me!
We moved on to ordering appetizers.
We shared an order of Kibbeh, which was delicious.
For those of you who are not familiar with Kibbeh, they are stuffed lamb/meat fritters with pine nuts, almonds and bulgur.
Our appetizer was a hit and my expectations for our main entrées went through the roof LOL!
The basket of assorted breads was amazing.
We were now ready to bask in our main dishes!
Mohammed recommended the Lamb Fatteh and the Lamb & Artichoke Stew.
The Stew (Harlette’s pick) was very tasty, filled with flavor!
It was also served with a side of Rice.
Now, my Lamb Fatteh was definitely not what I expected, and I say this in a good way.
Perhaps a sauce-like dish?!
It was different in taste and flavors.
Definitely a discovery.
The dish had a mixture of crunchy and soft aspects.
The lamb was super tender.
What a journey!
We had to have dessert Middle Eastern-style.
We were so close to picking the Baklava until we came across the Baklava Cheesecake.
First of all, I am very familiar with Baklava but Baklava Cheesecake? I had never heard of that.
We were very intrigued and could not wait to see what it looked like.
WHOA, it looked just like cheesecake!
DUUUUH…Baklava Cheesecake LOL!
I don’t know how they were able to transfer all of the Baklava flavors into a cheesecake.
M A G I C.
This cheesecake had all of the layers of flavors that Baklava encompasses.
The crust reminded me of the flaky texture of Baklava with sprinkles of Pistachios.
This dessert was simply delightful and a great end to our culinary Lebanese escape!
Now that I look back at my previous experience with Lebanese Taverna, I realized that the location in downtown Silver Spring was the café and not the restaurant.
Which probably explains the difference in both experiences.
If you are looking to try something that is totally out of the box in terms of flavors or just discovering another culture, I recommend Lebanese Taverna Restaurant.