POSTED ON MAY 15, 2013:
Unusual, But Yummy
Medi-Eastern flavors take to downtown
LAFFA / 111 N. Main St. / 918-728-3147 / Mon-Sun, 11am-midnight
Food ****1/2 Atmosphere **** Service ****
The typical American menu is rather dull, with its ho-hum hamburgers and droll little chicken fingers. Tex-Mex is tiresome. Sushi is no longer chic. Yet you still crave something exotic, something new. When your taste buds are crying out for a culinary adventure, look no further than Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant and Bar.
The newest kid on the Brady District block, Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant is sleek and well-appointed, but still quirky and festive. A small room in the back is perfect for intimate private gatherings, and they also have a lovely patio area that can be enclosed if the weather isn't cooperating. It plays well with its Brady District neighbors, adding spice to an already sizzling side of town.
The menu is peppered with many unpronounceable dishes, yet each one has a thorough, almost playful description. It makes the cuisine more approachable and takes the anxiety out of trying new things. The best way to get a sense of flavor profiles you'll encounter is with a Mezze Medley. You can choose three ($9.99) or six ($14.99) items from about a dozen colorful sauces, dips, and salads. Familiar favorites like tabouli and tzadziki are on tap. Then you get a curve ball with options like roasted cauliflower flavored with "ras el honout," an Algerian mix of almost 30 spices, traditionally including Spanish fly (though the menu claims they couldn't find any).
To get the full experience, we threw caution to the wind and went full mezze. A large platter with individual plates was placed on a metal stand. I was giddy at the sight of this smorgasbord of colorful new treats. The mezze is served with laffa bread -- unleavened bread cooked by slapping the dough on the side of an oven called a taboon. Hot, fresh and a little crispy, it makes the perfect instrument for exploration.
First, I must gush about my new favorite sauce. Laffa's Anatolian Labneh is a yogurt dip with zaatar, garlic, watercress and chopped mint. Everything is balanced, with enough zing and tartness to cut through the creaminess. Perfection. The Harissa Carrot Salad introduced us to "harissa," which is a North African paste that blended beautifully with the cilantro, cumin, honey and shredded carrots.
We ordered the tabouli, a dish that is notorious for having a multitude of interpretations. Laffa's was almost creamy, heavier on the bulgur wheat than on the parsley and seemed to have a tomato-based sauce. Each dish I adored, but there was one that didn't suit my tastes. The Matbucha is sautéed eggplant and tomato, but there was one flavor that was a little too intense for me. My eager companion had no issue scooping up every bit, however.
All of these salads and sauces were begging for falafel, so we got an order of Laffa's Falafel Balls (three for $3.49). These deep-fried chickpea fritters packed a lot of flavor without going overboard. Die-hard falafel fans, take note, Laffa is a true contender. You don't even have to come inside to try out the falafel thanks for Laffa's walk-up window. Downtown revelers can just walk up and order a Street Falafel ($8.99) or Street Schawarma ($9.99). Literally a dozen "stuffers" are available for walk-up diners to add to these street treats that are sure to be post-bar favorites.
The mezze was a hell of a ride, but it was just the beginning. It was time for the main entrées. There is a little more fusion going on with the entrée menu, like the Beirut Sandwich ($8.99) which is a grilled haloumi cheese on a croissant or the Aleppo Panini ($8.99).
I ordered the Morrocan Lemon Chicken ($14.99), which is a somewhat-tame option among the menu's other choices. The chicken was a winner -- succulent and extremely juicy, with a lovely dash of seasoning. The creamy harissa dressing proved an excellent accompaniment.
The chicken is a nice option for those who want to play it safe, but I highly recommend diving head-first into the Lamb Keftedakia ($14.99). Greek meatballs made of scrumptious lamb swim in a "sexy tomato sauce" and are served with a lemony mint side salad. These robust balls were perfectly textured and flavored. The tomato sauce was indeed seductive, with just the right amount of oregano and feta. Our server, who was like our own enthusiastic tour guide, recommended we put the side salad on top of the meatballs. This insider tip was right on, and the lamb quickly disappeared.
Needless to say, Laffa's menu will be unfamiliar territory for many Tulsans. But the care and attention that went into creating it is one of the first things a diner will notice. Then, they follow through with authenticity, representing through food the cultures and traditions of the Mediterranean and Middle East. If a dining escapade is what you crave, Laffa will take you on a journey of incredible flavor experiences.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Restaurant to email@example.com.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A60029