Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Cedar Tree

Hello there Neighbor, can you say, "Baba Ghanoush?"  Sure, I knew that you could.  Heh heh, I don't think Dr. Fred Rogers ever said that on his popular childrens' TV show, but I bet he would have liked the dish all the same, (mashed eggplant).  This evening my Awesomer Half took us to The Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant in Dublin.  It is on St. Andrews street right by Wicklow Street, about a block away from Fallon & Byrne, (the amazing grocery store).

This was our second visit.  Last time we ordered a Mezze which is a about a dozen little dishes full of good things, like hummous, baba ganoush, fish shmear (for lack of a better word) and tabouleh.  Think of it like Middle Eastern tapas.  You get pita bread to tear and dip in the bowls as you see fit.  This evening we ordered Beruit Mezze:
Last time we ordered a less expensive Mezze (basically a meal-for-two deal) and they gave us an enormous amount of food.  We were stuffed, and it was delicious.  Again when our meal arrived tonight, we were treated to a huge spread.
These puff-pastry rolls were really good but I have absolutely no idea what these things were called.  Basically, they were like the standard meat-filled egg-rolls you get at any Chinese restaurant.  Crispy outside, meaty & yummy inside.
When the waitress comes to your table, she starts putting all these tiny dishes down and names what each one is.  You know how at the beginning of an American Football game, each of the players runs out onto the field and the announcer says each guy's name?  It's like that.  The names go by in rapid succession and you have no recall 5 seconds later.  So she puts all this stuff on the table and I think she's announcing Husain Abdullah followed by Aqib Talib and then Fuamatu-Ma'afala.  Sure, ok lady.  Whatever you say.

I am told this is tabouleh.  It's like parsley with some tomato, onion, mint and herby stuff.  Kind of short on the bulgar and long on the parsley.  And this is really the only good use of iceberg lettuce:  As a bowl for other food.
This one is a "homemade lamb sambousek" which I find amusing for two reasons:  A) how can it be homemade if you make it in the restaurant kitchen?  Does the chef sleep under the sink or something?  B) Sambousek must be the word for meatloaf in Lebanese.  Being a big fan of lamb, my Awesomer Half actually didn't like this.  She said it was too grainy.  It did taste like a lower-quality cut of meat that was tumbled into a meat grinder.  Well, I ate it.  It was ok, but not worth the reverence in which the waitress announced it.
By this point were were on our second Cokes and had nearly made our way through the entire spread.  Whew.  That was a lot of food.  We were about to ask for our check when the waitress came back and said, "Are you ready for your Main Course?"  We were like, "Wait, what?  There's MORE?"  Seriously, she took the myriad of little bowls away and then brought out Kheftas, which we like to make at home.  This was more than we could handle, so after a taste we asked for the check and put the main course in a Doggy Bag for home.
So the final virdict?  It was a good meal.  We would come back.  They do a good job and the service is friendly.  However there are a few things I'd change about the restaurant.

  • good quality food, chef skill is satisfactory
  • they offer specialty cuisine that is hard to find in Ireland
  • fresh ingredients
  • friendly (if a bit overextended) staff
  • dreadfully hot inside
  • wine prices are outrageous and no wine-by-the-glass
  • patrons are served way too much food
  • some items are hit or miss, i.e. in giving you a lot of food, they might skimp on the quality of the lamb to keep costs down.
We paid €10.50 for 4 glasses of Coke, (2 Cokes each).  Not sure how they arrived at that price... €2.625 per glass?  That's $3.20 for basically a 50-cent can of Coke.  We paid €5.50 for a 12 oz. beer last time.  That's about $6.75 USD.

I looked briefly at the Wine Menu and they start right off with €99 bottles and then--almost as a concession for the poor folks--they get into the €50 bottles.  I'm not really sure why drinks prices are so outrageous in Ireland.  Pubs in Ireland charge 5 or 6 euro for a pint of beer these days.  The government is really heavy handed with liquor taxes, and the restaurants & bars aren't giving us any breaks.

Lastly a message to the owners:  Guys, could you turn on a fan or something?  It's always hot as blazes in there.

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