Thanks Helen! We went to Mombar in Astoria last night, and despite some of the mixed reviews I've seen here, had a truly exquisite dinner in a gorgeous setting with the friendliest service I've had ANYWHERE for a long time. The sad part is that we were one of only four tables that were occupied on Fri. night during prime dinner time - this restaurant is a unique labor of love that may have had some rough spots but I think it deserves the support of the Hounds.
Everything we had was delicious - from the amuse bouche of "Egyptian potato salad" - chunks of potato swimming in coriander, olive oil and sesame seeds - to our dessert (didn't catch the Egyptian name), a delightfully uncloying nut "pie" topped with honey, exquisite pomegranate seeds and a dollop of creme fraiche. Other highlights were my main dish - an inspired "meatloaf" of ground lamb and spinach topped with yogurt and more of those fab pomegranate seeds and served in a perfect garlicky herby sauce - and our Mombar app. (tender sausage in a PERFECT fresh tomato sauce with chickpeas and sauteed fresh peppers).
I've seen complaints here about "frou frou" but I thought this was top notch cooking prepared from the freshest ingredients with care and love - riffing on Egyptian themes the way a great restaurant like Nobu riffs on Japanese ones, not necessarily "traditional" or "typical" but creative and exciting yet hearty and comforting at the same time. Plus you cannot beat the charming warm knowledgeable hostess/waitress and the incredibly friendly chef who stopped by twice to see how we were doing.
I've also seen complaints about the pricing. These are misplaced: First, there is now a menu, so there are no surprises. Second, the portions are enormous. Third, this is great food - I think we suffer from the idea that "Middle Eastern" should be a five dollar pita full of hummus while with other cuisines (Japanese, French) we think nothing of a $16.00 entree. The bill for two apps, two entrees, 4 glasses of wine, and one dessert w/ generous tip was $96.00. How often do we drop that at some mediocre Manhattan place for completely unmemorable food and attudinous service? My boyfriend is notoriously cheap - and he thought nothing of this tab for this level of cooking.
I urge everyone to check out this place - it's such a unique experience that it's a perfect place to bring out-of-towners, and it would also, given the large portions and quiet intimate space, be a great place for a group dinner/party. This guy is not in the "restaurant business", everything here is truly heartfelt (DiFara's is the only other NY restaurant that I've been to this year where the owner/chef's love of cooking and serving shines through to the same degree), and it would be a sad loss if we let it go under.
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