To answer what was, at least, my first burning question: it's pronounced Kor-ah-low. The X at the end of the second syllable has a slight guttural sound to it, similar to the sound of the "J" in Spanish or the "G" in Dutch (such as in gouda).
To answer what was my second most burning question: are there separate dining areas for men and women? Yes, that seems to be the set-up. There is a separate women's dining room with its own entrance off of Cedar St. The women's bathroom can only be accessed through the women's dining room (and the men's bathroom can only be accessed off the main dining room). Men (and mixed groups, but all men except for our group) seem to enter from the front door off Lake Street and dine in the front room. All children seem to dine with the women. The VIP/praying room Norton mentioned in his City Pages review, which is off the main dining room, was dark most of the time we were there, so I didn't see the big sofa to which he referred. Two giant televisions with CNN blared from the corners of both the main dining room and the VIP room. The walls of both the main dining room and the women's dining room are lined with booths. The main dining room also has several four-top tables and exactly 8 chairs, which will become important information later in the story.
They do a brisk take-out business judging by the parade of men who drifted in then departed carrying plastic bags sagging from the heft of the styrofoam containers filled with food. Also, when I called to make the reservations, and a second time to confirm them, the gentleman answering the phone initially thought I was ordering take-out for a dozen people. It's clear to me that the phone is mostly used for ordering take-out, not making reservations. Also, in both conversations when I finally got him to understand that I was making a reservation for a dozen his response was "We'll try." I thought that was an odd cultural kind of way of responding and didn't think much more of it until I arrived at the restaurant and saw that there wasn't a booth big enough to accommodate our group. And though there were tables that could be pushed together to fit a group of twelve, they only had 8 chairs. Eventually they pushed two four tops together and against one of the booths and that's how we dined; with 4 in the booth and 8 in chairs. But the fact that it took them several attempts to solve this problem made me thinking that they don't often serve groups.
On to the chow. They brought out the pitchers of guava and mango, a stack of styrofoam cups, red plastic baskets of whole bananas (still in their skins), and red plastic baskets filled with napkins and spoons. As people from our party continued to stream in, they brought more baskets of bananas. They didn't bring out the soup Norton described in his review.
We told our waiter we wanted to try a little bit of everything ("bittis" means everything, I think he said.) So, he recommended 3 "sports platters," which feed four people each. The 3 platters for each of our 3 orders (9 platters altogether) arrived as Norton described:
~one of spaghetti with red sauce and of rice, studded with bits of carrot, but no raisins;
~one of salad: iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and shredded carrots, accompanied by lime wedges and little dishes of vinaigrette and of fiery green sauce (which we concluded was jalapeno with some other stuff--initially yogurt we thought, but upon reflection I'm guessing not as I'm not sure that would be Halal to serve with the meats);
~one of meats: little cubes of goat stewed with tomatoes and sweet caramelized onions; a leg of fried chicken, which was cold, perhaps deliberately so; a fillet of fried white fish, tilapia, I assume; beef; and some pounded chicken or gyro meat made of chicken...not sure, exactly).
Notice when I said they brought several platters, I didn't say they brought plates or eating utensils. Eventually we coaxed plastic forks and more napkins out of them, which arrived characteristically in the red plastic basket, but otherwise, this was family style dining in the most sharing sort of way, with everyone eating off the platters. This could be awkward, but as 'hounds, we just shrugged and dove in as delicately as we could. Most people figured out a way to carve out a bit of the platter closest to them as their staging spot for the items they plucked off the other platters. I can't say I ever found a rhythm for myself, but I admired everyone else's ingenuity in solving the problem.
After dinner we asked to try all of their desserts--"Bittis," we said. He told us he only had the buskut, qunbo, and the shu-shumo (which I must have pronounced laughably badly because he kept laughing)--the cake, he said, must be ordered in advance. The things we ordered are all types of cookies. We were never able to figure out which was which and when the red baskets arrived there were actually four types of cookies: a star-shaped biscuit; a krinkle-top rectangular biscuit; something that looked like a glazed doughnut hole but was really more like snakes of pie dough rolled into a cookie, baked and glazed; and cakes of pressed coconut that looked like sawdust energy bars, but tasted way more delicious. We were also offered coffee (some of the densest, blackest coffee I've seen in awhile--he ground it right there in front of us) and tea (which was cinnamon-y and delicious, especially with milk.)
Brace yourself for the tab (before tip): $72.00 for twelve.
Thank you, everyone, for coming out on a drizzly spring evening. Red Sox beat the Twins.
Photo #1: rice & pasta platter with pitchers of mango and guava in the background
Photo #2: meat platter
Photo #3: salad platter
Photo #4: cookies (sorry, we ate all the glazed, rolled pie crust cookies before I remembered to snap a picture)
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