We had our second Orlando Chowdown last night at Cedar's Lebanese Restautant on Sand Lake Road's Restautant Row. This place has been open for around 8 years at this point, and delivers fine Lebanese cuisine in a white tablecloth setting.
It was predictably slow on a Monday night, so we had a nice quiet environment for our small group. We sat inside, but the place has a sizeable patio with the option of a hookah pipe to enjoy a smoke with your meal. On this slow weeknight there were more patrons on the patio than inside. Also, weekends feature belly dancers and can get quite loud, but it does deliver a quite different, raucous experience if you are more in the mood for that.
We decided to go the mezza route and order a lot of small dishes to share with the group. We also shared a very reasonably priced bottle of Lebanese red wine.
On to our mezza choices:
Baba Ghanouj - pureed eggplant with sesame, garlic and lemon (a good version of this standard in Greek and Lebanese places)
Mohumara - a dip of walnuts, red pepper, and pomegranate molasses (a real unique flavor profile, with the pomegranate lending a subtle sweetness but a stronger taste of walnut and pepper)
Basterma - thin slices of spicy sun-dried beef (basically really tender and flavorful beef jerky)
Kibbeh Nayeh - ground meat (lamb I think), bulgur wheat and spices served with raw onion (our most adventurous dish, basically raw ground meat with ground wheat blended in and subtle spices - a real winning dish but not for the faint-hearted - texturally and visually you feel like you're digging into raw hamburger - not at all like tartare or carpaccio)
Sujouk - spicy homemade sausage sauteed in lemon juice (my personal fav of the night - I could eat like 3 servings of this)
Foul - fava bean, garlic, lemon and olive oil (another Lebanese standard, often enjoyed for breakfast - a good version here)
Hummus with meat - blended chickpeas with chunks of sauteed lamb and pine nuts (a nice way to liven up a traditional hummus dish)
We enjoyed the above with an endless supply of fresh made Arabic bread made right in front of you in the wood-fired oven. The best utensil in the world.
We then shared a:
Mixed Grill of kabobs, included kafta (ground lamb and onion), tawook (chicken) and shish (steak) with two spicy sauces (garlic and tomato)
Finally, we finished our meal with Lebanese baklava (slightly different than the Greek version) and Knafe (sweet cheese pastry with a sweet syrup) and a truly excellent mint tea.
The meal was great, full of familiar flavors and new experiences, and the conversation was even better with a group that was well-traveled and truly loved food.
So, I'd love to hear from the rest of the group, and if you'd like to join us in September, head over and join our Google Group or look for the announcement on this board. We're aiming for a weekend date next time.