This won't come as a surprise to any of the Karam fans who regularly troll this message board, but I had a terrific meal there this weekend. The meat mezze was typically outstanding: best falafel in town, very good hummus and baba ghanouj, savory grilled chicken and lamb kafte, and a vegetal, lemony tabbouleh to offset the richness of the other dishes. The infinite supply of steaming, freshly baked pita goes without saying.
But what I need to rave about was the "fatte", a dish that I've never seen before and that the owner said was rarely found outside of Lebanon, because it is considered too "home cooking" to serve in restaurants. It's a plate layered with wonderful flavors and textures. First a pita, deep-fried until crispy and broken into rough pieces, then chickpeas, homemade yogurt mixed with some garlic, chunks of roasted eggplant, pine nuts, and topped with grilled lamb or chicken. Depending on what was on the fork, I could taste the crunch of the pita, the cool tang of the yogurt, the warm chewiness of the eggplant and the lamb, and the toothsome bean-ness of the chickpeas. It was really stellar.
The owner told us that this is a common breakfast dish in Lebanon. Seems too heavy for breakfast, but I would certainly eat it any other time of the day. (Yes, the owner is still the friendliest, nicest restaurant guy in Portland.)
My opinion that Karam is the best Middle Eastern in Portland has been re-confirmed. (Ya Hala and Nicholas are worthy contenders for the crown.) Karam's unusual and rarely seen main dishes like fatte--and the goat stew, which I haven't tried yet--set it apart.
I should mention that the wait staff were very adoring and accommodating to my 1 1/2 year old son. More reason to like them. Below is a link to Nick's review from a while back.
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