Hi, all - last night we went to Addiwan Cafe, 578 Bloomfield Avenue in downtown Montclair and it knocked our socks off. Middle Eastern food beyond belief. We're chowhounders who moved to north Jersey about a year ago from Brooklyn, NY, which has some of America's best Middle Eastern food in the Arab-American neighborhood of Atlantic Avenue at the edge of Brooklyn Heights. Since we moved, we've been on a search here in north Jersey for a decent Middle Eastern restaurant - and we just couldn't find one. Yeah, we've been to every Middle Eastern restaurant in Paterson and none impressed us.
Finally, last night our dream came true and it's as if we can stay in Jersey! Addiwan is spectacular, authentic, can't rave enough. For appetizers we had smoky babaganoush, fattoosh salad and falafel, all among the best we've had in the U.S. The babaganoush was so authentic that it was different from any other we've had here - not in a Tahini cream base, but simply stunningly smoked pieces of eggplant in a spicy sauce that was to die for. The owner explained that the baba that we know in the U.S. is actually not really baba back in his home country of Syria - here they make the real thing. The falafel, which is about as basic as you can get at this restaurant, whose decor and service are definitely more upscale than your typical stateside Middle Eastern, was perfect.
For main dishes: I had a whole grilled red snapper prepared with the most stunning seasonings you can imagine. Perfectly and simply grilled, a huge piece of fish. The others with me had grilled meats, including grilled chicken, grilled filet mignon and grilled kafta kabob, all barbecued on an open flame to utter perfection.
The portions at Addiwan are massive. Each comes with a Middle Eastern rice the likes of which we've never tasted - a spicy rice - and we've been eating this cuisine for a very long time.
Addiwan's food definitely has the strongest flavorings, each unique and simply MAGNIFICENT, of any Middle Eastern we've been to. You have to like Syrian and Lebanese Middle Eastern cuisine, though, versus, say Turkish cuisine, which is far blander and which some people like more - if they don't like strong spices. But we do.
As I said, the atmosphere here is more upscale that most Middle Eastern we've been to - by the standards of Middle Eastern restaurants, whose forte is food, not atmosphere, they're all very simple - this is a gorgeous place. The entrees may be a couple of bucks more expensive than they'd be in those more low-brow-atmosphere places, but compared to other restaurants, Addiwan is a steal. Massive portions, stunning food, unbelievable service. Dinner for three was about $70 bucks but we ordered obscenely (thank goodness, we loved it all). It could have been $15 less for us three.
The piece de resistance was the owner, Mohammed, an elegant, convivial, joyous and erudite man who came out to talk to us when it became clear we knew the cuisine and asked for things off-menu, i.e. Zatar bread. He made it and said he'd make anything else for us. We felt as if we were family on this very first visit and will no doubt be coming back many times more.
We loved it.