Vital Information, on the Chicago board, has been raving about Lebanese Taverna's Grilled Chicken with garlic sauce as something outstanding and not available in the Chicago area. I am always interested in trying something with such credentials and maneuvered a group of friends for a try last weekend.
We arrived around 7 PM Friday and was promptly seated. What struck us first was the high volume of noise, which was a mixture of people shouting to be heard over the background music. This background music was like a movie soundtrack, it seemed to be on a loop with no discernible beginning or end. Sort of a new age-ish middle eastern-ish music which Yanni would love and a classic folklorist wouln't recognize. Ok initially but annoying after a while.
For appetizers, we ordered babaganoush and an chopped, cooked eggplant-tomato-onion, both we ate with their freshly made pita. I did return the babaganoush initially because there was only a trace of olive oil on top, I felt we needed more.
BAsed on my recommendations, several of us had the grilled chicken with (extra) garlic sauce. It was as promised, an outstanding dish of grilled to perfection, moist chicken. Eat this chicken in the pita with the garlic sauce slathered on was a sublime experience. Though almost pure garlic, this sauce wasn't too hot.
Just before arriving to D.C. I had made a garlic sauce for an Armenian dinner in Chicago. Both Lebanese Taverna's garlic sauce and the sample I had from an Armenian shop in Los Angeles tasted quite similar. Therefore, they are simple sauces of garlic, salt, lemon and oil. Whereas, my garlic sauce had all these ingrediants, beginning with a quart measuring cup of pealed garlic! It was hotter than I liked. Some people were eating directly on their chips. I couldn't but I certainly could with the garlic sauce from Lebanese Taverna.
Here comes the rub, I am enjoying myself immensely eating the chicken-garlic-pita bread. I'm loving and planning in my mind to come again. However, one of my friends is sitting around with her main course missing in action. We call over the waiter, who takes the orders but doesn't do the serving, to inquire about her food. He runs off and returns with an (unlikely) explanation her food was overcooked the first time and was being prepared again. Though I was enjoying my food, my guests were grumbling over the service. They were especially irked that yes there was an explanation but no apology or offer to comp or free dessert.
Just to round off my impressions, I ordered a serving of Baklava. It didn't arrive after a rather lengthy pause. I got the waiter's attention again and suggested he simply cancel dessert. Where one friend pipe in, "Can dessert really take THAT long?" At this point the waiter began to realize there was some resentment building at my table. He brought the singular piece of Baklava promising it was on his account. This was a drier version of baklava which was made mostly with pistachios. A similar variant I buy in Chicago uses Walnuts which is much oilier, thus seemingly more moist. I don't like those with honey or sugar syrups. Some tea would have gone well with this Baklava, but my table would have rioted if there were any more delays.
I really, really liked the food. I hated the needlessly noisy atmosphere. I will check out another location and if it is as noisy, then do take out. Of course, if it is my favorite company of me-myself-and-I, then we'll come to soak up more garlic chicken real soon! Alas my friends already voted to take a pass, that is their loss.
All the best,
Cathy2 from the Chicago Board