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Tried Mandaloun Bistro in Southfield today [DTW area]...

boagman | Dec 19, 201412:17 AM

I read about this place on Eater Detroit last week, and lo and behold, I had a locksmith job practically next door today, so I decided to have "brunch" (skipped breakfast, so I had an early lunch) there today around 10:30AM or so. This is in the original Morels location on Telegraph Road in Bingham Farms, and it's been completely redone. I must say that I like the room, though it may not be to everyone's taste (nothing ever is). I liked it well enough to change my takeout order to dine-in at the bar, and was very comfortable there.

The hours on the door say that they open at 10AM weekdays, but understand that if you walk in before, say, 11AM, they're going to be setting up shop for the day, and when I went in at 10:30AM, there was a question as to whether the grill was even on yet (it was). Nonetheless, you'll be welcome when your presence is known.

It's not an inexpensive, cheapie Middle Eastern experience. It's more along the lines of upscale Middle Eastern, and the prices somewhat reflect that. For the lunch specials they offer, though, I found it to be quite reasonable. For $9 (plus tax and tip, obviously), they offer a wrap such as my selection of chicken shawerma (their spelling), a choice of side (I chose a fattoush salad), and a non-alcoholic beverage or their tea (I had a Coke). There are many other choices among the wraps and sides, and only a couple of them are slightly more expensive (shish kebob, I think, was $2 more).

The server I had (didn't catch her name, or if I did, I can't remember it at the moment) did just fine...tipped her out at just over 20%. She was flexible in dealing with my takeout-to-bartop dining change, and she called an audible in the kitchen when I indicated that I wanted tomato in my sandwich as well. She kept my drink filled, and was very informative about the menu, both lunch and dinner.

The first thing that came out was the fattoush salad, and this was quite good, though a bit "wet" or something (could be that it was just so early that the ingredients had just come out of the fridge, and it was quite cold). Lots of nice, recognizable ingredients that came together well. Not my favorite fattoush I've ever eaten, but certainly a solidly executed example of the dish. Every bit of it was eventually consumed, and it included some radish that was welcome and unexpected. As well, it was a generous portion all around.

My server also brought out some flat pita bread with garlic sauce, which was nice, but was not the fluffy pita pockets one might expect. Apparently they had them at one point, but the bakery they got them from went out of business, and they're searching for a new source. Nonetheless, a nice gesture, and the garlic sauce was pretty good, as I actually used it to add some extra to the wrap that came out next.

Now, once again, while this chicken shawerma (?) wrap/sandwich may not have been my favorite that I've ever had in terms of flavors, it was still quite good, and this cannot be overstated: the white meat chicken was *perfect* in terms of juiciness and flavor, and the texture of the sandwich was nothing short of the best one I've ever had. The texture, stem-to-stern, was top-notch. The chef prepared it absolutely perfectly, with the pita warmed and decently crispy, and the whole thing was just elevated by the texture. A solid B here, and they offer it for $5 for carryout only. It's a bit smallish, but when taken as a part of the whole $9 lunch special, it's a great portion. It may be the best preparation of white meat chicken I've ever seen in a sandwich outside of frying a breaded breast or something like that. Nothing dried out or lacking flavor. Next time I'll ask them to add onions, too.

Eventually, I ended up talking with the owner, Melissa, who's quite nice. She's pretty passionate about her endeavor here, and I'm looking forward to going back and giving her some more of my money. Based on my first experience, not only is it worth it, but they're earning it, and they're not understaffed. It's a completely different experience from a lot of Middle Eastern places, and based on the chef's ability to pull off that sandwich's chicken and texture, I'm curious to see what else he can do well. They do lots of lamb well, I'm told, but they also do a $40 branzino in the dinner service, which is a fish I really enjoy.

While I might not be up for that just yet, if I have another positive experience like today, I very well may be. I can recommend the place on this first visit, though if you want to dine in on a weekday, probably keep it to 11AM or later.

www.mandalounbistro.com

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