Nick | Dec 23, 200305:35 AM     2

I'd add this to aristo's thread below, but the place deserves more prominence than that. My wife and I went here for dinner tonight.

Very good meal. The best falafel in Portland, easily. Very nutty, entirely housemade from scratch.

My wife had the couscous with lamb (can't remember the real names of these) and I had the boat b tfeen. We split a veggie mezza.

Hers was marinated strips of lamb roasted, I think, and served atop couscous with some added vegetables, a tangy feta, and some yogurt sauces, I think. I liked her dish more than mine. Very good flavor. $11.95

Mine was decent. It was a platter of bulgar wheat with garbanzos that was nicely seasoned served with a bowl of braised goat on the bone with potatoes in a lemony broth. It was decent, but the goat was a little flavorless, the potatoes noticeably undercooked, and the broth a touch lemony, maybe. It wasn't bad, but overpriced. I think goat is probably something to just avoid on the menu since they seem to be paying a premium. Goat dishes are much more expensive than lamb dishes on the menu without any clear reason for it, except probably the price of the ingredients. $18.95

The veggie platter was quite good. Like I said: best falafel ever. Seriously. I would go back and order 100 falafels and not get tired of them. For a long time I thought I didn't like falafel. Places like Garbonzos and mall-level gyro places scared me away from them. Then I had falafel at Ya Hala and Nicholas' and fell in love with falafel. It's one of those vegetarians items, like many Indian dishes, that I feel no remorse for eating. I could be a vegetarian if it all was as good as falafel. But Karam's falafel kicks Nicholas' falafel's butt. The baba ghanooj and hummus were good as well (though needed salt). The grape leaves were noticeably better than most places. My wife and I normally don't enjoy stuffed grape leaves, but we liked these. The pita was decent, but I think I prefer what I've gotten at both Nicholas' and Ya Hala better in that regard. $8.

The weakest part of the night was the service -- at least in one respect. The guy, probably one of the owners, was supremely nice, and in my wife's words "cute and sweet". He was very helpful when ordering, obviously loves their food and his customers. But, he does need to make sure the water glasses get filled, the check appears, the plates get cleared, more bread is brought out, and other basics. The need to hire a waitress. Maybe on other nights (it was a Monday) when they expect more people (it was also rather busy, maybe due to all us last minute Christmas shoppers downtown) they have more staff.

Anyway, it's definitely worth going to if only for the mezza, especially the falafel. It's very cute and cozy inside, too, and most of the dishes are about $10-12. The goat is the exception. (They also do pizzas and calzones and actually started their Portland restauranting with pizza.)

Link: http://www.portlandfood.org

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