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Mideast feast

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WHAT WORKS: The super fresh ingredients used in the recipes and friendliness of the staff.

WHAT NEEDS WORK: More signage is needed to find the place.

THE TIP: After eating there once, you may be tempted to have a longtime affair with fresh food from the Middle East.

Before moving here from Atlanta more than 30 years ago, my notion of Oklahoma food was barbecue, chicken-fried steak and people trotting around in cowboy boots. Over the years, I learned that, yes, barbecue and chicken-fried steak are popular, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. These days, it’s awfully fun to be a foodie in this town.

Simply Falafel, like the name suggests, is a Mediterranean spot with an informal atmosphere in suburban Edmond that debuted in December. It attracts not only students from the nearby University of Central Oklahoma, but business people in the area, too. Simply Falafel puts out the kind of food that you may not get at home, taking you on a culinary trip to the Mediterranean and Middle East. But finding the restaurant can also be a bit of a trip. The location itself is a bit tricky, but once you find it, you won’t forget. Set your GPS to the Target at Bryant and Second and look to the west.

Inside, it is quite bright and cheerful, with expansive windows, mint green paint on one wall and a soft melon color on another. The soothingly gentle decor is a far cry from the screaming reds and bright yellow in others.

Before considering main dishes, server Alaina Martin helped us zone in on the meza ($12), a sample platter of three choices from the starter list. Mezes (Greek for appetizer) are small dishes served all over the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Diving into the first course, it was the restaurant’s “famous” golden brown falafel patties (deepfried croquettes made with highly spiced chickpeas). Falafel often can be stodgy little bites, but these were very satisfying. Next, we dug into the button mushrooms that had been marinated with cardamom and further highlighted with a hint of garlic, assorted spices and red wine vinegar.

The custardy baba ghanoush, which is pureed eggplant, was so good. It had been mashed with tahini, a thick paste made from sesame seeds, with added lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and pomegranate seeds and molasses, all with triangles of warm pita bread.

Finally, we finished up with an order of hummus ($4), which was a generous portion of pureed healthy chickpeas combined with tahini, a staple in Middle Eastern cooking, plus a dash of lemon juice all drizzled with olive oil and bits of garlic and presented with pita. All of the appetizers quickly blended into many bites of delight.

My guest’s eyes popped looking at the reasonable prices. Our main dishes were kobideh kebab ($8) and beef kebab ($11). The delicious kobideh kebab was minced Angus  beef folded with spices and
onions, skewered, char-broiled and served with grilled vegetables plus a
choice of rice and the salad bar — a bargain if I’ve ever seen one!

Another choice, the
mouthwatering gyro ($6), was loaded with a sliced beef and lamb mixture,
veggies and cucumber sauce, and my so-appealing basil tomato soup ($2)
was packed with bits of tomatoes and fresh herbs.

The
tender beef shish kebab was beef tenderloin marinated with herbs,
garlic and spices, then skewered and char-broiled. It was served with
fresh vegetables, rice and a trip to the salad bar.

The
salad bar offers three kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and varied
seasonal vegetables. The absolute freshness and simplicity of the
colors, textures and nutrients on display at the salad bar balances the
spiciness of the main dishes.

Simply
Falafel’s menu offers a familiar lineup of gyros ($6), blackened
chicken breast platter ($10), tuna salad ($6) and the fish of the day
($12), but also look for a unique lamb burger ($7) done on a ciabatta
bun.

Should there be room for dessert, order the baklava ($2, $2.50 for the large). We did not have a crumb left on our plates.

If
you recall the former Saffron Grill in 50 Penn Place and liked the food
there, this is the same owner, Moe Chahoi, who just moved his act to
Edmond with business partner Chuck Miller. The hands that shaped the
inside of the restaurant are those of Chahoi, who is also the
accomplished cook.

The
well-practiced chef has done great honor to the cuisine of the Middle
East. He is pleasantly surprised with the interest shown thus far and is
speculating that perhaps there could be more Simply Falafels in his
future.

Oklahoma
Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive
aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.

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