Restless to please his guests - and you will feel more like a guest than a customer in this restaurant - Mohammad Ballouz visits every table in his little self-named Bethel Road eatery.
So here is Ballouz adding extra splashes of olive oil to a just-delivered platter of plump stuffed grape leaves. Over there Ballouz chats up a couple of ladies, explaining why his homemade cakes are so moist. Back by the windows, he looks down at an empty plate that once contained fish and expresses concern that the diner - who'd eaten every last bit - "didn't seem enthusiastic." And almost everywhere, Ballouz pops by periodically to describe his Greek and Middle Eastern food, ask how you like it, then bestow you with a free "finger" of baklava when you've finished lunch or dinner.
In other words, even if the food wasn't good here (it is) it'd probably be worth a visit just to observe the hospitality machine that is Lashish.
Open about a month, Lashish is a bright and tidy joint with simple but effective-enough adornments. Along with some old press clippings and homeland photographs, there's a marine theme here even though most of the shawarma/kabob/hummus-type food is terrestrially sourced.
Like the excellent Lentil Vegetable soup ($2.50). Picking up flavor and heft from potatoes and carrots, it was thick, dark, earthy and hearty, yet had a leavening acidic kick to it. Call it a totally homemade, great-tasting bowlful of chill-killing deliciousness.
Ditto for the Chicken Lemon soup ($2.50). It was thick and rich and had a lot of body to its chickeny broth, but also that lemony lightness.
For something cool, choose the right-on fattoush salad (Baladia, $6). That crispy critter had a fresh, colorful and lively blend of veggies, nice homemade dressing and crunchy pita chips.
Served with toasty pita triangles, the Hummus ($4) was super smooth and dense. Tasting mostly of garbanzo beans and tahini, it had a stripped-down simplicity.
Lashish has a very nice way with sandwiches, too. For instance, the Kefta Kabobs started with big blobs of juicy ground meat flavored with parsley and onion and perfumed with cinnamon/allspice. Add hummus, salady stuff, a puffy and toasty pita plus a righteous triumvirate of pickles (turnips, banana peppers and hamburger-style slices) and you have a killer kefta.
The messy but explosively flavored shawarma is one of the better versions around ($6.50). Hints of mint, sumac and lemon really set off its many bits of tahini-saucy lamb.
The solid Chicken Shistawook entree ($11) was a generous bunch of big-boy kabobs that got most of their flavor from grilled onions and peppers plus a potent aioli. They came with nice rice and a decent veggie medley.
Those same sides accompanied a dive into deeper waters with the Lemon Sole ($11). Zestily seasoned and anointed with a super-rich, garlicky and buttery sauce, it had nice flavors but wasn't flaky as advertised.
About the size of a football, Lashish's cinnamon-sprinkled, buttery, not-too-sweet, homemade Galaktobouriko ($4) had great citrusy flavors and flaky layers of phyllo pastry. My only qualm with that delectable dessert was that its cheese-custard-like filling was so thick it was basically a solid.
Another qualm here was that sometimes orders were incorrectly filled (a missed salad here, a sandwich instead of a platter there). But Mohammad, if you're reading this, these are minor misfires and I want you to know that I like you, your food and your nifty new little restaurant.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable