Syrian Kitchen offers up a welcome twist on common dishes
The tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, fattoush and baklava offered by this Northwest Side carry-out operation are distinct enough to compensate for occasional ordering hurdles
Hummus and falafel are becoming nearly as easy to find in Columbus as cheeseburgers and french fries. All dishes are not created equally, but diners nonetheless prone to a “been there, eaten that” notion about ubiquitous classics should try the food from Syrian Kitchen. Because that newcomer to the local Levantine-cuisine dining scene prepares several well-known dishes in a manner that is a little different and a little more interesting than much of its competition.
Syrian Kitchen itself isn’t so easy to find. It’s a tiny, zero-frills, takeout-only operation tucked into a niche of a Dublin industrial park composed of identical, odd-angled buildings.
Ordering isn’t always a breeze, either. I strongly advise ordering online via Syrian Kitchen’s Instagram page. I also suggest having the restaurant itemize large orders upon arrival (the online tabulator was alarmingly faulty on one occasion). As for timing arrivals — try phoning to ask how long your order might take and be prepared to wait longer.
So you might have to clear some hurdles to get Syrian Kitchen’s food. But the payoff is some of the city’s more alluringly distinct versions of dishes such as tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, fattoush and baklava.
Abundant fresh lemon juice made Syrian Kitchen’s super-fresh, parsley-forward tabbouleh ($4.99) really sing. Also in the chorus: diced cucumbers and tomatoes, plus judicious amounts of olive oil and bulgur wheat.
Lemon likewise enlivened the fine, herb-boosted fattoush ($3.99). Although overdressed, my salad with romaine, extra-crunchy house pita chips and atypical but appreciated good black olives outpaced most fattoush salads in Columbus.
Syrian Kitchen makes my new favorite baba ghanoush ($4.99), too. The gently smoky eggplant-based dip was uncommonly creamy and tangy and brightened with a notable but not overwhelming spritz of lemon.
The terrific fried kibbeh ($7.99 for four) was another highly distinct offering. Rather than just seasoned ground beef (like you generally receive from local eateries), the hefty, zeppelin-shaped croquettes were packed with sizable chunks of beef enhanced by chopped crisp nuts and what tasted like golden raisins.
Though less fragrant than others, the pleasant falafel ($1.50 for four) — they’re doughnut-shaped rather than round — might have the most pronounced crunch of any in town. Try them with the appealingly tahini-rich and earthy hummus ($3.99).
Grilled meats — most come with ho-hum, prefab fries — compose the bulk of the entree section. My favorites (more or less in order) were the beef shawarma in a sandwich ($7.99) — juicy seared beef with clove and cinnamon notes plus pickles, hummus and tomatoes wrapped in complementing toasted-yet-stretchy shrak (a flatbread much thinner than pita); “kebab” ($12.99) — seared, fragrant and delectable kefta-style logs; and shish taouk ($12.99) — nicely marinated chicken kebabs exhibiting a backyard-style grilling treatment partnered with a lemony garlic sauce that effectively addressed the meat’s dry spots.
Two locally rare menu items — mandi ($15.99) and quozi ($14.99) — starred somewhat similar, attractively grilled half-chickens served with flavorful, multi-colored long-grained rice made more interesting with toasted slivered almonds. Both good-tasting birds had irresistibly crinkly skin and fall-off-the-bone meat, but the breast on each was pretty dry. Call the dishes near misses.
Call the desserts I tried right on target. The soothing milk pudding, here named mihlaya ($2.99) — I’ve only encountered this in other cities, where it was called “mahalabia” — was topped with contrasting crispy nuts, and was really good.
Unlike that lovely confection, you can find baklava all over town. But Syrian Kitchen’s pistachio baklava ($5.99 for eight) — buttery, flaky, crispy pastry bundles lightly sweetened (rather than drenched) in syrup and packed with crunchy and hefty toasted pistachios — was a little different and a little better than most others.
2630 Billingsley Rd., Northwest Side