Post by Erin Morrissey
After the Celtic Cross Irish Pub closed, I heard that Fairouz, a new upscale Middle Eastern restaurant, would be taking its place at 343 Somerset Street West. My experience with Middle Eastern food to date had been limited to shawarma so I was excited to see what an upscale take on that type of cuisine would entail.
Fairouz opened its doors on April 13, 2016 and, about a month later, a couple friends and I visited for dinner on a Saturday night. Upon arrival, I was struck by the beautiful interior décor, which included a wall mural, velvet booths, chandeliers, and intricate partitions. As the host led us to a table upstairs, I noticed it was a full house that night – a good sign for a new restaurant.
We started the evening off with drinks and, while my friends were partial to the craft beer options, I decided to try the Habibi Nabulsi cocktail. I thoroughly enjoyed the brandy-based cocktail’s infusion of Middle Eastern flavours, such as toasted sumac and pomegranate molasses.
As we were sipping our drinks, our server explained that the menu items—which were divided into a set of smaller “grazing” appetizers and larger “sharing” plates—were designed to be shared. We mentioned to our server that our intention was to order solely vegetarian dishes, since one of my friends is a vegetarian. She kindly expanded our options by offering a vegetarian version of the Lamb Neck Falafal, giving us seven vegetarian grazing items to choose from (a good selection out of the eleven grazing dishes).
In addition to the falafel, we ordered the Lebneh and Muhammara dips, the Monforte Halloumi, and the Red Lentil Koftë as our grazing dishes. The Eggplant Mahshi was our only selection from the sharing plates, and we topped off our order with the Jawaher Rice (a rice jazzed up with pomegranate, pistachio, cardamom, candied orange, and edible flowers).
The dips arrived first and certainly started our meal off on the right foot. Served with fresh, puffed up pita bread, the smooth flavour and texture of the yogurt-based Lebneh paired well with the crunchier consistency of the Muhammara blend of red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate.
The dill tahini sauce drizzled on the No-Lamb Neck Falafal took that dish up a notch, and the Red Lentil Koftë’s lettuce wrap style allowed me to enjoy the different flavours of pickled turnip and pomegranate molasses along with the moist lentil patty (served cold, by the way) in one bite.
Our table declared the Monforte Halloumi as our favourite dish of the night. The crisp exterior of the goat cheese halloumi, the sweet beet emulsion, and double apple cubes and pistachios as toppings made for a delectable dish.
Our heartiest dish, the delicious Eggplant Mahshi, was topped with cumin-spiced chickpea balilah, bulgar, pomegranate (a popular ingredient at Fairouz), and the “Doctor’s herbs”, which are grown in-house.
Finally, for dessert we ordered the Halwat Il Jben, which is a sweetened cheese dessert accompanied by fresh figs and black sesame nougatine, and the Chocolate Mafroukeh, comprised of chocolate bulgur cake and pistachio ice cream. I enjoyed my first taste of Halwat Il Jben, a dessert I had never tried (or even heard of) before, and was a big fan of the made-in-house pistachio ice cream.
Overall, my friends and I were impressed with Fairouz’s modern, creative, and vegetarian-friendly menu. The food was plated beautifully and well-seasoned with spices that added flavour without overpowering the dish. Although Fairouz describes itself as a “Middle East inspired upscale casual restaurant”, I would rate the atmosphere as more upscale than casual. An excellent addition to Somerset Village!