Monday, May 27, 2013


My biggest problem with Mamnoon is the fucking words on the menu. The names of all the menu items are transliterated into the roman alphabet from Arabic, so all the words have lots of z’s and k’s and apostrophes, like the way alien language is written in really lazy science fiction. Learn to speak American, foreigners! Get a brain! Morans.

Fortunately, my rage over the weird words quickly evaporated once the food started coming to the table. For $8 we got four yalanji, the Syrian version of stuffed grape leaves. These tightly rolled flavor blunts were filled with a creamy packing of lemony and minty rice, and with each bite delivered an agrodolce haze directly to your taste buds.

The arnabeit makli ($7), also known as fried cauliflower, looks like brains but fortunately tastes way better than the average human brain. That having been said, I do find seven bucks to be a princely sum for a few florets of cauliflower. Despite my grumbling about the cost, however, the cauliflower was expertly prepared: it was burnished a warm bronze and smeared with a thin SPF 50 layer of tarrator sauce, which if you don’t know is basically fancy tahini. The cauliflower was light and tender and devoid of that shitty cauliflower flavor that plagues shitty cauliflower.

Lahm bi ajine ($11) was a kind of baked crepe, loosely rolled around a pile of diced lamb, sautéed onions, sprigs of mint, and big bunches of parsley. Much like your mom, this was a crusty loaf of pure flavor. The difference is that the lahm bi ajine tastes good. This thing fits right into the groove in my brain’s pleasure center like a record needle. The chunks of sautéed lamb and onion were highly caramelized, and the mint and parsley give it the lift necessary to keep the lahm bi ajine from gut-bombing your stomach like a common cheeseburger. The bread was thin and foamy and pleasantly nutty, as if it were the Crispin Glover of bread. I could eat a million of these things. In fact, I want my entire body to be wrapped in a huge one the size of a tarp so that I can eat my way out. Or maybe I don’t eat my way out, choosing instead to remain tightly mummified by deliciousness for all eternity. It’s like a tasty Choose Your Own Adventure book.

I know that borsch ($12) is supposed to be BORSCHT, but I can’t tell if the missing “t” is a typo or a result of the aforementioned transliteration, but even if it is a typo I don’t give a shit because this borsh rules. It was served in a clear glass teacup, the better to see the electric purple puree inside. Alongside the cup of soup was a spoon, of course, which contained two cubes of braised short rib. The instructions were clear: drop the short rib into the borsh. And eat. And keep eating, because this borsch was so fucking good. The sweet and dirty flavor of beets rumbled along in the background, with a clear and piercing citrus fanfare, and tiny starlight sparkles of dill. Then there was the short rib: perfect tiny cubes of the very essence of beef. The short ribs were impossibly crusty on the outside, yielding on the inside.They could probably charge $12 just for a couple little cubes of these magnificent short ribs, but no: you get the FUCKING BORSH TOO. It’s just such a pleasure to eat; I want to part the borsh’s velvety maroon thighs with my tongue and get lost in the center of it.

Tenderloin kebab ($28) was, like all the other stuff at Mamnoon, an exercise in technique. Big chunks of beef tenderloin were roasted in what must be the inside of a star, which left the meat with a deep, deep sear that just danced away from being charred, while still remaining a lurid and vaginal medium rare inside. The tenderloin was beguilingly spiced, and accompanied by roasted pearl onions and cherry tomatoes. The onions, sadly, were undercooked, and I honestly have never seen the appeal of whole roasted cherry tomatoes, which inevitably ejaculate a gout of sour watery tomato entrails into your mouth when bitten into. Still, the sheer deliciousness of the tenderloin amply compensated for the vegetable failures.

Dessert was paloudeh ($9), a lime sorbet with a drizzle of pomegranate syrup and some fried rice noodles on top. The sorbet was light and creamy and refreshing without being cloying, and the syrup was a bracingly tart counterpoint. Unfortunately the fucking squiggle of crispy pubes on top was so 1980’s, they should’ve garnished it with a copy of Sports by Huey Lewis & the News, which they could’ve inserted vertically into the scoop of sorbet like a Billboard chart-topping tuile. I’ve been a fan of Mamnoon’s chef Garrett Melkonian ever since I encountered some of his mind-bendlingly fucked up desserts at Spring Hill, but the fried noodles just made me as confused as a Republican Congressman’s sexuality.

Luckily the mouhallabia (also $9) more than made up for the paloudeh’s gastronomic “Where’s the Beef” bumpersticker. The mouhallabia, which by this point I felt they were just fucking with us with the words on the menu, was described as “milk pudding pistachio,” but this minimalist caption hardly does justice to the silken cup of creamy deliciousness we were served. The mouhallabia was like spanking a pinup’s ass: creamy and jiggly and it made you feel like a big man. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and topped with a pastoral green field of ground pistachio.

Middle eastern cuisine is an ancient art which dates back to the time when George Washington walked the earth, and Mamnoon is a sterling example. If I have any complaints, it’s that the different dishes just randomly appear at the table with no apparent order or structure. I only wish they delivered, because if they did I would construct a conveyor belt directly from Manoon to my house and I would have them convey food directly into my mouth 24 hours a day. Even on Christmas day. That’s how delicious Mamnoon is.

Rating: 9 Christmases out of 10

Mamnoon is located at 1508 Melrose Ave

For reservations call 206-906-9606

Mamnoon on Urbanspoon