Chef’s Choice at Café Munir


I was seriously bummed when Omar al Khyam in Renton closed its doors. I had been going there since my early working days in the Seattle area. It was my first introduction to Lebanese food and I loved it. Here is where I had my first hummusbaba ghanouj, shish tawouk, tabbouleh. I would have these over and over again through the years. Lebanese cuisine makes liberal use of vegetables, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, spices and herbs, which explains much of the appeal to our family. So, when Omar’s decided to call it quits, I began to wonder when I’d have good Lebanese food again.

Recently, my daughter mentioned that a new Lebanese restaurant took over the spot previously occupied by Gabriel’s Fire, which served barbecue, and that word has been good about their food. Located in Loyal Heights (a subdivision of Ballard), she and I went there for dinner tonight. Even without a reservation (and one is probably recommended), we were seated immediately. The interior is simply decorated—white walls accented with paintings and textiles. The tables are covered in white linens though there is no air of stuffiness here. The whole place exudes warmth and hospitality. The restaurant is Chef Rajah Gargour’s attempt to serve the foods he grew up with during his childhood in Lebanon. There is also a full-service bar, rather unusual in a Lebanese (let alone Mediterranean) restaurant, that boasts over 100 kinds of whisky.

As this was Sunday, it was the Chef’s Choice fixed price meal. Good enough. No wondering what to get. For $20 per adult, you get a spread of small plates, including a main entrée and dessert. The only thing we had to pick was the wine (not included), Chateau Ksara’s Blanc de Blanc (☆☆☆), a flavorful white blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and semillon, made in the Bekaa Valley.
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