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Mamnoon – Seattle, WA

I’ve been meaning to go here for a while, ever since I noticed construction going on while dining across the street at Terra Plata.  The space is gorgeous and without knowing you’re in Seattle, this could easily be in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.  Very urban and edgy.

And the food…I honestly can’t say enough great things about it.  A blend of Lebanese and Syrian food, it’s absolutely delicious and unlike anything else in the city.  Lots of bright spices and fresh vegetables, perfectly cooked meats and sauces that you can’t help but sop up with whatever bread you have left on the table.  Each dish is so uniquely different from the last that you end up having a hard time picking a favorite when it’s all over.  I went with a group of 6 and after eating there I think it’s probably best to go in a group so you have the opportunity to try a bunch of different things.  That or you’ll just want to immediately go back to try what you didn’t have room for.  We ordered a lot…primarily vegetarian heavy items…and I walked away satisfied, content and excited to go back!

Be sure to order one of the khobz – specialty breads, the bateresh – charred eggplant with minced lamb, fatten hummus – fresh chickpeas, grilled bread, green garlic yogurt and pine nuts (one of my all time favorite dishes to make in culinary school!) and the kefta – minced lamb, onion, pistachio and baharat.  YUMMMM!!!

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Braised Lamb Shanks (Kokkinisto me Manestra)

Recipe courtesy of Kokkari

Lamb is a staple in any Greek household and this recipe will make you fall in love if you aren’t already.  You can make this a day ahead which helps the spices mellow and flavors improve.  It’s a very hearty dish perfect for a night when you’re craving comfort food and something to warm your tummy.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Spice Mix

  • 1 tablespoon each ground allspice, ground toasted cumin, ground nutmeg, Spanish smoked sweet paprika and garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 lambs shanks, 1 1/2 pounds each
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, cut across stem end to expose cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup Italian tomato paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • Chunk of myzithra or ricotta salata cheese for serving

In a small bowl, combine the spice mix ingredients.  Rub the shanks all over with the spice mix, coating them evenly.  (You can cover and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours.)  Preheat the oven to 350ªF.  Season the shanks well with salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Working in batches, sear the shanks on all sides until well browned, about 5 minutes per shank.  Transfer to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits.  Raise the heat to high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and herbs.

Return the shanks to the pot, meaty end down.  They will fit snuggly.  Add water to come halfway up the sides of the shanks.  Bring to a simmer and stir in 2 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper.  Cover tightly and bake until the meat is fork-tender and pulls away from the bone, about 2 1/2 hours.  Let cool in the pot, then refrigerate overnight if desired.

Skim all surface fat.  If refrigerated, reheat the shanks over medium heat.  Discard the bay leaves and herb sprigs.  Remove the garlic, and when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves back into the post.  Set aside and keep the shanks warm.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and return to the same pot.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of broth from the lamb shanks and stir well.  Divide the orzo among 6 shallow bowls.  Top each portion with a lamb shank, then spoon some of the juices over the lamb.  On the large holes of a box grater, grate myzithra to taste over the lamb and orzo.

Serve immediately.

MoVida – Melbourne, Australia

Everywhere I searched and everyone I talked to recommended MoVida in Melbourne as a spot not to miss.  I had a night to myself and because it was too late in the game to get reservations I decided to just cozy up to the bar.  The wait was 45 minutes but it was well worth it.  Located in a funky alley right off of Flinders Street and across from Federation Square, the door and signage is discreet but it’s not that hard to find.

Because I was ordering for one I decided to stick mostly to the tapas side of the menu where you can order by the piece but I also decided to order a couple of the specials since they sounded so good.  The first were the Padron Peppers.  OMG I love those!  Whenever they’re on a menu I have to order them.  If you haven’t had them before they saying is “some are hot, some are not”.  The majority (I would say 9 out of 10) are sweet and mild, however there’s always one in the batch that is hot and spicy.  The order was large and the people next to me had befriended me so I offered to share.  Unfortunately the guy next to me got the hot one:)

Next I had the Gamba – prawn and romesco pincho.  The presentation wasn’t what I was expecting (beautiful, clean and simple) but the flavors were definitely there and I honestly could have eaten a lot of those.

The Cordero al Chilindron was also calling my name – Pyrenees wet roast lamb breast with fino and paprika sauce.  Delicious!  So tender and juicy, the meat pulled apart so easily.  This dish was great and the portion size was perfect for just one.

To finish I went with the special fish of the day.  I can’t remember what it was now but the fish distributor happened to be the guy I was sitting next to and I ordered it because I saw the dish come to him.  It was fantastic!  Pan fried perfectly, the fish sat in a lovely broth with chorizo and clams…my kind of dish!  I ate the entire thing and was very happy about it:)

Overall I have to say this place really reminds me of The Harvest Vine in Seattle.  Not so much the atmosphere but the food most definitely.  MoVida is a little more progressive but it’s nice to know I won’t have to go so far to get the same type of meal.  If you’re in Melbourne go!  It’s the spot everyone is talking about but be sure you go to the original MoVida…their new sister restaurant is next door but this is the one people keep going back to.

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