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Larsa, Lebanese, Skokie

Larsa, Lebanese, Skokie
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  • Larsa, Lebanese, Skokie

    Post #1 - August 11th, 2004, 6:25 am
    Post #1 - August 11th, 2004, 6:25 am Post #1 - August 11th, 2004, 6:25 am
    I've only had one meal so far at Larsa, which took over the space that used to be La Rosa pizzeria on dempster, but at this early point I'd have to nominate it over both Pita Inn and Basha on this strip.

    Like Pita Inn, they make their own pita, though the sandwiches are wrapped in the thinner bread whose name I usually forget. Not nearly as fast and busy as Pita Inn, no free pickles like at basha (sold as a side order), but the food I sampled had quite a bit more flavor especially the lentil soup (which I usually find dead weight at most middle eastern places - as I compare it it indian dal and find it lacking), the chicken kabob (they do not offer chicken shawerma), and the Kifta. The menu claims that their kabobs as well as the Friday special of catfish are charbroiled over an open fire

    They don't have anywhere near the breadth of offerings as say City Noor, just the fairly standard menu items, the falafel are from chickpeas, however for vegetarians there are a couple of other sandwich options other than falafel including a veggie pita of cauliflower, Potatoes and an Eggplant pita

    Next Door is a small market owned by the same folks which has a surprising amount of interesting stuff stuffed into a small space, including Mashti Malone Ice cream from LA

    Larsa's
    3724 Dempster, Skokie
    847-679-3663
    Tue-Th 11am-10 pm
    Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
    Sunday 1pm - 9pm
  • Post #2 - August 15th, 2004, 12:06 pm
    Post #2 - August 15th, 2004, 12:06 pm Post #2 - August 15th, 2004, 12:06 pm
    Based on this recommendation, I got take-out from Larsa last night. I, too, thought the food excellent.

    Two appetizers stood out. Both were mini-"pizzas" baked on cracker thin crusts. One had a thin topping of chopped meat, tomato and herbs that was more of a spread. The other was topped with sesame seeds, olive oil and herbs. Both were quite tasty, and would have been even better fresh out of the oven. They use a pizza oven from the prior owner to bake these. I also loved by kibbeh sandwich, which was a submarine shaped creature that featured the kibbeh, tomato, pickle and other ingredients wrapped in an excellent bread. My kids had the combo platter, which they couldn't finish, but really liked (providing more food than my twin 16 year old boys can finish is a rare feat).

    I hope these folks stick around.
  • Post #3 - October 31st, 2004, 10:26 am
    Post #3 - October 31st, 2004, 10:26 am Post #3 - October 31st, 2004, 10:26 am
    Hi,

    I have been to Larsa several times since this initial post. Larsa is an Iraqi restaurant and the (unrelated?) shop next door is Iranian/Persian. [On Larsa's business card, there is the flag of Lebanon. When you talk to them, the food/people are from Iraq. I don't know if maybe the waitress is from Iraq, though I was sure I was told the owner is from Iraq, also. I'm not confused, but I think they prefer a Lebanese profile over one from Iraq.]

    As we sat down, I ordered Manna Eash, which is a pita crust with Zaatar (herb mixture typically composed of savory, thyme, sumac and sesame seeds). I also ordered a very likely non-Iraqi
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 6:12 pm
    Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 6:12 pm Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 6:12 pm
    A recent conversation about laham ajeen/lahmacun/lahma bi ajeen, etc. had me anxious for a return to Larsa's. So, last week, a quick phone call was all it took to get C2 to meet me there for lunch.

    Image
    Larsa's, 3724 W. Dempster, Skokie 847.679.3663

    Image
    shorbat adas, jajeek, baba ghanouj, and pita

    Image
    laham ajeen

    Image
    Larsa's Combo Plate feat. shish tavouk, kefta, and shawerma

    Image
    Larsa's adaptively reused bread oven


    As I have mentioned before, I think that Larsa's brilliant readaptation of the former pizza parlour's oven makes it a very special place. The pita, pictured along with the soup etc. is made fresh to order in this oven. This oven is also pressed into service for the production of the laham ajeen.

    C2 and I always enjoy Larsa's shorbat adas, or lentil soup. We are able to discern red lentils, rice, stock, and dried dill. The real magic of the soup, though, remains a mystery.

    This was our first time trying the jajeek, or cucumber and yogurt salad. We both found the yogurt to be pleasantly thick and tangy.

    While I admire the texture and consistency of their baba, it is not one of my favourite versions. C2 seems to like it more.

    The laham ajeen at Larsa's is delicious. The ground lamb meat has a sweet and savoury taste, and the bread is piping hot and crisped around the edge.

    All of the meats on the combo platter are prepared with care. My only quibble would be with the kefta, as I find it to be a bit too firmly packed.

    Regards,
    Erik M.

    Larsa's
    3724 Dempster
    Skokie, IL
    847-679-3663
  • Post #5 - December 15th, 2004, 11:28 am
    Post #5 - December 15th, 2004, 11:28 am Post #5 - December 15th, 2004, 11:28 am
    I am so happy that word is getting out about Larsa's. While I don't post much, I've been reading CH for some time, and have learned much. Only recently have I found my way to LTH, and read through the earlier posts on Larsa's. I can fill in with a little background.

    The owner of Larsa's, Johnny, is indeed not Lebanese. He identifies as Assyrian. When people press him on what country he's from, he admits to present-day Iraq, but as I've learned, Assyrians have an ancient culture that is very distinct from the Muslim Arab world. And they're proud of it.

    That being said, however, Assyrian cuisine seems to me to be similar to the Middle Eastern food found at places like Pita Inn and Basha. I'm very glad that Johnny is serving this food. When he first bought the restaurant last year, he served gereric Meditterranean cuisine, mostly unexceptional Italian and Greek dishes. Business was not good. So, Johnny decided to change the menu and serve the food that he knew best. He got rid of the chef, and I think now he and his wife are doing the cooking. I certainly prefer what he's now serving, but I was worried that he couldn't compete with all the other restaurants on Dempster serving similar fare. I'm encouraged to read positive reports from others on these boards.

    By the way, I first got to know Johnny at his other restaurant, Portofino's Pizza, in Evanston at Dodge & Main. Seeing as how it's behind the alley from my house, I frequented the place a lot. Johnny doesn't spend much time there anymore, concentrating on Larsa's instead. But I still like the pizza at Portofino's. Over the 4 years or so it's been open, I've gotten to know several of the guys who make the pizzas. They're generally of Middle Eastern descent, but spent time in Sweden or Germany before coming here. And that's where they learned to make their pizza. Most people order the traditional American toppings at Portofino's, but they also offer more adventurous ones, like they do in northern Europe...shrimp, mussels, octopus (actually, I think they took that one off the menu). But my favorite Portofino's pizza by far is something they call the "Mama Mia." Along with the mozzarella, toppings include gorgonzola, thin slices of onion, tomato, and filet minon! Sounds weird, but I love it. Be forewarned, you don't go to Portofino's for the crust, which isn't all that special. You go for the fun toppings.
  • Post #6 - December 15th, 2004, 12:04 pm
    Post #6 - December 15th, 2004, 12:04 pm Post #6 - December 15th, 2004, 12:04 pm
    Hi Rev!

    The other major Larsa thread, you may or may not have seen. If you refer to the on-site search engine and use keyword 'Larsa,' there are several other posts.

    I am glad to have more information on the history of this restaurant. I was somewhat startled when I learned they were Iraqi, not for any other reason than the prominent Lebanese flag on the take-out menu. The shop immediately next door is Iranian, which I think we thought they were connected though they're not.

    Assyrian Christians are a minority in pockets all over the middle east, which is why there is a Lebanese Christmas tree at the Science and Industry.

    Thanks for the information on the pizza in Evanston.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - December 15th, 2004, 12:07 pm
    Post #7 - December 15th, 2004, 12:07 pm Post #7 - December 15th, 2004, 12:07 pm
    Fire Rev wrote:The owner of Larsa's, Johnny, is indeed not Lebanese. He identifies as Assyrian. When people press him on what country he's from, he admits to present-day Iraq, but as I've learned, Assyrians have an ancient culture that is very distinct from the Muslim Arab world. And they're proud of it.


    On my first couple of visits, I simply was not disabused of my notion that they were Lebanese. I have since learned the truth. ;)

    Fire Rev wrote:That being said, however, Assyrian cuisine seems to me to be similar to the Middle Eastern food found at places like Pita Inn and Basha.


    While it is only tangentially related, I will say that I am intimately familiar with a number of Assyrian Christians from Syria, and they go to great lengths to differentiate between their culture/cuisine and those of the Muslims in the region. It is a running joke with me, as I find so much overlap with what I grew up with in the decidedly Muslim Emirates.

    Fire Rev wrote:By the way, I first got to know Johnny at his other restaurant, Portofino's Pizza, in Evanston at Dodge & Main. Over the 4 years or so it's been open, I've gotten to know several of the guys who make the pizzas. They're generally of Middle Eastern descent, but spent time in Sweden or Germany before coming here. And that's where they learned to make their pizza. Most people order the traditional American toppings at Portofino's, but they also offer more adventurous ones, like they do in northern Europe...shrimp, mussels, octopus (actually, I think they took that one off the menu)


    A few of the Assyrian Christians that I know migrated to Northern Europe from Syria. One gentleman takes tremendous pride in his pizza-making skills, which were learned in Sweden. I must say that I was favourably impressed with what he was able to do with a home gas range. It was nothing fancy, mind you, just cheese and sauce, but it was delicious.

    Thanks for the reply and welcome to LTH.

    Erik M.
  • Post #8 - December 15th, 2004, 1:00 pm
    Post #8 - December 15th, 2004, 1:00 pm Post #8 - December 15th, 2004, 1:00 pm
    Now I'm really intrigued. I plan to ask Johnny about that Lebanese flag.

    And now that I think about it, he used to have an Assyrian flag/banner hanging at Portofino's. It may still be there, and I've just not noticed.
  • Post #9 - December 15th, 2004, 2:27 pm
    Post #9 - December 15th, 2004, 2:27 pm Post #9 - December 15th, 2004, 2:27 pm
    I think I spread the misinformation that Larsa was lebanese (actually i'm sure of it), fooled by the flag.

    My apologies.

    I agree with all the positives about Larsa's food mentioned above, especially about their soup (I like both soups they make)

    I also think for most dishes (not just bread based ones) they are better than their better known rivals on dempster.
  • Post #10 - December 15th, 2004, 4:41 pm
    Post #10 - December 15th, 2004, 4:41 pm Post #10 - December 15th, 2004, 4:41 pm
    Did Johnny also own Fun On/In The Bun which was replaced by Portofino's?
  • Post #11 - December 15th, 2004, 6:05 pm
    Post #11 - December 15th, 2004, 6:05 pm Post #11 - December 15th, 2004, 6:05 pm
    Yeah, thanks for the info on Portofino's Fire Rev! Your name wouldn't be Stefan would it? If so, we know each other through Grace Lutheran :) I will be sure to try Portofinos as I drive by there every day ( I live 5-6 blocks E of there)




    edited to fix coding
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #12 - December 16th, 2004, 3:50 pm
    Post #12 - December 16th, 2004, 3:50 pm Post #12 - December 16th, 2004, 3:50 pm
    hattyn wrote:Did Johnny also own Fun On/In The Bun which was replaced by Portofino's?


    No, Fun in the Bun was owned by a Korean family. They served up some mean french fries. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I was sad when they closed...but am obviously delighted with Portofino's in that space now.
  • Post #13 - January 2nd, 2005, 4:45 pm
    Post #13 - January 2nd, 2005, 4:45 pm Post #13 - January 2nd, 2005, 4:45 pm
    Thursday I was meeting someone at Pita Inn at 12:30.The place was packed so we went to Larsa'a and were the only ones there the whole meal IIRC.Too bad.Great falafel and I loved the lentil soup.Larsa's could benefit from some Check Please publicity.
  • Post #14 - January 2nd, 2005, 10:38 pm
    Post #14 - January 2nd, 2005, 10:38 pm Post #14 - January 2nd, 2005, 10:38 pm
    I will be checking this place out! I'm only about a 5-minute drive away.
    "You should eat!"
  • Post #15 - January 2nd, 2005, 11:07 pm
    Post #15 - January 2nd, 2005, 11:07 pm Post #15 - January 2nd, 2005, 11:07 pm
    Fran,

    You may also want to consult this thread before trotting out the door.

    I haven't been there for dinner, though it is certainly under patronized at lunch.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #16 - January 5th, 2005, 4:33 pm
    Post #16 - January 5th, 2005, 4:33 pm Post #16 - January 5th, 2005, 4:33 pm
    hattyn wrote:Thursday I was meeting someone at Pita Inn at 12:30.The place was packed so we went to Larsa'a and were the only ones there the whole meal IIRC.Too bad.Great falafel and I loved the lentil soup.Larsa's could benefit from some Check Please publicity.


    Except Pita Inn was packed well before Check, Please ever got on the air -
    and has continued to be ever since. I dont even think the airing of the program
    changed the number of patrons all that much - the crowds seem just as
    much. I remember stupidly going for lunch at 12:05 once, to the Skokie
    location, a good 4/5 years ago - an eat-in rather than pickup, and this was
    before their expansion. Took me a good 30+ minutes in line just to place
    my order! They are *so* busy for lunch it isnt even funny - and theyre very
    busy at the Wheeling location for lunch too, have been there at lunchtime
    more than a few times (there used to be a huge crowd of office-workers
    from Motorola who patronized that spot for lunch in the old dsays IIRC).
    One learns to always go to Pita Inn after calling ahead, and picking up
    most of the time for lunch.

    The big difference is that Pita Inn has faster service than Larsa's, and
    is cheaper - and those are the most important things to most people
    I think. Its also good, of course :-) Their lunch special is very good, and
    might be the best deal in town - they didnt change its price even when
    they raised the price of everything else on the menu a year or two ago.
    Its still like 4.30 with tax or some such - and its basically a combination
    meal, and probably too much food to finish if you eat it all (including
    the salad). And again, its good.

    Larsa's doesnt have anything like a true combo lunch special, and so suffers
    in comparison IMHO. Ive been to Larsa's and I like the food - I had *their*
    lunch combo, which was 1-kabab-and-1-shawarma deal for 6.50 or
    some such IIRC. The kababs were good, too. But even without any
    rush, it took me longer to get my meal than it would at Pita Inn usually -
    and it wasnt a "combo meal" as such, so it didnt include the falafel,
    the 3 types of kabab that Pita Inn does etc. I liked how it tasted,
    though, so I will go back - but I'll also go back to Pita Inn for their
    lunch special often enough (partly because, after so many years, Ive
    gotten addicted to Pita Inn's "hot and white" sauces too, and no other
    sauce tastes quite as good :-) And you cant really beat a big, good,
    4 buck lunch :-)

    I do like Larsa, though - and go there too, sometimes. There is also Basha
    in the area - but I think Larsa is better. Hadnt bothered to ever try the pizza
    at Larsa despite a few trips, but maybe I'll give that a go sometime since
    it seems to be recd' here.

    c8w
  • Post #17 - January 6th, 2005, 10:15 am
    Post #17 - January 6th, 2005, 10:15 am Post #17 - January 6th, 2005, 10:15 am
    Larsa is slow, can be very slow, maybe too slow. I usually try to warn about that when i reccomend the place, as I have seen folks in there trying to do a quick pick-up getting mad about the pace of food arrival. I usually order ahead and pick-up to avoid that situation. Which I think is worth it, becuae I find the food significantly better than pita inn.

    I do like pita inn though, for what it is - one of the best fast food options in the city

    btw, c8w, you mentioned la baraka, the newish moroccan spot in skokie in another post - have you tried it? verdict?
  • Post #18 - January 17th, 2005, 8:35 pm
    Post #18 - January 17th, 2005, 8:35 pm Post #18 - January 17th, 2005, 8:35 pm
    Yesterday evening Nancy and I went to see Sideways at the Loews Old Orchard. I thought we should have a Central Coast Pinot before the movie so we went to the BYO Larsa's.

    We wound up having many of the same items Erik and Cathy had. We were brought the wonderful, rich lentil and rice soup to start. This comes with the dinners. The pita is really good. Made in the pizza oven, it is thinner than most, which I prefer, and had nice flavor.

    It is easy to do a Waviest here since everything is so inexpensive. We ordered a lot and took quite a bit home. We ordered three appetizers, which were $7.15 total!

    We had the afore mentioned, delicious Laham Ajeen and its vegetarian cousin, Manna Eash. The Manna Eash shares the same thin pizza-oven fired crust, but is topped with a light coating or olive oil and minced fresh herbs and sesame seeds. It is a nice combo. It is nice to try a slice of each. We also had an order of very good falafel, brought out crisp and steaming hot.

    We had the combo plate (chicken kabobs, kifta kabob, and beef shwarma) and an order or chicken kabobs. While good, I felt the entrees were the weakest items of the night. The chicken was perfectly cooked, just did not have much flavor from the marinade and the beef shwarma was a tad gristly.

    The 2001 Miner 'Gary's Vineyard' Pinot Noir was very nice, but it was in a closed phase. I have had other bottles which showed much better.

    Our waitress was extremely friendly and attentive. She even volunteered to wash our Riedel 'O' Pinot glasses! We didn't take her up on it, but that was a first. Unfortunately, here we go again, was just about empty the 1 1/2 we were there. I can't understand why so many terrific, dirt-cheap restaurants have such a difficult time. Our bill was $29 and we took food home. No corkage.

    A quick note on Sideways, I was really disappointed. Not as much wine involvement as I hoped for. It is hard to get excited about a movie in which the four main characters are such jerks. The men are total losers, but the women are no prizes, either. How did this movie become the darlings of the critics?

    Cheers,
    Al
  • Post #19 - January 18th, 2005, 11:23 am
    Post #19 - January 18th, 2005, 11:23 am Post #19 - January 18th, 2005, 11:23 am
    Al Ehrhardt wrote:We had the afore mentioned, delicious Laham Ajeen and its vegetarian cousin, Manna Eash. The Manna Eash shares the same thin pizza-oven fired crust, but is topped with a light coating or olive oil and minced fresh herbs and sesame seeds.


    It is my understanding, perhaps flawed, that this is topped with zaatar/zaa'tar (also zahtar, zartar, zaartar, ad infinitum). Again, if I'm not mistaken, this word can refer to either a herb/spice blend or a thyme-like herb. The blend, like most middle eastern spice mixes and condiments from harissa to baharat, varies across the region. Kalustyan's sells a Syrian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Lebanese versions. It seems that all have sesame seeds, thyme/zaa'tar, and salt in common. Other additions that I've seen are sumac, oregano, marjoram, and savory. They call the Jordanian version "Green Zaa'tar" tough all versions do appear to be green. Perhaps it doesn't include sumac? I'd be happy to hear someone unravel the regional differences.

    In the case of Manna Eash (and variant spellings, of course: manaesh) as seen in Chicago, though perhaps not in the lands of origin, the topping is the zaa'tar blend and olive oil. This is what I've purchased at Al-Khayam and Middle Eastern Market. Is Larsa's doing something different? Are they actually using "Fresh" herbs rather than dried?

    Rien
    Last edited by rien on January 18th, 2005, 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 3:11 pm
    Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 3:11 pm Post #20 - January 18th, 2005, 3:11 pm
    Hi Rien,

    If you scroll up to Erik's picture of laham ajeen shows the flat bread the Za'tar (Erik's preferred spelling) and olive oil, as you surmised, are arranged for Manna Eash (Larsas preferred spelling).

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 11:35 pm
    Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 11:35 pm Post #21 - January 18th, 2005, 11:35 pm
    rien wrote:It is my understanding, perhaps flawed, that this is topped with zaatar/zaa'tar (also zahtar, zartar, zaartar, ad infinitum). Again, if I'm not mistaken, this word can refer to either a herb/spice blend or a thyme-like herb. The blend, like most middle eastern spice mixes and condiments from harissa to baharat, varies across the region. Kalustyan's sells a Syrian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Lebanese versions. It seems that all have sesame seeds, thyme/zaa'tar, and salt in common. Other additions that I've seen are sumac, oregano, marjoram, and savory. They call the Jordanian version "Green Zaa'tar" tough all versions do appear to be green. Perhaps it doesn't include sumac? I'd be happy to hear someone unravel the regional differences.


    Rien:

    Indeed, the mixture bears simply the name of its most important element, a variety of (wild) thyme. In Standard Arabic there are according to my dictionaries two variants which differ with regard to the initial consonant, namely, s- vs. z-.

    Transliterations of Arabic do show considerable variation and especially with regard to renderings of the consonant which occurs after the first vowel in the word in question here. The consonant in question is the pharyngeal fricative which is named in Arabic "9ayn", with '9' here representing this sound which has no equivalent in English or the better known European languages. An accurate rendering of the word in Roman script with a supplementary symbol would be 'za9tar' (or 'sa9tar'). In old fashioned renderings of Arabic in Roman script, there was a tradition of rendering 9ayn with the letter <a>, which is less than satisfactory. The result is spellings such as <zaatar> or <mataam>, which seem to indicate the presence of a long vowel. In the case of the latter example, the word is better -- well, at least more accurately -- rendered as <mat9am>, which means 'restaurant' and occurs as a proper name of eateries, as in the case of the Assyrian establishment at the northwest corner of the intersection of Kedzie and Lawrence.

    According to Claudia Roden in her very interesting work The New Book of Middle Eastern Food (New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2000, page 47), za9tar is 1 part thyme to 1 part toasted sesame seeds to 1/4 part sumac and salt to taste. I think you are right in surmising that 'green za9tar' is probably just za9tar without the 'sumac'; I have a bag of such green za9tar, without the red bark*, here at home to which I myself add however much sumac when the spirit moves me. I like having the two in this way, for there are times when I want the thyme and sesame and salt but not the sumac and times when I want the lot of them working together.

    Antonius

    * See Zim's post below; it is in fact not the bark of the sumac bush but the berries which are ground and used as a seasoning. Thanks to Zim for the correction.
    Last edited by Antonius on January 19th, 2005, 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #22 - January 19th, 2005, 9:16 am
    Post #22 - January 19th, 2005, 9:16 am Post #22 - January 19th, 2005, 9:16 am
    Antonius wrote: I think you are right in surmising that 'green za9tar' is probably just za9tar without the 'sumac'; I have a bag of such green za9tar, without the red bark, here at home to which I myself add however much sumac when the spirit moves me.

    Antonius


    Almost always when i see packaged za'atar mixes they are of the green variety.

    Btw, I have a sumac question maybe somebody can help me out with. Antonius you mentioned the red bark, but I have also seen sumac for sale as berries - which is the portion of the plant used for the seasoning?
  • Post #23 - January 19th, 2005, 9:39 am
    Post #23 - January 19th, 2005, 9:39 am Post #23 - January 19th, 2005, 9:39 am
    zim wrote:Btw, I have a sumac question maybe somebody can help me out with. Antonius you mentioned the red bark, but I have also seen sumac for sale as berries - which is the portion of the plant used for the seasoning?


    Zim,

    Thanks, your definitely right, it's the berries that are used. Roden (op. cit., p. 46) says it is indeed the berries, which are also sometimes soaked to produce a juice which can be used in place of lemon juice.

    I'm not sure what I got the sumac crossed with there but I can find no reference in the couple of sources on hand here to the use of sumac bark. I'll correct and annotate the above post.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #24 - April 11th, 2005, 7:28 am
    Post #24 - April 11th, 2005, 7:28 am Post #24 - April 11th, 2005, 7:28 am
    Ms. EC and I had a nice meal at Larsa's on Friday night.

    The Manna Eash, mentioned by C2, is a delightful appetizer and gave me plenty of ideas for constructing similar herb-paste-flatbread combos at home.

    The baba ganouj indeed has a very smokey flavor which seemed to completely eclipse any real eggplant flavor. Still, a very enjoyable spread with their fresh bread.

    We ordered the combo plate (photographed by Erik M in the other Larsa's thread) and the kibbe as entrees. The highlight of the combo plate was the beef shwarema, which put Pita Inn's to shame. It's crispy edges and full flavor lifed the whole plate. My only complaint was that the kefta did not taste fresh from the grill, but rather grilled earlier and re-heated.

    The kibbe was the most interesting dish, served in the less-common pancacke style. The bulghur in the pancake had a very deep flavor that threatened to overpower the mild meat paste inside. Overall, very enjoyable, but perhaps too much of one thing to be offered as an entree.

    The owner (female-half of the couple, name escapes me) was an excellent hostess. She was very eager to talk about their heritage, their restaurant, and their homemade bread.

    The one troubling aspect is that we were there just before 8pm on a Friday night and there was only one other table occupied (and they seemed to know the owners). Two people came in to carry-out while we were there, but overall it seemed like a very thin showing, and the owner seemed very intent on making me promise to return (which I will). I hope that they're getting enough business. As a BYO with extremely reasonable prices and very good food, there's no reason why they shouldn't be.

    Best,
    Michael / EC
  • Post #25 - April 11th, 2005, 8:28 am
    Post #25 - April 11th, 2005, 8:28 am Post #25 - April 11th, 2005, 8:28 am
    eatchicago wrote:The one troubling aspect is that we were there just before 8pm on a Friday night and there was only one other table occupied (and they seemed to know the owners). Two people came in to carry-out while we were there, but overall it seemed like a very thin showing, and the owner seemed very intent on making me promise to return (which I will). I hope that they're getting enough business. As a BYO with extremely reasonable prices and very good food, there's no reason why they shouldn't be. . .

    I agree. I've eaten at Larsa's a few times and carried out a bunch of times and the one common note is that the place has always been nearly empty when I've been there. Their food is very good and I dread the thought of the place disappearing. Hopefully they can catch a wave of support and make it, over the long haul. I'm not asserting that the place is in jeopardy, only that it feels like it sometimes when I am there.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

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  • Post #26 - April 11th, 2005, 9:40 am
    Post #26 - April 11th, 2005, 9:40 am Post #26 - April 11th, 2005, 9:40 am
    Hi,

    I've largely gone for lunch where if I wasn't the only table occupied, there might have been one more. About a month ago, I did go on a Sunday evening where maybe half the tables were full. A bonus for the Sunday evening visit was to see an older woman making pita bread in the pizza oven.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #27 - May 2nd, 2005, 5:26 pm
    Post #27 - May 2nd, 2005, 5:26 pm Post #27 - May 2nd, 2005, 5:26 pm
    La Baraka is Lebanese, not Moroccan. I spoke with the owner when I ate there about six months ago.

    The menu is pretty standard - kabobs, grilled meats and fish, salads, appetizers.

    On a whim, my husband and I decided to get the meze plate. $20 a piece, which seems like a lot, but damn it was A LOT OF FOOD! Some stuff we haven't seen ever, like lamb liver (not that I was crazy about that - not a liver fan myself). About 20 small cold plates (olives of many kinds, salads, hummus, baba ganoush, eggplant and on and on) and 20 small hot plates. Truly a feast fit for, well, us!

    We couldn't come close to finsihing it. The owner told us it was an authentic meze plate, which is just not seen around here at all. I'd have to tkae his word for that - I've certainly not had anything quite like it.

    The proper way to eat is you take about 2 hours with a lot of drinking to make your way through the plates! With our 5-year-old in tow we weren't ready to do it the traditional way, so we packed everything up into take-out containers and enjoyed the leftovers for several days.

    Highly recommended - I hope the meze is still on the menu!
    "You should eat!"
  • Post #28 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:45 am
    Post #28 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:45 am Post #28 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:45 am
    Jonah wrote: Both were mini-"pizzas" baked on cracker thin crusts. One had a thin topping of chopped meat, tomato and herbs that was more of a spread.


    I believe what you're describing is better known (in Armenian circles, at least) as lamachun/lamajoun/lamacun/any number of similar spellings, also aka Turkish pizza. I know that Sayat Nova has it, although they've admitted (in the past, at least - not sure if this is still the case) that they get their lamachun frozen from a distributor. I became familiar with this dish through an Armenian Orthodox Church festival, where the 90 year old grandmothers were selling it. If you ever get the chance to attend such a gathering, I'd highly recommend going, if for nothing else than the food.

    Sayat Nova
    157 E. Ohio St.
    Chicago, IL
    312-644-9159
    11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 3-10 p.m. Sunday
  • Post #29 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:17 am
    Post #29 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:17 am Post #29 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:17 am
    If you haven't seen it, there's a discussion of Larsa's lahma ajeen and a picture in this thread.

    For contrast, here's my pic of lahmacun at Turkish Cuisine:

    Image
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  • Post #30 - October 28th, 2005, 10:44 pm
    Post #30 - October 28th, 2005, 10:44 pm Post #30 - October 28th, 2005, 10:44 pm
    We went to Larsa's for dinner tonight, and I must admit some disappointment. A nice place, nice service, but the food certainly didn't offer enough to draw me again from our Albany Park home, or even dissuade me from venturing down the street to Kabul House if in the neighborhood.

    The lentil soup and the laham ajeen, with a pretty pronounced mint flavor, were both pretty good. But as Al Ehrhardt noted in the other Larsa's thread, the entrees were pretty weak.

    I got a sheesh kebab plate--one lamb, one beef--both fine but neither memorable. Better, I thought, were Kate's kifta kebab and chicken kebab. In my case, I was served 8-10 pieces of meat served around an enormous mound of rice, with two half-tomato slices on one side and pile of sliced raw onions on the other. The onions and the rice were dusted with what I imagine to be sumac. The rice I thought was not so good, a bit dry and with a funny taste. And the fresh-made pita, also--for which I had very high hopes--seemed to me mostly like a not so good flour tortilla. Hot and fresh, yes, but also too flour-y for my taste.

    I was surprised that there was no gratis plate of pickled stuff served here. I always find that a particularly enjoyable feature of Middle Eastern restaurants.

    Really nothing too bad here, but with all the other options around, nothing that will draw me back either.

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