Mr. Friday Night
After promising itself for forever, Chow, Baby finally made it to the legendary Friday-night lamb & seafood buffet at Chadra Mezza (1622 Park Place Av.).
Jeez louise, this is the bargain of the century! Chow, Baby covered its entry fee ($15.99) in about 15 minutes by choosing as its appetizer a piggish number of those lamb chops – which, even though owner/chef Nehme Elbitar is from Lebanon, were not cooked in what Chow, Baby calls (semi-fondly) “Lebanese style.” Instead of being burnt to a crisp, these meaty morsels were charred just a bit at the edges, beautifully pink and tender inside. For its second plate, Chow, Baby hit the appetizers table for garlicky hummus, smoky babaganouj, parsley-popping tabouli, and the same feta salad that every Middle Eastern place in town makes, yet it’s somehow so much tastier here. Full to bursting – but hey, at this point everything’s free, right? – Chow, Baby managed to taste-test shrimp-stuffed salmon, sirloin-stuffed eggplant, and cream-cheese-spinach-and-bacon-stuffed chicken. Glorious, all of them.
Instead of waddling to the dessert table, though, Chow, Baby went a la carte for a flight of Nehme’s homemade ice creams ($8.95). This is what kills Chow, Baby: This guy has busted his butt for 10 years, ever since he landed on these fine shores (pretend Fort Worth has shores), first working in the kitchens of Hedary and Byblos, then opening the divey but delicious Café Chadra near John Peter Smith hospital, then finally a year ago achieving his dream of owning a gorgeous fine-dining restaurant offering the best of the Mediterranean, both Lebanese and Italian dishes. And Chadra Mezza is a hit, always crowded with noisy, happy people. (Of course they’re happy, at these prices.) But does Nehme rest now? No, he stays up all night long inventing ice cream flavors. Chow, Baby’s flight contained scoops of rosewater, jalapeño, Turkish coffee, roasted sesame, carrot cake (with raisins!), and 14-spice cream. Ooh, you know what would be a huge time-saver in terms of plate-refilling? Lamb-chop ice cream. Maybe with some hummus blended in, too. Don’t worry, Nehme will work on it until it’s wonderful.
All Full on the Northern Front
Chilling at the bar at Farina’s Winery & Café (420 S. Main St., Grapevine), Chow, Baby was reminded of the time it was an AWOL doughboy in the Great War. Somewhere near Marseille it stumbled into a lively café, high-ceilinged yet warmly intimate, with wood-planked walls and an elegant, huge-mirrored barback. Laughing barmaids served fine local wine to vivacious young ladies and too-old-for-war landholding gentlemen, who for some reason were wearing cowboy hats, those nice black felt ones with a sterling silver band buckle ($500 at Leddy’s Ranch). French ranchers are so stylish.
The return to reality was a pleasant ride, courtesy of Farina’s wonderful bruschetta ($7.95), with a surprising wood-smoky flavor that also came in pizza form (individual $7.95 and up). Yes, though the mood here is Frenchy, complete with cheek kisses for regulars, the menu is homestyle Italian. Entrée selections are few, but as long as one of them is frisky shrimp scampi ($16.95) with a side of angel hair in family-recipe tomato sauce, Chow, Baby is happy. Not, you know, happy enough to return to the Western Front, but happy to sit right here enjoying fluffy chocolate Kahlua cake ($4.95) until the Treaty of Versailles comes through.
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