Fattoush Mediterranean Kitchen, 2304 W Park Row, Pantego. 682-321-7650. 12-8pm Sun, 11am-8pm Mon-Thu, 11am-10 pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Over the last decade, the optimistically named Lakeshore Center in Pantego has seen half a dozen restaurants come and go. (Let’s have a moment of silence for the original Mijo’s Café & Fresh Mex, which occupied a prime street-front corner location there for several years).
Fattoush Mediterranean Kitchen is the newest eatery to slide into the back of that strip mall. That the owners of the four-month-old restaurant chose to set up shop in a (recently) high-turnover shopping center located relatively far away from the cluster of Mediterranean and hookah restaurants on Pioneer Parkway seems like a deliberate attempt to set itself apart. As it is, the locale isn’t the only thing that sets apart this mom-and-pop shop. The cuisine is comfortingly homemade, simple, and tasty. Having a devoted online following augurs well, too.
For starters, the chicken lemon soup was a velvety, delicious surprise. Much of the cuisine of the Mediterranean offers similar flavors with regional twists. There’s a lot of lamb, rice, chickpeas, eggplant, and chicken – but the flavors and techniques vary from country to country. In Greece, the avgolomeno chicken and lemon soup is usually made with a clear broth. Here, the broth is a cream-based peppery affair, with little chunks of chicken and a subtle lemon flavor –it’s served with a fresh lemon to squeeze if you want to ratchet up the citrus factor. The soup looked a little like gravy but tasted like heaven. My dining companion and I could have eaten a second bowl’s worth, but there was so much more food to try. A side of tahini-rich hummus was decent – not garlicky at all, with a nice amount of olive oil and fresh parsley on top. The pita bread was fairly standard issue, not as scrumptious as the fresh-from-the-oven stuff at some other place like Andalous.
Though the pita didn’t thrill us, the Iranian bread served with the chicken shish tawook was a pillowy dream. The wheels of chewy, soft, slightly doughy goodness with fresh grill marks and bubbles flowed over the plate. The lovingly marinated shish tawook was mildly spicy and was served with grilled veggies and onions and seriously tart house-made pickles. Sides included more hummus and an immaculately fresh, lightly oil-and-vinegar-dressed salad of cucumber, parsley, and tomato, which took some of the burn away from the barely grilled onions. The bread was a great vehicle for sopping up the remains of the tawook marinade, the extra hummus, and even the little drops of soup left in the bowl.
Ordering lamb kebabs at a Mediterranean restaurant can be a bit dicey. Whole chunks of lamb on a skewer are, at best, indelicate to eat. At Fattoush, the kebabs were made from ground and seasoned lamb meat pressed into sturdy six-inch rolls and then grilled. The grilling rendered away most of the fat and a lot of the gaminess of the lamb. As an additional bonus, there were no kebab sticks to worry about. The lamb was accompanied by a silky, smooth tahini sauce that was pleasant but a little superfluous. The side of baba ganoush was a smoky, chunky treat. The eggplant was still a little stringy, but at least that added a bit of texture.
Fattoush is a fairly small restaurant with about 10 tables and two “booths” on a raised area off the main floor, where six or eight could lounge comfortably. The food is essentially made to order so your dining experience will be enjoyably paced. If you’re worried about a learning curve, the counter staff was agreeably helpful and patient, explaining the varieties and differences in the menu. The restaurant offers economical lunch specials and occasionally has a well-priced evening buffet, which sounds a little dangerous – at least for the owners. I could cheerfully eat my weight in their soup, baba ganoush, and Iranian bread.
Fattoush Mediterranean Kitchen
Chicken shish tawook $13.99
Lamb kebab $13.99