Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mmmm Lebanese... Review of Nicholas Restaurant

It's no secret I looooove my Greek food, in addition to my hummus obsession (it's gotten unhealthy....) and my addiction to gluten and corn free falafel (aka non-Americanized falafel). But as I've done more research into the Portland vegan restaurant scene, I've noticed Lebanese places popping up quite a bit. You know me, I always want to try new ethnic foods, especially ones that have awesome vegan and gluten free options. One place, Nicholas Restaurant, stuck out to me (after reading positive reviews on Yelp and the Food Fight PDX Guide), so I decided to make a point to try it!

Luckily, my opportunity to tantalize my taste buds came pretty fast. Even though we went to Cabo and had family dinner for Joe's birthday, we just can't seem to stop celebrating (shit I want to turn 28 if it means my birthday is a week long!). Our friends Marcus and Tabitha wanted to do a birthday dinner with us, and because of all my limitations, they suggested I pick a place. Yay! I pick Lebanese food! Everyone was down for it so we checked it out last night and DAMN I was impressed!!

The restaurant actually has 3 locations in the Portland Metro area, one on SE Stark, one on NE Broadway and one in Gresham. The Stark one got the best reviews on Yelp so we chose that one. Quaint little place, I've probably driven by it hundreds of times and never realized it was there. It wasn't so inconspicuous last night though, their were people dining on the sidewalk due to the 70 degree weather. The place was packed, luckily a table opened up right as we got there because there's really nowhere to wait.

First thing, they brought out this giant piece of housemade pita bread with an herby dip thing. I was disappointed that I couldn't partake in the devouring of that little guy...it smelled freaking delicious. But my mood was immediately lifted upon realizing that the falafel was not only gluten free but corn free as well. Hell yeah!! The waitress knew the answers to all my questions without even having to consult the kitchen. I'm always a sucker for good service! Plus, the menu was dotted with "V"'s to indicate which items were vegan.

Being such a lover of new ethnic food, there was no WAY I was going to be able to pick just one thing (especially when there are so many things on the menu I can have), so I ordered the Vegan Mezza platter: Falafel, tahini, tabouli, hummus, mjadra (a lentil/rice dish) and a garbanzo plate. I subbed an extra falafel for the tabouli, since tabouli is traditionally made from bulgur wheat, def not gluten free.

Um....YUM!! Everything was so tasty, seasoned to perfection, an explosion of chickpea-flavored goodness in my mouth. The falafel is among the best I've tasted, and dipping it in hummus and tahini was a killer combo. The rice lentil dish was plain-looking, but was definitely delicious, as was the garbanzo plate. Every flavor complimented the others perfectly and I was seriously in hog heaven. The only thing for me is I unfortunately don't tolerate an overabundance of chickpeas well and I honestly eat mostly raw at home so it was definitely a heavy meal. But hey, what would life be if we didn't treat ourselves every once in awhile? We definitely needed to take a walk afterwords, but when you have the gorgeous Eastbank Esplanade to stroll along, you can't really complain!

I would DEFINITELY visit this place again. Not even a question. And I hope it's soon cause I know I gotta get that falafel fix on a semi-regular basis....oooh I need to learn how to make raw falafel, anyone know of a recipe?

Check this place out, and until next time, Live Free!

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