In the year since Manakeesh and More (1150 Hertel Ave., 348-7184) opened a few blocks from Delaware Avenue, owner Sami Amin hasn’t changed the menu of his little Palestinian restaurant much. A braised lamb shank over rice had been added the last time I stopped by, but I didn’t try it.
Recently, Amin and his family have added a grocery next to the restaurant with an extensive lineup of canned, frozen and fresh Arab cuisine ingredients. There’s also a butcher counter where halal meat is available.
What I really wanted was in the restaurant. Manakeesh resemble an 8-inch flatbread pizza. Its built on a fresh disc of dough, then topped with spiced ground beef, feta and parsley, or my favorite, za’atar, the Arab herb mixture that’s heavy on thyme, sesame seeds and tangy sumac.
Manakeesh, which is $3 for za’atar and feta versions, $3.50 for the beef, both well worth the price, could serve as a snack, or part of a larger meal. That’s usually how I enjoy it.
There’s a few Arab places in town, but no other manakeesh purveyors that I know about. The difference, Amin will tell you, is never using dough that has been frozen or left in the refrigerator for a long time. “We make the dough fresh every day,” Amin said.
Za’atar is mixed with extra virgin olive oil and slathered over the top of a fresh piece of dough, then baked until it’s crispy brown around the edges. The sesame seeds become toasty and aromatic, and the thyme helps flavor the oil, which tranforms the bread.
The first bite might seem sandy, from all those dried spices it’s carrying. It might even make you think of a Middle Eastern desert. Keep chewing, though, and you’ll be rewarded with satisfying flavor.
Amin sells bags of the za’atar mixture and the right kind of Lebanese olive oil in his store, and he told me how easy it was to make when you have fresh dough and the right kind of oven.
Easy? Sure. For $3, I’d rather just buy mine, thank you.
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