Levant feels authentic when you walk in, like you’ve entered a stylish restaurant in Damascus where a plate of meatballs is served as a full meal with rice, tomato and cucumber salad, and pita. The food has not been altered for Western palates, so you’ll find plenty of bulgur wheat, okra and even jute mallow (a gummy plant) alongside the familiar hummus and baba ganoush. The decor is not the usual ethnic cozy corner, but it’s strikingly contemporary, with Syrian music videos playing on a couple of large TVs.
wash it down
There is a nice bar with full service, including several fruity cocktails. My Damascus Nights ($10) was sweet at first sip, but packed a rum-filled jolt along with its strawberries, lemonade and club soda.
Our meals here were good, especially the appetizers. The brothers who own Levant (which means ‘the eastern part of the Mediterranean’ ) walk around welcoming diners, and the food ranges from interesting to amazing. I also appreciated the moderate prices, especially for full platters of food.
» baba ganoush: 6.75; Outstanding in the traditional smoky and creamy way, this blend of roasted eggplant (listed here by its French name, aubergine) and tahini is pureed with garlic and lemon juice with enough finesse to let the smokiness take center stage.
» mouhamara: $7.25; The less conventional appetizer is a dish of ground nuts and olive oil with a kick.
» syrian halloumi cheese: $7.25; Don’t pass up the salty brined cheese made with sheep and goat milk. It’s served heated and slightly melted—and it’s addictive!
» shish tawuk: $16.75 The entree of grilled chicken cubes was very good. Subtly flavored with cardamom and other spices, the chicken was excellently grilled to retain moisture. The dinner platter came with a huge pile of cinnamon rice and plenty of the traditional Middle Eastern salad (chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in lemon juice and oil).
» lamb chops: $19; Excellent as four thin, small rib chops wrapped with a bit of foil on the bottom for easier nibbling. They were marinated in delicate herbs and nicely charred for dipping into the accompanying tahini. The balance of meat to fat was perfect, and the plateful of rice and chopped salad offers a good balance.
» the beef kabab: $16.75; The traditional pressed, ground meat flavored with onions and spices, it had good texture from the grill and also came with the same bountiful sides.
» mixed syrian cookies: $6.50; An excellent plate of sesame seed cookies, baklava, butter cookies and shredded phyllo with pistachio cookies.
386 N. Euclid Ave. | 314.833.4400
the dish | shish tawuk grilled chicken with cinnamon rice and tomato and cucumber salad