Friday, May 22, 2015

THAT LEBANESE PLACE in Springfield, MO

“Good Food- Good Mood” is the motto at That Lebanese Place and it is fitting for a restaurant that so artfully uses the pungent spices of the Middle East. A few years ago, I learned to gain focus with the scents and spices of the region through scent meditation. Now, the complicated marriage between scent and taste automatically creates a calming effect on me. Good Mood? Yes! No doubt, I’m nothing more than Pavlov’s dog. Still it’s wonderful to experience the seductive exotic blends right here at a small café in the middle of the United States.

Located in the historical business district on Commercial Street, the décor is simple, maintaining the building’s historic originality. However, the Lebanese culture is ever present through a few scattered artifacts, onscreen music, and the faint scent of fascinating spices. The simple construction of the half-circle booths is clever and charming opposite the large bar constructed of dark wood with cushioned retro bar stools that add function and a comforting feeling to the space.

Our waitress was very busy yet, delightful and helpful with our questions about the menu. The servers at any restaurant are often an undervalued intermediator between the establishment and the patrons.  In an ethnic setting that person becomes an even greater asset or liability. Especially in areas where many ethnic foods are only recently becoming available this short encounter can be a make or break moment.

Taste is complex, a combination of our physical composition and our acquired and/or learned relationship with flavors. Much like most of our relationships it can drastically change over time. If you don’t like a particular food wait a few years and try it again; you just might be surprised.

Flavors of the Middle East are pungent, even active.  Many of the spices tingle and tickle the tongue. The feeling gives new meaning to the trend known as “eating with purpose.” It can be quite enjoyable. That Lebanese Place is the perfect atmosphere and menu for purposeful eating.  The food is not overpowering, but the flavors are ever present.

We began our meal with an appetizer of stuffed grape leaves. Tightly wrapped in a pickled grape leaf is a mixture of rice and vegetables.  Pleasingly served; they are tangy and delicious reminiscent of a mild dill pickle.

My guest had marinated chicken, Lebanese pickles, and vegetables wrapped in a pita with seasoned hand-cut French fries. Unlike many pita breads, this was thin, much like a crepe.  Lightly browned, it wore an appetizing appearance. Reportedly, the pita was very good and we both enjoyed the unique flavor of the fries. 

The red lentil soup was thick and seasoned with a wonderful blend of spices.  I’m guessing the recipe includes traditional Lebanese Seven Spice. We both enjoyed the undertone of nutmeg and allspice.  The meat was deliciously chewy and the beef kabobs mimicked the mild flavored spices used in the soup.  The dish came with a traditional rice that is packed with flavor, but dryer than most.


I highly recommend the restaurant and the experience and please check out their affordable prices and menu online.   

  


Lebanese Seven Spice Mixture

1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground Ginger

Mix together and store in a tight container.