Friday, November 17, 2000
The Mosquito Dines Out
EL SOUK 60 and 64 Main Street Gloucester
Gloucester seems like a place to have a traditional old New England seafood dinner, but now a little bit of the Middle East is here with marvelous food and gifts. El Souk transports you right into the heart of exotic food specialties. Here you will find traditional Mezza (appetizers) such as Labne, a yogurt spread ($3.95), Baba Ghannouj, an eggplant, garlic and tahini spread (4.95), Mekanek, marinated lamb sausage (4.95), and Kibbe Nave, finely ground raw lamb with spices and cracked wheat (8.95). We were served a complimentary Olive Oil and Za'atar (zataar is a mix of Middle East spices and sesame seeds) . If you have not had this before it is a puzzle as to how to eat it, but with close observation of surrounding knowledge-able diners, we saw that you dip the fresh warm pita bread in the oil and then in the dry mixture and it sticks on. It was a most unusual taste. It defies a close analogy with anything familiar but I would definitely try it again.
The salad section did not disappoint us and offered more unusual mixtures. Perhaps a lot of you are familiar with Tabouleh, a parsley, tomato, bulger mixture (4.95), or cucumber salad with cucumbers, yogurt, mint and garlic (4.95), but do branch out and try Fauard's Special House Salad with chopped parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olive oil and mint (5.95).
For lighter fare, they have a number of roll-ups at $6.95, such as Shashlik (beef), Lahm Mishwee, (lamb), Shish Tawook (chicken), Kafta (ground lamb) and roast lamb. There are vegetarian roll-ups with Hoomis or Baba Ghannouj at $5.95 or Labne at $2.95.
Entrees include Warik Inib, grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice and spices at $10.95, Sheik el Mehshi, baked eggplant slices with rice, ground lamb and pine nuts at $10.95 and Kafta Siniah, baked ground lamb with onions and spices at $11.95, all served with rice pilaf or oven roasted potatoes. We selected a combination platter to maximize our sampling and these come in two sizes with stuffed grape leaves, cabbage rolls, eggplant slice with lamb, and a kibbe ball. As if the above selections were not enough, there were also skewers from the rotisserie.
Everything was fresh, well prepared and the atmosphere brought back memories of the Casbah with a video on large screen TV imported from Syria showing modern belly dancing. Occasionally they do have live dancers, but there is no set schedule at this time.
At the present time there is no liquor license but you can bring your own, with a "corking" fee for glasses and opening of $2.00/person. We ended the meal with a very traditional Baklawa, ground walnuts in filo with a honey lemon syrup at $2.95, and it was delectable. This was accompanied by gypsy coffee, described on the menu as an intensified shot of Turkish coffee. It was! We liked it. For a change from the usual and a step into the Middle East, go to Gloucester.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito