Spring love is in the air and this warm weekend was spent in celebration of our friends Rachel and John who got engaged on Friday. Congratulazioni you two! We all met Friday night for some drinks at Foundation in downtown, a brick-covered, subterranean watering hole with some very creative cocktails and local brews.
Saturday, however, was the real hoorah, a full day of celebration basking in spring’s new warm weather. The temperature was a gorgeous 75 during the late afternoon as we sat on John’s porch sipping Retsina out of a “I Love Jesus” juice cup and smoking cigars watching the day slip by (just like the apostles did!).
As the afternoon’s fuzzy feeling started to grow, our stomachs began to rumble and a big group dinner was in store. Our party of 12 ventured downtown again to dine at Sitti, a Lebanese style restaurant run by the folks who own Neomonde here in Morrisville. Located at the corner of Hargett and Wilmington, Sitti is a large contemporary space full of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern motifs with warm, earthy hues creating a very comfortable atmosphere. Our wait was short and soon we were all sat at the one large table in the middle of the restaurant. I enjoyed a jet-cold bottle of Efes, a Turkish beer, which was sweet and bright like an Asian rice beer, really good!
Soon the appetizers, or mezze, were flowing across the table: fresh hummus, stuffed grape leaves, marinated feta, fried Halloumi cheese with dates, and thick greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil and herbs (above). The hummus was full of lemon and fresh garlic, the marinated feta had a great smokey flavor due to the roasted peppers mixed in, and our yogurt was tangy and refreshing, a perfect way to wake and excite the taste buds. Everything was served with copious amounts of freshly baked pita bread and Sitti’s addictive sumac-herb oil. I could eat this stuff by the truckload.
It’s also nice to watch the cooks at work behind the large glass kitchen windows, everything tastes, smells, and looks very fresh.
On to the mains: Grilled Filet with toasted-almond rice, Salmon with a mint-tahini-jalapeno sauce, Stewed Lamb atop rice with fried phyllo and whipped garlic-yogurt, and my personal choice of Braised Lamb Shank with whipped potatoes and veggies. There were plenty of others dishes on the table, but these were the only ones I tried so…The fillet was flavorful but overcooked. The salmon was to die for, a perfectly mid-rare filet smothered in a creamy sauce with just the right amount of heat and zip. The stewed lamb was also delicious, tho incredibly rich thanks to the fried phyllo and thick yogurt, but everyone cleared their plates regardless.
My shank was the thing of dreams. A Flintstone size hunk of moist, succulent meat, falling off the bone with almost no applied pressure, drizzled in it’s own drippings and lain atop a pile of silky potatoes to catch all of the juices. The veggies, undercooked, as usual it seems. This has been the third or fourth time I’ve paid more than I’d like for a beautifully cooked piece of meat only to be accompanied by a lack-luster side of veggies. What’s so hard? You barely have to do anything, just toss them in with the shanks for gods sake! Sorry, baby vegetables, especially undercooked, seem to be a pet peeve I didn’t know I had until recently…
Aside from the piss poor veg, the meal was absolutely spot-on and not at a terrible cost either. The service was fast and transparent, just the way a good server should be, and everyone left feeling filled to the brim. We managed to squeeze down a couple orders of Baklava too, well worth it! Unfortunately, our expansive dinner high in garlic, herbs, and lamb meat left a few of our party feeling slightly “uneasy” if you get my drift. No complaints over the food tho. The verdict:
Again I’d like to congratulate our friends Rachel and John on an exciting engagement! We wish you guys all the best in your new life together and can’t wait for the beach wedding, I’m gonna paddle into the reception in a custom-made tuxedo wetsuit. It’s the least I can do.