Middle Eastern
Special Occasion
Fast Food

Lexington Ky Restaurants

Middle East

Your Guide to Fine Dining

Grape Leaf


King Tut's

Middle Eastern cuisine is new to Lexington. Only five restaurants have opened. Four are small storefront places with a dozen tables each. Their original clientele was the Muslim population , which has certain dietary restrictions imposed by the Islamic religion. However, this is delicious food, very healthy, inexpensive, served in plentiful portions. Slowly but surely, the following has grown. Four eateries are in malls, and shoppers began dropping in for lunch. Many became regulars, and brought their families and friends back for dinner. They spread the word, and over the noon hour and the 6-8 dinner hour those dozen tables are now full. Lunch Specials are common, averaging $5.65.

There are plenty of meats on these menus, but no other cuisine offers as many vegetarian choices. Middle Eastern cooking is very creative with such greens as chickpeas, eggplant, grape leaves, spinach, fava beans, olives, mint, yogurt, lentils, and falafel. All five restaurant menus feature complete vegetarian sections, additional salad sections, and appetizers half of which are vegetarian. Weight watchers, cardiac rehab patients and fitness lovers can become regulars at these establishments without worry. But you have to watch the desserts. Baklava, Kazan Dibing, Nammoura and Rice Pudding are sinful. Turkish Coffee is a rich, sultry drink, nothing like American coffee. Doogh is an Iranian yogurt milk, like liquid custard. Flatbread is an unleavened, thin crust. With these and other new tastes to try, Middle Eastern restaurants offer a delightful new culinary adventure.

Oasis was the first Middle Eastern restaurant in town,and is still the best known. The eleven appetizers are all delicious, but on a first visit, you must order the Oasis Dip. This is baked egg plant pureed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, mint, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. It may be the greatest appetizer of any restaurant in Lexington. We've been there numerous times and ordered the Soup of the Day each time. They were all good. There are 20 entrees, but we highly recommend the Oasis Platter, which is a sampler of all of them. For $22 it is a complete meal for two adults and two children. If you only have two adults, you'll have enough left over for another meal at home tomrrow. This platter includes three skewers of various items, a chicken and beef shawarma, two falefels, two kibbles, plus grape leaves, hummus, and rice. The Shawarma is meat soaked in a tart marinade, cooked vertically on a rotisserie and then shaved very thin. The blend of tastes on this platter is wonderful. However, there are other excellent entrees. The Oasis Dish serves up tender chunks of meat cooked in tomato sauce with eggplant, chickpeas, celery, peppers, onions and spices. Chevy Chase Place. From downtown, follow High Street east and turn right at the Chevy Store into the parking lot.
Sahara is run by three Sayyed brothers who worked in other restaurants before opening their own. It shows. They know what they're doing. The appetizers are a treasure of choices, of which we like the Falafel, Kibble, and Chicken Wrap best. The Falafel has a delicate flaky exterior with a steaming center of mixed vegetables. The Chicken Wrap is the same thin crust around a spicy chicken paste. Kibble is a mix of bulgar wheat, lamb, spices, pine nuts and onion. You must order the Babaganoush Salad. It has a smoky flavor, with finely chopped roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic and lemon. But the cucumber yogurt salad is also outstanding. Their Lentil Soup is made with yellow lentils and has turmeric added for a rather unusual flavor. The Specialty of the House is their Lamb or Goat Chops. Either is great. They could seriously compete for best entree of any restaurant in town. However, their other entrees are intriguing as well. We particularly like the Lamb and Beef Shawarma Over Hummus. The meat is cut into thin strips, done on that vertical rotisserie. Some people consider Sahara too casual; they use plastic plates and utensils and the storefront is basically undecorated. Just remember you're going for the food. Beaumont Centre. From downtown take South Broadway / Harrodsburg Road past New Circle Road and turn right into the Centre, then turn left.

The Grape Leaf is Lexington's newest Mediterranean restaurant. It replaces Istanbul Palace and has the same convenient location for UK students and restaurant goers in the Waller Avenue area. It retains many of Istanbul Palace's popular Turkish menu items. Chef Adnan ("Eddie) Ahmad has had 25 years cooking Mediterranean food at various restaurants in Lexington and elsewhere. There's Turkish Coffee, which if you've never had it, you have to try. If not, at least try Turkish Tea. Whether you're a vegetarian or meat lover, you can find something on this menu which you'll like. There's Lentil Soup (lentils, onion and lemon), or Chicken Lemon Rice Soup. Lunch offers 10 sandwiches : beef, lamb or chicken shawarma, shish tawook, shish kabob, kafta kabob, falafel (with tahini sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles), taboulah (with either hummus or babaganoush), and grape leaf. Of the seven appetizers we like the hummus, baba ghanoush, kubbah balls (ground sirloin mised with burgul, onions and pine nuts), and Stuffed Grape Leaves (rice, ground beef and tomato). Greek, Fatoush and Taboule salads are good but we recommend the Fatoush Beef Shawarma Salad. There are 15 entrees, but the best deal on the menu is the Grape Leaf Platter for a party of two or the Grape Leaf Dish for a party of five. They're samplers of all the other entrees for $15 or $45. Among the items on the Dish are three skewers each of kefta, chicken and kabob, five kubbah balls, five stuffed grape leaves with meat and falafel pieces served with rice. This is A LOT of food. However, there are three seafood dishes (shrimp, tilapia and salmon), four kabob skewers (beef, chicken, kefta, or lamb), and three shawarma dishes. Save room for dessert : Baklava and Kanafa. There is a Lunch Buffet from 11 to 3 for $7.95 and a Saturday Buffet from noon to 4 for $9.95 (both including 16 dishes to choose from) . 393 Waller Avenue. From downtown, take South Broadway to The Campbell House / St. Joseph Hospital. Turn left onto Waller, left at the first light, right into the mall and look to your left. They also do takeout and catering for any size group. The menu is Halal. The Grape Leaf is closed on Sundays.

Petra has developed a devoted following in just a few years. It enjoys spacious facilities with several rooms and an outdoor patio. The menu is Greek and Jordanian. Baba Ganoush (eggplant, garlic, lemon), Hummus, Grape Leaves, Spanakopita (spinach cheese pastry), and Spinach Pie (spinach, sumac, onion, olive oil, spices) lead a strong appetizer menu. There are four classic Greek salads, and a Soup of the Day which we found excellent. The Entree list includes Salmon, Tilapia and N.Y. Strip which you should skip for the Middle East items. We especially recommend the Mussaka. We love this dish, have eaten it in many top restaurants and Greek homes, and this is one of the best three versions of it we've tasted. There are four Kabob entrees (chicken, beef, lamb, mixed), two vertical grilles (Gyro and Shawerma) the Lamb (four thick chops charbroiled), and Feri (broiled quail). These are excellent well cuts prepared. Among the desserts Baklava is excellent. Petra has a fine small wine rack. Ask a waiter for a recommendation to match your entree. Portions are large; you'll take boxes home. They sell 12 Jordanian tobaccos to use in hookahs out on the patio. 116 Market Place. Nicholasville Road at Man O War. From downtown take South Upper to Nicholasville Road. Turn right on Man O War right on Nichols Drive and right on Marketplace.
King Tut's opened September 1 on the site of the former Punjab. The facility is half its former size as Mellow Mushroom has taken over the rear, adding a separate entrance. King Tut offers primarily a Turkish menu with items added from Greek. (We're not sure where Egyptian Tut fits into this theming.) The Appetizers are familiar classics: Hummos (dip of chick peas, garlic, lemon and sesame), Falafel (ground dried veggie patty in Tahini Sauce), Baba Ganuje (baked eggplant, garlic, lemon, sesame), Stuffed Grape Leaves (containing veggies and rice), and Kibbi (cracked wheat shell stuffed with beef, onions and spices). You should order a cup of the Soup of the Day; they all tend to have a rather delicate taste. It's hard to beat their Greek Salad (mixed greens with black olives and feta cheese), but the college girls from the dorms across the street really like the Tabouleh (Lebanese parsley, diced tomatoes, onion, cracked wheat and lemon). There are eight entrees. If we're eating alone, we like their Shish Kabob (skewer of charbroiled tenderloin, onion and green peppers) and Kofta Kabob (beef, parsley, onion and spices). Best deal for two is the Mixed Grill Sampler (grape leaves, kibbee, falafel, filet, kabob, chicken, beef) for $19. If you like the traditional vertical broiler, they've got Chicken and Beef Shawarma. Dessert is Pie Of The Day.
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